Updates and Documenting Borderlands Queer Culture

“You know what’s a good life? When you go out in public, and people are happy to see you. ‘Qué onda, como estás?’ Gusto en verte. Money can’t buy that.” Pinky Torres

Most places I go, I feel this…people genuinely happy to see each other.  In these borderlands, I gravitate to places like Chuco’s Barrio Duranguito, Chiquita’s, The ToolBox and the hidden roads in the South Valley of Doña Ana County, NM. It’s in the same places where I have found community, laughed, shared some chismes and got inspired.

I’m over the moon in gratitude to folks like Hector “Big D” Hernández for opening a space up for me to vend at Chiquita’s, Dr. Yolanda “Fierce Fronteriza” Leyva for keeping an eye out for me, and La Semilla Food Center for the opportunity of being a fellow with the Chihuahuan Desert Cultural Fellowship. To anyone who offered a meal, the occasional place to crash through my nomadic season, commissioned me, bought prints or t-shirts—thank you.  I am forever indebted. (click on picture for captions)

I designed a queer project and proposed it to La Semilla that would allow me to create art inspired by a historical community narrative. Over the past few months, I interviewed 15 people who self-identified as part of the borderland LGBTQ community prior to the dawn of social media. I heard stories of real strife, but I did not set out to document trauma because, to me, that would be obvious. I focused on a collective consciousness and memory on the joy queer spaces embody.  More importantly, it has allowed me to work on my own trauma: to lick my wounds and move forward in the most authentic way I can. This project is not nearly done, and I will continue to interview, collect stories, and work on art.

LGBTQ+ Texas Heroes Playing Cards. Dr. Yolanda Leyva and I both received this recognition.

These days I’m holding up my queerness as a badge of honor. I was honored as a Texas LGBTQ Hero from the Borderland Rainbow Center (and created some of the art used for this project), assisted PFLAG Las Cruces in updating their website as a community resource, and participated in various pride events throughout the Paso del Norte region. I also painted live for the Fine Art Flea Market in downtown Las Cruces. I am leaving my very gay mark in the frontera, but also in different places. A big shoutout to Tacoma Community College for having me present on my work and to facilitate a workshop on community art building.  I am ready for more of this, and I am available for hire.   

“The Land Protector” painted for La Semilla’s Farm Fellowship Evaluation.

I am peeling off the layers of 2023, ready to see what is in store for me and to continue creating art within community. I’m ready for a little bit of magic because it is a cathartic release of energy when generational curses (or trauma) have been broken, deactivated, and denounced. All that dark energy has been returned because, after all, every action in this world has a reaction—now reciprocated and reverberated and that’s how it works.  

PS. The quote taken at top is from my friend Pinky Torres who grew up in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio. He tells me interesting crazy stories and teaches me Caló. Many thanks to him, his wife Isela and daughter Yadira for always feeding me!

  • Identity, Culture and Community workshops at Tacoma Community College
  • Diosa vibes

Key takeaways from the last few years:

  • Anger is an emotion that we are afraid to understand, but anger is often justified.  Find creative/artistic ways to deal with that anger.
  • I think the best way to understand happiness is the feeling of joy. 
  • Don’t force things.
  • Some people just won’t change. Move on.
  • If grassroots have hierarchy, it’s not grassroots.
  • Just because someone helps you out (financially or otherwise) does not give them power over you. 
  • Don’t be a stranger to the concept of reciprocity.  Behave accordingly.

Sin Miedo

Please join me for the opening night of Sin Miedo, a pride art event in El Paso, TX. Thank you so much to Angel Cabrales and the crew at Construct Collective, located at 2131 Texas Ave, El Paso, TX 79901. The show will be quick so don’t miss it! See you this Friday, June 18th from 6-9pm.


The Empowerment Congress (EC) of Doña Ana invited me to be a contributor for the DescolonizARTE! Program and to tap into my experiences as an artist, organizer and educator to help visualize, plan and implement a youth-focused social justice curriculum and public art program in the colonias of Doña Ana County in Southern New Mexico.  My involvement in DescolonizARTE! has been a continuation of the work of other artists and social justice advocates. I have been the lead artist over three sets of workshops and art projects. Public art has been made possible for the communities of Anthony and Chaparral, NM. Due to COVID restrictions, the youth were not able work on the murals, but works on a secondary art project from home, which will be on public display soon.

La Casa de nuestra comunidad

La Casa De Nuestra Comunidad, José Montoya, Jan 2021

La Casa de Nuestra Comunidad, located in Anthony, NM was started during Christmas week 2020 and finished in January 2021. La Casa, a domestic violence shelter and non-profit agreed to share their wall with us. With feedback from the youth, EC, and La Casa, we came up with a piece of art that pays tribute to cultura colonia, iconic heroes and the beautiful landscape that surrounds the borderlands. This mural plays tribute to Southern New Mexico and El Paso, TX.


Respirar by José Montoya and Gerardo Caldera with assistance from DescolonizArte youth. April 2021

“Respirar” was intentional and it’s located in Chaparral, NM. Youth participants learned about the proposed fracking plant, Newman 6, that will have long-standing damage to the residents of Northeast El Paso and the neighboring community of Chaparral, NM. Artist Gerardo Caldera created some very touching pieces dedicated to the victims of COVID using lungs. I loved the idea, so we invited him to help create. The desolate desert is home to the slithering corporations that seek profits over people. The right side is of greener pastures, renewable energy and air.