Finding Latin American Art in DC

Because a National Museum of the American Latino does not exist (yet), I try to find Latin American art and culture in all the museums we visit around DC. Here are a few of the most recent things I found.

The Return to Aztlan by Alfredo Arreguin at the National Portrait Gallery

Mis Hermanos by Mexican artist Jesse Trevino, at the American Art Museum

Selena, National Portrait Gallery

As you know, we also made a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian. After I took a million photos of the Huichol art car, I made a stop at the gift shop. A friend has an upcoming birthday and the gift shop at the National Museum of the American Indian is the perfect place to find something for someone who loves Latin American culture. One display in the museum shop is dedicated just to Día de Los Muertos. I didn’t end up buying this item, but here is a neat “calacas” toy from Peru.

Where do you find Latin American art and culture in your city?

Huichol + Volkswagen = Vochol

On Saturday we took a much needed trip to the National Mall to see various new exhibits at some of the museums. The exhibit I wanted to go see most was “Huichol – art on wheels.”

Before I explain what that is, first let me explain what or rather who the Huichol are. The Huichol are indigenous people from western central Mexico, “living in the Sierra Madre Occidental range in the Mexican states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Durango.” [Wikipedia] Though they’re commonly known as “Huichol”, they call themselves “Wixáritari” which means “the people” in their language.

My interest in the Huichol people first started a few years ago when Carlos dedicated an adorable song to me by a music group called Huichol Musical. (He does this often – serenades me with songs from YouTube. Carlos will find a video then say, “This song is for you” before playing it at full blast. Not exactly the same as finding a mariachi ensemble outside one’s window, but such is modern romance.)

As I researched more I discovered Huichol art which quickly became one of my favorites. I love colorful folk art and Huichol art is beautiful beyond words.

Image source: Patti Haskins

Image source: Lucy Nieto

So, when I heard that there was an entire vehicle covered in Huichol art, (a Volkswagen Beetle to be exact), at the National Museum of the American Indian, I knew I had to check it out. I’m not even going to apologize for the dozen photos I’m about to bombard you with because it was that chévere. (In between the photos I’ll share some facts I learned about the exhibit from a pamphlet provided by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.)

This piece of art is called “Vochol.” The word “Vochol” is a combination of “vocho” (slang for Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico) and “Huichol.”

The Huichol are known for their colorful beadwork and fiber arts.

Guess how many glass seed beads cover this vehicle, (including interior details!) … If you said 2,277,000 then you are correct. (That’s more than 2 million for those of you who aren’t good with numbers like me.)

The beads alone weigh almost 200 lbs. and are held on with 35 lbs. of resin.

It took eight Wixáritari artists from two families more than 9,000 hours to create this work of art.

The names of the families who created The Vochol: The Bautistas from Jalisco and the Ortiz from Nayarit, Mexico.

The Vochol features a lot of symbolism. Can you spot a two-headed eagle? A snake? Maize? A canoe?

The Vochol is a collaboration between the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular, the Museo de Arte Popular, and the state governments of Nayarit and Jalisco.

The Vochol will only be on display in DC until May 6th – so if you want to see it in person, go now.

The phrases on the front fenders say “Two hundred years of independence” and “One hundred years since the Mexican Revolution in Wixáritari.

After an international tour, The Vochol will be auctioned off with proceeds going towards promoting the work of native Mexican artists.

Want to learn more? Links:

Official Vochol website
National Museum of the American Indian Meet the Vochol

Spanish Conversation Hearts – Free Images!

Did your novio forget your flowers? (Or in my case, did you wake up too late to sneak a note into your macho’s lunch box?) … No te preocupes! Here is a Valentine’s Day gift from that all of you procrastinators are free to re-gift. Put them on your valentine’s Facebook wall, E-mail them to friends, Pin them to Pinterest, or print them to hang up on the door for when the kids get home from school. The posibilidades are endless. Feliz Día de San Valentín!

Update: Here’s an extra one added by request.

Thanks to Kate Pullen for making the blank conversation heart clipart available for use.

