Craft Cultura Aims to Show That South Texas Culture Goes Beyond Trump’s Wall

Photo courtesy of Craft Cultura

Craft Cultura started with a video concept. Earlier this year, Misael Ramirez and friend Arnulfo Segovia set out to film a web series titled Q’onda, which aimed to document Chicanx and Latinx stories in South Texas. But since that first spark of an idea, it’s grown into so much more. Now, Craft Cultura is a platform to celebrate art and Latinx culture – sometimes that’s via parties; other times, it’s through community events that let people network and connect.

“Craft Cultura is a fusion of art and activism,” Ramirez tells Remezcla. “We’re not just a brand or production company; we represent our ancestors and all those who came before us. Our art is our weapon, and we are here to reclaim, decolonize and liberate our brothers and sisters who are constantly scapegoated and targeted for the country’s problems.”

While the group has only been around since May, it has made strides in uplifting Latinx art, education, culture and community. The group is especially important in Texas – a state with a large Latinx population and one so influenced by its neighbor, Mexico. Though xenophobic and anti-immigrant stances are nothing new, these topics are consistently in the news given President Donald Trump’s penchant for speaking ill of immigrants and Latinxs. Yet, there’s not enough visibility on this region – particularly smaller cities, such as Edinburg and McAllen – at times like this. And the little that is shown in the media paints a grim picture, instead of showing how its close proximity to Mexico is something beautiful. This is where Craft Cultura comes in, giving the community a more accurate reflection of themselves.

While much of the work is currently focused in South Texas, Craft Cultura wants to connect with other causes, from the Flint water crisis to the issues on the island of Puerto Rico and beyond.

Recently, we spoke to Misael about the mission of Craft Cultura. Read on to learn more.

Take us back to how Craft Cultura started. Why did you think it was necessary?

Initially, Craft Cultura started out as an idea when my good friend Arnulfo and myself began filming webisodes this year. We created a series called Q’onda that centered around Chicanx/Latinx stories in South Texas. We figured we needed to create a production company to expand our audience but wanted a production company that was more like a brand. We wanted something that represented kids like us who grew up in immigrant communities throughout these lesser-known Texas cities. Growing up, we rarely saw ourselves reflected in TV or film, and even less in education, so from the beginning we wanted to create content and spaces where our voices would be valued and heard.

What is your goal with the Q’Onda series? 

We grew up and wanted to humanize our stories. We wanted to see South Texas reflected on film by interviewing local artists and entrepreneurs that keep our communities flourishing. We want the older generation to see that we’re preserving our culture and the younger generation to see themselves reflected. Unfortunately, when the media comes down here to film us, it’s usually a short snippet of detention centers or something related to The Wall. We want to take control of the narrative and have our community feel a sense of pride when they watch our series as well as learn something through it.

How did your own background prepare you to take on a project like Craft Cultura? 

Both Arnulfo and myself majored in Mexican American Studies at UTRGV and were able to present our research at several conferences throughout the years. The more we traveled, the more we began to see fewer and fewer Mexican Americans in academia. We began to think of creative ways to make this information accessible to our communities who don’t always have the privilege of entering academia. As for running [our] own brand, we’re still learning and adapting as we go. We aren’t film majors or art majors; most of what we learned has been self-taught, but our personal background and degrees in Mexican American Studies really prepared us for the launch of our brand.

What about the event component of Craft Cultura? What is your hope with that?

We just launched our brand in May and hosted our first event in July. Our goal is to host one event per month with different themes in mind. Our first event was a cumbia party, where we used music to bring awareness [to] borderland issues.

Our events give people from the community a chance to network, meet local artists and at the same time, learn something new. We like to use art as a vehicle to bring people in. They may go thinking it’s just a cumbia party or art night, and end up registering to vote or participating in a community platica. Plus, we always have great DJs because who doesn’t like a pachanga?

What are you proudest of having accomplished with Craft Cultura?

I think the proudest moment so far was our cumbia launch party in July. It felt like we were at a big family reunion. It exceeded our expectations and brought the community out for a beautiful night of art and activism. We had a huge baile, kids hitting pinatas, vendors and music by Principe Q, Mexstep and Flacucho.

Before the cumbia party, we started the day at a local coffee shop (Grind Coffee Co.), where emcee scholar Dr. Marcos Cervantes, a.k.a. Mexstep, gave a community platica, where we tackled issues such as decolonizing education, dismantling white supremacy, over-militarized borders and generational family traumas. It felt great to have our community come out and participate in these events.

Any final thoughts? 

We want our audience to know that it’s up to us to push the culture forward now. We have to let our elders rest now and pick up where they left off. We want to create an environment where activism isn’t boring; it is what we decide to make it. We believe education should be accessible and culturally relevant to our Black and brown communities. If your school’s aren’t teaching you, it’s up to us to create networks where we can learn from each other and empower each other. It’s up to us to create the world we want to live in; it’s up to us to craft cultura.