Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cartoon 12: Schizophrenia (Fronterizos Series #3)

Now, the Fronterizos process has come to an end, and much to my amazement we did it!  In a month, we, seven folks from around the world, produced and toured a 30 minute long street theater piece with the theme of Borders that included elements of circus, dance, social commentary, and lots and lots of wooden boxes. Ha! We created our portable set using about 70 huacales, wooden boxes that are part of everyday life here, used in the market to transport fruits and vegetables, in homes used as tables and chairs and shelves and anything else that one could imagine.  We did 4 showings of our piece in 3 different towns each time using our make shift box scenery to tell 2 parallel stories... One, the story of an undocumented immigrant traveling from south to north (immigrants who travel through Mexico to the US suffer deeply at the hands of robbers, rapers, and others taking of advantage of their precarious status).  And two, the story of a box of arms traveling from north to south (as a result of failed US government anti-drug 'Operation Fast and Furious' 70% of the guns used by drug cartels here in Mexico came from the US). 

These two stories converge at the border-- the arms (pieces of wood from broken huacales) cross and are given to the public at the very moment when the immigrant attempts to cross. The border guard turns  to the armed public and says "Ready! Aim!..." letting the public choose how the stories ends.  More often than not, the public, laughing and smiling as if it were a joke, shoot the immigrant.  During the whole process my greatest reflection and the question I hoped to offer the audience is 'When the power is in our hands, how do we react? When in our own lives do we have the opportunity to break cycles of violence?'

In the exploration process, we played with the significance of borders on various levels from micro to macro. We discovered borders inside of ourselves like those created by fear or worry.  These emotional barriers have often kept me from taking a step into a new or unknown situation even though I believe that on the other side of that situation is a healthier way of being.  We explored borders between us and other people in relationships. How thick is the barrier I place between me and those around me? How much of myself do I share and with whom? We looked at borders between our families and others, like the walls of our homes. How do we choose who enters?  And of course we explored national borders, impressed at the fact that borders are totally relative to those who cross them, each of us experience them so differently based on our country of origin and socioeconomic status.

All of these explorations became encapsulated in the paths of the immigrant and the box of arms.  In the literal interpretation, I hoped to offer a snap shot of a reality of border dynamics between the US and Mexico.  Considering through the performance piece, as a nation what do we let in or deny entry to and what do we let out?... Also, I feel like there is a tendency for folks to identify an oppressor who plays the part of the bad guy and receives the for the blame for existing negative dynamics such as violence.  In the case of illegal immigration, the story that is often told is how badly people are treated as undocumented folks in the US.  Now I am learning that they also suffer incredible violence along the way as they travel through Latin America. 
On the micro level, for me the immigrant represented the part in each of us that drives us, either by necessity or desire, to face our interior emotional or mental borders and risk the security of the known in search of something better.  The box of arms represented the often violent system of fears and worries that can dominate us into a way of being that is safe because it is familiar although it may not be best.  

In the cartoon, I am trying to express a sort of schizophrenia I feel when thinking about these social phenomenon.  I am both the immigrant and the US.  Considering the US, in conversations around border dynamics or our role in leaving our borders to intervene in the paths of countries throughout Latin America, I feel totally crazy. I hear people be so angry at the US and I want to defend our system.  I am part of it, it is part of me.  I grew up happy and loved there, participating in the system and feeling successful.  Some parts of it work. The internal parts I guess, as a white middle class female, for me work. I feel free at home. I can dress how I want and practice the religion I want and stay out by myself as late as I want and leave a job where I'm mistreated with the confidence that I will find another.  That's how things should be!  That's my personal experience of the US.   But as I am privy more and more to the experiences of others, I learn that outside of its borders (and often inside), the idea of the US is much different.  The same force that assures me these freedoms takes it away from others in unimaginable ways. 

