Francisco Enuf Garcia is a nationally known artist. He is based in Phoenix and active in youth outreach and education. He is currently planning a working trip throughout Europe.
Visit the artist’s website here.
FG: My name is Fransisco Garcia and I also go by Enuf.
DL: Can you explain the name ‘Enuf’ that you go by, how did that come about?
FG: Enuf is a name that some of my friends from California gave me a while back when I started painting. From the beginning, it is something that stuck and I just kept it throughout the years. I feel like for me personally, the name has a lot of meanings. About ten years ago I accepted Christ more and I feel like I went through a positive transformation in my life. I also embrace the spirit of the word in Hebrew, El Shaddai, which translates to ‘God is more than enough.’
One of the things I did in my past was let go of the graffiti and some of the things that were tied to the street and my life turned around. I found the ability to create murals for social justice. Another meaning for Enuf is the word ‘Basta’ in Spanish. That word is used mostly in Mexico, Latin American and different parts of our country by artist-activists that are protesting oppression or any type of prejudicial law, people that want to create change. So it has a spiritual, activist, and socially conscious meaning to it for myself. The reason why I kept my real name as well, was because I feel like it is important to keep in touch with your identity and connect where you come from. That name is rooted into my culture and background; It merges my indigenous and Spanish culture and just embraces all the cultures around me.
DL: You mentioned your indigenous roots, can you explain your heritage?
FG: So far I know that both of my parents are from Mexico. My mom is from Mexicali, Baja California, and my dad is from Jalisco, Guadalajara, which is a little more south in Mexico. I know that my mother’s great grandpa was a descendant from Spain and somewhere down the line on my dad’s side of the family we have Huichol roots.
Being Mexican is a mixture of Spanish and many indigenous cultures including Mayans, Aztecs, Zapotecs, and more. There are newer indigenous tribes that we can identify with within the last couple hundred years; I am still searching more in my own family history to find what other indigenous roots we have ties to. I recognize my indigenous roots as well as my Spanish root because in our academic system we are colonized and taught to focus on the European side of our ancestry; it is more acceptable and convenient to embrace the Europeanness of oneself — or whiteness. For me personally, growing up in the country, I always felt like an outsider.
I NEVER FELT LIKE I FIT INTO THE AMERICAN MOLD THAT HAS BEEN CREATED FOR US. I DON’T FEEL LIKE I FIT THAT MOLD, BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE I FIT THE EXACT ‘MEXICAN’ MOLD EITHER. THERE IS A QUOTE, “NI DE AQUA NI DE ALLÁ,” WHICH MEANS I AM NEITHER FROM HERE OR THERE.–FG
DL: You had mentioned that you had a teacher who was a Xicanx artist as well, correct
FG: Yes, his name is Martin Moreno. I met Martin in 2005 when I was working for an organization called Las Artes and during that time I was going through a transformational point in my life. I was kicked out of different high schools, getting in trouble with the law, and getting into fights; I was headed in a negative direction. This arts center helps disenfranchised youth get connected to education, obtain their GED, and have an opportunity of employment. They get paid to do artwork, public art. The other half of the day they take classes to get complete the GED program. When I walked in there I was greeted by this Mexican-looking man, with long hair. He gave me a tour, and although he didn’t have to, he sat me in a classroom and showed me some Xicanx art history books and in the book he showed me his name and photo. He was in the book. This was the very first time in my life that I saw a brown person or a Mexican, Xicano man in a book.
I still remember that moment, it kind of emphasized how important it is to know your roots. Although at the time it wasn’t as important as it is now. But he sparked something inside of me, I wanted to know my roots. As I got to know him more over the years, he introduced me to public art and community murals and I got to learn about his story. He was influenced by the Mexican muralists. He told me how he came from a similar upbringing as me, the things that he overcame, and some of his achievements like going to Mexico and studying abroad without having anything. This inspired me three years later to apply for a study abroad program. I studied there, outside Mexico City, for a summer and was learning the history of the revolution and about all the revolutionary murals, it just blew my mind to know really how beautiful our culture was and just how much history, and art, and the richness of fluid culture, language, and traditions were there to be discovered. Also, seeing all the different murals of the Mexican muralist and Frida Kahlo, and learning about different artists such [Jorge González] Camarena and Jose Morales, I mean my mind was just like blown-like whoa!
