Author: Nick Sedano
Whether it be arte, music, or literature, it’s important to know the roots of the cultura that many Chicanx folx wear/represent/listen to on the daily. It is a vast and beautiful field to explore, which many of us should be constantly learning about. As my first write up, here is a short history about a firme art colectiva out of northern Califas.
The Royal Chicano Air Force, initially named Rebel Chicano Art Front, is an extremely important and influential artist collective based in Sacramento, Califas. It was founded in 1969 with the mission of creating a bilingual/bicultural space where artists could exchange ideas and provide mutual support for each other. It was a place where the Chicanx community could come together and create art in the form of murals, political posters, and sculptures. The founding members include José Montoya, Esteban Villa, Juanishi V. Orosco, Ricardo Favela and Rudy Cuellar.
During the Chicanx movement students put pressure on colleges and universities to increase diversity in their faculties. Thanks to that pressure, Montoya and Villa were hired as professors of art at California State University, Sacramento. This allowed them to have more power within the school and create more of a connection between the university and the barrio community. Through that connection came many programs such as the Barrio Art Program, which required students to go out into their community and teach art courses wherever possible.
In its early days the RCAF would frequently hold events at Sacramento’s Southside Park in order to fund their activities and support local farmworkers. In 1972 the RCAF created the non-profit Centro De Artistas Chicanos. It was the incubator for many other community programs/establishments in the Sacramento area such as La Nueva Raza Bookstore/Galeria Posada that was spearheaded by Philip “Pike” Santos and Louie “the Foot” Gonzalez. The bookstore was created to fill the void of published work by/about Chicanx and Native Americans. Other institutions included Aeronaves de Aztlán (Car repair garage), RCAF Danzantes (Dance hall), RCAF graphics design center and Centro de Artistas Chicanos which held the Breakfast for Niños program (A non-profit program that fed children before school).
The RCAF was not just a huge inspiration for Chicanx artists in the Sacramento area but also for Chicanx people all throughout Califas and the entire country. They still operate today and many of their murals are still standing, including their work at Chicano Park in barrio Logan of San Diego. It is necessary for us to express the creative side of ourselves and our youth so we can continue to see beautiful collectives like this keep popping up and creating amazing things, supporting the barrio and taking a political stance against the racist system that is trying to keep us down.
Viva la Raza!