After the Vietnam War, “when we tried to join the VFW clubs, [the] American Legions, they said no,” says Gilbert De la O. So, he and other Mexican and Mexican-American war veterans who settled in St. Paul, decided to start their own post, VFW Post #5.
Some 35 large-scale, color portraits of these veterans are featured in the new exhibit “AMVETS Post #5: Photographs by Xavier Tavera,” Sat., Sept. 23, through April 22, 2018 at the Minnesota History Center.
Tavera created the Post #5 series in 2013 to document Mexican and Mexican-American veterans who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. “My purpose in photographing war veterans,” Tavera says, “is not to romanticize them as war heroes but to focus on telling the stories of men and women who came back from conflict. I hope to bring some awareness regarding how difficult the process of returning from war is on the veterans.”
Many vets struggled with reintegrating into society as they faced racism and apathy after returning home to Minnesota from the battlefield. “When I got out? Nothing. Nobody ever said welcome home. And it’s now that I’m hearing thank you for your service. And it’s nice,” says Luis Alvarado. The portraits serve as a reminder of their contributions and struggles.
Born in Mexico City, photographer Xavier Tavera has lived in the Twin Cities since 1996. His portraits have been exhibited internationally and are in the permanent collections of the Weisman Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Plains Art Museum and the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS).
Exhibit text will be presented in Spanish and English. The exhibit is free with regular History Center admission of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, veterans/active military and college students, $6 ages 5 to 17, free age 4 and under and MNHS members.