Garland Artist Marcela Reyes Works to Make Undocumented Immigrants More Visible

When Marcela Reyes’ family immigrated to the U.S. she didn’t want to come. Now the 29-year-old multimedia artist is pursuing an MFA at UT-Arlington and working to make people in her community more visible, via KERA.

The Plaza Latina bazaar is a quirky little shopping center in north Dallas. It’s the size of a large grocery store. And it’s the sort of place where you can pick up hard-to-find Mexican candies, piñatas and gorgeous gowns for quinceañeras. You can also get your eyebrows threaded, buy a car stereo and even pick up a new friend at the pet store.

During August though, the Plaza Latina was home to an art project. The endeavor was spearheaded by 29-year-old Marcela Reyes.

“I have been here since August 5th,” Reyes explains. “I’m giving away free photos to people. It has been great! Really busy.”

Reyes is a multimedia artist who lives in Garland. She’s pursuing her MFA at UT-Arlington.

“Yea. It’s a little bit hard because, you know, from my house to Arlington, it’s an hour,” Reyes says. “But I’m happy. I wouldn’t change that.”

Usually, Reyes draws, paints and uses found objects to make her work. But this spring she won a grant from the Nasher Sculpture Center and she’s spent the money to set up a portrait studio at the bazaar.

Her space is small. It’s about the size of an office cubicle. And at least a dozen people are in line for a photo.

Reyes is providing these families free, high-quality prints that she hopes they’ll treasure. But she’s not only providing these folks with free portraits. She also plans to exhibit the photos. She wants to highlight the Latino immigrant experience, especially the experience of undocumented people. For her, it’s personal.

“You know when I moved here, I was undocumented,” says Reyes.  “So to me, it’s still a big part of me, and I feel like now that I’m able to, I need to talk more about the issues because sometimes they can’t.”


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