Jon Ayon is a Mestizo (Comcáac/Pipil/Xicano/Salvadoreño) filmmaker from LA. In 2010, he made Oakland home and earned a B.A. in Cinema from San Francisco State and an MFA in Documentary from Stanford University. His work has earned him recognition and support from Roman Coppola, The Annenberg Foundation, SFFILM, NewFilmmakers LA, Points North Institute, IDA, Full Frame, Avenida TV, & Sundance. Ayon’s films explore the Mestize/Latine-“American” experience with a critical focus on broken Indigenous kinship systems, internalized racism, cultural xenophobia, Ulysses syndrome, and generational trauma.
Filmmaker’s disclaimer on the use of the word Mestizo/e:
Like Mulatto the term Mestizo comes from colonial efforts to segregate and can be seen or heard as a dirty word meaning biracial or mixed-race. In the 20th century, there was a neoliberal effort by Latin American countries to reinvent the use of the word Mestizo as part of a multiculturalist campaign to erase individual Indigeneity and whitewash the history of state-sponsored genocide of Indigenous communities throughout Latin-America. This multiculturalism was an attempt to hammer the final nail in the coffin of Indigenous erasure through assimilation and migration and it was called “el mestizaje.” When I first began reclaiming the term Mestizo, I employed it as a means to explain my brown skin and complexion to whites and non-Latines. I soon realized that this reason was influenced by a colonial perception (or misconception) of myself and my identity. In 2008, I began investigating—through family interviews, research, and traveling to meet tribal relations—my own heritage and ancestry. Since then, my use of the word Mestizo—and now, Mestizx or Mestize—evolved to include a parenthetical (Comcáac/Pipil/Xicano/Salvadoreño), honoring each of the tribes and nationalities that make up my heritage and connecting myself and my work to my grandparents and great grandparents without claiming tribal affiliation. This inherited dislocation is often summed up by the term “detribalized Mestizo.” In the U.S., the terms Indigenous/American Indian/Native American are political identities. Similarly, the terms “Mestizo” and “Afromestizo” in Mexico are recognized as member nations by the National Indigenous Congress of Mexico (CNI) which was founded by the EZLN. Meaning, to the CNI Mestizo is also considered a political identity. My use of the terms Mestizo or Mestizx or Mestize is not only an effort to reestablish kinship and alliances with Indigenous nations across Latin America but also a method of finding space without taking space.
Somos ni de aquí, ni de allá pero no somos invisible.