At an event in Downtown Los Angeles a few weeks ago, South Korean automaker Kia brought together a league of indoor-soccer teams for a night of collaboration and sports enthusiasm. The campaign was part of the brands continuing efforts to support the fusion of sports and cultural collaboration. Big names like Beats by Dr. Dre, Adidas, and Red Bull were all present as sponsors for male soccer players who mingled and prepped for the event off to the sidelines of an indoor soccer field in their logo-backed uniforms when I first arrived at the event. All of them stood tall in a way that could have almost, just almost, shadowed a young Latina quietly setting up a work area off to the center of games.
For the league’s final tournament, Kia brought on Mexican-born artist Sara Sandoval as part of their effort to encourage cultural collaboration.
Four months before the event, Sandoval, who is a well-known name amongst the graffiti artists in Los Angeles, gained an increase in notoriety when she revealed through her YouTube channel, “Simply Sara Art,” that she is one amongst the hundreds of thousands of today’s DREAMers. In an interview with FIERCE at the event, Sandoval touched on how her artwork has helped her to develop a livelihood for herself she once thought was impossible.
“I’ve done art my whole life, it was just more of like a hobby thing,” Sandoval explains as soccer players who tower over her slight stature walk past. “Being undocumented and like leaving high school, and not having DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) yet like kind of pushed me to like make it into my full-time career.”
As children of immigrants, many Latinas are encouraged to pursue stable and consistently high-yielding careers. It’s not uncommon to feel pressure to avoid creative pursuits, for Sandoval her status as a non-documented non-DACA protected immigrant, art was almost her only option. The young artist explains that as a student in high school her greatest focuses were on nabbing down a job and obtaining a driver’s license. She knew she was undocumented, which would pose obstacles but, as she explains it “wasn’t sure how far undocumented.”
“I didn’t know much of it because I was a kid, and so I just asked my parents like ‘Hey, I want to get my driver’s license, I want to start working while I’m in high school,'” Sandoval says. “They kind of told me ‘well, you can’t you don’t have a social security number.'”
Sandoval’s status made finding work nearly impossible. To get by, she turned to art.
She started working with stencils and spraypaints and admits to using her art as an outlet for the frustrations and obstacles that came as a result of her status. These days, she uses her artwork as a means of expression as well as a vehicle to raise awareness about the current immigration crisis. On her decision to reveal her status to her 105,102 subscribers on Youtube, Sandoval says her desire to get over the looming fears that came with being undocumented pushed her to make the post. “Last year the whole thing with DACA scared me,” Sandoval says about her decision to come forward about her status. “It just kept on eating at me that I wasn’t doing anything. And I had this audience on Youtube and Instagram that like I could use to like put my voice out there. So, I was afraid, and I was like’“Okay, I need to do something. I need to like do something now.'”
Today the video has over 21K views and hundreds of comments of pure support and even motivation. One viewer commented, “I am so guilty of being ignorant of this. I had no idea the pain and complete life disruption.”
During the Kia soccer event, Sandoval worked on a piece that highlighted the phrase “wake up.”
It’s a message that she says has been crucial to helping her overcome the emotional and mental barriers of being undocumented, one she hopes to pass on to any undocumented kids watching. “At first using the words “wake up” was more of a meaning for me, being undocumented, that said ‘come on, get up, do something with your life. Like don’t let this get you down,'” she explains. “I grew up like a lot of people telling me I couldn’t do things, and I was like in bad situations in schools, where like teachers would tell me that I was dumb, and I was, I wouldn’t amount to anything, and I would just go to community college and it was just like just don’t listen to them and just keep doing you, and just find a community that will lift you up and help you out.”