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Texas Folklife Presents "Taquerías of Southmost" Exhibit


 Opening on Wednesday, August 10, will Feature Presentations by Photographer Chuy Benitez and Mando Rayo, co-author of Tacos of Texas and Free Tacos! 

Austin, Texas – July 26, 2016 – Texas Folklife is pleased to announce a new gallery exhibit with photographs of the Southmost area in Brownsville, Texas, by internationally renowned photographer Chuy Benitez.

Southmost is home to almost a third of Brownsville’s 175,000 residents. Geographically it is located on the southernmost populated tip of Texas along the banks of the Rio Grande and bounded by the infamous border wall. It is a tight-knit community of immigrant families whose cultural heritage is expressed daily in their traditions, celebrations, music, gardening, religion, lifestyle and food. Economically, historically, and culturally it is the most underserved area of the city, but the local Mexican food restaurant industry is booming. More than 20 locally owned taquerías have established within a three-mile radius of Southmost Road, the main artery of the neighborhood. Locally it is known as “Taco Boulevard.” The “Taquerías of Southmost” photography exhibit provides an entrance into a culturally rich and otherwise closed and guarded population.

In 2012, Texas Folklife and the Brownsville Historical Association partnered together on “Taquerías of Southmost,” a research, documentation, exhibit, outreach and promotion project. Texas Folklife conducted fieldwork in the Southmost community as part of its National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)-funded statewide survey of food traditions. The goals of the project were to create a start-up cultural program to provide services to an underserved community and to bring significant promotion to a neighborhood with rich cultural and culinary offerings. 

The exhibit opening on Wednesday, August 10, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. is free and open to the public. It will feature a talk by exhibit photographer Chuy Beniteand a presentation by Mando Rayo, co-author of The Tacos of Texas, to be published by the University of Texas Press in September 2016. In addition, a limited number of free tacos will be provided courtesy of some of Austin's finest Rio Grande Valley inspired taquerías. 


“Taquerías of Southmost” is a collaboration between Texas Folklife and the Brownsville Historical Association with funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts which believes a great nation deserves great art, Texas Commission on the Arts, and Humanities Texas. Additional support provided by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department.


Chuy Benitez is an internationally exhibited and collected panoramic photographer and photographic educator. He comes from a bi-national family that has lived on both sides of the El Paso/Juarez border for generations, and now lives and works in Houston. He earned his BA in Studio Photography from the University of Notre Dame in 2005, and his MFA in Photography and Digital Media from the University of Houston in 2008. He has contributed his time and efforts to helping Fotofest, serving on the Board of Directors for Houston Center for Photography and Lawndale Art Center, and being on the National Board of Directors for the Society for Photographic Education. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Austin Museum of Art, Mexic-Arte Museum, the Gilberto Cardenas Collection of Latino Art, and En Foco, Inc. (NYC). In January 2014, he received the Houston Press MasterMind Award for his impact on Houston's art community.  


Mando Rayo is an author, taco journalist and CEO & Engagement Strategist at Mando Rayo + Collective, a multicultural digital agency based in Austin. Rayo is the co-author of the book, Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day and the upcoming book, The Tacos of Texas, to be published by the University of Texas Press in September 2016. Rayo's work has been featured in The New York Times, Bon Appetite, NPR, Texas Standard, Texas Monthly and The Food Network.


About Texas Folklife

Texas Folklife is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. For over 30 years, Texas Folklife has honored the cultural traditions passed down within communities, explored their importance in contemporary society, and celebrated them by providing accessible and joyful arts experiences.