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Lesson 1 : Images and Ideas

Childhood in El Paso

Luis Jiménez teaches at the University of Houston, where he sometimes draws with his students. On Fridays he visits his mother in her home in El Paso, where he draws her while they socialize.

His drawing of his mother has led him to begin an etching with her as its subject.

Some ideas for artworks come from childhood memories. Jiménez grew up in a working class family in the bordertown of El Paso.

Some of the ideas for his artworks come out of experiences growing up Mexican-American, or Chicano. In Texas before World War II, there were separate entrances and restrooms for Mexican Americans. Mexican-Americans were not allowed to eat in the same restaurants as other Texans.

Luis' mother's father had been a mayor in Mexico. During the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s his family barely escaped to the United States with their lives. When Pancho Villa rode through town, he lined up men, including Luis' great uncle, and shot them in the street. Luis' mother, then only 5 years old, escaped in a railroad boxcar with surviving family members.

After they settled in El Paso, Luis' grandfather worked as a finish carpenter to support his family.

When commissioned by the City of El Paso to make a public sculpture for its downtown plaza, Luis drew on childhood memories of the plaza where he and his mother and grandmother walked among its huge trees and where they visited the live alligator exhibit. They stopped at the plaza to catch a streetcar to shop in Juarez, across the border in Mexico.

Though the great trees and alligator exhibit are long gone, Jiménez' sculpture recalls an earlier time when the plaza was called the plaza of the alligators.