Las Abuelas Cuentan


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It is hard to believe that I’m almost at the end of my year residency with RILA. I often hear that time flies, but this year I have truly felt it!

From its inception, this project has been rooted in storytelling. Every exchange has given me a deep understanding of how the many journeys of people in our community often intersect. From hosting monthly meeting with Café Recuerdos to writing poems at Roger William’s Gateway Center or interviewing grandparents in our community. These exchanges have taught me about the will of our human spirit to overcome obstacles, and how faith has played a crucial role in sustaining our community.

I was particularly touched by the story of Socorro Cano, a Colombian grandmother who came to the United States at the height of the textile industry in Rhode Island. She shared about the history of the first Colombian immigrants in Central Falls, how they helped each other as they built a new home away from everything they’ve ever known. Her story reminded me of my own family and how hard it was for my mom to leave her children behind to start a new life in a different country.

Engaging with our elders has been a joyous, listening experience. Hearing first-hand accounts of the political climate and historical context of their younger years is a true gift. I’m so glad we have been able to provide space for them to talk about what they consider essential in the present. Our conversations inspired other gatherings, where we wrote letters and poems to our younger selves. We reminisce about what we learned from our mothers as we looked at pictures of the women of our families. We made flag banners about selfcare and rituals of renewal both old and new.

As we are getting reading to enter the last part of my residency, I’m excited to wrap up our last group of interviews with our elders. My heart is full with new memories and the sounds of the guitar of past Café Recuerdos.

I hope you join us in enjoying a few cafecitos before the end of the year. Come experience all the magic that happens when we open space for the creative process to unfold.
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Stay tune for more! Save the date for RILA’s Día de los Muertos annual celebration on November 2nd at the North Burial Ground in Providence. Go here more more
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Café Recuerdos | June 2023-1

In the month of July, Café Recuerdos had as its central theme our rituals of renewal, those activities that we do to disconnect from the routine. Going to the beach, hanging out with friends, traveling or just staying at home watching movies. In short, everything that helps us take our minds off everyday things. Renewing ourselves is healing.

We reminisce about family vacations, like getting together with cousins to tell horror stories and play hide and seek or falling asleep under the sun to then spend the rest of the vacation with a burning sensation in your body. We talk about the smell of our memories, the fruits that color our palate and all the ways in which we can create spaces, in our day to day, to relax.

Renewal rituals are necessary to recover our energy, to refocus and to resume life from a new perspective, rested. We know that it is easy to fall into the wheel of routine, repetition usually gives us a sense of control and allows us to settle into our comfort zone. Sometimes it can be expensive to allow ourselves to get out of the ordinary, but can we create spaces to recharge our energy that do not have an additional cost? Absolutely!

Here are some renewal tips that have worked for me:

1. Taking a deep breath, becoming aware of our breathing is a way of being present, this can calm anxiety, taking a deep breath is enlightening us from within.
2. Going for a 20-minute walk is great for circulation and familiarizes us with our neighborhood.
3. Rocking on a swing is fun and healing.
4. Sleep, renews our energy.
5. Laughing rejuvenates us.
6. Give thanks, give thanks for everything that has gone well, for what we have.

Taking care of ourselves from our personal and mental geography helps us to create healthier communities. Individual renewal contributes to the well-being of all and this is a ritual in which we can all participate.
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Café Recuerdos will be on break in August. We will resume in September!

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It was an emotional June for me, as I sat down to interview tía Carmen. I had prepared the questions ahead of time, thinking this would be a breeze. Tía Carmen is a natural storyteller, she has been telling the stories of our family for decades now. However, sitting down with her was hitting me differently this time.

My aunt will be 80 years old this October. As she was looking back at her own life, talking about her love for her daughter and granddaughters, I saw a different side of her. The woman with dreams, struggles and undying faith. In our family, tia Carmen is the one you go to when you need prayers, she is the only person I know who has never doubted her faith. Her iconic phrase is “Dios provee/God will provide,” and when she says that, you believe her. There is no doubt in her voice, no quiver, when you are going through a hard time that’s comforting support. Someone who has unwavering certainty, even when you don’t. Watching her recall the stories of her childhood, giving us a glimpse into that time, made me extremely emotional.

