Elibet Valencia MuñozElibet Valencia Muñoz, ’20 B.A. History

By Stephanie Villafuerte

When she was a teenager, Elibet Valencia Muñoz took up photography with one goal in mind: to capture human existence. The first-generation student grew up in Oxnard and Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, where life was quiet, and traveling outside of her hometown wasn’t easy. Yet Muñoz knew she wanted to record the world she lived in and grow from there.

Muñoz attended CSUCI, majoring in History and minoring in Communication/Visual Media, choosing fields of study that allowed her to express herself artistically and academically.

“I wanted a foundation in research. Creativity comes naturally to me, but [it] needs discipline,” Muñoz said. “I knew my artistic approaches could be beneficial in other fields.”

The open community at CSUCI also helped Muñoz stay motivated in her studies.

“Everyone I had a conversation with made a substantial mark in my academic path. Each gave me unique gifts of perspective and encouragement that I strive to implement into everything I do,” she recollected.

Following graduation, the 2020 alumna began working on her first photographic collection titled “La Danza De Los Diablos” or “The Dance of the Devils,” a traditional dance from the Mixteco culture, after catching a performance done by Los Elegidos de Asís, the largest group in Ventura County that practices the danza (dance).

“They performed at a Black Lives Matter Pride celebration in Oxnard, an event I video documented, and so I built up the nerve to ask them if I could photograph them and they agreed,” Muñoz said.

Capturing the history of the popular indigenous danza, Muñoz’s project shows how Mexican and indigenous culture is prominent in Southern California. She hopes her collection will help the public appreciate the art and beauty of the danza just as much as she does.

“The fact there are so many people in the United States, in California, in Oxnard who take time, energy, and effort to share gems from their culture with the rest of us has been lighting a fire within me,” Muñoz said on her website. “I see the dancers as superheroes, in particular the women and kids. The danza is abundant with meaning, and I hope to catch a glimpse of it via photography.”

A piece from Elibet Valencia Munoz's La Danza De Los Diablos (Photos courtesy of Elibet Valencia Munoz)
A piece from Elibet Valencia Muñoz's La Danza De Los Diablos (photos courtesy of Elibet Valencia Muñoz)

Muñoz’s danza collection gained support through a fellowship program run by the Social Justice Fund of Ventura County, as well as mentorship by the Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), which taught her more about the culture in order to capture an accurate representation. 

“I knew there were resources to support this type of work, so with some encouragement from community members, I decided to go for it,” Muñoz said. “The project is also serving as an opportunity to build bridges between artists, scholars and organizations.”

This Fall “La Danza De Los Diablos” was on exhibit in local public libraries including the Museum of Ventura County.

This is her biggest project yet, but not the last. Muñoz has plans of creating more collections in the future that will help others understand the history of the past and present.

“I want to contribute to historical works via visual communication such as photography and film; to produce accessible resources that can be easily distributed and also complement traditional scholarly work.”

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© Fall 2021 / Volume 26 / Number 2 / Biannual

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