With more than 65 ethnic groups in Mexico and 11 regional cultures in North America, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, a Mexican artist, activist, and writer cognizably dedicates his life to exploring the ever-shifting national identities, cultural and ethnic pedagogical practices of the world.

Pioneering activism through performance art, performance photography, installation art, and experiential poetry, Guillermo Gómez-Peña has propagated his vision from Mexico to across the world in an attempt to bridge the gap between cultural disparities.

GP’s first Drag, Mexico City, 1962.Photo taken by his father.Image courtesy of Intercultural Poltergeist

The CalArts major (M.A. 1983) ideated his artistic perspective in exploring the various Latino cultures in Mexico and the mainstream U.S. through experimenting with cross-cultural issues and gender identity.

Gómez-Peña founded La Pocha Nostra, an interdisciplinary arts organization, demolishing deep-rooted social stigma around cultural identity through pedagogical practices. La Pocha Nostra intends to break down the structural hierarchy around culture, ethnicity, and gender identity through collaborative art conceptualized by like-minded artists. The organization’s commitment to raising awareness for cultural disparity echoes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Reducing Inequalities.

Gómez-Peña holding an object over his face. Image courtesy of UC Davis

One of the prominent projects, The Living Museum of Fetish/ized Identities is an interactive trove of experiencing reality from various perceptions. Hybrid identities were analyzed to address the issues of appropriation of passé notions of multiculturalism. Gómez-Peña is depicted in a harmony of costumes with the act of running a pair of scissors over his facial features in an elaborate attempt to remove his fetishized identity leaving viewers squirming.

The Couple in the Cage, 1992, a public performance by Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Coso Fusco. Photo by Nancy Lyttle. Image courtesy of Art 21 Magazine.

From the performance diaries of, The Living Museum of Fetish/zed Identities, Gómez-Peña iterates, "I believe in the power of decorating and aestheticizing the brown body in order to exaggerate, challenge and problematize mythical notions of the Mexican Other. In the American imagination, Mexicans are allowed to occupy two different but strangely complementary spaces: We are either unnecessarily violent, hypersexual, treacherous, cannibalistic and highly infectious; or innocent, ‘natural,’ ritualistic and shamanic. It’s the barbarian vs. the noble savage narrative replayed over and over again. Both stereotypes are equally problematic and.”

In another masterpiece, Welcome to the Third World, Gómez-Peña sheds light on the perceptions of Chicano culture while dressed in a myriad of costumes. In this satirical depiction, Gómez-Peña states: “To be an American is a complicated matter. You are in relation to the multiplicity of looks you are able to display. I am brown therefore I am underdeveloped. I wear a moustache therefore I am Mexican. I gesticulate therefore I am Latino. I am horny therefore I am sexist. I experiment therefore I am not authentic. I speak about politics therefore I am un-American. My art is indescribable therefore I am a performance artist. I talk therefore I am. Period.”

Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Saul Garcia, International Premier of the La Pocha Nostra Live Art Laboratory’s Corpo Insurrecto: The Robo-Proletariat, Austria, 2012. Image courtesy of Wolfgang Silveri

In Performing Against the Cultural Backdrop of the Mainstream Bizzare, Gómez-Peña tackles a formidable challenge with his Chicano and Mexico City colleagues in exploring the spectacle of the ‘other-as-freak’ through performance art and prosthetics, make-up, and hyper-ethnic motifs. The elemental appeal was to enhance the identity features of emotions such as fear and desire in the Anglo imagination which were previously concocted through false depictions of self in the media.

With unwavering efforts, Gómez-Peña continues to share his radical views with the world through his prolific art and activism to attain his vision of a borderless nation.

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