Activist and Artist Favianna Rodriguez Shows the Beauty of Immigration to UCSB


Bailee Abell
Staff Writer

La Familia de Colores and the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity hosted artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez at the Migration is Beautiful Silk Screening Workshop at the University of California, Santa Barbara on Wednesday, April 16. Held at Loma Pelona Center, the event showcased Rodriguez’s work as an activist while also allowing students to create meaningful artwork.

This workshop was the second event in a three-part series featuring Rodriguez as the special guest. Rodriguez is a self-proclaimed “artist, agitator, and techie” who works to create significant, long-lasting social change, particularly in the lives of women, immigrants, and people of color.

“I don’t want to be a quiet, passive woman. I want to break down doors and [rise] through ceilings,” said Rodriguez.

This powerful attitude is shown not only through her artwork, but through her social activism as well. Rodriguez shows no mercy while speaking; her lecture was raw, thought-provoking, and insightful. She did not refrain from obscenities or finger waving, which added to the intensity of her speech.

The presentation primarily focused on the oppression of immigrants, which Rodriguez feels is an issue of human rights, not politics.

“We are up against an ideology, and we are disproportionately targeted because of an idea,” said Rodriguez. “It’s not because we’re bad or worse [than the majority], it’s because people’s ideas get transformed into [political] policies.”

The first piece of artwork Rodriguez showed was entitled “Raw,” a self portrait depicting two versions of Rodriguez: one is blindfolded and wearing white, while the other is removing her blindfold and wearing black.

“When I was growing up, I was surrounded by white,” said Rodriguez. “Do we see ourselves reflected in the media? Hardly. This is because of something I call the ‘cultural apartheid’: we live in a society where minorities do not exist.”

Rodriguez aims to combat this “cultural apartheid” through artwork and multimedia projects. These include CultureStrike, a national arts organization, and, the largest Latino online organization, which she co-founded and later quit because she wanted to pursue art full-time.

“I believe that artists have a particular [voice] that can lead to social change like nothing else,” said Rodriguez.

After Rodriguez’s presentation, students were encouraged to try silk screening, a medium by which a screen with an etched-out image is inked and pressed onto paper, creating a design. Rodriguez brought her own butterfly screens–some of which contained the slogan “Migration is Beautiful”–for students to use. The butterfly is particularly resonant of the immigration movement, as it represents the beauty that comes along with migration into the Unites States, rather than the hateful opposing views. Rodriguez explained that she chooses to use the butterfly symbol because she “wanted to create an image [depicting] the positives.”

“Why don’t we show and offer hope, mobility, fun, and self-reflection? We are not a sedentary people. Movement is about moving for the better,” said Rodriguez.

Several students smiled as they learned about the process of silk screening, and most were happy to create art themselves. One student, third-year feminist studies and Chican@ Studies double major Melba Martinez, was particularly reflective.

“I like that she is using art as a way of bringing back fun in these movements. We are showing each other how beautiful we are, but also how beautiful out movements are,” said Martinez, who is also one of the workshop’s organizers.

Abigail Salazar, another attendee, was a fan of Rodriguez’s before the event.

“Favianna has been an art-activist for years, specifically for…the undocumented immigrant community,” said Salazar, a second-year feminist studies and Chican@ Studies double major with a double minor in Indigenous Studies and Black Studies. “She reminds us of our struggles, but also our inspiration. It’s actually fun, and she creates community and love, even in the midst of all we have to go through.”

Since spring 2013, Rodriguez has been working alongside Salvador Güereña, UCSB’s Chican@ Studies librarian, to create an archive of her artwork which will forever be housed at Davidson’s Library. She will also be returning to UCSB in May for the Mujeritas Conference–hosted by MUJER, an on-campus women’s support group–where she will be speaking to high school girls.

To view Rodriguez’s artwork, read her blog, or watch her videos, visit