Find Posts By Topic

Latinidad en Seattle by Jake Prendez and Judy Avitia-Gonzalez

In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, we have invited founders of Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery Jake Prendez and Judy Avitia-Gonzalez to curate a series of profiles and stories to amplify and honor people, businesses, organizations, and projects connected to Seattle’s Latinx community.

Latinidad en Seattle

by Jake Prendez and Judy Avitia-Gonzalez

We are Jake Prendez and Judy Avitia-Gonzalez founders of the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery located on the border of White Center and West Seattle. Nepantla is a multi-cultural, multi-use accessible art gallery grounded in Chicana/Chicano arts traditions. We are honored that the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods has invited us to curate a series of blog posts celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month observed September 15 -October 15. This is the introductory post (queue the confetti).  

Our Latinx community is a very diverse and complex community. The fact that we spend so much time discussing which term to use is indicative of that complexity. Instead of going straight to the meat of the topic “Latinidad en Seattle” we spend so much time navigating labels. Latinx is an umbrella term referring to Spanish-speaking folks descended from Latin America. The “X” in Latinx is just a non-gendered denotation. It is often used to anger older and or more conservative “Latinos.” Now the “Latin” in Latinx will draw the ire of many who feel that it only acknowledges the Spanish blood and ignores the Indigenous, African, Arab, and Asian cultures that make us who we are. 

The bottom line is, if you ask 100 Latinx folks what they identify as you will probably get 100 different answers. For example, folks of Mexican descent may identify as Mexican, Mexicano, Mexicana, Mexican-American, Chicano, Chicana, Chicanx, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Latinè, or Hispanic.  

Ok, so now let’s talk about Latinidad en Seattle. We are both originally from California and of Mexican descent. Judy is 1st generation with her parents immigrating from Durango, Mexico. Jake is 3rd generation on his mother’s side with his great grandparents immigrating from Zacatecas and Coahuila Mexico and Italian American on his father’s side. Although we both consider ourselves Chicana/o (Mexican American) we have very different experiences and connections to our cultura. Judy is a first-language Spanish speaker while Jake’s family speaks Spanglish at best. Jake’s grandparents, whose family were migrant farm workers in Bakersfield/Shafter, grew up in a generation where they were beaten for speaking Spanish at school and forced to Americanize. As a survival strategy and to shield their own children from the racism and abuse they experienced they decided to Americanize their own children and not teach them Spanish. This is a very common story for multi-generational Mexican-American families.

The word Nepantla is a Nahuatl (Aztec language) term that describes being in the middle or the space in the between. The term was popularized by Chicana writer and scholar Gloria Anzaldua. Most often, the term references endangered communities, cultures, or genders who, due to colonialism, marginalization, or historical trauma, engage in resistance strategies of survival. Nepantla becomes the alternative space in which to live, heal, function, and create.

When we created the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery we wanted to fill a void of Chicana/o Arts in the Pacific Northwest. While there was some Latinx art programming happening locally, Seattle lacked a physical space devoted to the Chicana/o Arts.  We founded the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in February 2019. We host monthly art exhibitions focused on marginalized communities and communities of color. In our gift shop, we support and highlight Chicana/o artists and artisans, women makers, LGBTQ+ makers, and small businesses. The Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery also serves as a community space for events such as free, arts-related workshops, book readings, lectures, and other community events. Our mission is to make art an accessible experience.

The Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery serves as the Latinx/Chicanx arts hub of Seattle. We strive to provide a welcoming space for community to celebrate cultura, bring voice to la gente, and share our story to the larger Seattle Community. Nepantla is a place where artists do not have to explain their work, where we hope you feel seen, you resonate with the art, and your cultura is appreciated.

In the upcoming weeks Seattle Department of Neighborhoods will be sharing stories from Latinx writers from diverse backgrounds speaking to their own experiences living in Western Washington on the Front Porch blog. We hope you will be inspired, learn, and enjoy these upcoming posts. Please send all hate mail to

Jake Prendez & Judy Avitia-Gonzalez are partners in business and in love. Together they run the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery on the border of White Center and West Seattle. The gallery is a multi-use art space ground in the Chicana/o Latiné arts traditions hosting monthly art exhibitions as well as free art workshops and other special events. Nepantla also offers an ever-growing gift shop with a unique collection of apparel, art jewelry, and handmade gifts highlighting Latiné, BIPOC, and women-owned businesses. Jake & Judy are deeply committed to their Chicana/o, Latiné community as well as White Center where they are living and raising their 5 children ranging in ages 26-11. 

This piece was commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained herein do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas of the City of Seattle.