Hospitality Mantas embroidered for you by asylum-seekers
Artisans Beyond Borders announces a Christmas Close-out with reduced prices on all inventory (just refreshed) at our BordandoEsperanza Etsy Shop. On Jan. 1, 2023, we close shop. We thank you with all our hearts for your support, which has made our success possible.
Going forward, the Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders are centering our efforts on service and education. Upon request, we may offer limited originals at in-person presentations and exhibitions. To have our Bordando Esperanza/Embroidering Hope exhibition shown in your community, church or seminary, university, or guild, email Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org for info and booking.
As we continue to back trauma-informed arts and activities at the U.S./Mexico border, it remains our mission and our joy at www.ArtisansBeyondBorders.org to promote asylum-seekers as they launch their own small arts businesses in the U.S. Stay tuned for updates on their progress here at www.ArtandFaithintheDesert.com.
We hope that you will also continue to welcome our new neighbors from the global south by directly supporting their artisanal arts as they settle into their new communities. It was the love and generosity of individual supporters around the world since 2020 that gave the artisans hope and made the Etsy shop such a success.
Blessings to all/Bendiciones para todos y todas, Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders
Please forgive duplicates but it has come to our attention that the Invitation for the exhibition did not come through on people’s emails. If you are in Arizona, the exhibition is also scheduled for the Trinity Cathedral’s Olney gallery in Phoenix in Spring 2023.
Bordando Esperanza Exhibition, Devotional Arts workshops, U.S. start-ups, and more.
Bordando Esperanza/Embroidering Hope
If you are in Tucson, we hope that you can join us for our home church exhibition of contemporary retablos/religious and spiritual embroideries independently stitched by asylum-seekers at the border.
“Few can deny how powerful and enduring the role of faith is for individuals and families caught in forced migration. Bordando Esperanza/Embroidering Hope brings their stories to our communities, so that we may see and feel what is true and sacred for our neighbors.” from the viewer guide.
The core group of embroiderers in the exhibition were stranded together for over a year and a half (2020 through 2021) at the shelter La Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, where they found safety, solidarity, and peace in embroidery.
Maker’s Program at la Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones
Recovering Spirit through the Arts
This summer Artisans Beyond Borders (ABB) was pleased to provide material support (along with grant funding from the UofA) for Elizabeth Gaxiola’s expressive arts project: La Casa de Papel: El Ruido de Tus Voces/Creating Emancipatory Spaces and Search for Well-being in our Borderlands. It was a great opportunity to have Liz working with the guests at la Casa de Misericordia y de Todas Naciones and also at the Kino Migrant Aid Center, as she attended to wounds of the heart and soul.
On the U.S. side ~ Devotional Border Arts Workshops
In keeping with our educational mission, with advance notice, ABB volunteer art facilitators can provide hands-on engaged contemplation (linking Art, Faith, and Social Justice) for visiting delegations and student groups here for border immersion. In contrast to the bleak politics of the border, Devotional Arts affirm, nourish, and empower.
“People were so into it, they were working on their projects even in the airport while they were waiting for their planes.” Kat Smith, MCC Border Outreach
With the aid of a grant from the Mennonite Central Committee, which has a history of supporting community handwork that benefits the whole, we’ve been able to provide some of the embroiders waiting for asylum now in the U.S. with start-up funds to develop small craft enterprises. With donations to ABB, we can also source and send culturally aligned made-in-Mexico materials and supplies.
Most bordadoras/embroiderers have already suffered through their first year in the U.S., not being allowed to work. Now that they’ve been here a year and are able to legally be employed, the cost of work permits alone remains cost prohibitive.
The holidays give us all more opportunities to support hand-made fair trade and their makers by purchasing their wares wherever they’re sold in the U.S., or in Mexico. Artisans Beyond Borders offers original mantas (when available) at in-person events and exhibition openings, and also on the ABB website for donation. Volunteers with Voices from the Border also sell hand-embroidered mantas weekly at La Posada Farmer’s Market. Online, Salavision has opened a shop that includes beautiful hand-embroidered bags and mantas, and if you are in Ambos Nogales, in Mexico the Kino Border Initiative is now supporting the people’s hand-made arts through their Migrant Aid Center.
If you are interested in being a Friend of Artisans Beyond Borders: compiling maker bags from donated materials, helping to table, or part-time as a volunteer arts facilitator on either side of the border you can also email us at Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org Spanish is helpful but not mandatory.
