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Scrawled across a full page of photographer Devyn Arrey Galindo's book, We Are Still Here, is a quote that many first- and second-generation Mexican Americans are too familiar with: "Not Mexican Enough for Mexico, Not American Enough for America."
This idiom reflects a sense of cultural isolation from both the country that Mexican Americans call home and from the place where their heritage is derived. It's a sentiment often spurred by the pressures of American society on Mexican immigrants to either quickly assimilate or leave.
For Galindo, photography is not just a means to celebrate her own heritage, but also a way to offer visibility to all the vibrant shades of Chicanx people today. In these pictures, Chicanx identity is celebrated in colorful portraits of friendship, fashion, and community — there is no longing for a lost home, but rather solace among friends and optimism for the future.
Here, Galindo shares her thoughts on We Are Still Here and a collection of stunning photographs from the book:
This is a body of work that is pure from the soul, and it will forever be an ongoing project for me. This series began when I was living in New York. I was very homesick for my culture and was able to see it from a bird’s-eye view.
When I came back to Los Angeles, I started going to community events, various punk shows, and poetry nights and met different people that identify as Chicanx, and it kind of grew organically from there. The book was made over the span of one year, but the project is an ongoing series.
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me I feel I’m able to honor traditions of the past and bring them into the future with a more queer, inclusive lens. My grandparents never taught their kids Spanish because of the pressures they had in school to assimilate. It makes me really sad that they felt the need to erase that part of their culture to feel safe and like they could have opportunities. But I understand the sacrifices that they made, and I feel it’s a privilege for me to look back on it with that perspective.
I love the creative energy that comes from my people. I’m so inspired by the endless imagination, spirit, and colors that Chicanx cultura brings to life. We love to celebrate life, and we do it well.
Each photograph has its own story. The photo where I’m holding the red chilies is very special to me — because that’s where my family is from, Arrey, New Mexico. It’s a very small place and not much around but chili fields — but that experience was very humbling and beautiful to me to see all the places my family has been and all the places we will go in future generations.
Reflecting on this work, I have a deeper sense of self. I didn't realize I had so much inside of me that was dying to get out. That's what each of these images represents to me. I do it to inspire the muxers, the queers, the whole Chicanx community. We come from all walks of life, and all our experiences are valid and add to the culture.
I hope people find in these pictures a sense of community and can see the beauty that radiates from Chicanx people.