DL: So you made this transition from graffiti to public works. Did you still run into problems with authority figures?
FG: Yeah, I think that in the past I did get in trouble with the law, but I think that is what helped to change my life because when I got out of jail, I had to do 80 hours of community service and that is when I had the idea of ‘Hey, why don’t I volunteer for a church or something, paint a mural, I am going to go try this out!’ Then I went to a church called Victory Outreach and they gave me permission to paint on their wall. I asked all the owners, got the okays, and then one of my friends from Public Allies emails me a grant opportunity and it was specifically for community events and things like that. So I started to put these ideas together and actually applied for a grant called Make a Difference and that was the first time I obtained a grant. I was able to paint a mural with other artists and we had a community event and it was free. We had food, prizes for the breakdancers and live art. It was a really great experience and the feeling of community and sharing my faith and giving hope to people really made me feel like ‘Man, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ I want to do art, I want to do community things, I want to collaborate and I want to give to the people. At that moment, I decided to never look back and just run forward.
DL: You were recently featured in the book, When we Fight we Win, specifically your mural regarding the controversial SB 1070 [AKA “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” is an anti-immigrant law passed in 2010 in Arizona that gave the police the ability to arrest or detain a person based on “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the US illegally during any lawful stop] in Phoenix. Does a lot of your work regard controversial issues of race and society?
FG: Yes. Yeah that book, When we Fight we Win, is pretty interesting because it kind of goes back to the mural called Dream Act Mural, it was a mural depicting what was happening during SB 1070, I believe it was 2009, 2010 when all of that turmoil was happening. That mural was inspired by some of the newspaper articles, and the things we were hearing and experiencing in our communities of the people being afraid of being deported, separation of families, the unjust treatment of the people by authorities abusing their powers. I remember seeing this article in the New times it had the Sheriff with the ski mask and gun pointing at me, I was just reading about it and saw that this lady was thrown in front of her yard and beaten by a sheriff deputy. I believe that was in Guadalupe. It made me so upset that I started to draw as I was working in the telemarketing department. I actually worked on that mural sketch while I was at work.
I told some of my friends that I had this idea to paint this mural and people were really excited about this idea of seeing this mural on a wall. We had asked maybe ten different owners for permission to use their wall and finally we found this man near Buckeye road at a mechanic shop. I went and got some support, some money donated, the owner donated money, and I donated paint, and we all volunteered to paint this mural. We had ex-graffiti artists, people from the community, activists that were involved. It was a beautiful thing of people coming together, trying to raise awareness of what was happening, just letting the immigrant community and the Dream Act students know ‘Hey, we’re with you, we support you.’ Just give some hope to people and join in solidarity because there was a lot of division between citizens and people that were undocumented. A lot of perspectives that we’re very divisive in our community, I think it was separating a lot of people, families and at the same time bringing a lot of racism and discrimination.
DL: Despite these controversial subject, you have won several awards including the Mayor’s Art Award in Phoenix, the Eric Fischl Vanguard award at the Phoenix Art Museum, and you also spoke at the White House. Can you speak more about these opportunities, do you think they would have been possible if you did not work with a public platform like muralism?
FG: Well, with the Eric Fischl award I received based on financial need my first year of college and I remember winning that award…I have a lot of respect for Eric Fischl, but when I went up on stage he gave it to me and told me ‘I know that you really need this.’ He made me feel bad, to be honest. I don’t think he did it intentionally, but the way he said it made it feel like a hand-me-down. Like he was helping me, which he was, but I did not like that feeling. You know? So I entered the competition the following year—because they have a competition and they also have one based on financial need. So I was the first person to win the awards back-to-back. I got the financial award (2007), which was $2,500 at the time and then I received the Eric Fischl Vanguard (2008) award which tops all the first places for photo, painting, and sculpture in a competition with 10 colleges in Maricopa County. Now when I entered the competition I did not even think that I would get even second or third places because all the artwork I had seen was amazing. When I found out that I won the Vanguard award it gave me a huge sense of confidence. At the time I was praying for a vehicle, specifically a Mustang, and because of that I was able to obtain a Mustang. But it was also because of praying and faith and god showing me a favor, teaching me that if I have faith in him, he will help me to accomplish all of my dreams. So it was kind of a test and that is what started to spark my confidence.
