Qué Chola: Celebrating Strength, Power, and Resilience | New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

Qué Chola: Celebrating Strength, Power, and Resilience

At the National Hispanic Cultural Center

Gaspar Enríquez, La Smiley, 1996.

Qué Chola is an exhibition at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum in Albuquerque that features Cholas and homegirls in art and pop culture and celebrates the Chola as a symbol of strength, power, and resilience in the face of racial, gender, and economic adversity.

The term Chola is commonly used to refer to women of a particular subculture in the U.S. often characterized by cultural pride, tough behavior, and a distinctive style. The last few years have seen a surge in interest in the Chola persona and aesthetic in art, music, fashion, and popular culture. Exploring her presence in art sheds light on what she offers as an expression of Chicana identity that, in many ways, challenges normative understandings of femininity and broadens conceptions of what it means to be Chicana in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Many Chicana feminist scholars discuss the Chola, and her World War II-era precursor, the Pachuca, to show how their challenge to racism and poverty is interlinked with a resistance to gender norms and dominant expectations of femininity. These scholars notice that despite the figure’s presence in mainstream popular culture and being the target of negative stereotypes, the complexity of what and who she represents is a story that largely remains untold.

The exhibition features artworks by 29 artists from New Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas, and Colorado. Themes include aesthetics, popular culture, women’s solidarity, gender, practices of self-making, and cultural pride.

“The exhibition is really about honoring the impact of a figure that can help us think differently about who we are and the social structures we are a part of,” says Jadira Gurulé, curator at the NHCC Art Museum. “For some, the word Chola may be foreign or conjure up a stereotype. For other museum visitors, there may be an intimate familiarity and cultural connection. Regardless of individual experience, we hope the exhibition provides an opportunity for learning and reflection.”

Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m–5 p.m. $6 Adults (17+), $5 for NM Residents (17+), Free for: Youth (16 & under), Seniors (60+) on Wednesdays, Veterans & US Active Duty Military Personnel through Labor Day, and NM Residents on the first Sunday of each month.

Qué Chola is on view now through Aug. 4, 2019, Tuesday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

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