"As a Mexican immigrant, who moved to Arkansas at the age of five, I have some pretty strong opinions [...] but I have to remain nonpartisan."
This article originally appeared on Creators.
As part of 50 States of Art, Creators is inviting artists to contribute first person accounts of what it is like to live and create in their communities. Lilia Hernandez Galusha is a multidisciplinary artist working in gouache, pen and ink, embroidery, weaving, and textiles. She was born in Torreon Coahuila, Mexico, and immigrated to Arkansas with her family when she was five years old.
I am the only Latina working for the Arkansas House of Representatives. As a Mexican immigrant, who moved to Arkansas at the age of five, I have some pretty strong opinions on the political nature of our nation and state. However, being a production assistant for the Arkansas House's communications department, I have to remain nonpartisan.
Arkansas is only one of five states in the nation whose staff is nonpartisan. So, while many of my artist friends were taking activists roles, I could not. Being in a nonpartisan position does not take away our First Amendment rights, it's simply the nature of the job.
Working for 100 members with different opinions, I've learned a great deal. I've seen the interaction between parties and realized it's not always about Republicans vs. Democrats. I also realized that no matter the political party, everyone needs artists and creative people in the place of work. Being an artist is simply a different way of thinking.
The role we play in day-to-day life is constantly evolving to fit our day-to-day needs. In a time of change, we have to decide what role to play, and what side to take. When art is a reflection of society, what role should artists take?
As an artist who prides herself on her Mexican heritage, and is constantly reminded of who she represents, I was torn. I keep my connection to my culture and family through my art. And though I work in many mediums, I try to bring a textile element because I feel a connection to my feminine roots.
Embroidering, knitting, crocheting, and weaving are traits I learned from my grandmothers and aunts. Using textiles is my way of honoring these amazing women, and I strive to keep this element in my work—a timeless element that connects generations.
It's important for me to strive to be a strong immigrant woman, because if I'm not, what is the point? What's the point of my parents starting over in a new country, if I don't take advantage of my opportunities? What's the point of thousands of dollars spent on my education in a time when utility bills weren't always accounted for? What's the point of my parent's struggle, if I do not strive to be better? I ask myself these questions every day and am greatly aware of the people, history, and struggle that came for my benefit.
In 2009 the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) conducted a survey on state legislative staff and found that African Americans and Hispanics each make up less than five percent of legislative staff compared to the national population of 13 percent and 15 percent.
I am part of a creative team that helps make the Arkansas House more transparent. I am part of a creative department that, by working with members of both parties, helps educate Arkansans on nonpartisan issues, which may be overlooked by party lines.
While you may not see me at rallies or read my political views on Facebook, do not confuse my silence for weakness or meekness. I am still the strong immigrant woman with passionate beliefs and a drive to be better. And though I work for members of both parties, do not assume the role I play.
Check out more of Lilia Hernandez Galusha's work on her website.