Frida Kahlo and accordions are a couple of El Paso artist Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado’s favorite people and things in life. Both are continually seen in his artwork. Cimi’s artwork has become an integral part of El Paso’s art scene. Cimi’s art tells stories about everyday local people, along with well-known Mexican-American activists and celebrities. He’s been asked by several from all walks of life to create art locally and worldwide. Cimi is well-known for the murals he’s created in El Segundo Barrio (The Second Ward) in South El Paso throughout the years. Wikipedia describes El Segundo Barrio as one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso. Cimi’s murals depict life in the neighborhood and borderland. You can take a look at more of his artwork and murals here.
As a child, Cimi grew up in El Segundo Barrio. He was inspired to create art by his high school teacher, mentor and fellow artist, Gaspar Enriquez. Recent Mexican immigrants and working class El Pasoans typically live in El Segundo Barrio. The neighborhood is well-known for its Catholic Church, Sacred Heart and Bowie Bakery. Bowie Bakery has some of the best tasting Mexican pastries and tamales in El Paso. Former U.S. President George W. Bush visited the establishment while in office. Throughout the years, Cimi has evolved from a teenage graffiti/street artist to a world-renowned artist/muralist. Life of an El Paso Woman had the opportunity to visit him at Kalavera Studio in Central El Paso last month.
Cimi is currently working on several city and solo projects. Aside from his day job at a local non-profit, he’s currently in the process of completing research for a mural that involves the El Paso music scene. The mural will feature local bands from various eras and DJ Steve Crosno. Crosno was an El Paso icon until his death in 2006. According to the Steve Hoffman Music Forums, Crosno was the founder of the local radio program, “Cruising with Crosno” and the TV show, “The Crosno Hop.” Crosno was known for breaking the color barriers in El Paso radio. He was also one of the first DJs to help local bands record music and gain more airtime.
Aside from various locations in El Paso, Cimi’s work has been featured at various art shows in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Little Rock, Arkansas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. When I asked Cimi what’s been a highlight in his art career so far, he said participating in a Jose Cuervo Mural Tour in 2012 was a special moment for him.
“It was kind of fun. It was a cool project. There were two artists from Texas. It gave me a lot of exposure and I got to drink a lot of tequila.”
Aside from his murals and artwork in El Segundo Barrio, some of Cimi’s additional artwork can be seen at Lincoln Park and the Judge Edward S. Marquez Library. Cimi’s nickname derives from the Aztec and Mayan Indian languages. His nickname goes back to his high school days at Bowie High School in south El Paso. Cimi means continuous growth and movement. When asked if he would ever leave El Paso again he said “I feel attached to El Paso.” Cimi has lived in other U.S. cities like Dallas and Albuquerque. Although Cimi was sort of a man of few words, his vivid, detailed and colorful artwork spoke volumes to me. His art can be used to educate others about the Chicano movement and culture. His taste in music and record collection is also pretty good. We both grew up listening to Tupac, Nirvana, Biggie and Mexican music. Need I say more?