Cuban Heroes (I wish I’d known as a girl): Ana Mendieta

Above image: Ana Mendieta, Film stills, Sweating Blood, 1973

Starting in July, my birth month, I will be doing a bi-monthly research exercise on “Cuban Heroes” for my blog. I believe that seeing yourself reflected in the world around you (in pop culture and beyond) is powerful, and I was starved of that privilege as a young girl navigating the white-centric suburbs of Orange County.

A bit of an introduction before beginning My mother immigrated from Cuba in the 1970s and married my father, a red headed Irish-American from Southern California. Growing up, my contact with my father’s side of the family was rare if ever, so I made sense of “family” through the connection I had to my mother’s side: my Cuban Grandmother and her sisters (my Great Aunts). I truly believe that I understand what Love is today through the love I received from the gaggle of Cuban women who raised me as a child. Looking back, when I think of “home”, I think of them, and feel them deeply in my core still. So with all that said  why is it that when I was sorting through the building blocks of my identity and searching for role models, that I looked past them and only found value and importance in white-stories by straight-white-men within the framework of white-society? In short, it is because I was a child of an immigrant, and cultural assimilation was key to my social survival. When I looked around me, those were the narratives that society held up and gave the most worth and I followed that way of thinking without ever examining why (that would come decades later). As a child and young adult, I took these adopted narratives and hid in plain sight. My fair-skin and culturally-ambiguous looks afforded me that. I thought by doing this, I was pushing myself out of the ethnic minority and giving myself a “fair chance”, a belief that is complex, problematic, and reinforced time and time again in my life.

After my mother’s passing 2 years ago, I spiraled into grief. Grieving her, and the loss of “the last” of my Cuban identity slipping through my fingers and into the ether. Never again would I feel and hear the energy and sounds of her hard Cuban-Spanish accenting my life. The audible sounds of love through language, calling for me as, “Ginita”. I think after the death of any parent, it is quite normal to question existence and ask questions of “why”, and that definitely came for me in full force and is something I still reconcile today. So — this is to honor my Mother, this is for my Grandmother and Great Aunts, but mostly this is for the little girl who needed an extra push in understanding her roots, her place and their natural value, and in turn, her natural value.

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Installation Photos: Beatriz Cortez & Rafa Esparza, Nomad 13

I’m happy to share some photos I shot last month for Craft Contemporary of Beatriz & Rafa’s collaborative installation, Nomad 13, on view now through May 12th, 2019!

Los Angeles-based artists Beatriz Cortez and Rafa Esparza present the collaborative installation, Nomad 13 in the museum’s first floor. Taking the form of an unconventional space capsule built from adobe bricks and steel, the structure houses a garden of plants that are indigenous to the Americas and were cultivated by the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations. The garden refers to a long history of plant migration, as well as the knowledge and technological advances of ancient peoples. In symbolically “launching” these plants into the cosmos, the artists evoke the real ongoing experiments of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to grow food in outer space. However, with Nomad 13 the artists envision the growth of fresh food in space for the survival of indigenous knowledge and to nourish future space travelers.

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On the road: AMBOS Project (Art Made Between Opposite Sides)

I’m gearing up to get on the road at the end of August through September, traveling to several border towns with AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides) and Tanya Aguiñiga‘s Border Quipu. After bringing the project to all of the border crossings in California last year, AMBOS Project will be on the road taking the Border Quipu and other various artistic interventions to all of the border crossings from Lukeville, Arizona to El Paso, Texas. I helped document this project last year at the Tijuana/San Diego border and I am even more excited to join them on the road to document this next extension.

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