Las Imaginistas, an art collective based in Brownsville, and community members rode their bikes through the Buena Vida Community Housing and other locations in downtown Brownsville on Aug. 31. Throughout the ride, formally known as Rascuache Bike Ride, they collected small and miniature sized objects, or “chucherías.” These items would help build a model of the city, a project the art collective is spearheading.

Las Imaginistas are led by Christina Patino Sukhgian Houle, Nansi Guevara, and Celeste De Luna, three Rio Grande Valley artists who have combined their individual talents to achieve social justice in the border region. The collective tackles community development issues and is working with Brownsville residents to “co-create” a more “equitable” city.

One of the ways they are doing this is through their project “Hacemos La Ciudad,” which translates to “we build the city” or “we make the city.”

Photo by Kelly Saenz

The event was part of the second phase, or “the hands phase,” of Hacemos La Ciudad. There are a total of four phases: the mind, the hands, the heart, and the body. The first phase happened in July with a series of panel discussions and workshops at the Brownsville Public Library.

“Sometimes what we see is that when things are done out of need or necessity, and also when things are done by folks who are lower income, it’s looked down as not an intentional choice,” Patiño Sukhgian Houle said when asked about the rascuache nature of the project.

“I think what we really like about rascuache aesthetics is that it acknowledges that it is an intentional choice with intelligence that is coming with an aesthetic knowledge, history, and culture that really has its own language. By calling this a rascuache bike ride, we are saying that this is what this city model will be like as well.”

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At the Buena Vida neighborhood, kids and their parents waited to donate their chucherías to Las Imaginistas as they arrived at the bike ride with members of the community that had gathered. Prior to the arrival of Las Imaginistas, the community sang songs like “Cielito Lindo” and “Mexico Lindo y Querido.”

Photo by Kelly Saenz

Las Imaginistas asked for donations, and several kids gave bags of their chucherías that they were willing to part with. Before the ride began, Las Imaginistas sang to the community a serenata of their own to the melody of Las Mañanitas. Everyone then took off to ride around the Buena Vida community.

Irma, a mother of two boys, expressed that she appreciated the activities that Las Imaginistas were providing for her community, especially the bikes they received from Las Imaginistas through the Brownsville Bike Barn.

“Este tipo de actividades,” Irma said, “sirven para oxigenar el cerebro, como mi mamá decía.” These type of activities serve to given oxygen to the train, as her mom would say.

Photo by Kelly Saenz

Diego, one of her sons, rode around in a bike that he had decorated at the Carlotta K. Petrina Cultural Center, where several children had gathered to decorate the donated bikes.

Once the ride around the Buena Vida community ended, Las Imaginistas thanked the members of the Buena Vida community that had donated their objects and gathered to ride with them.

The Hacemos La Ciudad project will continue throughout the year. The next event will involve the making of the city model, and the community is invited to partake in it. During the project’s body phase, the model will be projected. The community, or “anthropologists of the future,” as las Imaginistas called them, will be able to move through the model and engage with it.

Learn more about Las Imaginistas at lasimaginsitas.com

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