Pounding drums, flowing dresses, and inspirational chants brought life to the 2017 Americas Latino Eco Festival (ALEF). The Barrio E’nsemble’s ceremony of prayer, singing, and dance accompanied the art exhibition of Alfonso “Piloto” Nieves Ruiz, and his socially respectable sculptures.
The weekend festival aimed to provide a meeting place for activists, researchers, professors and artists who are passionate about environmental change and sustainability among diverse populations. A main topic up for discussion this year was water quality and accessibility among populations who struggle in this aspect of life. The connection of people to the natural world was also a point that shouted the need for action, and encouraged that even the most impoverished community can make a difference in a society that is turning a blind eye to the current climate situation.
Piloto’s exhibition, called Guardians of Water & Life, took form in 10 sculptures, each representing Latina “environmental protectors” from across the Americas. Sculpted from tree trunks and recycled materials, the art was created to represent the struggles protectors face, or have faced, in terms of environmental safety and advocacy. The purpose of the Guardians served as a reminder of the hardships environmental leaders still endure, especially among today’s tensions between politics and the climate change predicament, Piloto explained.
The exhibition was not just an obvious reminder of the painstaking struggles the Latinx community endures within environmental destruction and climate change, but provided an ignition to rise up against the rubble, and celebrate the uniqueness of hidden populations willing to help the environment in any way they can. The statues represent hope for the future, and furthered this with the involvement of the United Cultures for Arts + Nature Green Ambassadors, a group of students partnered with the US Forest Service and the National Wildlife Federation. The Green Ambassadors assisted Piloto in the finalization of his sculptures by adding small birds to each Guardian.
The ceremony celebrating Piloto’s “artivism” among the Eco community was concluded with one final performance from the Barrio E’nsemble that engaged the audience in chanting “Liberté”, which translates to “free”, as drums and voices carried out into the high vaulted ceilings. The Barrio E’nsemble is a part of the Barrio E’ organization, which is a community that promotes cultural diversity and awareness in the arts, inclusivity, and providing a safe group to celebrate diversity, specifically in Latin and Caribbean dance and music.