Tia Carmen is the oldest of my mom’s siblings – there are nine of them, each one with a different kind of gift. Tia’s eyes became young again as she talked about my grandmother’s sense of humor and creativity as a seamstress. According to her, my grandmother was very committed to her community and used her talents to make dresses and bows for all the little girls in her town, to feed the homeless. Perhaps that’s where we get our love for community, that’s the inheritance from our abuela and from my aunts and uncles.

No family is perfect, and mine is certainly not the exception, but I’m so thankful for this conversation with my aunt, because it allowed me to dwell on the strength of the women in my life. Tia Carmen, my mom, cousins, daughters, sister, and of course, my own. Legacy is built on a daily basis, it’s an active act and tia Carmen continues to work on hers, one prayer at the time.

Las Abuelas Cuentan is an oral history project about the wisdom and legacy of the elders of our community. If you would like to be a part of the project reach out to me at:

Our next Café Recuerdos has a new location, find out more here

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May has been a busy month at RILA!

Café Recuerdos was dedicated to talking about our grandmothers. Guests were asked to bring pictures of their abuelas and share the stories of who they are/were. What is their legacy? What were their favorite sayings? What do we miss the most about them?

We rejoiced looking at pictures of these amazing women, and although many have passed on, their indomitable spirits and teaching remain with us.

Many talked about our abuela’s cooking and the universal need for constantly cleaning the house. We remember the warmth of their home remedies and their desire to make sure everyone was safe and taken care of.

Our abuelas are the foundation of many of our memories, we uphold the meaningful ones and release what must be unlearned.

Laura @Gateway

We also met for Barrio Tours along Broad Street. As Marta Martínez was teaching us about the history of Latinos on Broad Street, we talked about how much the landscape has changed since the first Latinos arrived in Providence!

After our walk, I lead the group in a sensory activity, we engaged our five senses to describe the tastes and sounds of El Barrio. The poetry that came from the activity is on display at the Gateway Center.

This month’s activities reminded me of how we interact with spaces and the many ways our stories are informed by what we see, hear, touch, taste, and touch. Our memories have texture, we are transported in time when we go back to the places that make up our personal geographies. In many ways, we are walking islands, making up the very diverse map of Rhode Island. I hope you join us on the tour! For times click here.

Café Recuerdos is a monthly conversation series around a specific topic. We hold intentional space for sharing stories and café! Stop by on the third Thursday of every month at La Galería.

The next Café Recuerdos is Thursday, June 15th 5:30-7pm. Come enjoy the nomadic sounds of musical guest: Lisandro Guevara, playing rumba flamenco, bossa nova among many other things. More information here

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April | What is Poetry?

Cafe Recuerdos April 2023 _ FB

Someone who admits to dislike poetry asked me to write about what poetry means to me. Let me start by saying this is not an attempt to convince them or anyone else to like poetry. Instead, this is an exercise in self-reflection. These are a few of the many definitions I came up with:

  • Poetry is a sensibility rooted in the way we experience the world around us. It has nothing to do with writing, although putting it on paper is one of the countless ways to express it.
  • There are poets who never write a single poem.
  • Written poetry is the reaction to an exchange of emotion between you and something or someone else, that exchange makes you more human in return, more aware of your own fragility.
  • Poetry is an awakening to what we have in common, the way we express this joint awakening then gets categorized by the form we use (spoken word, lyric, epic, etc)
  • Poetry makes that which is understood by our inner knowing, the intangible, visible. It is the recognition of our own humanity.
  • None of the above.

My first encounter with poetry came when I was around 8 years old, a beloved teacher asked me to memorize a Ruben Darío poem for a school event. As I recited the poem something shifted inside me, I saw the magic of words, their power to shift emotions, to soften a gaze, to move people. I was hooked, which represented a challenge since I didn’t have access to many books growing up.

One day, my mom took out a loan to buy an 8-volume encyclopedia, it was one of the most poetic gestures she ever had. I read about famous poets, I’m happy to say my collection has grown since, and that my mom still has the encyclopedia.

