The works of Mcallen artist Mitch D’Arte are very much inspired by the multi-colors and textures of Mexican art. Her paintings are very representative of the heavy local Mexican influence.
But D’Arte’s connection to Mexico goes deeper than the vibrant colors and culture found in her artwork. At least twice a year, D’Arte travels to San Luis Potosi, Mexico and into the very remote parts of the city to give back to those in need. There she and her best friend Laura Lope, travel up steep mountains, unpaved roads, and sometimes on these trips, they suffer illness or face injuries. These trips take up to 10 days in some cases. It can take three hours alone to reach just one community.
But despite the lice, poisonous spider bites and illness, the two are not deterred. They return every year to bring the indigenous people items that many may take for granted. These are everyday things like sanitary napkins, socks or diapers.
“This started five years ago when Laura started going, this was when the violence was very bad,” D’Arte said.
The group was first initiated by their friend and activist Juan Carlos Soni 25 years ago.
“I decided to go join Laura and, in the past, she’d help Juan and would take Hot Wheel cars or Barbie dolls, but we thought why not take more?”
Through D’Arte’s large Facebook following, she began to share when they were going. She began raising money via Facebook’s donation service and garage sales.
“People I don’t even know, they wanted to help because they see that I am authentic and share my journey,” she said.
This past December, she was able to raise more than $5,000 in a week. This was much more than their goal of $1,000. Because they had so many items, the Mexican government helped grant them special permission to cross their goods and provided them with caravans to haul their items. They had more than $20,000 total in toys, money donations and clothing.
When asked what she calls this cause, she said “Xolome.”
“Xolome means ‘nude’ and our mission is to clothe them, mind, body and spirit,” D’Arte said.
Villagers never know when D’Arte and Lopez, along with various community leaders and volunteers, will show up with toys, supplies and clothing. D’Arte said they notify the people by lighting fireworks to get their attention. By word of mouth, people show up.
“Something calls me, I’m not sure why I do it, it’s a calling,” she said. “We can be doing anything else, I can be here, but we are drawn back to it.”
D’Arte teaches art for the Hidalgo Independent School District. Raised in Hidalgo, she has taken her art back home and has a second studio at Mi Casa in Hidalgo’s The District. D’Arte also opens up her studio once a year to sell her leather cuffs and art prints.