Kusikiy: A Child From Taquile, Peru

Book description: KUSIKIY A CHILD FROM TAQUILE, PERU, by author and illustrator Mercedes Cecilia is a unique story that draws us into the kaleidoscopic and mysterious world of a Peruvian child. KUSIKIY lives in The Andes Mountains of Peru in a small island in Lake Titikaka. In this wise and peaceful community Kusikiy’s father cultivates potatoes and Quinoa; his mother, like her mother and grandmother, weaves intricate traditional designs into her textiles keeping a record of important events. Children will identify with Kusikiy’s love for family and his concerns for the effects of climate changes on Mother Earth, as well as with his desire to be of help to his town. This is a book that gives parents and educators a visual and appealing way to engage children in a dialogue about traditional cultures, the meaning of community, sustainability and caring for our environment.

“Taquile is a peaceful island. It is so quiet that you can hear the potatoes growing under the eath and the voices of mothers whispering Quechua songs to the babies on their backs.” – Kusikiy by Mercedes Cecilia

That is just a taste of the beautiful language found in this book, and here is a sample of the equally beautiful art, also created by the author.

by Mercedes Cecilia

If you’re interested in purchasing your own copy, the author is offering something special to readers of From now until December 20th, 2011, you can E-mail the author directly and let her know you’re a reader of for free shipping and environmentally friendly gift wrapping.

For more information on the book and author, visit

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to for review. All opinions are my own.

La Casa Blanca y La Familia López

Driving by the Washington Monument on our way to the White House. (Carlos calls this "La Aguja" - "the needle.")

The visit to La Casa Blanca was bien chivo although President Obama wasn’t around to welcome me as I had hoped. I didn’t tweet or blog until now because between waking at 4 a.m. for the White House tour and preparing for our trip to Miami, I’m just super cansada.

I wish I had a lot of photos to show you, but on White House tours, no cameras are allowed inside. And honestly, although it’s fun to say, “I’ve been to the White House” – the section they allow you into is really more of a museum than actual living quarters for the family. (I didn’t even so much as see “Bo” – the Obama family’s dog!)

When you first walk in there are photos of the Obama family on the walls of the foyer. The very first photo prominently displayed, was President Obama with mariachi. I instinctively reached for my non-existent camera before remembering – no cameras allowed so I hadn’t brought it. I did find the photo on the internet though so you can see.

(By the way, I found this photo on a website called Obama Looks Bored, which features photos of President Obama looking bored. Love it.)

There were a lot of fancy furnishings, three immense crystal chandeliers that weigh 1200 pounds each. Each chandelier takes 72 hours to clean. (And that is the extent of historical tour guide type data I retained.)

There are various rooms named for colors – The Blue Room, The Red Room (which looked hot pink to me for some reason – but I loved it), The Green Room, etc.

In the Green Room a painting caught my eye and I wanted to remember the artist so I could look it up later. Without a pen and paper I had to rely on my memory, which isn’t so good. To remember things, I usually have to play word games with myself. So, to remember the artist, Jacob Lawrence, I said to myself, “Jacob Lawrence, Jacob Lawrence, Jacob Lawrence… how can I remember his name? … Oh! Jacob Have I Loved!”

Carlos immediately turned around, “Whose Jacob?”
“The artist of that painting,” I said.
“No, the other Jacob you loved,” he said narrowing his eyes.
He didn’t believe me for several minutes that ‘Jacob Have I Loved’ is the name of a book.

The Builders - by Jacob Lawrence

The Obama family in the Green Room, (the painting I like is in the background)

(The painting turned out to be ‘The Builders’ by Jacob Lawrence, if you want to read more about it.)

Once we were outside, we were allowed to take photos, so I took a few with my cell phone camera.

White House lawn being cut.

Back outside the gates.

The future 1st Latino President and his hermanito.


My cumple is at the end of the month, but Carlos wanted to give me his gift un poco temprano.

This is Carlos’s first and only tattoo… y lo amo!

Suegra still doesn’t know about it. When she finds out, she will probably threaten to disown him, (otra vez.) She believes tattoos are a pecado and that only “mala gente” like pandilleros get them. When Carlos told me this I said, “Wait, doesn’t your older brother have tattoos?”

“Yeah,” Carlos said, “but when my mother found out, she slapped him.”

So Carlos’s birthday present to me? A permanent reminder of his love, and the promise of mucho drama to blog about in the coming days.

(Thanks, nene!)