After that was the study abroad program (2008). I was studying at Phoenix College and was introduced to the professor Pete Dimas and he told me that I needed to learn more about my roots. He said, “How can you paint murals if you don’t know about your Xicanx roots?” That really stuck with me so I started to learn more about Xicanx studies and eventually took that trip to learn about the muralists and I think that is what also started that confidence in my work.
DL: More recently you won the Mayor’s art award and I am interested because this is after SB 1070 and your mural and after Tucson banned ethnic studies, but you were still able to win this award for your powerful imagery. Do you have any thoughts about that?
FG: Yes, the Mayor’s art award is an annual award for artists and I think it is fairly difficult to get. I think it was started by Gene Grigsby [Eugene Grigby Jr. 1918-2013]. He was an African American artist and he broke a lot of barriers and accomplished a lot of things in his life. He is a big inspiration. Basically, this award goes to an artist in the community. I don’t know, maybe it is a combination of talent and community involvement. The first year I was nominated was 2014 and I did not get it. I believe there were 300 artists nominated, but I made it to the top three. This last year, 2015, that is when I received it. I was really honored because when I looked at the list there were not many Xicanx or people of Mexican descent surnames.
DL: I want to know more about how you make a living with your art. You obviously work with nonprofits and obtain grants, but do you also work with people in the for-profit art world?
FG: Well I think that eventually what happens from being involved with nonprofits and activism is that you start learning more how to be socially responsible. It can turn opportunities into social responsible opportunities. I was also tired of working in the corporate sector. I did some work in insurance, telemarketing, I sold cars, and working at banks. I feel like if I would have stayed at some of those jobs I would have made more money and been more financially stable in a quicker way than I am taking now. But to me, the money didn’t matter, it was almost out of the equation. I just knew that I was going to make a way and he was going to provide. And he did. He made a way for me and I was able to do what I wanted to do and be able to support myself and at the same time give back and have a balance.
DL: Have you ever been approached by any galleries that want to represent you?
FG: I haven’t been approached by a specific art gallery yet. At this point I haven’t even really approached an art gallery myself, I have been sticking to the street and public art, but maybe one day I would like to venture into the art gallery scene.
DL: Are there any in Phoenix that you feel are aligned with Mexican American or Mexican art?
FG: I don’t and it is sad to say because I think there are a few people who are trying, but for me personally, I feel that if there is going to be an art gallery to represent our culture, and represent Mexican art or Xicanx art, or any type of those roots. I feel that they also need to be open to letting the artists create whatever the artists need to create. I feel that there is a lot of censorship and a lot of politics within the art world, as there is in any type of industry including music and politics. I feel that there are a lot of gatekeepers in the art world. Technology may be a good thing or a bad thing, but I feel like we are living in a world right now where it can be a good thing. Everything has been aligning in my art career thankfully, it has been a way for me to be able to promote my artwork online and meet people from different parts of the world and I no longer have to be confirmed by an art gallery. I don’t have to turn in a piece of artwork and pay money to see if it is good enough to show in someone’s little space. Some may think it is too Mexican, too spiritual, or maybe it’s too political. You know, I just go and paint and if people like it they hit me up and say “hey, we want you to paint a mural,” or something along those lines.
DL: Yeah, I understand. Do you still go to Washington to speak to congressmen on arts advocacy days or any time?
FG: I do, I am still involved with a few organizations and have had the opportunity to go and speak with different organizations about the arts and nonprofits and advocacy for immigrant rights.
DL: Do you feel like it makes a difference?