To keep trauma-informed arts and cultural craft programming going at the border and also invest in new families’ heritage skills here in the U.S., donate directly to www.ArtisansBeyondBorders.org.
It has been a busy season for Artisans Beyond Borders. The top story in June is Artisans Beyond Border’s Binational ZOOM panel on “Adaptation with Migration” for W.A.R.P. (Weaving a Real Peace), the International networking organization for Textile Artisans and their initiatives. We lead off a number of fabulous panels, with wonderful presenters from all over the world that you don’t want to miss if you can help it. Panels on Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26 are FREE, open to everyone, and easy to register. (Scroll down that page to see all the rest of the presenters and descriptions of their panel discussions).
Adaptation with Migration
Panel Discussion with Artisans Beyond Borders
Saturday, June 25th at 12:30 pm US Eastern Time
“Every day around the world, people make one of the most difficult decisions in their lives: to leave their homes in search of a safer, better life. At la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas Naciones – the House of Mercy and all Nations, asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border have a safe place to wait for entry to the US. There, Artisans Beyond Borderssupports bordadoras (embroiderers) and tejedoras (weavers). Through the acts of weaving, stitching, and crocheting, these artisans create a piece of home in this new, unknown place. Artisans Beyond Borders and their non-profit partners in Mexico help restore grace and agency through traditional handwork, solidarity among the artisans, and respect for cultural and familial arts across borders.
The binational Artisans Beyond Borders also works with embroiderers and weavers newly arrived in the U.S., who are legally petitioning for asylum after waiting months, even years, at the U.S.-Mexico border. One of the first things often lost in migration is one’s own cultural and familial art, resulting in deep cultural bereavement and deculturation. What are Artisans Beyond Borders and their partners doing to preserve our new neighbors’ maker tradition(s)? On this panel, we will hear the stories of Artisans Beyond Borders, their partners, and the artisans themselves. We will discover why upholding handmade cultural and familial arts – pre-and post-migration – is critical now to all of us moving forward.”
Sister Lika Macias is the executive director of la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas Naciones– the House of Mercy and all Nations, a migrant led shelter in Nogales, Mexico. Hermana Lika is a respected and skilled community leader who believes strongly in the power of art to heal, comfort, and foster solidarity amongst the shelter’s residents. Recently, Sister Lika and staff established a Maker space at the shelter for the resident embroiderers, weavers, and sewers. A talented painter in her own right, Sister Lika studied traditional iconography in Rome, South America, and Russia.
Esmerelda Ibarra, an indigenous embroiderer from Guerrero, Mexico, is a leading voice in the Save Asylum movement advocating for human rights and the dignity of indigenous people. Esmerelda worked with Artisans Beyond Borders while she and her family were stranded at the U.S. Mexico border for almost two years, and now in the U.S. as she and her family await asylum. Esmerelda’s indigenous embroidery, carried by the United Nations Association Center in Tucson, has also inspired the Global Initiatives program at the Parsons School of Design. “At the border, I was able to embroider again and it made me remember my beautiful childhood. It brings me love and much tranquility inside my heart,” she says.
As the Border and Migration Outreach Coordinator for the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee and the co-coordinator of Arizona’s Casa Mariposa Detention Visitation Program, Katherine Smith is dedicated to working with asylum seekers and teaching others about immigration and border realities. After college, Kat spent a year volunteering with the Women’s Co-op ANADESA in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala and lived with her host family of traditional embroiderers. Back in the States, she served as the Site and Volunteer Coordinator for Casa Alitas (House of Wings), Tucson’s lead Migrant Shelter, and now she works closely with Artisans Beyond Borders leading the U.S. Support team for las bordadoras (the embroiderers) who are legally awaiting asylum in the U.S.