Because of this I feel aligned with the story of the immigrant.  I myself am an immigrant leaving the known (BY CHOICE which is not at all the same as leaving to survive) in search of another way of life. Leaving the comfort and security of the US partly because of what my comfort there means for so many others. I am so thankful for everything that I've had and have and I do NOT think that the right way to deal with privilege is to throw it away. That is part of why I follow this path, looking to understand the world context and understand how to use my privileges how I see fit, not just to be successful in a system in which I may or may not believe (don't know yet!).

Good lord I've taken to blabbing! Next time I promise I'll write less!! And wow I congratulate you, you patient person if you've read all the way to this point!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cartoon 11: La Honey (Fronterizos Series #2)

This month we have the huge honor of receiving the first volunteer to our project: Emilia! a.k.a. La Honey (Bernardo, one of the guys in our group, likes to give the gals playfully sweet nicknames based on petnames in the girls' native language. I was called 'Sweety', Eva was called 'Shatz' [german for sweety], Gaby was called 'Dulcecita' [spanish for sweety], and Emilia was called 'Honey' [since sweety in english was already taken :)]) 

So Emilia, also from Atlanta, GA, USA, was with us for two weeks to document the Fronterizos process through photography, videography, and illustration. One of her many gorgeous sketches became the promotional poster that you see above. So nice right? Thank you Emilia! You absolutely rock.

For me, having Emilia here was so special.  It offered me a chance to get in touch with myself as the foreigner that I am.  Seeing her beautiful eyes widen as we drove through the countryside helped me to get in touch with myself as an individual in unknown territory.  Far from the self I have been trying to be, doing my best to adjust as fast as possible into the flow of things in order to find a life here (food, housing, work, a social support system), I was able finally to settle into my trip as the awe-struck tourist that I really am. 

I began to take in the inviting colors and colonial architecture nestled into breath taking fluffy deep green broccoli mountains.  I let myself revel in the somehow successful relative disorder of interactions between people, animals, and nature. 
I let my mind spin, taking in all the new input without trying to organize it into my own functional concept of reality.
Houses made of concrete painted in orange, blue, pink, and often just gray when there's no money for paint.
New tastes... Tlazcalate (corn meal, milk, sugar, water), Pozol (cornmeal and water), Horchata (rice, sugar, water, cinnamon). 
The smells... fresh sweet bread baking yum,  greasy carnitas sold on the side of the road eeck, flower stands full of bouquets for the equivalent of $5 mmmm, stray dogs' doo whereever it falls and no one to pick it up uh oh!
New social norms... we share everything, its nearly unheard of to eat in the presence of someone else without offering some... it's almost expected that we won't do what we say we will when we say we will do it,  everyone seems to have faith that it will eventually happen.  A boss hires me to perform a circus cabaret in his fancy restaurant/bar and tells me 'You guys do whatever you think the people will like. I trust your creativity.' =oO What??! Crazy!
I watched Emilia, who doesn't speak Spanish, patiently try to understand the conversations flying around her, trying to figure out when it was her turn to speak.  I thought wow, she doesn't know whats going on. But she is here just listening.  Just trying to enjoy the not knowing and discover other wavelengths to participate on.  The communication that was achieved between her and the group was on another level.  They seemed to get to know one another just by feeling each others' intentions. Emelia came to a new country, to a new way of life, to a new reality and of course, she didn't know what was going on. Does that mean that I'm not necessarily supposed to know whats going on either? Yes! I don't have to know what to do either! Freedommmmm!!! 

Emilia has ushered me into a time when I let myself watch and learn. Through seeing her patient observation, I realized that I have pressured myself to act, to push forward without fear, to pull my weight, like working in the traffic light in Cartoon 7: La Sema. I jumped right in weaving between cars without stopping to observe the flow of things. Without watching how Joaquin and Daniel work successfully. In wanting immediately to prove to myself, my coworkers, the world that I can do anything I set my mind to, I lost the opportunity to learn how to do just that. I do believe that I can achieve what I set my mind to but the best first step is not always action. Now, in so many new situations, its my turn to watch, to learn from the many teachers that the world provides me, and to act only when it comes from a centered Sara, moving from a congruent heart, mind and body.
Thank you Emilia, it was such a pleasure.