News came in late April of the death of Xóchitl Cristina Gil-Higuchi, a native of our Sonoran bioregion, and a bright light in the art world. Xóchi participated in numerous art exhibits in the U.S. and Mexico, won several awards, and was included in the 2003 Bilingual Press book Chicana/o Contemporary Art Anthology.
Xóchi was born in Nogales, Sonora, and grew up in southern Arizona. She earned her BFA from the University of Arizona, and during her time in Tucson, she was active in the local arts scene. She was founding member of Raices Taller Gallery and Workshop. It was during her art studies that she met the love of her life, Japanese art student Shinsuke Higuchi. Xóchi and Shinsuke married, and after graduation, moved to New York City to seek their fortunes as artists. Xóchi worked for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting social activism and the defense of human rights, and she continued to work as an artist.
I did not know Xóchi well at all. I met her only once at a gallery-workshop in south Tucson. She directed me to the gallery exhibit of prints, and then went back to work teaching printmaking to an elementary school student. Later, we connected on social media where I remember her complaining about how cold her New York City art studio was in the winter.
Our most intense interaction came on January 8, 2011. Xóchi and I were on social media at the same time, and we had exchanged greetings. Then news of the shootings started to come through. She was getting only the initial report of a shooting so she asked me for more news. I had the radio on and was able to give her minute-by-minute updates.
“Multiple people down. Several dead. Appears to be a lone shooter. The police have him now. ”
Xóchi responded, “They are reporting that Gabby Giffords is dead.”
“No. She’s in an ambulance right this minute and on her way to UMC. Reports are that she’s responsive.” We were just two Tucsonans sharing a moment in the life of our home.
One source I found said that Xóchi was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year ago. The cancer spread to her spine and brain, and was considered inoperable. She passed away in late April. She was 42 years old. A memorial service was held for her in Tucson on May 28.
So now when I think of Xóchi, I imagine her flying on the wings of a butterfly above the sky islands and on to the multiverse beyond. There she will find her art studio fully stocked with all the paint and paintbrushes, canvas and papers that she could ever want - a studio not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer. Just right.
Que te vaya con Dios, Xóchi.
C.J. Shane is the publisher and editor of Sonoran Arts Network. She is an artist and writer. Visit her website at www.cjshane.com to learn more about her.