Interactive NMSU Faculty Exhibit Tackles Social Justice Issues

LAS CRUCES – Imagine yourself in front of three long plates of glass. One is transparent glass where we can barely see the outline or shadow of ourselves, but we cannot see our features. A second has a vein of gold running through a mirror so our image looks fragmented, while the third is a standard mirror.

The installation is called “Seeing Your Social Importance”. Two New Mexico State University professors hope this facility and 11 others will help New Mexicans find new ways to see themselves and others.

“This one is really impactful because it’s not about the history of the borderlands, but about who you are and how you see yourself,” said Dulcinea Lara, director of border and ethnic studies at the NMSU. “How do others see you? Do you see yourself differently than society sees you? How do you amplify that feeling and how do you gain compassion and empathy for someone standing next to you? »

beyond the entrance to the "Pasos Ajenos" exhibition, the installation “Seeing Your Social Meaning” features three panes or mirrors where visitors can reflect on their identity in society and where they are in their lives.

“Pasos Ajenos”, which translates to “the footsteps of others”, comprises 12 installations intended to examine regional issues of justice and inequality. The exhibition is a fully interactive experience that serves as a doorway to difficult conversations about power, race, gender, work, migration, border health and poverty. It opens Saturday, March 12 at the Bernalillo Community Museum in Bernalillo, New Mexico, near Albuquerque and ends June 25. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday, except on public holidays.

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“You can count us in the list of incredibly brave installations and exhibits,” Lara said. “It allows us to talk about the evolution of the conversation in New Mexico. It’s brave, it’s bold, and it’s incredibly uplifting and amplifying so many voices that have somehow been left out of the dialogue.

Lara and Nicholas Natividad, an associate professor of criminal justice, collaborated with artist Daniel Aguilera in 2017 to imagine and create the exhibit, which first opened at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces. The Bernalillo exhibition, with three additional installations, is the second. The third exhibit in El Paso this fall will include an additional installation. The exhibition will then travel to other cities in the country.

“I think museums are spaces for educating the public and partners in how we learn, so I think our exhibit comes at a really important time when adults are wondering what the curriculum will be like,” said Laura. “So I think our exhibit really shows you in an interactive way what ethnic studies is and what it does.”

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Part of the goal is to move beyond the traditional view of New Mexico as being solely that of Indigenous peoples, Hispanics, and white settlers. Another of the 12 installations of “Pasos Ajenos” focuses on the role of the Buffalo Soldiers in the history of New Mexico, which has many aspects. Some are noble while others reflect violence against indigenous peoples. Visitors can stand in front of a life-size image of a Buffalo Soldier and sing along to the lyrics of Bob Marley’s song.

Museum visitors can also lean over and grab a short-handled hoe called “el cortito” in another installation to imagine what it would be like to be bent over in a field for 10 hours a day as a migrant farm worker.

“I come from a farming family and know corto from feeling it in my hands,” Lara said. “But if you haven’t felt that, try it, it’s a different way to learn about agricultural work.

“People need to feel part of this conversation instead of just being passive visitors to an exhibit,” Lara said. “So making these installations interactive means ‘Hey, you’re invited and you’re part of solving this together as a community. “”

Three new installations have been added for the Bernalillo exhibition. One concerns a controversial road warning sign used in California to warn of immigrants crossing. Another is a banner about the toxic chemical disinfection baths that authorities forced Mexican workers to endure when moving to the United States in the early 1900s. The third new facility is called “Love Without Borders.” It invites visitors to write a postcard to someone with whom they have lost communication but who would like to build a bridge.

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“What we teach in ethnic studies is that there are not two sides to every story, but there are infinite sides,” Lara said. “I always give teachers a dime and a marble when I do workshops and tell them there’s no right or wrong answer, yes or no. There are as many points of view as there are people in the conversation.

For more information, visit the Pasos Ajenos website at

Minerva Baumann writes for New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications and can be reached at 575-646-7566, or by email at [email protected]

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