A Latino Artist Pursuing His Dream… Far From Home

by Alejandra Vargas

My name is Alejandra Vargas. I am as student at Morris Jeff High School. I am from Honduras. The plight and journey of immigrants is close to my heart. I also have a deep interest in art and I was always curious how foreign artists survived not only in the USA, but specifically New Orleans, a Mecca for artists. 

Life in Cuba is hard. There is rampant poverty and not many opportunities and resources for people to have a better life. However, Cuba is also a place with a rich culture and beautiful places to visit. Mr. Piki Mendizabal is a Cuban artist following his dream as a Latino painter. Mr. Mendizabal is pursuing his craft in New Orleans and expresses his thoughts, feelings, and memories through his art. 

I recently met with him at a local event and asked a number of questions, so I could get to know more about this wonderful creations. However, by seeing his art I could see the way he felt about  his country’s conditions.

Alejandra Vargas: What inspired you to be an artist ?

Piki Mendizabal: Art has always been something that I needed in order to express myself. Some people can speak best through words or actions; I have always been able to share my feelings best through art. I need to draw and paint to show my true self.

A.V. How was your life experience as an immigrant ?(being one and how were you treated )

P.M. Being an immigrant is hard work. We have to be careful and always follow the rules of immigration and taxes. I do; I make sure of it.

A.V. When did you decide to be an artist?

P.M. I formally pursued being an artist when I was accepted into Cuba’s art school when I was 19. 

A.V.  How is the life in Cuba ?

P.M. Cuba is an interesting place filled with lots of happiness and also a lot of sadness. People there are extremely happy and friendly, but extremely poor. They do not know a better life. 

AV: How did you get here ?

PM: I came here on on a plane using a fiance visa. 

A.V. What made you come here ?

P.M. I came to the United States so that I could paint.The opportunities were more plentiful. 

A.V. What are the differences between Cuba and Louisiana ?

P.M. I have only lived in New Orleans in Louisiana, but I feel like New Orleans is the closest place in the United States to Havana. People here are friendly, laid back, and rich with culture. Being here makes me feel not so far from home.  

A.V.How does your life in cuba  influence your art ?

P.M. My art is a reflection of my experiences. My art reflects my feelings about leaving cuba, and it shows both the sadness and the joy that leaving cuba has brought to me. 

A.V. Is all your family here in New Orleans ?

P.M. None of my family is here in the United states. I am the only one of them here. 

A.V. Why did you end up in New Orleans of all places?

P.M. I knew a few people in Miami from New Orleans and it seemed like a good place to move. I needed to leave Miami because it felt too much like home. 

A.V.  Are you thinking about doing art professionally ?

P.M. Yes, I actually started doing art full time this fall. I left my full time job in order to pursue being an artist. 

A.V. In what way do you express yourself with art ?

P.M. I express my thoughts, feelings, and memories through my art. 

A.V. Where did you study ?

P.M. I studied at The Academy of Fine Arts in San Alejandro Art in New Orleans 

After this interview I could see the passion he had for art and how it shaped him into the person he is today. His art illustrates his feelings, thoughts, and memories. I have seen many examples of his work and I am intrigued with the depth with which he paints. There is a sense of missing home, Cuba, but looking to the future. I know he returns to the island nation  many times to visit family. There is a sadness when he heads back to New Orleans, but then immerses himself in his work – which is his new life, following his passion.

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