San Antonio’s Rebel Mariposa of La Botanica on the power of cultura, food, and art
Xica Nation recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rebel Mariposa of San Antonio, Texas for a special two-part series about her powerful culinary and artistic community work.
Part I: La Botanica
Part II: “Aqui Estamos y No Nos Vamos” art show
Rebel Mariposa is a self-identified queer Tejana living in San Antonio, Texas who is trailblazing consciousness, cultura, and the arts in her own unique way. She is the chef and owner of the highly acclaimed La Botanica and is also a curator, artivist, and dancer.
Part I: La Botanica
Via La Botanica’s website:
“Given our incredible history and culture here in Tejas, our food embodies the rich traditions of TexMex, Gulf Coast, New Mexican and Mexican cuisine. Our food and drinks have been designed around accessible and seasonal ingredients. But more than an eatery, La Botanica aims to be a gathering place for an eclectic beloved community.
“Edible gardens in our sizable wrap-around yard supply fresh veggies and herbs for our kitchen, serving as an accessible laboratory for those wanting to learn to grow their own food. We also have film screenings and live music on our lovely patio, regular installations by local artists, cooking and gardening classes, and benefits for to raise funds for movements that advance social justice.”
What is your current position and/or project?
I own and run La Botanica Texas’ first vegan restaurant with a full bar, a community venue (and recently voted one of the best lesbian bars and runner up for best vegetarian in SA by the San Antonio Current.)
What is the story behind the famous La Botanica? Where did the vision begin?
There was no direct vision for La Botanica it was something that was destined to happen from I guess day one of my existence or perhaps even further back. I come from a line of self starters, self employed, husting familia. Farmworkers, curandera/midwife, artists, activists. I spent my working life doing all sorts of jobs and when La Botanica opened it all made sense, my journey to get me to that moment. It was a great and satisfying feeling. I don’t know where I will go from here but I know La Botanica was meant to exist and I am grateful for the other 3 co-owners for presenting the opportunity for it to unfold and exist. Also extremely grateful to work with such a great staff. the staff is what really makes La Botanica so great. It takes a village, it’s the bands, djs, customers that also make La Botanica what it is. All of that mixed together makes magic.
Were there any challenges as La Botanica manifested?
Por supuesto! Brown, queer women run business, oh and with a vegan menu in Texas! I would and still tell my staff sometimes “against all the odds, we are here and we are making it.” When I first moved back I would say most people I talked to didn’t know what vegan was, they assumed it was vegetarian, that has changed a lot in the past 3 years.
What has the response been?
In the beginning we got lots of not so great feedback, we were thrown in the deep end and learning to swim in front of an audience. Lots of critiques and and doubts pero now two years later we are going beyond just staying afloat we are actually swimming. We still have a ways to go to get to an island and take a rest but I am grateful for each day.
What are some of the top selling menu items?
Do you have any upcoming events/projects?
We are also turning 2 this June. We got a our 2nd annual love fest prom happening in June too!
We are gonna start a Community Hands-On Automotive Class Thursdays 6pm. July 20th is our first class in a 3 months series. For more info join our email list http://eepurl.com/cGOs_P
How can people connect with you and/or support?
La Botanica is located at 2911 N St. Mary’s St., SATX 78212. Come eat, drink, dance with us! We are also available for catering and La B can be rented for private events.
We are on all the social media sites, follow us and like us. Subscribe to our email newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cGOs_P
Part II: “Aqui Estamos y No Nos Vamos” art show
Was there a particular moment in your life when you felt called to focus on questions of: identity, gender, and/or decolonization in your life’s work?
At different stages in my life, as I evolve as I experience different isms and I am called to do that work. For example when I was in 8th grade we moved to the north side of town. I was attending Tafolla Middle school, that is in the heart of westside-raza, so when I attend a middle school on the northside I had never seen that many white people in one place, the classrooms. The cafeteria, the parents, etc. I was thrown for a loop so I turned to writing, I wrote a poem about walking and feet and shadows and how both shadows no matter the color of the skin of the person are the same color. So I have had several moments like those in my lifetime where my world shifts & I see things thru a new lens and I create work around that awareness. Art is always how I have dealt with paradigm shifts, moments of shock and awe, pain, anger and joys.
Via the event FB page:
Aquí Estamos Y No Nos Vamos, highlights the resistance, solidarity, anger, hope, and healing women of color are experiencing in response to the abusive and oppressive rhetoric that is/was disseminated during Trump’s campaign and carried on into his presidency. The art speaks to a transformation of a social or personal strife that translates into piercing visions of the present and a futuro con Esperanza. The artists featured in this exhibit believe that art must address the abuse on our bodies, communities, and lands.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
The women of color artists featured in this exhibit are working class, immigrant, queer, and create artwork ranging from traditional visual art to sound art to sculpture to textile and much more.
What are some things that you have learned on your journey along the intersections of identity/multiple marginality/health/decolonization?
Everyone has an important and an unique story to tell. Each version a thread in the weave of life. We have so much internal work to do ourselves, so much healing that will take generations. I am turning 37 soon and I am definitely less prejudiced & colonized, than I was at 27 but I am still deconstructing, learning everyday how to be a better human to myself, others and this planet. It’s a life work/journey. I feel like I am smack in the middle of my life and I have come so far but it’s only half of the journey – what will come of the other half? Vamos a ver.
What is the story behind the “Aqui Estamos Y No Nos Vamos” art show?
Representation. We have been here for hundreds of years and we aren’t leaving or being intimidated by a white man, please they been trying to do that to women of color for centuries and mira we haven’t gone anywhere if anything we are getting stronger. I see it in women of all ages there is a strength that is emerging from deep within that is unstoppable.
What has the community response been like?
People love the exhibit. I am very humbled by all the positive responses. This show was not easy to take on for me or the mini curators, as like to call them all though after this show they are no longer mini. Eliza Perez and Jess Gonzalez and I were all going through personal things in our lives on top of huge work loads and then we took on the responsibility of doing a political driven women of color exhibit, nombre it was exhausting and emotional but also nurturing and healing. Also the best response for me is that the artists in the exhibit are happy with the show. It’s not easy pleasing artists and especially that many.
How can people support this project?
WOC start and keep making art :)
I am currently assisting Sarah Castillo with her upcoming NALAC exhibit, and working with Julysa Sosa on her first show in September through lady base gallery, also got some san antonio public art stuff in the works… http://www.ladybasegallery.com/ and in March 2018 Eliza, Jess and I will be teaming up again to curate the Shttps://www.instagram.com/julysasosaphoto/ society for the study of Gloria Anzaldua exhibit in San Antonio location:TBD