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This piñata artist wants to be angry at Donald Trump. He's being proactive instead.

This young artist based in Sin City is using piñatas to make a statement on human rights and racial equality.

This piñata artist wants to be angry at Donald Trump. He's being proactive instead.

Justin Favela is a 30-year-old Latino artist who proudly lives in Las Vegas, a city rich with self-expression and color — much like his art.

Favela is a mixed-media artist, but he mostly makes piñatas. Why piñatas? Growing up, Favela didn't like the forced masculinity that smashing a piñata to bits entailed. So he decided to make them his own way, turning them into the trademark of his artwork. Favela started a six-month artist residency at the Juhl building in September 2016 after the building's owner saw his work in another Nevada art show.

During the early days of the presidential election, Favela gained a little notoriety after creating a piñata bust of President-elect Donald Trump.

Image by Ed Fuentes/PaintThisDesert, featured with permission.


Favela was commissioned by a restaurant run by his cousin in Las Vegas to create a piñata in Trump's likeness shortly after Trump announced his candidacy. It was made for an event where patrons would demolish it with a stick. That is, after all, how piñatas tend to work.

Even so, Favela later felt uncomfortable with the whole thing.

After the president-elect painted all Mexicans with a broad brush as rapists and criminals, Favela and his fellow Latinos got angry. But to him, that still didn't justify creating the likeness of Trump out of tissue paper and glue, only to have it pummeled to pieces by overzealous restaurant patrons.

Favela thought watching the Trump piñata get smashed would feel satisfying for him. But instead, he watched people smash the piñata to bits ... and he started to regret his art project.

Justin Favela working in his Las Vegas studio. Image via Justin Favela, featured with permission.

He says he doesn't like that he spent all that time creating an effigy of a man who, in his opinion, is full of hate. But he also felt conflicted about the violence: By making what he refers to as the "Trumpiñata," was he encouraging Latinos to display precisely the violent behavior they were being accused of?

"I think the whole Trump piñata movement reinforced the stereotype of us being violent people, but on the other hand, it was a way for us to make a political statement," he said.

Favela's conflicted feelings sum up a lot of the current conversation about Trump, especially for minorities.

We're mad that Trump was elected, but we also want to go high when he goes low ... and that's a lot easier said than done. Favela is still trying to make sense of what he's feeling post-election, and that's OK.

Watching Trump win the presidency after hearing him say inflammatory things about minorities is a highly emotional experience.

The artist gave a downtown Las Vegas motel the "piñata treatment." Image by Krystal Ramirez, featured with permission.

But Favela is dealing with this anger and pain in an interesting way: He continuing to create loud, unapologetic work.

"Visibility is everything. I have always made art about my identity as a first-generation Latino in America," Favela says. Now, more than ever before, I think it is important that from now on I make art for myself and for people that look, walk, and talk like me."

Favela told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he's working on a really big piece for a group show at the Denver Art Museum that will feature 13 Latino artists. He's recreating the garden set from the 2002 movie “Frida,” about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo starring Salma Hayek. The piñatas will now be about representation, not destruction.

Favela also co-hosts a twice-monthly podcast, “Latinos Who Lunch,” where he talks about art, pop culture, and identity politics.

Image by Mikayla Whitmore via Justin Favela, featured with permission.

Favela's feelings about Trump aren't black and white. But to me, they are hopeful.

There's fear, frustration, regret. There's a strong desire to keep pushing forward while also wanting to look back and wallow in defeat.

Latinos have the power to help shape this nation and Favela hopes that, as the majority minority in this country, Latinos will work together with other social justice movements. He believes that's the only way to truly take steps forward in the fight for human rights and racial equality.

"I want Latinos to know that we are going to be all right. The struggle is nothing new for us. We got this," Favela says.

In general, I think we can all learn from Favela's outlook: Sure, it's going to take a little time to let our feelings settle. We may need some time to regroup. But then, like Favela, we can use the tools we have to move forward, to fight for equality, and to bring representation to all people, everywhere.

With those tools, and with some piñatas, maybe we can even change the world.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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