Chico is an artist. His girlfriend, Chiquita, comes to his studio everyday. She tells him how much she admires his art, she tells him that he is a great artist. She tells him that he is truly great.
She tells him that he is a better artist than any of the artists in the museums and the galleries. She does his laundry at the local laudromat, so that he can have time to work on his paintings. Sometimes he goes to the laudrymat with her and they do the laundry together. There are many immigrants for South America. Sometimes they talk to them in Spanish. His Spanish is better than hers. She is Latina, but she doesn't speak Spanish as well as Chico, so he mostly talks to the immigrants. There are many more immigrants now than before. Many Spanish speakers.
Chico talks to them about many things. Sometimes he helps them by answering questions for them. Chiquita speaks Spanish like a gringa. Some even think she is a gringa. She tells them she is a Latina.
Chico is more dark-skinned than Chiquita, but she's not a gringa. Some of the immigrants are as light-skinned as Chiquita, some of the immigrants are as dark-skinned as Chico. Some of the immigrants are black hispanics. The black hispanics complain that they are mistaken for African Americans. They do not want to be mistaken for African Americans. They don't like that.
Sometimes Chico includes these immigrants in his paintings. Many of his paintings are abstract. Some include the Mexican tradition. Some include images of Mexican tradition and culture. Many of his paintings are abstact.
Chiquita is an elementary school teacher. And, yes, there are more and more immigrant students, not just from South America, but from Asia, from everywhere. It is very different from her school days when she was almost the only Latina in her class. Many thought her a gringa. Sometimes she didn't let them know her identity. The smartest in the class. She didn't speak Spanish most of the time, or she spoke it like a gringa. In her Spanish class, she spoke Spanish like the gringa students. The teacher, from Puerto Rico, asked her about her Hispanic name. She talked about her greatgrandparents from Mexico. They talked about Puerto Rico.
Sometimes Chico comes to the school and teaches the children art. Most of the children like Chico better than Chiquita. She knows that many of the students don't appear to like her. She doesn't think really she is the best teacher. She doesn't think she has the personality to be an elementary school teacher. She would like to teach high school. Maybe she would prefer to be a University professor. Maybe she's not really a teacher at all. She is a very reserved type of person. Some think she is too reserved to be a Latina. Latinos think she is too reserved to be a Latina. She says she does not have to prove that she is a Latina. Latinos can be many different people.
During her Junior Year Abroad in college, she had gone to Spain. She had met some Spanish who behaved just as reserved as herself. They thought her an upper class Spanish woman. That had flattered her. Why had she been so flattered by that? In America they treat her like a low-class girl. In Spain she got to be a member of the upper classes. And just as reserved as herself. But Hispanics can be any personality type. They can be any complexion.
But why had she been so flattered. Except for her Spanish. She spoke Spanish like a Norteamericana.
Chiquita? She wanted to give her another name. But she said, My name is Chiquita.
In his studio she is grading papers for her elementary class while he is painting. Everytime she tells him he is a great artist, he says it is not enough for just her to like his paintings.
But does he like them? she asked.
Why had she asked that question? He looked at her. He said nothing. Can an artist just be an artist for himself? That's the question she asked silently. Can he just be an artist for her? Can an artist be an artist just for two people?
She thinks he is the greatest artist she knows, but she is his woman. He woman would say that? How does an artist get to be a great artist.
Sometimes he has had studio showings, but not in the galleries. Once a gallery had an interest in a painting, thinking the gringa the artist, and then when Chico stepped forward, the gallery owner pretended to have not understood. Was it the art that the gallery was rejecting or was it Chico?
Chico did not want to talk racism. She did not want to talk racism? But was it the art or was it Chico, this dark-skinned Latino.
So he keeps painting and she keeps grading papers.
Thank you, Mr. Juarez, say the little children whenever he teaches them art. Some of the children, immigrants from many nations, are excellent little artists. Thank you, Mr. Juarez they repeat. Thank you, Chico, she says.
Can an artist be an artist for only two people?
In a dream there is another in the studio viewing the paintings. She wants to know who this is. She goes to him. He turns. It is Cheech Marin. Cheech? she asks. Cheech?
She wants to tell Chico the dream. But it is a silly dream? It's a crazy dream. What would Cheech Marin being doing in the studio, looking at the paintings of Chico?
Very fine, young man, very good, muy bueno, muy bueno.
Then he says to her, Keep the faith.
She wonders why he's saying this to her and not to Chico. Shouldn't Cheech be telling Chico to keep the faith, to keep the faith as an artist, believe in himself. Cheech even buys some of the paintings. Chico's first sales.
Keep the faith, says Cheech to Chiquita. Keep the faith, little girl.
I'm not a little girl, she protests.
Guarde la fe, he repeats. Guarde la fe, Chiquita.
But she doesn't tell Chico of the dream. Crazy dream. Silly dream.
Chico, she says. You're the best. You're the best.