Yolanda Lopez

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Yolanda M. López (born 1942) is an American painter, printmaker, educator, and film producer. Her work focuses on the experience of Mexican American women and often challenges ethnic stereotypes associated with them. According to López, "It is important for us to be visually literate; it is a survival skill. The media is what passes for culture in contemporary U.S. society, and it is extremely powerful. It is crucial that we systematically explore the cultural mis-definition of Mexicans and Latin Americans that is presented in the media."


López and her two younger siblings were raised by her mother and her maternal grandparents in San Diego, California. A third-generation Chicana, her grandfather had been a tailor in New York City.[1]

After graduating from high school in Logan Heights, she moved to San Francisco and became involved in the student movement that shut down San Francisco State University in a 1968 strike called the "Third World Strike". She also became active in the arts.

During the 1970s, López returned to San Diego. She enrolled at San Diego State University in 1971, graduating in 1975 with a B.A. in painting and drawing. She enrolled at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), receiving with a Master of Fine Arts in 1979.


López obtained international celebrity for her Virgen de Guadalupe series of drawings, prints, collage, assemblage, and paintings. The series, which depicted "ordinary" Mexican women (including her grandmother and López herself) with Guadalupan attributes (usually the mandorla). The works attracted praise for "sanctifying" average Mexican women, who were depicted performing domestic and other labor. Critics, particularly devotees of the Virgin, objected to the series, which they viewed as a sacrilegious debasement of a holy image.

Woman's Work is Never Done is another set of prints. One of the series prints collection, one of which, "The Nanny", attempted to study some problems faced by immigrant women of Hispanic descent in the United States.

Her famous political poster titled Who's the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim? features an angry young man in an Aztec headdress and traditional jewelry holding a crumpled-up paper titled "Immigration Plans." This 1978 poster was created during a period of political debate in the U.S. which resulted in the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1978, which limited immigration from a single country to 20,000 people per year with a total cap of 290,000.[1] With this poster, she claims that the modern descendants of the Aztecs and their neighbors have a fundamental right to immigrate freely to the United States of America and Canada because Spain claimed much of the western portion of North America as its colonial territory. (The Aztec territory itself never reached further north than what is now central Mexico; pre-colonial North America was instead populated by hundreds of independent aboriginal peoples.)

López has also curated exhibitions, including "Cactus Hearts/Barb Wired Dreams", which featured works of art concerning immigration to the United States. The exhibition debuted at the Galería de la Raza and subsequently toured nationwide as part of an exhibition called "La Frontera/The Border: Art About the Mexico/United States Border Experience".

López has produced two films, Images of Mexicans in the Media and When you Think of Mexico, which challenge the way the mass media depicts Mexicans and other Latin Americans.

She has also taught art in studios and universities, including UCSD and the University of California, Berkeley. She also mentored high school youth who painted a mural in San Diego's Chicano Park.


  1. ^ Ruiz, Vicki L. (1998). From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth Century America. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513099-5. 

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