“I believe cultural diplomacy is key to cultural awareness; global, social, and economic understanding; and creates opportunities and visibility to underrepresented communities worldwide. Cultural diplomacy explores research in art and humanities vital to cultural knowledge and social justice across borders.”

– Beatriz Vasquez

Beatriz Vasquez

In September 2023, Mexican American artist Beatriz Vasquez traveled to Maseru, Lesotho, on an Art in Embassies Democracy Collection artist exchange where she engaged in cultural diplomacy with audiences across the country. As part of the Embassy’s recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, she shared artwork inspired by papel picado, a form of traditional Mexican cut paper art, with communities in Lesotho. 

LocationMaseru, Lesotho
Project TypeArtist Exchange
Master Classes

Over the course of a week, Vasquez engaged with groups ranging from elementary school to university students, from to creative arts alumni to established artists, working with each to broach topics of heritage, identity, and social change. She met with museum professionals and traditional craftspeople, learning about Lesotho cultural history and teaching about her own.

Vasquez gave a number of presentations on her artwork and experiences as a Mexican American artist, including one at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. She described it as “probably the most notable experience I had during my time in Lesotho. [The students’] willingness to explore their own culture as the basis of their creativity made me appreciate the importance of my own creative practice and the responsibilities that come with being a global citizen and cultural artist.” It was one of the many areas where she made genuine human connections, and she remains in communication with Lesotho artists about potential collaborations. She also worked with elementary and secondary school students, teaching them about the history of the ancient Mexican folkloric artform papel picado: “I teach about honoring paper as an accessible, sustainable, and recyclable material and compare the devaluation of paper to the treatment of pueblo people, immigrants, and cultural communities.”

In roundtable discussions and visits with artists and artisans, Vasquez found that “Lesotho artists are ready to learn of new cultures and navigate international artist platforms. Artists are key participants to creating social and economic development worldwide; supporting underrepresented artists through exchange programming is vital in their role as leading innovators for their respective communities.” The roundtable was especially meaningful as she spoke with local creative alumni of American exchange programs. They spoke specifically about the need for collective spaces and the potential of an artist collective in Lesotho to elevate and provide resources for artists across Maseru.

Vasquez looks forward to continued collaboration with the artists she met in Lesotho and the U.S. Embassy and American Center there. She hopes to continue supporting Lesotho artists “to create international partnerships; build bridges of empathy, cultural knowledge, [and] international collaboration; and explore sustainable development through the arts in Lesotho.”

Vasquez sat in on a roundtable discussion with creative alumni of American exchange programs, talking about artist collectives and the need for community support.

About the Artist

Maseru Exhibition