El Jale is an exhibition and collection of 30 Polaroid Instax photographs by Anaheim documentary photographer Alkaid Ramirez. With the installation at MUZEO, accessible to the public for free starting April 8 in Carnegie Plaza, Ramirez hopes to bring attention to the ways the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Latinx workers, especially those that are undocumented, and the richness of swap meet culture.
About the Exhibition
El Jale will be on view starting April 8 in Carnegie Plaza through the month of April. The exhibition features 30 black and white photographs – originally shot on Polaroid Instax in monochrome film – enlarged, reprinted on vinyl, and installed on the ground. The exhibition is curated by MUZEO Executive Director Katie Adams Farrell with the artist, Alkaid Ramirez. Installing the photographs on the ground serves two purposes: to bring relevant art exhibitions to our community even as MUZEO’s physical facility remains closed to the public; and to represent the artist’s narrative about how Latinx workers are “walked on,” especially during the pandemic. MUZEO is proud to bring this innovative installation to our community and to support the work of an Anaheim local artist. The views expressed are the artist’s and do not necessarily reflect those held by MUZEO and its Board of Directors.
- Behind-the-Scenes of the Installation & Interview with the Artist – April 8 on Instagram Live
- Instagram Live Event with the Artist – TBD
About the Artist
Alkaid Ramirez is an Anaheim-based photographer, practicing documentary photography in Anaheim over the past years. Ramirez uses the film photography medium to capture the integral scenes, stories and civil unrest in his community that contribute to larger conversations about social inequality and inequity. His work relates specifically to the systemic challenges of working class immigrants and marginalized communities. He is inspired by both the need to document these struggles in order to challenge them as well as to bear witness to the cultural significance for future generations. His body of work focuses on significant places and periods of his own life that contribute to his identity as a child of resilient immigrant parents and a second generation Chicano who subconsciously assimilated into colonized spaces.
El Jale was created out of the necessity to document the resilience of the Latinx community in the City of Anaheim and their need to create income during the coronavirus pandemic. This project also shares the richness of swap meet culture. In this space vendors and performers carry out their sales and acts even at the peak of the pandemic.
Though the swap meets are year-round and existed before the pandemic, I found that during these times, the swap meets have been an economic safe house for Latinx workers. Before the pandemic, the majority of vendors held jobs outside of selling at the swap meet, but many lost their jobs due to their high vulnerability in the workforce and lack of protections for Latinx workers, especially immigrants. Of those that kept jobs, the vast majority of Latinx/undocumented workers are essential workers, which places them at a higher risk of catching the virus as compared to other workspaces with the privilege of working from home. These jobs are also often low-paid, so on evenings and weekends, they still come out to the swap meets to make what cash they can to carry them until their next paycheck. This is part of the complex web of factors resulting in disproportionately high coronavirus infection rates in black and brown communities.
As these injustices have become more known to the public, mutual aid organizations have sprung up around the country, including some in Anaheim. These organizations work diligently to provide mutual aid in the forms of grocery deliveries, feeding our unhoused neighbors, hosting free markets, and providing accurate and culturally-sensitive information and resources for black and brown communities. Please consider supporting these organizations as we strive to create an autonomous community, including @anaheimautonomouscoalition on Instagram.
I hope this project will bring greater understanding to the diverse challenges that POC face in this pandemic and demonstrate how essential Latinx workers are to our community. They work off their own means and live with whatever they can make. The culture is the peak of resolve and resilience.
- Thanks to Solar Art for your willingness to experiment with us.
- Thanks to Alona Scott and the Downtown Anaheim Association for holding space for this innovative display.
- Thanks to the City of Anaheim for your ongoing support of MUZEO and local artists.
- Thanks to Jennifer Frias, Director of the Begovich Gallery at CSUF, for your ceaseless ingenuity and advising.
Thanks to William Camargo for introducing MUZEO to Alkaid Ramirez.