FG: I think it does! For me personally, from my experience, I feel like working with the different organizations out in DC there is a lot of diversity and inclusion, but I feel like they lack the representation from the Southwest. Specifically the Xicanx and Latinx population. I feel like every time I go out there, I am a minority. It is weird because I like the east coast, but I am one of the few Mexicans out there, especially being a male. So I feel like I have to speak for the issues happening here. The majority of the time when we have these conferences, there are huge nonprofits and CEOs from Starbucks. I always just step up to the plate and bring the questions. I feel like my job is always to challenge the speaker, challenge the people in the conference. Many of times they are stumped, they don’t know what to say because the questions are so… I am kind of blunt, I am not afraid to challenge people, but in a good way. I think that we can bring change, at least at a local level. I will tell you one victory: last year we went to Washington… Seattle, and we went with the National Council of Young Leaders [NCYL] who are a diverse population from the US that come from different ethnic backgrounds and pathways that have been disconnected from employment or school. We made these recommendation policies about three years ago and we presented them to Starbucks. We met with the CEOs and they have been using a lot of our recommendations and have extended over a hundred thousand opportunities across the nation to youth [Known as the Starbucks College Achievement Plan]. People who are coming from similar backgrounds, like us and now, have an opportunity to go to school and have it paid for through ASU [Arizona State University]. After coming back home and having a meeting at their headquarters, I saw an article in the newspaper, the Arizona Republic, I believe, and it shocked me. Basically, our recommendations inspired Starbucks and they had this event called the 100k [100k Opportunities Initiative] in Chicago, and most recently here in Phoenix to promote opportunities to youth. We have over 7 million youth that is disconnected from school and work right now.
DL: That is quite the accomplishment. On a last note, do you have any advise for young Xicanx artists?
FOR YOUNG XICANX ARTISTS? I RECOMMEND THAT PEOPLE REALLY STUDY THEIR ROOTS, REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU COME FROM. I DON’T CARE IF YOU CALL YOURSELF BLACK, WHITE, OR YELLOW, STUDY YOUR HISTORY AND EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT TYPES OF ART. DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF TO AEROSOLS OR PAINT, OR ACRYLIC OR OILS. JUST VENTURE, EXPERIMENT, COLLABORATE, NETWORK, BUILD, GIVE, AND PRAY AND IT’S ALWAYS GOING TO COME BACK AROUND FULL CIRCLE. YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW, AND WHENEVER YOU DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR HEART AND YOU HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS, PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE RECEPTIVE AND GOOD THINGS WILL HAPPEN. WE JUST HAVE TO KEEP CREATING POSITIVE RIPPLES WHEREVER WE GO, WHETHER IT IS INDIA OR MEXICO, THE WHITE HOUSE OR JAIL, JUST CARRY THAT POSITIVE LIGHT, BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU COME FROM AND ALWAYS STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND JUST GROW.– FG
DL: Thank you so much.
 Garcia and I employ the original spelling from the indigenous Nahautl language in which the sound ‘ch’ is spelled with an X as well as the x-ending to promote gender equality.
 Ann Morse, “Arizona’s Immigration Enforcement Laws,” National Conference of State Legislatures, last modified July 28, 2011, accessed March 15, 2016,http://www.ncsl.org/research/immigration/analysis-of-arizonas-immigration-law.aspx; “Senate Bill 1070,” State of Arizona Senate, last modified April 23, 2010, accessed March 15, 2016, http://www.azleg.gov/alispdfs/council/SB1070-HB2162.PDF.
 Michael Lacey, “Are Your Papers in Order?” Phoenix New Times, March 19, 2009, accessed April 2, 2016, http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/are-your-papers-in-order-6431924.
 “National Council of Young Leaders,” YouthBuild, accessed March 15, 2016, https://www.youthbuild.org/OYU.
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 “Your Future Starts Here,” 1,000 Opportunities Initiative, accessed March 15, 2016, http://chicago.100kopportunities.org.
 Deana B. Davalos, et al., “The Effects of Extracurricular Activity, Ethnic Identification, and Perception of School on Student Dropout Rates,” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, vol. 21, no. 1 (February 1999): 61-77.
Diana Ledesma is an arts professional living in New York City interested in immigration topics & the public art. She obtained her masters from NYU in 2016, writing her thesis on the status of the Mexican American art market.