There are different ways to bring smiles to people’s faces. Some people use the power of literature, comedy or Hallmark cards to make a person’s day brighter.
Jake Prendez, a CSUN Chicana/o studies graduate student, takes a bigger and more colorful approach by using his artistic talent.
Last semester, Prendez, 35, joined 12 other artists and documentarians on a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, where they put their creative talents to use at the Buen Pastor Convent, a women’s shelter and foster home for young girls.
Prendez and his colleagues painted two murals and worked alongside the girls, whose ages ranged from four to 17-years-old. Prendez held workshops for them, teaching them various art forms like stenciling, painting, drawing and photography.
“It was hard to leave,” Prendez said. “We became so close with the girls; they would run to you and give you big hugs in the morning when you got there and would just come over to you and sit next to you and paint with you.”
Painting one of the murals allowed the community to participate, as well as create an experience that brought the town together.
“We also did a mural for the outside of the Buen Pastor and invited the community to come out and paint with us,” Prendez said. “It was amazing to see kids, elders, college students and teenagers all working together on the mural. It gave the community ownership of the mural.”
Prendez has had previous experience painting murals. He previously painted part of the MEChA mural in Jerome Richfield. Prendez’s artwork is mostly Latina/o and Chicana/o-inspired, but this trip provided a much more different and fulfilling experience.
When he returned from Guanajuato, Prendez continued some of the other work he does in the community, including his work as an outreach counselor. Prendez reaches out to students from East L.A. and the Antelope Valley and encourages them to attend college, particularly CSUN.
“It is a very rewarding job,” Prendez said. “It feels great when a kid tells you that, after talking to you, they want to get an education.”
Prendez shows support for his community through his online magazine “Puro Pedo,” which he founded four years ago and runs with eight other people.
“It is a Chicana/o satire magazine much like The Onion.com,” Prendez said. “The magazine is full of fake stories that talk about real issues using satire as the weapon. We put all our issues online and free so that everyone has access to the magazine.”
Though Prendez keeps himself busy trying to change the lives of students and spreading the word about Chicana/o issues, he cannot forget the little girls from Guanajuato that stole his heart.
“I would have raised any one of those girls if they needed a home,” Prendez said “They become your family and you would do anything for them.”