Change Agents

Change Agents: Ella Mendoza & Resist IMMIGRANT RIGHTS—ART SPEAKS

By Katherine Pioli
Ella Mendoza

Ella Mendoza, 27—artist, writer, activist.

Born—Lima, Peru, brought to the United States when she was 12.

Ella Mendoza’s storytelling, her art and her activism, is often told through the lens of skin color. Her father, she says, is light-skinned. Her mother is dark-skinned. This is an important distinction because, as Mendoza writes, even in Peru “a lighter-skinned man had better access to money and resources.” When her family had enough money to seek out a new life in the United States it was Mendoza’s father who brought her to her new home. Her mother remained behind.

Mendoza is one of about 130,000 undocumented immigrants living in Utah. Nationally our state has the tenth-greatest number of undocumented workers. Deeply committed to the community of undocumented immigrants of which she is openly a part of, Mendoza is not one of those people who found themselves pushed into action only after the recent election. She has long questioned power structures that try to define where she belongs and what she is capable of.

Claudia by Ella Mendoza.

In 2013 Mendoza began working with Peaceful Uprising. Since then she has spent time in the camps at Standing Rock (she lived there last year from August to December) and with the Utah Tar Sands Resistance. She helped to co-found the Utah chapter of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement and she is currently active with ROAR (Roots of Autonomous Resistance) Collective, a union of people of color resisting modern-day colonialism as perpetuated through the continued theft of native lands and resources.

Inspired by a feminist zine workshop she recently attended in New York, Mendoza created Resist, a pocket-sized handbook filled with her sketches—thick black curling lines that become flowers and the faces of women, and tools of resistance. Her second in this zine series, How to Make Art, gave protesters tips on how to stay safe and be heard—with ideas and prototypes for signs, banners and stencils. The third in this series, out soon and available at Diabolical Records, is Know Your Rights: Defending Our Community (a PDF is also available for free online at

“My community is other undocumented people and we have been through a lot together,” says Mendoza. She also uses Resist as a love letter for the people she considers family. “It’s a note that reminds you that you are special. You will survive.”

Get some ideas on how to make your own zine: Attend the Alt Press Fest the City’s Main Library this summer, Saturday July 8, noon-4pm.

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This article was originally published on June 1, 2017.