When Jatziri Barrón left her native Guanajuato, Mexico for Houston, Texas a decade ago, she lost the only home she’d known and loved for 17 years.
But, in an unexpected twist of fate, the then-teenager found something far bigger than she ever could’ve imagined on the U.S. side of the border: her life’s calling.
“I didn’t know how to express myself or share my emotions,” the now-27-year-old artist and muralist recalled in a recent interview with MLS Español. “The last thing I wanted to do was create chaos in my family because I really didn’t want to move.”
Amid all the frustration, uncertainty and culture shock, Barrón discovered she had a creative side that needed to come out.
“When you leave your country and come to a place like the United States, as a migrant you try to feel at home, to bring a piece of your identity.
“… So what happened was I began to paint and draw to be able to express myself as all that was happening, and actually heal a little,” she said. “That’s how my career got started, because through that process I started painting more and people began to react. They started requesting paintings.”
Fast forward to today, and there are more requests than ever for Barrón’s culturally-focused work as one of the rising stars of Houston’s vibrant art scene.
Always true to her roots, Barrón’s visual creations are also heavily influenced by soccer - a game she’s played and followed since childhood after accompanying her father multiple times to games to cheer on his beloved Pumas UNAM.
“The jersey represents passion,” she said. “I put the supporters’ groups. The supporters’ groups are basically the heart of the team.
“The Dallas, Austin and Houston jerseys are there,” added Barrón. “I wanted to represent that Latinos, wherever they go and find new passions and loves, they always want to represent their country as well. So even though a lot of Latinos go watch the Dynamo or other clubs, they always try to represent a bit where they come from.”
According to Barrón, the Dynamo in particular tapped into the pulse of the local Houston community by signing Mexican superstar Héctor Herrera midway through the 2022 MLS season.
“Simply having a symbol like that, it’s like having a part of Mexico. You feel represented,” Barrón said of the 33-year-old El Tri star, arguably the league’s top midfielder in 2023 thanks to a 4g/14a output that has Houston on the verge of qualifying for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017.
“I think many more Mexicans have started going to Dynamo games for the simple fact that HH is here.”
While Herrera’s influence is through the medium of sports, Barrón uses her creative muse to empower others and instill a sense of cultural pride.
“[My art] really has to have meaning by helping the community, and obviously by inspiring,” Barrón said.
“‘Art with a purpose.’ That’s my motto,” she said. “For me, the most important thing is to touch the hearts of people who see my work.”