Experiencing Mexican culture and community through the food and environment of an authentic Mexican restaurant.
The inspiration behind my work came from how warm and pleasant the colors of the restaurant were. I was a patron at the La Cocina de Anita in the midafternoon around 2:30 PM, and even though the time I went isn't typically when most people eat, there were still a decent number of people eating in the establishment. At every table I saw people enjoying their day, engaging in cheerful, spirited conversations while eating their tacos, enchiladas, and other traditional Mexican dishes amidst a background of brightly colored red and yellow walls. The walls brought forth a feeling of warmth and community, given that they are painted traditional colors found in Mexican culture, while simultaneously mimicking the shades of the sky during a beautiful sunset.
Hanging in the top left on the wall from my perspective was a painting of a woman in a flowing white dress and braided brown hair. The simple, traditional dress the woman was wearing aided in the feeling that we were no longer in San Diego, but rather somewhere further south eating our delicious, aromatic foods. The table cloths were adorned with illustrations of flowers and plants drawn in a style typically found in Mexican artwork, further assisting the wonderful ambiance of the restaurant. The establishment was also brightly lit, almost as if the sun was shining directly into the building, making everything seem more comforting and inviting.
Focusing more on the people in the establishment, you could immediately tell how at ease and content they were just by the way that they spoke and acted. Smiles can be seen at almost any table from people chatting with friends or family in between taking bites from their food. Lively discussion and laughter filled the air as the patrons of the restaurant talked about what was going on in their lives or joked along with their friends or family about anything they found particularly funny. While the colors and the artwork did help set up the atmosphere in the building, it was the people who came to eat, talk and relax that made the restaurant feel like a community.
Being an immigrant myself, I understand much food can bring people, not just from that particular culture, together. I have been able to experience my culture again through a restaurant in San Clemente, and my experiences at La Cocina de Anita immediately reminded me of that place. Being separated from one's culture can strip away who you are or the connection you have with the place you are living in. Creating a safe haven for people to experience their culture again in a safe, welcoming way can mean a world of difference to someone. A shared love of traditional foods can bring a community together, and offer some respite and downtime for people who want to reconnect with other people in their communities, such as with acquaintances or loved ones.
These feelings of homeliness, peacefulness, and community are what I wanted to focus on in my artwork. Rather than focusing on finer detail, I tried to recreate the overall feelings I felt while at the restaurant. For example, with the walls I tried to demonstrate the bright, almost sunset-like, colors that comprise them in order to represent the warmth felt when seeing them. I also wanted to show the community found inside by painting the people in the restaurant eating and chatting with the others at their table. By painting each person similarly, I hoped to display that this warmth and culture can be and was experienced by not only one ethnicity or community.