Panel Moderator: Valarie James, the founder of Artisans Beyond Borders, affirms art, faith, and social justice in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. As an artist and writer, James is best known for collaborative public art in Tucson including Las Madres: No Más Lágrimas (No More Tears), The Migrant Shrine at Southside, and the installation ‘Hardship and Hope at the U.S. Mexico Border’ at the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg, Sweden. As a retired Clinical Art Therapist, James led the trauma-informed arts & activities at Tucson’s Casa Alitas Migrant shelter and she is currently the lead curator for the artisans’ traveling exhibition Bordando Esperanza – Embroidering Hope: Retablos of Asylum. Writings on arts and immigration can be found at Art and Faith in the Desert
In the last 4 months, the Artisans Beyond Borders exhibition Embroidering Hope ~ Bordando Esperanza has traveled from the Good Shepherd UCC Church in Sahuarita, Arizona to the University of Southern California, to St. Marks Episcopal in Columbus, Ohio.
Carrying the soul and the stories of the makers, the exhibition has been beautifully received. Spend time with any of the 75 original mantas, especially the bordados devocionales – the devotional embroideries, and you may find yourself slipping into Visio Divina, the ancient Benedictine way of “listening with the ear of your heart.” Email: contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders to book the exhibition at your University or house of worship.
Seeing all the embroidered servilletas on display in the exhibition, I’m transported back to a warm day last winter and the smell of freshly baked buns as they came out of the huge adobe horno built on the land at la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas las Naciones shelter in Nogales, home to many of the artisans while they wait to legally cross the border to apply for asylum.
And in case you missed it – A beautiful inspirational Story from the shelter (in English and in Spanish):
After two years of development and COVID setbacks, we are so excited to finally be able to hang this show! On its way to a showing at USC’s School of Religious and Spiritual Studies, the traveling exhibition will be here locally at the Good Shepherd for 5 days only.
The 75 Bordados devocionales / devotional embroideries, created in the shadow of politics and pandemic by asylum-seekers stranded at the U.S.-Mexico Border from 2019 – 2021, tell the story of family migration and displacement through the hands and eyes of the women living it. Each bordado is a testimony of the faith that sustains the maker and the hope they hold close against all odds.
This rare exhibition is an opportunity to bring their stories to our community, to see and feel what is true and sacred to our neighbors. Whether the artisans are embroidering conventional Christian iconography, elements of the natural world infused with Dios-God, or memories of home and family they’ve been forced to leave behind, their devotional retablos rendered in cloth are personal, intimate, and embodied testimonies of faith and resilience.
A team of seven Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders in Tucson – Val, Antonia, Kat, Emily, Jeanie, Martha, and Halsey – collaborated to curate all the moving parts, working intuitively in harmony and solidarity, a testament of community arts and visioning, and to the faith-filled works of the artisans themselves.
We had always hoped that our Bi-national initiative Artisans Beyond Borders would be an incubator, a beautiful seed. God willing, it would grow into other artisan initiatives on the border and beyond…
Recover & Restore
We had always hoped that our Bi-national initiative Artisans Beyond Borders would be an incubator, a beautiful seed. God willing, it would grow into other artisan initiatives on the border and beyond. We hoped that A.B.B. would help to educate and inspire others to pick up and carry on the mission of restoring grace and agency for migrants through the arts.
In the beginning, during Trump’s pre-pandemic days, our volunteer arts facilitators set up card tables of embroidery and crochet supplies in the streets of Nogales and served hundreds of dispossessed folks. Even then, we dreamed of finding safe maker spaces in Nogales where people could experience some peace and dignity in the middle of forced family migrations so fraught with fear.
Stuck in Nogales by U.S. policies and the pandemic, artisans organized into groups, and taught each other. They formed collectives of solidarity, coordinators emerged, and they found safe spaces to work. In short, they recovered agency that was theirs already but had been stripped bare by multiple traumas experienced at home and on the road.
Educational and border rights organizations from Southern California to Juarez have expressed an interest in ABB as a model initiative (often the only support of its kind), to help vulnerable migrating families. We are pleased to be progenitors of this programming at the border, and we applaud any and all efforts by other initiatives and helpers to move the needle (pun intended!).
In the last two years, in the shadow of politics and the pandemic, the Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders created and developed a market through the internet for the beautiful embroideries created by our artisans. A.B.B. evolved from trauma-informed art and activities to micro-enterprise. As awareness and interest in the familial arts of migration grew, so have other artisan projects and potential markets. So, now A.B.B. volunteers are stepping back from marketing and retail to make room for others to flourish. We are moving instead into a more educational service. Ultimately, we hope to encourage more artisans to create and market their own work. Each artisan is their own seed taking root.