April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate the power of words to move us, to make us more human. I hope you will join us in this month's Café Recuerdos, especially my friend who doesn’t like poetry, by bringing a favorite poem to read. It could be your own or someone else’s. Let’s read poetry together to find the many forms in which we are one, in the human condition. You can also just come to listen! Café Recuerdos happens on the third Thursday of every month, register here.
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Cafe Recuerdos March 2023 _ Flyer tr

A few years ago, we commemorated International Women's Day with a group of artist friends in Chile. I had never seen such a large and powerful manifestation. There were thousands and thousands of women of all ages, lining the streets of Santiago, all marching together. It was a transformative experience that has deeply inspired me in the years since.

On 8M (March 8) we remember the struggles and fight of the women who worked hard for the equal rights that we enjoy today. We also continue to fight for the right to live our lives in the way we want, to have agency over our bodies. There is still a long way to go, and we continue to create spaces to support each other and move forward in unity. There are different opinions on whether or not to celebrate this day, the way I see it, each woman should decide how to show up on this and every other day of her life.

This month at Café Recuerdos we continue to commemorate women's month by talking about: The things I learned from my mother. We want to honor the wisdom of the women in our lives. What have you learned from them? Come tell us! Join us this Thursday, March 16 at La Galería, 209 Central Street, Central Falls from 5:30-7pm. FREE. you can sign up here.

Café Recuerdos happens on the third Thursday of every month. It is a space for conversation, where we get together to reflect on the theme of the month, while enjoying coffee (or tea), stories, and a delicious snack. Come!
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Our first Café Recuerdos of the year was focused on love, as we reflected on the topic: “Love letters I never sent.” Much like love, our gathering was cozy and warm, funny, and emotional. We recalled memories of letters we sent to our loved ones many years ago. We cherished the memories and joy of re-reading the letters that were sent to us.

Technology has created new ways of communicating and it may seem that writing letters in a lost form of expression, but some people still do it. There is something magical about receiving a handwritten letter. It’s an intentional act that requires setting time aside, putting pen to paper, selecting words and thoughts to share. Sure, you can send a voice message, but it simply isn’t the same.

I invited participants to reflect on what love means to them. We wrote poems in response to prompts from a “Love Yourself” deck. Profound words surfaced about coming back to the quiet of ourselves and to the love of our families, hobbies, lovers, pets. Love manifests in many ways, I’m thankful we were able to hold its magnificent power to come together in person.

Café Recuerdos, is a space for conversation. We make coffee or tea, eat a snack, while getting to know each other. The idea is to share and reflect on our theme for the month. Join us! We meet on the third Thursday of every month at La Galería del Pueblo 209 Central Street, Central Falls. 5:30-7pm. FREE
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January | 2023

Sussy-muertos-event-2023 Photo by Oliver "Syde-Sho" Arias

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I’m thrilled to be RILA 2023 Poet-in-Residence. During my residency I will be working on Las Abuelas Cuentan, a bilingual, multigenerational, oral history project focusing on the personal narratives of our community elders. In the context of a global pandemic, it felt more necessary than ever to honor the wisdom of our grandparents. I wanted to reflect on what they consider essential, how they view legacy, and what experiences have shaped them into who they are.

For this project, I specifically wanted to work with Marta Martínez, because of her background as an oral historian and archivist of Latino histories. Marta has become a mentor and friend; I am excited to develop this work alongside her.

I will continue to host Café Recuerdos on the third Thursday of each month! Café Recuerdos is a space for storytelling with community members. We meet to tell stories under a specific theme and the rest is just fun, heartwarming conversation. I hope you will join us! (FREE: Register here)

Lastly, I will be hosting a series of writing workshops inspired by the stories from our elders. Newer generations will get to reflect on their thoughts and write poems in response. This will become a multigenerational “poemario/journal” for our community to enjoy. This particular series will be divided in two groups, group 1 (April-June) group 2 (Sept-Nov). We will meet once a month. In order to have your poem included in this journal you have to participate in at least 5 sessions. Sign up opens soon!

Thank you for reading,
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