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Santanero Resistance: Student Art in Santa Ana

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The Power of Stories is an archive of projects submitted every year to Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Convening. It showcases work created throughout California highlighting the power of individual and collective efforts to promote health and demonstrates how stories have the power to re-imagine and transform our communities. Produced in partnership with the California Endowment.

Project Submitted by: Benjamin Vazquez

Project Synopsis: The fight over land, power and culture is not new to Santa Ana. Students explore this history and challenge the current changes taking place in their community through painting.

BHC Site: Central Santa Ana

In the Summer of 2014, Michael Rodriguez and Benjamin Vazquez taught a Summer Enrichment Class at Spurgeon Intermediate. The students took a course on Santa Ana history and the politics of land, power and culture. Students learned about Modesta Avila and her efforts to fight the Santa Fe Rail Road to properly compensate her for land, only to lose her life in the process.

They also learned of the development of La Cuatro, a historic area of downtown Santa Ana that has been the commercial heart of the Mexican community, that thrived even in bad times. The students learned of the gentrification efforts going on now and how a proposed trolley would do the same to their neighborhood. The students wanted to do a protest. This art piece is their protest.

This piece tells the story of the past and present. The fight over land, power and culture is not new to Santa Ana. We incorporated ideas of immigrant communities, children and how they are dehumanized to make room for progress. This takes the students voice and makes it tool for empowerment and change.

I was surprised the students where so passionate and motivated to want to make a difference.

I have seen a change in this community that is inspiring. Instead of having one major campaign for change at the grass roots level we have seen 3-4 happening at a time. It is inspirational to see so many different groups putting in work and supporting each other.

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