Irina Contreras

A Racket is a Racket Ghetto Biennial 2013 Performance Documentation


IRINA CONTRERAS is an interdisciplinary artist and writer, whose individual and collaborative projects examine personal reflections of collective experiences. Her writing has appeared in the anthology Beyond Walls and Cages, which just received the Association of Borderlands President Gold Award for 2014. Past texts include the Lambda award winning anthology, Nobody Passes as well as being a regular contributor to make/shift Magazine. She has held residency in Mexico City and Kala in Berkeley, CA. Past performances include Rethinking Power and Resistance in University of Texas in Austin, Chicana Feminisms at Cal State Long Beach and the 2013 Ghetto Biennial in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. For the past year, Irina has also been active in the Hemespheric Institute’s Graduate Student Initiative at NYU, where she will also present current performance and text for the October 2014 convergence. Irina is currently working on a Dual Degree program at CCA for an MA in Visual and Critical Studies and an MFA in Social Practice where she has been exploring the history of the Freedom of Information Act including the narratives of informants and connections between Malinche and Richard Aoki. Additionally, she will continue to work on her project, Person 1066 exploring issues of public safety and policing on college campuses.



Cover image for Beyond Walls and Cages

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About Irina Contreras's Thesis Project

Irina Contreras

¡La Bamba Cósmica en las Américas!: The Changing History and Story of Ritchie Valens and La Bamba in the Americas

Some twenty years after his death, Ritchie Valens became the first Chicano rock star—with the making of Luis Valdez’s 1987 film La Bamba—something Ritchie may never have intended or experienced. Only with death was Ritchie understood to be a Mexican performer. My talk looks at the origins of memory for the culture surrounding the song “La Bamba” through both Valdez’s fictionalized account of Valens’ life in the film and in the hit song “La Bamba” (1958) recorded by Ritchie Valens, in Hollywood, CA. 

“La Bamba’s” history and changing authorship helps to paint a picture of how racialization of Mexico has occurred, affecting people living throughout the Americas. Through tracing its existence in these events, these connections mirror racialization in Mexico. As a fictionalized account of Ritchie’s life, I look to how the film and song have been instructive in constructing representations of Chicano life and is part of a continuing legacy that ignores Afroindigenous origins. 

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