¡VIVA! A Celebration of Latinx Cultures and Traditions

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San Francisco has a rich Latinx heritage that is highlighted in a diverse array of exciting programs for all ages, from Spanish/bilingual storytimes, to author talks, to art and cultural presentations. Come enjoy with us. ¡Bienvenidos! 

About the Artist: Fernando Martí

Fernando Martí is a printmaker, writer, community architect and housing activist based in San Francisco. Originally from Ecuador, he has been deeply involved in San Francisco’s struggles for affordable housing, ecological justice and the reclamation of the commons since the mid-90s. His illustrations, etchings, linocuts, screenprints, public constructions and altar ofrendas reflect his formal training in urbanism, his roots in rural Ecuador and his current residence in the heart of Empire. His work is an attempt to reclaim ancestral traditions of place toward building a liberatory Latinx futurism. He is a member of the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative.

Artist Fernando Martí photo

Who or what set you on the path to becoming an artist?

I have always drawn, I was one of those kids in the back of the classroom drawing while I thought the teacher wasn’t looking. Comic books, science fiction spaceships, rock star singers and people. I studied architecture, and sketching the environment and imagining futures was a big part of that education. In the 90s, I learned to make prints, etchings and linocuts, and started writing poetry and stories as well. Later, as an organizer and activist, the San Francisco Print Collective showed me how to turn political statements into screenprinted posters, bold colors and big text like comic books, in your face and on the streets. My art heroes are Goya, Posada, the Cuban printmakers of the TriContinental, especially Rene Mederos, California’s Chicano printmakers and Afrofuturist collage artists. My art practice combines all those things.

What tools do you use to create your art?

The medium varies from project to project: some are traditional etchings on metal plates or carvings on linoleum blocks, or screenprints from drawings. But often I combine traditional drawing, hand-drawn lettering and watercolors with digital overlays of text and found images. In my current projects I’m experimenting with larger, more publicly accessible works, printing on vertical boards to resemble ancient Maya stelae.

How have libraries played a role in your life?

In middle school, my favorite place to hang out after school was the local library, which was located right next door. I learned so much there, just wandering the aisles and picking up books that spoke to me by the title or illustration on the spine. My art and writing often calls for a ton of research, which may or may not be visible in the final work, but is all part of the process of doing a job well.

What kinds of stories do you seek to tell in your art?

My artwork tells of stories of struggle, of fighting oppression, whether economic or racial or gender. The challenge is to not just show the oppression, but to show people’s agency, shaping their own lives and transforming their worlds. It’s often based in my own experience, as a Latinx immigrant from Ecuador, or in the context in which I work, the gentrification and struggles in urban San Francisco. As someone who grew up on science fiction, I try to look to the future, to what’s possible. But also as someone trying to find and reclaim cultural roots, I look to ancestral knowledge and myths. You’ll see both in my art.

Where do you find the greatest inspiration to spark creativity and your imagination?

My inspiration comes from the struggles immediately around me, what my friends and comrades are involved in, whether fighting against rampant displacement, or for racial justice in our schools, or against militarization and recruitment, or for bodily autonomy. I’m inspired by young people moving in our modern cellphone social media world and at the same time showing up to farm in a plot of land in the Excelsior, creating new worlds that combine both experiences. All these stories spark associations with images and poetry that turn up in my sketchbooks and then in my artwork.

This is our story—Latino Task Force Community Spotlight

When the world was suddenly told to social distance and shelter in place, San Francisco’s Latino Task Force (LTF) initiated an aggressive COVID-19 response drawing on the strength of its people to pool resources to support the City’s Latinx community. What started as a handful of community activists organizing within days of the Shelter-in-Place Order, the LTF immediately began to educate the community on the impact of the disease with culturally relevant messaging in Spanish, Maya languages and English and set up community food distribution hubs.

While the Coronavirus mutated, the LTF’s scope evolved from connecting Mission District community-based organizations (CBOs) with City resources to a citywide network of 40+ CBOs with 13 active committees and partners from various local, state and federal departments, including the Mexican Consulate—all committed to working together to meet the needs of San Francisco’s Latinos, immigrants, families, elders, unhoused, LGBTQIA+, youth, BIPOC communities and inclusively anyone experiencing challenging times. The LTF built an impressive resource infrastructure that exponentially grew to reach other neighborhoods including the Excelsior and Bayview. Because of their heroic efforts, the rate of Latinx vaccinated individuals in San Francisco, is well above the state and national average.

The Library supports the LTF and their initiatives by connecting them to librarians for hands-on STEM Activity Workshops for Summer Stride 2022, by providing Bookmobile visits at their events and free books for the community. Learn more about the LTF at ltfrespuestalatina.com.