For the first time Día de los Muertos at La Villita will be commissioning a special floating altar that will circulate through the San Antonio River. The altar is being created on top of a barge by San Antonio based artist Ana Fernandez and will honor the chili queens. Ana explains the project in more detail:
The chili queens were Latina entrepreneurs in the 1800’s who set up shop in the plazas of downtown SA, selling super spicy chili con carne. They were said to have invented Tex-Mex food, and play an important role in the history of our city. As the Riverwalk began to develop in the 1940’s, the chili queens were banished from downtown. City officials wrote new policies banning “open air” dining, citing health concerns. Chili queens protested and many citizens cried foul. Most of the chili queens were Mexican American, during an era when we were considered to be second-class citizens.
After leaving my San Antonio river barge driving job in 2012, I went on to create a food truck called the “Institute of Chili”, which paid homage to the original mobile food vendors of San Antonio, the “chili queens”. When I was approached to submit an idea for a floating altar, the chili queens came to mind. Besides being of personal significance to me, this floating altar also serves to mark the culinary and cultural achievements made by these women and once again honor their legacy in the City of San Antonio.
A special thank you to the San Antonio River Walk Association for their help in making this project possible.
Ana Fernandez Bio:
Upon returning from Los Angeles, Ana Fernandez began drawing from her immediate surroundings to create enigmatic streetscapes in paintings and works on paper. Fernandez holds a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from UCLA. Ana has exhibited at the Institute of Texas Cultures, the McNay Art Museum, Women & Their Work Gallery, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum. Born in Corpus Christi, Ana now lives and works in San Antonio, TX and is represented by Cinnabar Art Gallery.