Ernesto Yerena: Art of Two Worlds
Text by Lauren Jones Images by Josue Rivas
Artist and activist Ernesto Yerena Montejano experienced a childhood tethered by borders. Raised between El Centro, California, and Mexicali, Mexico, his cross-national upbringing not only made him resent the border from a young age, but later inspired him to create sociopolitical artwork depicting his frustrations as someone who strongly identifies as both Chicano and Native/Indigenous. For Yerena Montejano, art is way to express emotions without words. From showing the struggle of the immigrant, the oppression often felt within his own community, and the depressing state of the American political system through powerful imagery, his work can not only be described as brazen, but inherently infused with an undercurrent of resistance.
In 2008, he formed Hecho Con Ganas (Made with Motivation), and has since become known for his work rooted in activism. Over the years, he’s created many political posters with phrases such as “No somos immigrantes en nuestra tierra” (We aren’t immigrants in our own land) and “We the Resilient” to unite his community and continue the conversation surrounding immigrants and civil liberties. He also protested during the #NoDAPL movement and passed out 4,000 posters during the Los Angeles Women’s March in January of 2017.
“In this time, we all have a responsibility to tell the truth, whether it’s our version or whatever is happening,” says the artist. As a creative in today’s society, he feels a responsibility to make art that is not only uplifting and empowering, but work that keeps the public eye on Mexican-American and Indigenous cultures. Today, Yerena Montejano is drawing on his childhood experiences to create spray-painted stencil prints with themes like liberation and healing.