The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force condenses the work of two collectives: The Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) and Con Sapos Archaeological Collective.1 The former is also sometimes cited as "César Chávez's Air Force" for the close work they did organizing and generating images on behalf of the United Farm Workers. An "Index Note" from author Stephanie Sauer describes RCAF as the "Best Unknown World-Renowned Local Artists."2 Con Sapos' mission is to document "history in the Americas as it happens."3 They use techniques "indigenous to this continent, as well as those introduced by European archivists."4 Quetzalcoatl serves as head of their advisory board, it is drily stated. Yes, Quetzalcoatl, the Mesoamerican feathered-serpent deity associated with Aztec culture, an early sign of what's in store as the book unfolds. RCAF generates spoken cuentos, material castoffs, casual and conflicting chismes and heavy images. Con Sapos gathers and orders these materials. What constitutes "order" here is likely at odds with most readers' assumptions. For instance, I dare readers to discern which pieces of material evidence presented in the book are actually from sites of RCAF activity, and which are fabricated by Con Sapos in their practice of tlacuiloismo, the approach to history pioneered by Quetzalcoatl, we are told. Tlacuiloismo takes its name from the Nahuatl word, tlacuilo, translating roughly to "sage," the seer and crafter of knowledge. The shift from recording to crafting history is key. As a curator for the largest institutional archive for primary source documents related to American art, I had to relinquish some deeply held notions of order to keep turning the page. As a thirty-something Chicanx, I felt utterly at home in this art history. ...
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The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force By Stephanie Sauer. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. 131 pp. isbn 978-1-4773-0870-7
Diálogo, An Interdisciplinary Studies Journal, Volume 20, Number 1, Spring 2017, pp. 199-201.
‘‘Wow, I haven’t heard the word ‘Chicano’ in at least 10 years.’’ In 2016, I received this comment from an impromptu dinner companion at Delﬁna, the posh casual restaurant located squarely in the Mission District of San Francisco, just two blocks from Dolores Park. He has an apartment just down the street, and the Mission is his home away from an entirely different part of the country, where he makes his career as a legal scholar. We struck up conversation ﬂirtatiously, having both arrived to the restaurant resigned to dining alone. On a personal level, his wonder at my self-description provided a light agonism that played out in a lively and, ultimately, enjoyable evening. However, I remain disturbed as a perso n, built like other persons, by so many lines of unfolding history in schema much more signiﬁcant than our San Francisco meet-cute. How could one reside in the Mission District without having heard the word ‘‘Chicano’’ for a decade?! As an informed outsider (one of my specializations as an art historian is Chicana/o art, of which the Mission is considered an epicenter), I was ﬂabbergasted. Yet, I was also there, at a restaurant, opened in 1998, emblematic of the era of displacement Cary Cordova documents and investigates in The Heart of the Mission: Latino Art and Politics in San Francisco.
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The heart of the mission: Latino art and politics in San Francisco, Cary Cordova, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2017, 336 pp., $39.95, ISBN: 978-0812249309
Franco, Josh T., Latino Studies (2018), https://doi.org/10.1057/s41276-017-0110-y