For Latinx Heritage Month, L.A. street artist Sand One talks carving her own lane in the art world
September 15th through October 15th is Latinx Heritage Month. To celebrate, HG contributor Laura Sermeño spoke to Mexican-Guatemalan street artist Sand One about her heritage and career.
Whenever the topic of street art in Los Angeles comes up, there’s no hotter name than that of East L.A.-born and grown Sand One (you know her as Sandoner on Instagram). Sand has been a player in the game for 10 years now, with a gallery in East L.A.’s South Gate neighborhood and the new Sand Studio in Orange County. This badass woman is Mexican and Guatemalan, and her artwork often showcases curvaceous, Brown and down imagery of Latinas getting shit done, pushing men aside, and focusing on the much-needed coins required to make dreams come true. With their trademark long eyelashes, the subjects of her work are called dolls, and you can find them in her murals or in the paintings, clothing, and accessories she sells out of her galleries.
In addition to her art, Sand One is known for leading and inspiring women through her daily motivational speeches on social media. She walks the walk by hosting events where her fans can meet her, purchase work from other artistic Latinx vendors, eat vegan food, and generally bask in the awesomeness of surviving, thriving, and being Latinx in Los Angeles.
To celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, Sand One sat with us to talk about representing and loving Latinx culture, and its influence on her career.
HelloGiggles (HG): What does being Latina and having Latinx pride mean to you?
Sand One (S): Being proud of my roots and my upbringing. It’s about waking up in a twin bed and being a taquera…I’m hella proud of being Latina…of my beginnings. My Latina pride is about growing up in East L.A., selling tacos, which is very, very traditional shit in the streets. I’m a street vendor. I’m very proud of being a street vendor, waking up everyday to work. And because I am a Latina growing up with an immigrant mom there was no such thing as sick days or vacation. So I am, like, hella proud of being a Latina here in L.A.
Being Latina to me means being Mexican. Well, I am Mexican-Guatemalan… It means being very culturally aware of my background. I learned all about my grandma and my grandma before her—my mom tells me all that shit. And then food! We’re into food a lot. I feel like being a Latina is about cooking, too. Just being very family oriented…and being dramatic.
HG: Can you describe your heritage?
S: I’m part Mexican and Guatemalan, but I don’t know my Guatemalan side because that’s my dad’s side that I never met. I grew up with cumbias, burritos, Los Reyes Magos…I grew up having to clean up my whole plate when I was done eating. You can’t leave no fucking food; you gotta stuff down all the food they gave you. I love tortillas, I love quesadillas, I love mole. I’m a Latina who grew up in the streets selling food, and so I really like those things about my culture. I like how close we are to our families. I like how I still have to talk to my mom even though I’m old as fuck now: “Where are you going?” “…Ugh, Mom, to the corner!” You gotta lie about your whereabouts to Mexican moms or they’ll go crazy.
HG: What are your favorite traditions that showcase Latinx heritage?
S: I like Christmas. I like making tamales. Now I make vegan tamales—the ones we make will be with jackfruit and salsa, or my mom will make me rajas with vegan cheese. It’s the vegan cheese, the masa, and the raja. I like Christmas because you get to be lazy, you know. During Christmas, I feel like I can kick it a little after I worked all year.
HG: Have you always been proud of your culture?
S: Yeah! But whenever I would go to the west side of Los Angeles and I would go to art galleries, I would see how washed up they were and how you had to act a certain way. You had to be quiet; your language has to change. The way you would approach someone in the art world is very “upscale” and well-spoken, and I always felt like that wasn’t for me. That I had to find my own art world. Now, in my world, I can speak however I want. I can use as much slang and profanity as I wish, and it’s okay because I have an audience that understands what I say. I have an audience that speaks just like I do. We connect.
It made me kind of question how I grew up, and the way I grew up. In my culture, we’re hoarders. And we like to pack a lot of shit and we like to have a lot of things…chickens and roosters. So going into other cultures in the art world, I learned how to do a lot of things. How to be a minimalist, how to not buy a lot of things, how not to buy things just because they’re on sale. By being around other cultures, I got to learn about my culture and realize that sometimes we’re a little too crazy with the shopping and the storage. I’m hella fuckin’ Mexican; I’m beans and rice—but now more minimal, more clean.
HG: What or who inspired you to be yourself and to take risks?
S: I wasn’t interested in watering myself down. That’s why I created my own world where I could be crazy and loud, and if I paint fuckin’ sprinkles everywhere, it’s cute. In my world, I’m king and I can do what I want. I saw that there was a lack of culture and a lack of what I wanted in art, so I wanted to be the voice for the things that I like, to speak to the crowd that I knew was out there for me, to say what other girls think but don’t say themselves.
HG: Why is being a motivational speaker on Instagram important to you? When did you start recording these videos?
S: It’s been two years since I started running my mouth. Just being outspoken and saying what I feel. I was like, “There’s nobody on Instagram talking shit the way I do.”
HG: Let’s get into your veganism for a moment. Would you say this lifestyle is easily achievable for those coming from a Latinx background? Any words of encouragement for Latinx contemplating veganism?
S: Yes! Beans, rice, avocado, tortillas, and bam! You just have to stick to the ancient shit. Stick to the ancient food that we grew up eating.
HG: What are your favorite Latinx vegan dishes?
S: I like to eat very well and very simple. Beans, rice, avocados, mushrooms, squash. Get me a plate of full of bell peppers, tomato, mushroom, and garlic—I’ll eat that with tortillas. I like earthy food. Greens. I like a lot of vegetables. In the Latinx community, we eat a lot of vegetables, but then we throw the animal on top. In my world, I eat a lot of vegetables without the animal—no beef, no chicken, none of that. And I love it because my mom can make a plate in less than 20 minutes. I eat so indigenous and so humble. Also chilaquiles…chiles and tortilla. No sour cream—just put in cilantro and onion. You want soup? Make soup. There’s black beans and pinto beans, and most French bread (bolillo) is vegan and cheap.
HG: Any words of encouragement for aspiring Latinx artists?
S: Don’t be too emotional. As artists, we’re very emotional and very sensitive. And stop saying that your art is never “done.” It’s done—get it done and get your work out there. Get it out of your face and sell it. If you don’t sell, you’re always going to be a starving artist. Your craft and your ambition and your inspiration are going to die if you don’t let other people enjoy your art.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.