Amplifying Her Mexican Roots
“My choice in fashion is a way to show pride and share my culture with a wider audience on a day-to-day basis.”
- Joeceline Garcia
"Cenzontle" is the Nahuatl word for the mockingbird, the bird of four hundred voices, who absorbs its surrounding sounds to interpret and produce a sound of its own. This photo story visually captures the voice of Joeceline Garcia, a 17-year-old student of Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy, who vibrantly shares her cultural identities through clothing and wearable art.
Joeceline’s mom is from Santa Clara de Valladares, a pueblo of Michoacan, Mexico, and her dad is from Techaluta de Montenegro, Jalisco. She has grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area with a strong connection to her cultura Michoacana and Jalisciense. Through her fashion pieces, she communicates the pride in her ancestral roots. She first wears a blouse that reads Hoy Semillas, Mañana Flores (Seeds today, flowers tomorrow) with which she wanted to share her “Chicana style,” a style that blends her Mexican heritage with her upbringing in California.
“When choosing my outfits, I wanted to show my different styles. The first one was more of a simple, everyday outfit. This outfit represents me as a person and shows the seeds and strong foundation that my parents embedded in me. It shows how I’ve grown and continue to grow to be a strong Latina, con mucho orgullo de mis raíces (with a lot of pride in my roots).” Every day, we see Joeceline flourishing by connecting to the seeds her parents planted and by feeding off of the powerful culture that surrounds her at home.
In a modern vaquera style, Joeceline wears an embroidered black top, black jeans, gold jewelry, and boots—ready for a party! She describes the memories her boots bring to her, including getting ready with her friends for the Cinco de Mayo festivities in Richmond, California.
“When wearing this outfit I associate it with dancing and being out with friends and family, having a good time. Music has always been a big part of who I am and something that I love whether it is playing different instruments, making music, dancing, or just listening to it.”
Fashion and culture can hold a relationship that feeds off of each other. Joeceline’s cultura Mexicana brings her to wear a festive outfit like this one, and her clothing takes her to places where she celebrates the heritage behind it.
In this third piece, Joeceline emits confidence in a huanengo, a traditional embroidered shirt from Michoacan, jeans, and sneakers, and handmade jewelry she has learned to make from our Academy jewelry teacher, Astrid.
“Being able to make my own jewelry I feel is something special and unique. Making these pieces can be very tedious and time-consuming because of all the details, but it is always very rewarding when it all comes together. I always feel very proud of my work and excited to be able to wear it and show off.” It is inspiring to see how Joeceline presents her art to the world. She is taking what she has learned in Los Cenzontles and building on that as she shapes her direction.
This outfit captures some of her favorite items of fashion: jewelry and shoes. “I wear my rings daily and it’s something that is very meaningful to me and a big part of who I am… When wearing my rings I feel as if I carry a part of my family with me. Most of my jewelry is handed down from my mom and grandparents. I also love sneakers as it is such a staple part of an outfit but also gives me another way to express myself with all the choices of colors and styles that can be dressed up or down.” Joeceline naturally shows the complexity and beauty of her identities through her clothing and art creations.
For a visual finale, Joeceline shares a “fully traditional outfit to share with others the beauty of [her] culture.” She stands proud, grounded, and powerful in pieces that tie her to her ancestors. She wears her most traditional outfits for cultural and religious events, like El Dia de La Virgen de Guadalupe. Joeceline remembers participating in this event, alongside her great-grandma, her grandma, and her aunt, as they worked together to set offerings for La Virgen. She and her family cherish these memories and continue to honor their loved ones who have passed away. When thinking about her grandma, Joeceline shares, “we continue to celebrate and honor the strong and important woman that she is to us.”
Huanengo: Hand embroidered top
Mandil: An apron, here it is decorated with sequins, lace, cross stitch, and more. The colors change depending on the region.
Motas: colorful tassels
Faja: a supporting belt that pulls everything together
Rebozo: shawl, used traditionally by indigenous women to carry their children
Joeceline feeds off of her family, including when forming her fashion style. She looks up to her older sister when shaping her modern and traditional blend of fashion - and lucky for them, they get to share the beautiful pieces they have! We saw Joeceline’s mom layer the pieces of their traditional culture outfit, it was visible how cultural wealth is passed through generations. Both Joeceline’s mom and dad shared they are very proud of their daughter for her own cultural pride and how she expresses herself.
Overview: All of the projects we do at Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy are meant to continue the mission of amplifying our roots and using our own voice to share our stories and life experiences. We see, and admire, how easily our students can incorporate pieces of tradition, such as intricately embroidered blouses and beautiful handmade jewelry, into our modern, everyday activities. We are excited to provide our students a forum to express their culture through fashion, writing, connection and more. It can be a special opportunity for them to show what they create at the Academy, but the main goal is to let our students lead the way with their own creative ideas.
written by: Verenice Velazquez
photography by: Emily Barresi
photography assist by: Fred Velez
hair and makeup: Joeceline Garcia
fashion consultant: Marie-Astrid Do-Rodriguez
fashion consultant: Eli Reyes
Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy
13108 San Pablo Ave. San Pablo, CA 94805