The Incredible Hulk drilling a stone with a jackhammer. Catwoman caring for young children. Spider-Man perched on a skyscraper washing windows.
The photographs are of Hispanic Americans at work, dressed by photographer Dulce Pinzon to show everyday Latinos the way their families see them: superheroes working to send money back to their relatives in Latin America.
They’re just a few of the photographs in a new exhibition and book, “Latino/US Cotidiano,” which in Spanish means “everyday,” by 12 Hispanic photographers brought together by the cultural arm of the Embassy of Spain. The exhibit is free to the public in the former residence of the Spanish ambassador in Washington D.C. at 2801 16th St NW through May 12th. The exhibit then will travel to Miami, Long Beach, Calif., and other cities.
The interpretations of Latinos doing everyday things are diverse. They include scenes of New York street life; parties, families and performers at a Houston rodeo; and well-to-do men and women in the Miami heat. There are portraits of Latinos who are successful in unexpected ways, from a park ranger in Alaska to high school robotics champions. Other photographs show the stars of a Mexican soap opera and Latino subjects completely out of focus, as if to underscore the notion that they aren’t so easily defined.
“My idea is to break the traditional stereotypes of Latinos as poor people, religious, in gangs,” Guillermo Corral, the embassy’s cultural counselor, said at the exhibit opening. “Latinos are often seen through stereotypical images. Latinos are as diverse, as vibrant, as this country.”
Photographer Susana Raab, who took shots of her subjects enjoying a Houston rodeo, said she was “interested in identity.” Her contributions include a picture of a young woman wearing Mexican revolution-era dress and a cowboy hat riding sidesaddle, and another of a family posing happily on a model of a bucking steer.
“I’m trying to find some emotional resonance in the environment and the moment,” she said.
The exhibit comes at a time of heightened visibility for the U.S. Hispanic community, which has strongly advocated for an immigration overhaul on Capitol Hill this year. Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority, at 52 million. Both political parties have realized the power of Latinos at the polls.
The pictures help tell the story of a minority with many faces as it matures.
“It is connecting with the Latino community at a present-day juncture,” Felix Sanchez, a founder and chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, said in an interview. “The more images and conversation we can have about what Latinos are today, the better.”
“It’s a much more rooted class, a stronger professional class, a much more political class and a stronger economic class than we’ve ever been before,” he said.
Carlos Tapia, a professor of Spanish and world cultures at American University who moderated a recent discussion of the show at the National Portrait Gallery, said in an interview that showing images that departed from what people expected was crucial to understanding Latinos. He said that most people, even his own students, thought that Latinos were Mexicans until he explained about the vast network of countries and peoples that also entered the U.S. from the Caribbean and Central America. Tapia was born in the U.S. of Argentinian parents.
“Being Latino is not homogenous,” he said. “The benefit of a project such as this is that you’re exposed to Latinos and Hispanics and what they’re like every day.”
The book is available at www.spainculture.us.