Día de los Muertos Artist Interview: Adriana Camarena

Collective in honor of Luis Gongora Pat

How did all of you meet and decide to collaborate on this installation? What does the thread connecting all of the materials represent?
I am a community advocate for Luís ever since he was killed. I’ve collaborated with Jose and his cousins many times and I am close friends with Paz. In this altar we honor the widows and children in Teabo, Yucatán known for the embroidery work of their women. I took the video in 2017 when I visited Luís’ family. The embroidering is a metaphor for migration, resistance, and ancestral lineage. The thread of migrations where one man gets pulled in by the next one. In the case of Mayans, there are about 7,500 Yucatan’s in the Bay Area, including Luís.

We wanted to connect the written word to the unspoken word of textiles. Also speaking for the women, we wove thread from the altar cloth. They are traditional altar cloths that mayans place in their home during this time. It is usually the name and date of the deceased, this was embroidered by Luis’ cousin Ludis. It is very similar to a protest in their art work. They wanted to send a claim for justice for Luis. This ties back to the video of the shooting.

Have you noticed a change in your community over the past few years?
I was involved in the Alex Nieto justice cause with his parents, which was how I was able to help Luis’ family. This injustice was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When it ended Jessica Williams was killed in her car. We’re still asking for justice and a profound change in institution. SFPD is in a reform process, and whether they will change, the community has been galvanized by finding unity from police brutality in SF. Luis was the 10th person killed by police from 2014-2016. He was homeless at the time he was killed as we are in the housing crisis. He was loved by his family and hoped for him to get back on his feet. We want to honor his Mayan community.

What do you want your community and audience to learn from this?
We want our audience to find points of solidarity with a Mayan family, this Mayan family, and all the many Mayan families and people of color whom are tossed aside by unjust systems of a capitalist economy. We welcome you to get in contact with us and collaborate on new projects.

About the artists
The artist collective that created the installation dedicated to Luis Góngora Pat is comprised of Mayan Mexican artisans José Góngora Pat and Luís Poot Pat, Spanish artist Paz de la Calzada, and Mexican artist Adriana Camarena. Paz de la Calzada is an experienced visual artist, who imbues her work with the mysticism of labyrinths and threads, often using textiles as her medium. Adriana Camarena is a writer with an installation and video practice that references social justice causes. José Góngora Pat has a variety of expert skills such as weaving hammocks, building huts, growing crops, and breeding animals. Luís Poot Pat has over 20 years of experience in back end restaurant operations in San Francisco. We are all first generation Spanish-speaking migrants, although Paz speaks also her native Galician, and Luís and José speak their native Mayan.

Image credit: “Hilando la vida en Maya…/Threading the life of a Mayan…” by Adriana Camarena, Jose Góngora Pat, Luis Poot Pat & Paz de la Calzada. Photo by Destiny Evans.