Yo Soy . . .


I was born 1971 in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah hospital. I was raised in this state, and even graduated from the University Of Utah College Of Fine Arts. I am a Utah native who never saw our stories or images in the Utah history books, nor the Utah narrative. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I began to discover my own history as a Utah Chicana, as a Utahna.

My father was born 1937 in Monticello, Utah and his grandfather built the second cabin in that area. They were segregated in the schools, punished for speaking Spanish, yet persevered anyways. My aunt was the first woman miner in Helper, Utah. She was the first Mexican able to serve the public in a restaurant in Monticello. When she later started the first Mexican restaurant in Monticello you can imagine what that meant, however, it was short-lived. Aunt Rosa died of cancer 9 months later; as one of the many Down Winder victims from Monticello. My father’s grandparents, los Manzanarez, owned the first truck in town. There were no Catholic churches, so they bought the truck for practical reasons, to drive to Colorado for baptismal, weddings, quinceñieras, etc. Later the community bought a small piece of land and built the first Catholic Church in town, it still stands today. My father’s dad Cosme Chacón was trilingual; he spoke Spanish, Navajo and English. Cosme’s grandfather spoke several Indigenous dialects as well as English and Spanish. It wasn’t until much later, with the push of assimilation and “English Only” that my generation finally became monolingual. This push had devastating effects on my generation and my community, and we learned without a doubt that assimilation is genocide and acculturation is empowerment. We must not lose those elements that make us strong: our history, our traditions, our story and yes, even our languages.

My mother was born in the year 1940 in Salt Lake City, baptized at the old Guadalupe church. Many of her stories are centered on the train tracks that currently divide the Gateway from the beautiful Westside of town. Mom is a Miera on her mother’s side and a Montaño and her father’s. A Miera came with Father Escalante to the Salt Lake Valley. Some in my family claim him as a great grandfather, which he could be. Her father Jacobo Montaño spoke Spanish, English and Greek. He gave 32 years of his life to Ajax Presses, the place where he learned to speak Greek. Some of these areas are industrial now, but my mom remembers playing in them when they use to be her neighborhood. They once called these neighborhoods “La Colonia”.


I am Chicana with all its history, all its beauty, and all its tragedy. Better yet, I am Xicana derived from Mexikana. My ancestors have been traveling this land for hundreds if not thousands of years. My ancestors were conducting trade with the Utes, the Navajo, the Hopi and so many more long before the Declaration of Independence had ever been considered. The Old Spanish trail followed the path that my ancestors had traveled for hundreds of generations. My ancestors were planting corn seeds in Northern New Mexico that had once migrated from the valley of Mexico, the same corn seeds that would one day feed pilgrims coming across the Atlantic Ocean. My great grandfathers scribbled on the cliff walls so that one day children would stand in awe and wonder about those who came before them. Chicana or Xicana is a socially conscious word that embraces my history, both Native and Spanish, and recognizes my right to exist and claim space in this land on my own terms.

I realize more than ever that every aspect of our stories needs to penetrate all public institutions from educational to artistic, and yes, even libraries. We need to open the doors to our discoveries and insights as well as discover and pay tribute to our historical record. We need to fill in the gaps. This is our safeguard against revisionist history. This is our safeguard against those who would have us feel like trespassers in our own land, on our own continent. This is the protection that we have to make sure that our children and the children of those who come in search of opportunity do not have to feel ashamed for their families struggle for survival, but can embrace their ability to persevere. They can embrace their ability to rejoice, create, overcome and succeed, knowing that the seeds of success lie in their own ancestral heritage. To have this exhibit hanging in one of the most beautiful libraries in this country fills me with both pride and hope.


My paintings have become a reminder for me of who I am; I am the daughter and granddaughter of my mother, her mother, and so forth. I am the product of all their stories and traditions, their struggles and their achievements. As I mature as an artist, I find new material, new subjects. My work becomes less documentary and much more exploratory. I have a fascination with the human form and the human experience. I am curious about lives, I am curious about my connection to other people and their lives. I honor life. I am grateful to be alive, I am grateful to continue the long path and tradition of my ancestors, to tell the story of humanity in pictures and symbols. My paintings are rooted from my own personal journey and have blossomed into many directions. I explore the human experience from all spectrums. There is only one single connection in all my work, one single lifeline; they come from my own voice and experience as a Utahna, a Chicana, and an Artist.

I am Apache, Tewa Pueblo, Spanish, Mestiza, Mexika, Xicana, Chicana, American and Utahna. I am an Artist. These are my paintings. This is my insight. This is my historical record.