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The North Texas Art Collective Representing For Latinos

Podcasts, parties and art shows are how this collective hopes to give voice the Latin community in North Texas and beyond.

by Hady Mawajdeh 30 Nov 2017 Shutterstock
De Colores Collective

Rafa Tamayo (left), Pat Arreguin (center) and Eva Arreguin (right) are the founders of De Colores Collective. The collective aims to give voice to Latinos and people of color through podcasts, parties and themed art shows. Rafa's a rapper, actor and the manager of the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. Eva works at the educational nonprofit Big Thought. Pat works in the live music industry. All believe art can help heal micro-aggressions they say Latinos deal with daily.

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Welcome to the Art&Seek Artist Spotlight. Every Thursday, here and on KERA FM, we’ll explore the personal journey of a different North Texas creative. As it grows, this site, artandseek.org/spotlight, will eventually paint a collective portrait of our artistic community. Check out all the artists we’ve profiled.

Nowadays, it seems there’s a podcast for just about everything. Despite the variety, not everyone feels served. In this week’s Art&Seek Artist Spotlight, I connect with an arts collective hoping to represent for North Texas Latinos through podcasting.

When you listen to Eva Arreguin and Rafael Tamayo chop it up on their podcast – ‘De Colores Radio’ – you’re no longer just walking the dog or sitting at the bus stop. Instead, you’re in a room with a couple of good friends. And y’all are talking about Selena.

Want to hear the gang discuss Selena? Check out the player above.

But the podcast isn’t just about pop culture or celebrities. The hosts reflect on national news and politics. They interview local artists and community advocates. And they debate whether conchas or empanadas are the best sort of pan dulce. It’s all through the lens of what it’s like to be a Latino experiencing life in North Texas.

“Oh my god we all feel like we’re choking,” That’s Eva Arreguin. She’s talking about how she feels as a Latin woman in North Texas. “We have to do something, because we need to have our voices heard.”

Arreguin is 23 years-old. She works at the education non-profit Big Thought, connecting children with arts programming. But when she’s not doing that, she’s working on the ‘De Colores Radio’ podcast.

“There’s a huge Latino, or LatinX, population here,” Arreguin says. “And you don’t see much of it represented as far as power, media or any of that stuff goes.”

Arreguin and her sister Pat Arreguin  are North Texas natives. They grew up in Grand Prairie. And they attended school at the University of North Texas in Denton. And they say that it blows their mind that despite the significant number of Latinos in the region that they’re not seen or heard from in the media.

“So I really was like, ‘We need to have something here. We’re present here. We need to be seen, heard, felt… all of it,'” Arreguin says.

The Arreguin sisters Photo: Marielena Carpanzano

The Arreguin sisters. Pat Arreguin (left) Eva Arreguin (right) Photo: Marielena Carpanzano

The Arreguin sisters both studied media and Latino culture in college. And that’s where the idea for ‘De Colores Radio’ was born. But after school, neither of them was really in the position to just up and start a podcast.

Both women began working at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, Eva leading art projects with kids, Pat helping staff  plan events. And that’s where they met Rafael Tamayo, who manages the center. Together, they launched the podcast eight months ago.

The three consider themselves a sort of arts collective. They throw parties and curate themed art shows that champion causes like the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“Whatever it is that drives you or that you love to do in a way that says ‘I’m expressing myself in my most honest and trues form,’ we’re here to let you know that we’re supportive of it,” says Tamayo.

The collective’s home base is the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. Tamayo’s also an actor, a rapper, and a co-founder of the annual Sneaker Expo – KIXPO. He grew up near Uptown, back when the area was known as “Little Mexico.” He’s seen what it looks like for a city to change and for minorities to be pushed aside. Art changed his life.

“The reason I didn’t end up like some of my closest friends and family who made the biggest mistakes in their lives,” says Tamayo, “was because I had these art outlets. And so I was able to navigate my way through life through these expressive forms that I discovered.”

‘De Colores’ wants to connect others to similar outlets. And it may be working. Local media, including the Dallas Morning News, call them a podcast to watch. Nationally, they’re an up and coming pod according to Latina Magazine. And best-selling author Shea Serrano tweets they are filling a void.

“That was really cool, cause you know we do have a lot of fun, but at the same time we want to make sure that we speak to people, and if they listen we’re here to listen back,” Tamayo says.

Recently, at a wedding, Tamayo was surprised when a guest asked for a selfie, and told him how glad he was the podcast existed.

It’s interactions like this, not the media shout-outs, that ‘De Colores’ wants. It’s how they know people are listening.

What’s the origin story behind the “De Colores Radio” podcast?

Rafa: I met Eva and Pat through a mutual friend that I knew from the theater. This friend told me about what they were studying in college and just really talked about how great they were. So I reached out to Eva and she became a mentor for a young girls’ project we were putting on at the OC3 for student photographers.

The project had started out in Los Angeles and had satellite camps in various cities. We were lucky to get one set up here. And Eva led that project. She was great. The students loved her.

While she was running that project, she and I had spoken a couple of times about the things she wanted to do. The projects she wanted to lead. You know, stuff she wanted to accomplish personally. And she had briefly mentioned podcasts and wanting more representation in the Latino community.

