To read this story in Spanish, click here.
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) – If you’ve ever seen Cary Espinosa’s art on social media or at Champagne, Art & CBD in Biloxi, you would know she has an obvious style.
“They are filled with colors because for me colors give me joy,” she said. “It puts a smile on everyone’s faces.”
Her love of bright reds, yellows and blues is seen throughout her pieces, whether they be of lions, marine life, or celebrity icons that she looks up to.
However, one of her pieces got more personal. Immigration rights group El Pueblo reached out to her and painter Rudy King to do a wall mural for their new office on Pass Road.
The organization’s women’s group, Las Mujeres Unidas, stitched the canvas for the butterfly painting with each artist focusing on one of the wings.
“In this butterfly wing, the wing to the right, reflects where I come from,” Espinosa said. “It’s been many years since I came to this country and I thank God for all of the opportunities.”
Espinosa is originally from Havana, Cuba and studied industrial design in her college years. However, with little opportunity in her field, she became a school teacher until she won the Cuban Visa Lottery, giving her a chance to immigrate to the U.S.
She started out in Fort Myers, Fla., before moving to Mississippi post-Hurricane Katrina. She is now a real estate agent, but keeps her love of painting alive as well. Her journey from her island nation to the United States is something she wanted to capture with her mural.
“My painting reflects my pain, my passion, my love, my joy,” she said.
But Espinosa said it’s more than just her story on the canvas. The mural captures what it’s like for immigrant families finding new life in America, with images of a mother holding her child and the work that immigrants typically do when they settle along coastal Mississippi.
“There a lot of things that I take from this like where did we come from? What did we do once we got here?,” she said. “Each detail of the painting gives me a feeling of both satisfaction and joy.”
The mural also features icons of South Mississippi, like the Biloxi Lighthouse and the guitar outside of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
It even has children of different races playing on the beach together, showing how families all come from similar backgrounds despite our differences.
“We are all the same. We are all one,” she said.
While Espinosa wanted to highlight the struggles and benefits of immigrating to the U.S., she also hopes her mural inspires second and third-generation children to build on their family’s new life in America.
“A lot of people don’t know some of us are doctors, engineers, teachers like me,” she said. “We do all of that in our countries but when we come here, sometimes it’s like we go back to zero.”
Espinosa said it’s important to encourage immigrant children to have better lifestyles than their parents and grandparents.
“They are our future. They are the ones who are going to continue what we started,” she said.
And with Mississippi quickly becoming more diverse, she hopes the next generation continues to celebrate their heritage.
“Do not forget where your parents came from. Keep fighting for your dreams,” she said.
The mural is on display at El Pueblo in Biloxi. If you’d like a print of it, you can donate to the organization by clicking, here.
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