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Rasquache is the English form of the Spanish term rascuache,[1] of Nahuatl origin[citation needed], which originally had a negative connotation in Mexico as being an attitude that was lower class or impoverished. This definition was later reversed by a Mexican and Chicano arts movement which transformed the have-not sensibility into a specific artistic aesthetic, Rasquachismo, suited to overcoming material and professional limitations faced by artists in the movement. It is the "view of the underdog, which combines inventiveness with a survivalist attitude." [2][3] [4]

Rasquache art uses the most basic, simplest, quickest, and crudest means necessary to create the desired expression, in essence, creating the most from the least. The term can also be used to reference the bicultural inspiration from which these artists draw inspiration. [1]

Amalia Mesa-Bains, artist and writer, writes that "In rasquachismo, the irreverent and spontaneous are employed to make the most from the least... one has a stance that is both defiant and inventive. Aesthetic expression comes from discards, fragments, even recycled everyday materials... The capacity to hold life together with bits of string, old coffee cans, and broken mirrors in a dazzling gesture of aesthetic bravado is at the heart of rasquachismo." [2] When employed by female artists, she calls it Domesticana, but cautions that these terms should not be understood as applying to all Chicano artists. [3] Making the most with the least is a statement of irreverence and is both "defiant and inventive."[2]

Rasquache has non-artistic usage as well and can be used to mean "ghetto." Behavior such as reusing plastic utensils and zip lock bags could be described as "rasquache." Beyond being simply frugal, the rasquache philosophy also involves inventing new uses for conventional objects. This often means giving a new function to something that would conventionally be considered broken.[citation needed]

Quotes on Rasquachismo[edit]

“According to Chicana/o art scholar Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, rasquachismo should be considered first as an attitude and a sensibility, and secondarily as a set of formal art qualities,”- Josh T. Franco, Latino collections specialist for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. [5]


  1. ^ "rascuache". Collins Spanish-English Dictionary. Collins. Retrieved 17 September 2015. (Central America & Mexico) (= pobre) "poor", "penniless"; (= desgraciado) "wretched"; (= ridículo) "ridiculous", "in bad taste"; (= grosero) "coarse", "vulgar"; (= tacaño) "mean", "tightfisted"
  2. ^ a b Mesa-Bains, Amalia (1993). Ceremony of Spirit: Nature and Memory in Contemporary Latino Art. San Francisco, California: The Mexican Museum. pp. 12–13.
  3. ^ "rasquache". rasquache. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  4. ^ "A lesson in "rasquachismo" art: Chicano aesthetics & the "sensibilities of the barrio"". Smithsonian Insider. 2017-01-31. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  5. ^ "A lesson in "rasquachismo" art: Chicano aesthetics & the "sensibilities of the barrio"". Smithsonian Insider. 2017-01-31. Retrieved 2018-04-20.

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