Long Beach Photographer Portrays Maldita Women with Chicana Grit in Upcoming Exhibit

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Photos by Jose Cordon.

This Saturday the opening night of Lost But Chosen: A Tribute to Malditas, a solo photography show featuring new works from Jose Cordon, will take place at Made by Millworks from 5:00PM to 9:00PM.

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“With Spanish phrases or terms of entitlement becoming increasingly popular among many cultures, like the word ‘chingona’, I chose to adopt the term ‘maldita’, which translates to ‘the damned’ in English and is very often used in Spanish slang to describe a woman who is a bad ass,” Cordon told the Post.

This portrait series showcases young women, of all races, who portray values and characteristics of strength, valor and courage, with the Chicana style acting as a symbol of their resilience and perseverance. Cordon’s subjects stand their ground, as if to say I’ve made it this far, nothing can stand in my way.

“The Chicana lifestyle embodies grit, courage and the plain old fashioned ‘I don’t give a fuck what culture or society thinks about me’ attitude,” he said.

When Cordon was 14 years old, a photograph by famed Mexican American photographer Estevan Oriol of a group of Latinas behind a fence staring back into the camera lense, was the first time the local artist had seen girls portrayed in a manner he could relate to. To him, they were the girls next door.

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“Frankly, they were homegirls just like the ones I grew up with and the picture normalized their lifestyle in a way that I had never experienced before,” Cordon said.

Having grown up in Mid-City Los Angeles in the 80s and early 90s, Cordon said there was a strong gang presence in the area and the label, Chicana, still applied to first-generation Mexican American women. Cordon witnessed common hurdles the women in his community had to overcome, however he found their ability to move forward out of sheer determination an inspiration.

The young women in Cordon’s photographs represent Chicana culture origins, while crossing lines of ethnicity. They’re women who fight for their rights, who show the same resilience and perseverance Cordon observed as a teenager. He portrays the women as militant-like, as fighters, some brandishing weapons as a nod to those who have endured hardship. He portrays them as “Malditas.”

“Though today the fight for women’s rights and equality is far from over and as I witnessed these young women seek their path, their gender has damned them in an up-the-river patriarchal society and their maldita attitudes will conquer the journey and pave the way for the generations of women that follow behind,” Cordon said.

He hopes the portraits resonate with those who see them the same way he felt when seeing Oriol’s work for the first time. His own work, he said, is a modern interpretation, emanating a “feeling of empowerment and sense of duty that there is still a lot we need to do to lift women’s needs, rights and equality globally.”

On being colorblind, Cordon iterated the slight impairment affects his viewers and subjects more than himself. They are often surprised or fascinated with the color combinations he chooses, and how those choices just seem to make sense. He also credits his wife as co-editor.

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“Nowadays, my wife pulls a chair next to my desk when I’m editing and answers questions from me like, ‘Hey, I just want to make sure this guy’s skin tone is not green, or anything it’s not supposed to be.’ She’s been a good sport[...].”

The former owner of 1897, the Long Beach-centric apparel shop on 1st Street, Cordon has exhibited at the Edison loft apartments, recently participated in the “Reasons to Love Long Beach” photography show and is an exhibiting artist at the Downtown Long Beach Alliance office. Also on display and for sale during Lost But Chosen will be Cordon’s Long Beach urban landscapes.

For more information about opening night, featuring hip hop, beats and rhymes by East23rd, and a full bar, check out the Facebook event page here.

Follow Cordon’s photography on Instagram @deadendbrigade  and via his website here

Made by Millworks is located at 240 Pine Avenue.



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