Cover artist Cesar Martinez has served as a cultural interpreter of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands for over 50 years. As one of the founders of Chicano art in the Southwest, he has consistently demonstrated creativity in painting, printing, and construction art. Martinez draws upon historical imagery to explain past traditions, while also developing new artistic concepts about the vast and diverse border. His artistic efforts over the past five decades have contributed to lifting Borderland, Chicano, and Latino art to new and brilliant heights.
I have a chapter, “The Borderland Artists: A Modern Perspective,” in the Harriett D. Romo and William A. Dupont book, Bridging Cultures: Reflections on the Heritage Identity of the Texas-Mexico Borderlands. Texas A&M Press, 2021 where I focus on Latino artists who draw inspiration from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. One of those artists is Cesar Martinez of San Antonio who was featured in a recent exhibit at Say Si!.
Martinez is probably best known for his “Bato” or “Pachuco” series. In his “El Pantalon Rosa,” (1984) Martinez captures the essence of an iconic figure from his barrio in Laredo at a time when “Pachuquismo” was in vogue in many of the borderland barrios. The community had several names for these stylish youth, including
“Cholos” and “Chucos.” The latter term was a shortening of “Pachuco” and seemed to originate in El Paso. As he explained to me, the source of many of his visual images of men and women come from dusty old high school yearbooks of the 1940s and 50s and even the obituary pages of his hometown.