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The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

Artists discuss borderland implications on their identities

Perla Carrillo Arias
Borderland artists hazel batrezchavez, Pico del Hierro-Villa, and Bella Maria Varela answer questions presented by moderator Eva Gabriella Flynn at a panel discussion on Jan. 30, 2024.

The Art Museum hosted artists Bella Maria Varela, hazel batrezchavez and Pico del Hierro-Villa along with moderator Eva Gabriella Flynn for an open discussion on the bleachers of Devasthali Hall at 05:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30. 

The artists reflected on the ways their art explores the nuances of identity in the Borderplex region. One of the main topics they discussed was how the border shapes their identities and how they portray that through art.  

“I carry the border with me wherever I go,” betrezchavez said.  

They urged attendees to reflect on the romanticization of art in history and to take a deep dive through assimilation and colonization elements. Similarly, they stated that these topics are often overlooked yet very important for understanding one’s stance within the art scene.  

“I want to be intentional with what I’m bringing to the table,” betrezchavez told attendees.  

The artists also discussed the use of artwork to reconnect to their familial roots.  Varela described how she uses photo and video archives to learn about her history.  

“That’s what my work is trying to figure out,” Varela said, “It’s taking steps back into who I am. A lot of that is through archives.”  

Students listen to an open panel discussion on the aesthetics of identity and its relation to three borderland artists. Jan. 30, 2024. (Perla Carrillo Arias)

She emphasized how therapeutic it is to have complicated conversations with her family about queerness and her art style.  

“It’s a family effort. They know when I come and visit that everyone is partaking in having those conversations,” Varela said. “I recently went on a trip with my mom where we had lots of conversations about queerness. Because of having those conversations with her, I feel like we have a really good relationship.” 

Hierro-Villa highlighted the seriousness of not reproducing powers, and taking an ethical stance with how their work is performed.  

“I really consciously work in a framework of making sure that I am not reproducing these sorts of powers but really making sure that I’m helping give voice to my community through a very ethical stance and giving them the opportunity to show themselves,” Hierro-Villa said. 

Another topic the artists reflected on was the inclusion of black and indigenous people in conversations about Latinx art and culture.  

“When I think about where my people are from, in El Salvador, we’re not in that category, right? Guatemala isn’t in that category or Belize,” betrezchavez said. “In those areas where there’s a high influx of black and indigenous individuals, [they] are left out of that narrative.” 

The artists discussed the idea that borders can be more than just geopolitical. Borders can be imaginary, such as borders between genders, religions, or cultures. Artists such as betrezchavez, Hierro-Villa, and Varela explain how their art breaks those barriers.  

“When you think about borders, you think about borders, you could think about geopolitical borders, but you could also think about social borders as well… and the gender binary, the religious binary.” Hierro-Villa said. “[Borders] exist in a lot of imaginary ways that affect our human lives… So how are we breaking the borders of religion? And the borders around how we see love?” 

The artists agreed that figuring out their identity is a process of learning and unlearning. It is critical for underrepresented communities to understand the influence of ethical and transparent depictions of counternarratives, as explained by these artists.  

Although they often collaborate, Bella Maria Varela, hazel batrez chavez and Pico del Hierro-Villa have forged their unique paths within the creative scene. 

The artists that participated in the Aesthetics of Identity panel discussion pose for a picture on Jan. 30, 2024. (Carlos Herrera)

Varela is a fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, where she researches issues pertaining to the U.S.-Mexico border through a lens of pop culture analysis and queerness.  

Batrezchavez works as an artist and educator in pueblos around the Albuquerque area. They recently started an experimental art space, Ni de Aquí, Ni de Allá, inside a cargo container.  

Hierro-Villa is currently preparing for an art residence in Mexico City while waiting for a response to their PhD application. They plan to focus on academia to further expand the opportunities of the BIPOC scholars within the world of art.  

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About the Contributors
Elizabeth Anne Andrews, Staff Writer
Elizabeth Anne Andrews is starting her first semester with The Round Up as a Staff Writer. She is currently a freshman at NMSU, majoring in Journalism & Media Studies. She grew up in a military family so she’s lived all over the US and Germany. Ever since she was young, Elizabeth Anne has always been curious about everything around her. It comes from experiencing different cultures and being homeschooled, both opportunities which allowed her to grow in her independence and creativity. In her free time, Elizabeth Anne enjoys writing poems, listening to music, or hanging out with her three siblings and cat.
Andrea Vasquez, Staff Writer
Andrea Vasquez is a second semester transfer senior at New Mexico State University, majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. Although she was born in Mexico, her life has been shaped by the border experience and having the chance to be part of a tri-city adventure (Juarez, El Paso, Las Cruces). She previously attended El Paso Community College and Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. In 2022, she interned at KTSM Channel 9 News in El Paso, Texas and completed a photography internship at The Santa Fe New Mexican during the summer of 2023. She also participates in NMSU’s student broadcast News 22 as a Spanish anchor and producer for Noticias 22. She intends to pursue a career in the journalism field as both a reporter and a photographer. She is entering her first semester at The Round Up as a staff writer and photographer. For her, having the opportunity to learn and contribute to the NMSU community is a great privilege that she does not take for granted. Journalism offers a chance to observe events closely and more professionally, but disconnecting is also important for her. She likes to enjoy outdoor activities as well as spending time with family and friends and catching up with series and documentaries.
Carlos Herrera, Multimedia Specialist
Carlos Herrera is entering his second year at The Round Up as a Multimedia Specialist. He is currently a senior in his undergraduate degree in Information Communication Technology. Carlos is looking forward to this year in expanding his love for graphic design and perfecting his photography while capturing "those big Aggie moments". He enjoys being active in everything he does, and also enjoys spending time with those important to him in his downtime.
Perla Carrillo Arias, Photojournalism Intern
Perla Carrillo Arias is entering her first semester at The Round Up as a photojournalism intern. She is a senior at NMSU, majoring in Business Marketing with a focus on Advertising and a minor Social Media Management. Perla was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A passionate traveler and avid reader, Perla finds inspiration in exploring new places and immersing herself in diverse experiences. Perla’s love for photography and videography sprouted when she was a just little girl. She reminisces going through hundreds of photographs her mom has captured and having the realization of how important it is to have memories. When she’s not behind the lens, Perla can be found indulging in her love for literature, spending time with her family, or tuning into thought-provoking podcasts that ignite her curiosity. Perla is looking forward to acquiring knowledge from the team and further developing her photographic skills at The Round Up.

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