anitra yukue molina grafitera y muralista yaqui en arizona 7

Exploring Arizona’s Street Art Scene with Yaqui Muralist Anitra Molina

Esta entrada también está disponible en: ES (Spanish)

Through graffiti, the artist Anitra Molina, aka Yukue, represents the identity of the Yaqui people in Arizona

“Yukue” means rain in Cahíta, the language spoken by native peoples of Sinaloa and Sonora, including the Yaquis. This is the name Anitra Molina adopted as her artistic signature. For the graffiti artist of Yoreme origin, art is to her spirit what rain is to the desert. That’s how she’s shaped her identity on different artworks in Phoenix, like the rain.

woman paints graffiti on urban art wall in Arizona
Credits: Yukue

Anitra considers herself a self-taught artist. She handles different techniques with acrylic, aerosol and in digital formats. However, she identifies most with graffiti. In addition, she works as an art teacher and is part of different movements that seek to make indigenous peoples visible as part of the community of Guadalupe, Arizona, a town founded in 1975 where the Yaquis emigrated.

Anitra Molina’s work has become increasingly popular among the urban artist community in Arizona, allowing her to collaborate in different projects. The most recent one was made in partnership with the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance, Inc., the umbrella organization for the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area.

Artist woman with protective mask paints mural about animals
Anitra Molina is originally from Guadalupe, Arizona, a town populated mostly by members of the Yaqui people. Credits: Yokue.

“Since I was little, it was always my dream to be an artist and now my career is focused on muralism full time and the defense of youth. It’s an adventure to be in this position, but I feel very grateful that this is the life I have to live,” said Yukue.

A mural in honor of the Yaqui people

In 2021 Anitra worked on a mural honoring members of his community in Guadalupe, Arizona. The most critical period of the covid-19 pandemic hit the town hard and hence the need to honor the lives of deceased members. The realization of this work was organized by the group Guadalupe Prevention Project.

Mural in Arizona of Yaqui influence in honor of victims of covid
Mural in tribute to members of the community of Guadalupe, Arizona, who died during the pandemic. Credits: Yokue.

In the painting, located between Avenida del Yaqui and Guadalupe Road, you can see the shades of orange and purple typical of the Sonoran desert covered by mountains. In the center, in the most symbolic way, Anitra places the figure of a Yoreme woman, a symbol of strength and hope, dressed in white with embroidered garments. The woman embodied by Anitra wears a nopal crown “to represent resilience even in difficult situations,” according to the artist.

On the crown are eight stars that represent each of the original Yaqui peoples. Yukue, although she does not consider herself religious, painted the Yaqui Temple as a “beacon of faith” for those who still follow the beliefs and faith. To one side, Anitra painted the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to represent the virgin who gives the town its name.

graffiti and mural artist Anitra Molina with elderly woman
Anitra and her nanny Natalia, “matriarch of the family.” Credits: Yukue.

“I am able to pursue my dreams because my grandparents and parents worked hard for me to do so. I am a thoroughbred Yaqui like my grandmother before me, who stood up, fought and died in the battles of war for us to be here”, expressed Anitra “Yukue” Molina about this project.

Anitra’s rebellion reflected in Yukue

Beyond murals and works that represent the tradition and history of the Yaqui people, Anitra has another artistic and urban identity born from rebellion, an authentic sample that fuses its origin with its present. In her teens, Yukue began to dye her hair neon colors and dress in a gothic fashion. Anitra’s grandfather inspired her to shape her own identity through spiritual teachings that move away from the Catholicism practiced by the Yoreme people today.

“For me, painting begins as an act of rebellion.”

punk young woman wears black clothes
Nopalita is part of Anitra’s identity. Credits: Yukue

This revolutionary attitude is reflected in her style, especially in a character that shows her essence, Nopalita. It is a kawaii-style caricature of a girl with a cactus body and colored hair, like Yukie’s.

Nopalita has been around for almost 10 years Since then, the cactus girl has evolved and perfected her form, taking on different phases and being a source of inspiration for other girls.

“I know who you needed when you were a child. For me, that means always taking the time to teach what I know to future writers and artists.”

Anitra “Yukue” Molina.
anitra yukue molina grafitera y muralista yaqui en arizona 10
Anitra gives art classes to girls in Arizona. Nopalita is the main inspiration. Credits: @yukueone

Would you like to know more stories like Yukue’s?

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