Jose Cuervo Tradicional Artist Profiles: Jesus 'Cimi' Alvarado, "Conversations About our History"

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Through the Jose Cuervo Tradicional Mural Program, Jose Cuervo and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) aim to create a dialogue between our past and future: using the rich cultural traditions of Mexico’s history to encourage Latinos to look toward tomorrow.
Murals – much like un buen tequila – are an authentic part of Mexico’s history and culture.
Artists over the age of 21 were invited to submit original mural paintings inspired by their hopes and dreams for the Latino community, as well as the Jose Cuervo Tradicional bottle.
These are those artists.
To find out more, check out Los Amigos de Jose on Facebook.


Introduce yourself.
I’m representing California but I live in El Paso, Texas and I’m an arts coordinator for an organization named LA Fe’s Cultural Center.

That goes back to the graffiti years. When you’re doing graffiti you always want a short name. I ended up with Cimi. At the time I was doing graffiti, I was involved with MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Azatlan) – they’re an organization at a lot of universities – so I was really involved in Chicano politics. When I was trying to come up with a name to write I saw that a lot of my friends in the Chicano movement were switching names from Spanish names to Aztec ones. So my name being Jesus, it wouldn’t really translate to Aztec. I ended up finding the closes which is Cimi which is actually Mayan. It’s kind of like one word to describe continuous movement or continuous growth.

How did you get started doing graffiti and murals?
I just got started. It’s just wanting to do something. I started doing graffiti and I had a teacher in high school and he was a well-known Chicano artist – though I didn’t know it in high school. His name was Gaspar Enriquez and he got me into doing airbrush and more into legal works, not just tagging walls. When I was in high school he started to teach me about airbrush and brushwork and traditional murals.

Do you have a favorite medium?
I like to experiment a lot. Honestly, I hadn’t done spray paint in a while until this year again. I was doing spray paint back in the Krylon years – around the mid-90s – and I started doing more brushwork, pastels, charcoal, and things like that. I kinda left spray paint but this last year I started doing more. I got a couple of commissions to do live painting at festivals with spray paint and I got a hold of a spray paint can and it’s amazing how the technology has evolved in the cans. I could be doing more with spray paint. I want to go back and experiment more with spray paint. It seems like you can do a lot more different things now.

You’re part of programs in Texas that focus on murals and art educations, can you tell me more about that?
[For] one of the projects I was going into the juvenile detention center in El Paso. I was going in there to volunteer and working with the kids to create artworks. Most of the time they’re already incarcerated, they don’t have access to art. Our city has been eliminating a lot of the money going into the arts programs in the school districts. By being a juvenile in the system, you still have to go to school so I was volunteering in there and doing some art classes with them. Through that we produced two murals already. They allowed me to get fifteen kids that were incarcerated out into the streets – of course with guards – and we created one mural. The other one, we started working with parachute cloth and created the mural inside the detention center and put it out in the park.

I work with other groups of youth in the community. That’s my whole goal with the artwork – to inspire more kids to create more legal work.

Is youth the audience you try to reach in your murals?
It’s the community as a whole. A lot of my work deals with community history and going back to El Paso. A lot of money that has gone into ethnic or Chicano studies has been eliminated so a whole lot of history of my people is not being taught in schools. I try to do that through my artwork by creating public art that is going to raise questions or conversations about our history.

What do you enjoy about creating murals?
There’s been times we’re painting outside and people offer us drinks – all kinds of drinks. We did a mural at a convenience store, a grocery mom and pop store, and the lady was just so cool. She would bring us 24-packs of beer and she was excited because she said that us being there painting would bring so much business for her. People who would come to see what we were doing would then go in and buy a bag of chips or something.Just the community involvement like that. They get so involved and show you that they like what you’re doing and it encouraged you to keep doing it.

What would you do with the grant money if you won?
I would like to continue doing these programs with the youth. When I was in Dallas, I was able to go found a mural academy where we were hiring 15 kids and we would create one or two murals, so something similar… it would be seed money to start something like that. There’s nothing here in El Paso and doing it on my own is hard, but that would help with something like that.