Amor Prohibido

I think it is fitting to begin this journey with Selena. Selena Quintanilla is one of the most revered artists in the Latino community and has inspired many pop culture icons, including Beyonce. I’ve loved Selena my whole life. She was one of the first artists who inspired me to pursue a creative career. She was young, beautiful, talented, and good-hearted. She was everything I wished to be when I was in elementary school pretending to be a singer named Jessica (yeah, that was a definitely a phase).

“Amor Prohibido” translates to “Forbidden Love” in English. This classic Selena song is from her album of the same name that goes on to describe a forbidden love between two people who come from different social classes. A sort of Romeo and Juliet story. Selena sings that despite her poverty, all she gives is worth more than money because what she has is true love. Well, Selena, I don’t have a man but this is exactly how I feel about museums sometimes.

I didn’t grow up going to museums. In fact, I don’t really remember when and where my first trip to a museum might’ve been, but somewhere in the 7th grade I discovered Jackson Pollock in a book and didn’t let go. I didn’t know what this love meant but I knew that my life meant nothing without art in it and only museums housed these most precious objects. But museums were beautiful, marble institutions where I was just a visitor. I didn’t even see a real Jackson Pollock until I was a sophomore in college at the National Gallery of Art and I never made the connection between my love of art and a career in the museum field until I was 27 years old. There were just too many detours and road blocks that didn’t allow me to see this path and the barriers to access delayed what could have been an earlier start at a museum career.

Once I made that connection, however, the road didn’t get easier or clearer. That is when I realized that the Latino voice in museums was and is desperately missing. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it before. Perhaps I was in a rosy haze of happiness merely being able to learn about art and visit museums (for free!) in D.C. that I hadn’t noticed everything else around me or even what was missing but when I became woke, I BECAME WOKE.

In 2014, a diehard Selena fan, Patty Rodriguez, created a Change.org petition calling for MAC to create a Selena makeup line, “…that represents the community that shops MAC makeup.” Almost 40,000 signatures later, MAC heard the message loud and clear. When the collection came out it sold out nationwide, both in stores and online. I woke up early the day it was released and messaged fellow GW museum studies student, Carolyn Lopez, and we coordinated our game plan. We waited hours in the cold outside of Sephora’s Chevy Chase location. When we were finally allowed in, most of the collection was sold out. We ran to the metro, headed to Metro Center Macy’s and before even getting to the makeup counter the ladies yelled they were sold out. Out of breath from running (and out of shape, apparently), we pulled up a list of area stores that would carry it and called every store. Pentagon City Mall said there was a line out the store so they would probably sell out but we took our chances and hopped back on the metro towards Pentagon City. We reached the store, saw no line and I was worried we were too late. We walked in and not only were they not sold out, they had the whole collection many times over. Between the two of us, I am pretty sure we spent about $450.

The Latino community deserves to be represented and not underestimated. The MAC x Selena line demonstrated just that. It demonstrated not only the passion of the Latino community but our strength in numbers. I didn’t need another red lipstick and I don’t even use the blush. To me, it was about Selena and what she meant to me. In a world that is white washed, Selena was unapologetically Latina in a way that I could relate. With dark hair and brown skin, I saw myself in her and aspired to be her. I’m sure many of the Latinas waiting in line with me felt the same way.

Museums can learn a thing or two about this cosmetics campaign. The Latino community in the U.S. is a force to be reckoned with and although we come from very diverse backgrounds, what unites us is our latinidad, our shared culture and experiences living in the United States. The exhibitions should reflect those experiences, our diverse cultures, and our importance to the shaping of this country in a way that reflects our needs and interests. We are no doubt a growing population seeking to be acknowledged and museums should pay more attention to this demographic that will soon make up the majority of the population.

I am still learning a lot about my fellow Latinos whilst navigating the rough waters of museum institutions but through exploration on various related topics in this blog,  I hope I can offer some clarity, self-awareness, and insight, if only for myself.

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My MAC x Selena collection.

 

Featured image via maccosmetics.com

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3 responses to “Amor Prohibido

  1. Love your perspective on museums and their (lack of) representation of Latino voices and perspectives. Having gone to many museum conferences in the past, the topic of diversity and representing varying perspectives comes up all the time, but little action seems to be taken from a broader perspective. It’s having people like yourself actively involved in the conversation and employed at museums that will actually move the needle on this. I think your Selena MAC story is great and also a great reminder as to how museums can take hold of a current topic and examine how it connects with their own collections. An art museum could have had a small temporary exhibit matching the MAC color palette; a history museum could have examined the history of immigration, the history of Mexican-American relations focusing on the modern era. I think this is a great way to remain actively engaged and relevant to people’s lives while celebrating diversity and education as well. Love your thoughts!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “The Latino community deserves to be represented and not be underestimated.” This quote stood out. Museums pride themselves on being the bridge that connects education, history, culture, and art but fails to accurately represent any diversity in their collections and exhibits. I would agree that the Latino community is largely left out in terms of diversity and inclusion within the museums. Why is this? Also, why aren’t members of the actual community included in the implementation of the collections and exhibits which focus on their culture and heritage? I feel as though unless a true representative from the community, someone like yourself, is involved museums will continue to whitewash Latino history, heritage, and culture. I think your thoughts are so insightful for an industry that rarely diverges from the status quo. My question to you is, what are the changes you want to see within the field and do you think they are possible?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Karen. I really enjoyed your perspective on the lack of diversity within the museum world. As someone who hopes to one day help coordinate exhibitions in museums, it is important to listen when somebody says they do not feel represented, both in the field itself and in the content of exhibitions. Museums need to do better in terms of equal representation and looking towards other avenues, such as a cosmetic line, can offer the field as a whole some insight on creative ways in which to diversify. I am really glad you made the connection between Mac’s Selena line and museums, (as this is not something I immediately thought of,) and I look forward to following your blog as you continue your career in the museum field.

    Liked by 2 people

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