Melanie Cervantes is a veteran of the California art-scene. Based in San Francisco, Cervantes’ art is eye-catching and thought-provoking. The main goal of her work is to elicit radical social change through communal activity and pressure. Through the use of political messaging and bright colours, Cervantes combines elements of postmodern abstract expressionism from the likes of Barbara Kruger and uses the influence of cultural themes such as the experiences and struggles of Indigenous Americans, as well as those of Latin influence. In 2007 the artist co-founded Dignidad Rebelde, alongside Jesus Barazza. The duo created a project that would use graphic art to highlight injustice and create a community that would promote equality and support social causes around the world. This is an example of using art to achieve The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities.

Cervantes’ early life was spent in Harbor city, which exposed her to diverse groups of people that would shape her perspective on their lives and everyday struggles. The artist graduated from UC Berkeley whilst majoring in ethnic studies. With her love of art and her own community, she made it a mission to uplift voices that were muffled by the systemic racial disparity and second-class status they suffered under. She is also a Senior Program Officer for the Akonadi Foundation, a foundation that creates pathways and raises funds to end the criminalization and racial profiling of youths of colour. Cervantes’ art is teeming with personality and sincerity, the hope conveyed through bright colours and strong figures depicts an unshakable unity. One that has and continues to face colonial rule and systemic oppression from European land grabs and governmental dispossession. The artist’s stylistic choice highlights the mental fortitude to remain joyful even during their struggle.

Atenco Aguanta by Melanie Cervantes. Image courtesy of

The artist's works can also be found on many book covers such as Lilia Soto’s Girlhood in The Borderlands and Shaun Slifer and Bec Young’s Firebrands. The works also educate many of those not exposed to foreign affairs and receive their information from mainstream Western sources, which are often biased. Her piece Atenco Aguanta is a work depicting the resistance of the villagers of the San Salvador Municipality of Atenco in 2002. The events mention two different instances in which the organization known as “Frente del Pueblo en Defensa de La Tierra” defended their land from being claimed by the then president of Mexico, Vincente Fox. His plan was to build an airport and later a Walmart in the city of Texcoco. The print is part of a larger project celebrating people’s history and sharing stories that many would have never known occurred.

Cervantes makes a plethora of references to varying struggles and is most recently working on creating prints for the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people. However, she has been creating prints regarding Palestinian liberation long before the ongoing assault beginning on Oct. 7th, with some of her works being traced back to 2008 as part of the Palestine Poster Project. The series depicts women at the centre of the resistance and uses Spanish, English and Arabic text to make the work accessible to a larger, more diverse audience. The artist also does this to show that one group's struggle is a responsibility all groups share and that they do not exist in their own bubbles.

Free Palestine/Viva Palestina Libre by Melanie Cervantes. Image courtesy of Dignidad Rebelde

The Indigenous people of the Americas make up a large portion of the artist’s work. Cervantes uses many Indigenous American symbols and peoples in other works to highlight the connection between different resistance movements. This show of esprit de corps is a message to her audience that one person's struggle is a struggle for all. Not focusing on just war or North and Latin American colonial repercussions, the artist also makes sure to bring attention to the land, the natural world, the respect it deserves and the Indigenous efforts that are taken to ensure its preservation.

Viven by Melanie Cervantes. Image courtesy of Dignidad Rebelde

Cervantes goes to great lengths to encode messaging that will unite people to resist injustices in all forms. Her upbringing in the ethnically diverse Harbour city, facing a system that favours the white racial majority forged a dignity and spirit of rebellion in her message. Her work represents a group of diverse peoples, hand-in-hand, marching towards their future and liberating themselves and each other. The unity that she depicts with her works are the lessons she learned throughout her growth in Harbour city. She channels this into creating art that will help create an impenetrable wall of support for all atrocities and injustices, even those that do not seem to affect one another directly.

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