¡Viva la Seattle!

A survey of what Mexican Americans have given Seattle—besides great Cinco de Mayo parties.

By Tiffany Wan April 19, 2010 Published in the May 2010 issue of Seattle Met

The Explosion of Chicano Creativity by Daniel DeSiga at El Centro de la Raza

El Centro de la Raza
A three-month sit-in that began on October 11, 1972, turned a dilapidated school on Beacon Hill into a community fixture. The peaceful protest ended when the school district and the city agreed to lease the space to the demonstrators for $1 a year. El Centro de la Raza (“The Center for People of All Races”) has since become a go-to community resource for educational, emergency, and transitional services, from financial literacy training to hip-hop and youth poetry classes to immigration and civil rights advocacy.

Mia Zapata
Rumored to be the descendent of Mexican insurgent Emiliano Zapata, Mia—lead singer of Seattle punk band the Gits—had a streak of revolutionary rebellion in her fiery voice. Her brutal murder in 1993 cut her promise of stardom short—and for years remained one of the city’s most notorious cold cases. But her killer was caught and convicted last year. And her legacy lives on. She’s the subject of the recent documentary The Gits (directed by Kerri O’Kane) and the inspiration behind the nonprofit Home Alive, which promotes antiviolence and self-defense for women.

Somos Aztlan
, painted in 1971 by Emilio Aguayo on a wall of UW’s Ethnic Cultural Center, ignited an aesthetic revolution. Similar images, all chronicling the Mexican American experience, dot the cityscape. The murals of Aguayo’s fellow UW alum Daniel DeSiga depict migrant life in Eastern Washington and adorn El Centro de la Raza and Washington State Department of Labor offices. The two artists differ in style—DeSiga’s images are calm, bucolic; Aguayo’s are abstract and confrontational—but both works are in collections all over the country; and two of DeSiga’s paintings are 
on display in the Smithsonian in DC.

Judge Ricardo S. Martinez
Nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed as a U.S. District Court Judge in the Western District of Washington in 2004, Martinez has largely flown under the radar until recent skirmishes with big business revealed him to be a fighter for the little guy. Last year he shut down mining company Glacier Northwest’s construction of a massive dock on Maury Island after residents complained that the work would harm endangered marine populations. And he dismissed AT&T’s attempt to bar customers from filing class action suits against the cellular company for poor service and overcharging.

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