WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Painting can allow us to escape reality and let our imagination run wild, but for one Weslaco native and former migrant field worker, it is a way to remember history.
For decades, Roel Sandoval Flores worked in the fields of Tejanos. He said he has always been into that “kind of life,” more specifically the field life being under the South Texas sun picking cotton.
Although Flores recalls that period of time to be some of his hardest years, he is now trying to paint history in an accurate light.
“I tried to combine the fieldwork with the music cause the Conjunto music came out of the fields. We were always trying to get out of the fieldwork with the music,” said Flores.
Although it brings up the memory of hardship, Flores stated there is always something good that stems from the bad. “I enjoy remembering old times cause there were times where the only good thing you would see the whole day was the sunrise and the sunset. Everything else was hard, but we always enjoyed the good side, the beautiful sky.”
One day, one of his daughters was throwing out paint supplies and ended up gifting it to him.
Without any art lessons or guidance, Flores thought to himself, “I’m going to try to show the good side of hard times with the paintings.”
Years later, Flores has painted over 500 paintings that depict his time as a migrant field worker. Each one is different, a one-of-a-kind piece.
Although painting is a hobby Flores has enjoyed from the start, it became a way to make his family proud. “They say they are proud of me because of what I do so that matters to me. That matters to me what my wife thinks of me, what my kids think of me.”
Flores added his purpose behind each painting is to spread the message of not forgetting who we are or where we came from.
When Flores and his wife can, they also preach the message of staying in school to younger generations.
Flores dropped out of school when he was 15 to continue fieldwork. He now has his GED but said education is a top priority he doesn’t want other children to miss out on. “It’s the only way out.”
Since beginning his journey as an artist, he has been recognized by former President Barack Obama during the National Arts and Humanities Month in 2013 through a proclamation and a signed photo of Obama. His work sits in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection as well as public libraries across the Rio Grande Valley. Robert Longoria, a La Joya author has also published a biography on Flores titled “La Ultima Pesada” which is available on Amazon.
Flores said he could have never imagined a day where he would have received so much praise and support for his artwork, but that he’s happy because it means his history will continue.
His paintings are the legacy he wishes to leave to his family in hopes of that history spreading worldwide.
Flores said he plans to paint another memory, but it has not come to him yet.