Beatriz Vasquez grew up in the culturally rich Borderlands between Texas and Mexico surrounded by the vibrant decorative arts of her Mexican American cultura, and now, what she remembers most are the delicate sheets of multicolored papel picado—beautifully cut tissue paper—hanging on lines of string, which she says were ever-present in her youth. A successful fine artist living far from her hometown in Indianapolis, today Beatriz channels her early memories of life in Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico and her love of papel picado and other Mexican American cultura into her work and teaching.
In addition to teaching outsiders about the beauty and importance of Mexican American art and culture, and reconnecting to her own family memories, Beatriz hopes her papel picado-inspired work will carry a message of social justice. She says, “Traditional artisans from Mexico that do it by hand, they take hours and hours to create this work; they sell them, they hang them up, and then they're just blown away. The wind just takes them away. It’s so disposable. It just really spoke to me about the indigenous Mexican communities and how disposable they have been treated. So, for me [papel picado] became a real connection to—almost an empowerment of—my own culture.” Her latest student is her daughter and apprentice Isabel Schlebecker, an urban planner who applies her professional interest in sustainability to their art, saying, “With environmental justice work and papel picado, I think it's important to elevate that craft and bring light to how this is threatened, how those communities are threatened.”