A small organization in Southern California's Inland Empire region is seeking through art to change the negative image of Latinos spread by the media.

The Inland Empire Latino Arts Association serves as a positive alternative for young Hispanics in a region with scarce cultural opportunities at the same time that it tries to show the other side of a community associated with negative stereotypes.

"We would like to bring a positive image to a community that only hears negative news and show that we're much more than that. The negative comes from barely 2 percent of the population while there exists a lot of talent in this zone and we'd like for the public to take note of that," Rudy Ramirez, one of the managers of the program, told Efe.

Founded in 1985 thanks to Tom and Lilly Rivera, the organization currently has a score of members who are seeking mutual support for their projects and exhibitions and who are actively participating in the region's cultural offerings.

Despite having been created by Latinos, the organization's founders say that they do not have any racial or ethnic agenda in mind and welcome all artists who want to participate.

"The art of Latinos has changed a lot. Some time back, Chicano art was (full of) images of bandits and revolutionaries, but now one cannot say that there is a Latino art, although he is a Latino artist and (his presence here) is the important thing," said Ernesto Garcia, one of the main benefactors of the association, regarding the participation of Ramirez and other Hispanics in a recent group exhibition in San Bernadino.

Both Ramirez and Garcia agree that the important thing is for there to be spaces where it is possible to showcase the talent that normally does not have the opportunity to stand out in small communities like those of the Inland Empire.

Members of the association participate actively as curators of exhibitions that are held at the facilities of the National Orange Show, one of the few spaces dedicated to exhibiting works of art in San Bernardino, and in other public places like libraries.

"More places like this have to be developed. The public has to join with the artists because if we were to have three or four more exhibition places it would be better, although that also costs money and we have to have people who support and back (these initiatives)," Garcia said.

Ramirez said that art is a far-reaching tool that helps young Hispanics have a better future and learn the value of education.

"I'd like to see more young Hispanics continuing with their studies. Many of them drop out of high school and I'd like it if they knew that there are options like this where you can do what you like and receive compensation for it," the artist said. 

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