Cholita (2008-2013)

El que no tiene dinga tiene de mandinga. 

He that is not Inka is Mandinka.  

Cholo, a loaded term, first recorded in the 17th century in the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega’s Commentarios Reales de los Incas and is used to identify the offspring of native and black parents. Today in Peru cholo, or its masculine or feminine diminutive (cholito/cholita) is a common phrase with positive and negative connotations depending on the context, and reflects the complex, unstated socio-economic rules by which modern day Peru continues to abide.

Peruvian by birth and father, I left the country at the age of two when my parents divorced.  Estranged from my father for nearly all my life, Peru has always been a sort of enigmatic talisman for me, a key piece of a fractured identity.  When I first started visiting the country about 15 years ago, I was surprised to find myself affectionately called la cholita gringa by my friends and acquaintances.  Yet the word itself conveys one of many paradoxes of Peru: to love and hate something at the same time, to be both mother country and oppressor.  I was drawn to this paradox.

Initially, I began this project as an anthropological look at modern coastal Peru, I wanted to represent this Peruvian under-class - the cholos sin plata, whose representation in modern society is often portrayed as dirty and disreputable, placing them in a more democratic context by using the coast as an ambiguous backdrop to their lives. 

“We are two Perus,” a friend of mine often says.  As a cholita gringa I cannot reconcile myself to the two Perus. We are all cholita, half-breeds sprung from an original Ur-mother. 

"While series like Consumed and American Idle explore Americana and American cultural values from the perspective of a distanced observer, in Raab's most recent series, entitled Cholita, she takes us closer to her subject. Cholita depicts coastal Peruvian culture and a stunning portrait of the Peruvian under-class.

The direct and penetrating images of Cholita indeed present a revealing look at contemporary Peruvian life and speak to Raab's empathy and connection to subjects she approaches on the beaches of her lost homeland.

Cholita's subjects represent the under-class of modern Peru and reveal a proud and vibrant culture, not often the focus of an artists' work, and a world away from the hyper-commercialized lives of their US counterparts. With images that capture moments of leisure time, family gatherings, and everyday life, Raab's Cholita upends disparaging cultural stereotypes and assumptions about Peru's under-class that have been operating in the culture for generations."

-Irene Hofman, Curator, SITE Santa Fe

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