She was interested in how we were represented in the media and the broader Latino narrative.

Anyway the OC3 kept bringing her back to work with us, because she was so great with the community. Last year, she coordinated our Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. She brought the Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy Mariachi and they tore the house down. It was amazing. So logistically working with Eva was amazing. And we knew from that Eva was capable of doing amazing stuff.

So I talked to Pat a couple of time – when Eva wasn’t around – and she started elaborating on the whole idea of a podcast. And I thought, ‘Man, this could be really cool.’ Because I agreed with them about representation and controlling the narrative.

After that, we emailed and I told them that I was a fan of theirs already and that I was interested in working together. We met, we discussed the podcasts and talked about addressing all of the issues and things that were needed in our community. And then we consolidated all of our ideas into this collective which included the podcast, the art shows and the parties. That was our way to connect with every sort of environment that we could think of.

So if you’re an artist or a person of color looking for a platform for expression, we have the art show. If you’re someone who likes to have fun, but wants some sort of socially conscious backing associated, we have the parties. And the parties usually have queer artists or minority voices involved. And the podcasts was HUGE, because that’s where we could have the discussion about issues and sort of allow people to be in discussion with us.

How does North Texas affect the production of this podcast?

Eva: Well, we’re in the South and the South is still a Red area, you know? And when you are a person of color that doesn’t agree with the ideologies associated with a Red state, you feel like you’re drowning. A lot. You feel like you’re trapped. Even if you’re city might be Blue, ultimately your state is still Red.

So that’s what it feels like in Texas. It feels like you’re ideologies don’t align with the rest of the state. That’s what it feels like in North Texas. If you leave this part of town – Oak Cliff – you’re not going to feel the same way. If you were to travel 45 minutes outside of Dallas and take a trip to the city I went to school at, you feel like an “other.” When you’re not in your spot or in an area where people look and feel like you, you remember what your state is. You remember what your position is.

And so we really created this platform to go against that. We want to unite the people who have like-minded thoughts. Even the people who don’t think exactly like us. So being here completely affects everything that we do.

Being in North Texas really motivates us, because want to create a more progressive environment for everyone. And North Texas has everything to do with who we are, what we create and we want to bring some light to Texas that isn’t bad.

Art is a major component in the collective and in the podcasts. Why? Do you think art can affect change?

Rafa: Well, being here – at the OC3 – I feel like I see arts making an impact all the time. And that’s just with me. Here. To myself.

But it’s not just me, there’s been tons of studies done that look at the connections between art and academia for students and we’ve seen success. And I believe that the power of any movement needs to come from the youth.

Look, I understand that the reason I didn’t end up like some of my closest family and friends who all made big mistakes is because I had art outlets. And so I was able to navigate my way through life through these expressive forms that I was discovering. So yes, going to school and learning about statistics and business models is important for running a business. But to me, being able to study those things was fueled by the arts. Art was a passion for me.

And there are countless stories about students that I have seen come through the OC3 whose lives were changed because of arts programming. Arts is integral in a person’s life. That’s why we don’t restrict the types of art we accept for the De Colores Collective art shows. We’ve accepted films, songs, poems and all of that is to make sure people understand that whatever it is that drives you to express yourself, we’re here to support you. We’re team arts.

Eva: I think art is healing. And I think a lot of people of color deal with traumas and things that they might not even realize that they’re dealing with and art give them an outlet to feel that sense of creativity and happiness that comes about when you’re creating something of your own.

Are you creatively satisfied?

Eva: That’s a really tough question… Is anyone ever fully satisfied with anything? No. If I could outside of my job doing something based more in media or if I was creating a TV show or doing something like that, yea. Then I’d probably be a little bit more creatively satisfied. In my job, I do have the opportunity to work with kids and to introduce them to the arts. And that’s really satisfying. But is it fully satisfying? No.

But I have really high standards for myself. And I don’t know if I will ever be fully satisfied. But the podcasts and the collective is like a therapeutic outlet and I’m at a good satisfaction level.

What makes you all different or special from other podcasts?

Rafa: Well Eva and Pat are sisters. And they are very different from one another. And I’m also very different from each of them. But despite our differences, we stand on common ground. For example, we all love hip-hop music. But if you ask Pat, Eva and myself what are views are and we’re worlds apart.

We have the Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z conversation all the time –

Eva: That’s not the question!

Rafa: We have the Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z conversation where based upon facts I say that Jay-Z is the best rapper alive.

Pat: You’re going to bring that up now?

Rafa: So this is the sort of stuff I’m talking about. We don’t always agree. But with our differences, we’ve created a collective and then you add in the environments that we come from.  We come from Mexican families, but our Mexican families are very different. And that inevitably sparks discussion on the podcast that allows us to give different sorts of representation.

So you have to consider the nuances of who we are. You throw in our backgrounds, what we like to do for fun, our Mexican identity, our LatinX identity, our millennial identity and everything into a salad bowl and you have us. And I think there’s a uniqueness to De Colores that I haven’t heard anywhere else in America.

Eva: That was pretty good. I think he nailed it. I guess. We’ll agree on that.

Interview questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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