Los Dos Laredos

(100 Years of War)

I came across the census for my family starting in 1900, the thirteenth U.S. census. I found that since the “official immigration” (since the border crossed my family), we have been in every single foreign American war (WWI and on). I happen to have the service portraits of everyone but my great uncle’s WWI photo. Everyone drafted but me.

This installation intends to visually and symbolically embed my family’s history into the American narrative and landscape. What makes our narrative unique is being from the border of Texas and Mexico. Our culture is diverse and deeply rooted around the Rio Grande River. This river once united a nation, a country between Texas and Mexico. We are The Republic of the Rio Grande. We are the only city that has flown under seven flags in the United States. We are Tejano.

Through my research, I recently discovered xerox copies of the Thirteenth Census recorded in the United States. My great uncle is included in these documents. He “immigrated” to the United States and was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War I.

Furthermore, my father and his younger brother were also both drafted, although in World War II as American, Race: Mexican. My father into the Army and my uncle Navy. I came into possession of both of their draft portraits and incorporated their images into this work.

These photos are cyanotype exposed on cotton satin using the service photos of my ancestors. After their initial exposure and wash, the images are then toned in white vinegar to develop their deep blue color and expand their tonal range. Once dried, they are toned again using Youpon, a herbal plant native to South Texas. The acid from the Youpon tea reacts to the cyanotype, shifting its blue color towards green. On one of the photos, I experimented with a second photographic exposure over my father’s photo using a gum bichromate layer made with topsoil from the Rio Grande River in my hometown of Laredo, Texas.