1993

I start a long-term collaboration with Native American artist James Luna. In The Shame-man Meets El Mexi-can't at the Smithsonian Hotel and Country Club, Luna and I share a diorama space at the Museum of Natural History. I sit on a toilet dressed as a mariachi in a straightjacket with a sign around my neck announcing, "There used to be a Mexican inside this body." I unsuccessfully attempt to get rid of my straightjacket while James paces back and forth, changing personas. At times he is an "Indian shoe-shiner," at other moments he becomes a "diabetic Indian" shooting insulin directly into his stomach. He then transforms into a janitor of color (like most janitors in US museums) and vacuums the diorama floor. Hundreds of visitors gather in front of us. They are sad and perplexed. Next to us, the "real" Indian dioramas speak of a mute world outside of history and social crises. Next to us, they appear much less "authentic."

While rehearsing the 2nd part of our project, James lights up some sage. The Simthsonian security guards phone the DC police and we get busted in the dressing room for "smoking pot." Furious with such a ludicrous claim, curator Aleta Ringlero calls museum administration demanding an apology on our behalf. For James and me, such a situation is just a good anecdote. As James put it, "simply one more day in the life of an Indian and a Chicano." We reenact the bust in a series of photos which paradoxically are now in the Smithsonian archives.

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*Radio Free Pocha