Educate and Inspire
For the last year, the Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders have been curating a national traveling exhibition of the artisans’ retablos of asylum, sponsored by the Arizona Episcopal Diocese. In this profoundly original exhibition, the public has the opportunity to understand what is most sacred to our neighbors. Their devotional retablos, religious embroidery, written with thread and rendered in cloth are deeply personal and embodied testimonies of faith and resilience.
Going forward into 2022 and 2023, A.B.B. will be working with churches and schools that are hosting the exhibit throughout the U.S. to further border understanding and help their outreach efforts to their local migrant communities. The funds raised through the exhibition and donations will go to the Artisans Beyond Border Maker Fund, supporting therapeutic arts programming for migrants on the border and also providing start-up funds for our artisans in the U.S. so they can move forward independently.
After December, we will not add new inventory to our Etsy shop for the foreseeable future. Instead, we will be routing supporters directly to artisan initiatives on the border and beyond as some of the makers become more established in the U.S.
Meanwhile, according to the Post Office, you have until December 17th to place an order at the Etsy shop and have it shipped to you by Christmas. If it is a gift, we can send it directly to the address you wish.
In the New Year, A.B.B. will table locally on Saturday, January 15 onlyat the first public showing of Bordando Esperanza ~ Embroidering Hope: Retablos of Asylum at the Common Ground on the Border Conference at the Good Shepherd UCC Church in Sahuarita. Hope to see you there!
In Border Peace, Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders
“As the beauty and the power of Dias de los Muertos spreads throughout the U.S. and across the globe, we’re reminded that Culture is where change happens first, inexorably bubbling up to the surface. Indigenous artisans are not only mindfully being invited to the stage now – in some cases, they are headlining.”
As the beauty and the power of Dias de los Muertos spreads throughout the U.S. and across the globe, we’re reminded that Culture is where change happens first, inexorably bubbling up to the surface. Indigenous artisans are not only mindfully being invited to the stage now – in some cases, they are headlining. We pray that Indigenous wisdom, sustainable material practices, and artisanal arts continue to root in our personal lives and grow to flower in our world.
Our friend Zapotec Textile Artist Porfirio Guitterez headlines on a massive stage fit for a rock star at the global summit in “What Design Can Do” (for the planet) in Mexico City.
And drumroll… This past month, Artisans Beyond Borders was asked to speak to future designers at Parsons School of Design Global Initiatives class. Though the artisans stranded at the Arizona/Mexico border embroider whatever they wish to, whatever brings them a bit of peace in the middle of the ongoing trauma of forced migration and displacement, Parson’s Global Initiatives class was interested in learning from them.
We hope that this kind of cross-border pollination can eventually lead to design contracts for our U.S. based artisans currently awaiting asylum here and also help to build support for the makers who are still waiting in shelters and on the streets in our neighboring Nogales, Sonora, Mexico hoping to lawfully cross and petition for asylum.
Artisans outside a shelter in Nogales. To protect these women and their families this shelter will remain unnamed but if you are moved to help, contact us at contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org. We are actively seeking social investors to help subsidize this kind of programming that heals and restores and changes the world one stitch at a time.
In Tucson, we Cultural Arts Workers are putting embroideries on the line sent to us from towns across the U.S., where migrant families are hanging on by the teeth as they wait for asylum hearings. I am struck by how much we can learn about their lives from their handwork itself. My eye travels over stitching that ranges from fine and delicado to bold and bright. How the makers continue to come up with such original compositions and color choices while navigating the difficult transition to a new language and culture in the middle of immigration limbo is a testimony to the healing of familial handwork.
We are relieved that our embroiderers and others are in safer conditions now but for most, their challenges are just beginning, like the immigrant mother surviving on babysitter wages in the NYTimes profile “$100 a Week”:
“Behind these scenes of domestic joy (of newly arrived families), are financial straits so dire that they can be hard to comprehend.” NY Times, June 3, 2021
Those who have been able to finally reunify with their family in the U.S. often find that those families are barely scraping by themselves. Not eligible for publicly funded assistance, children can go to bed hungry. To survive, many rely on free school lunches, programs at local churches, and the tireless efforts of immigrant advocacy groups to survive.
Artisans Beyond Borders U.S. Initiative
We Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders formed the U.S. Embroidering Hope (Bordando Esperanza) group to help meet the needs of our embroiderers lawfully crossing the border after waiting in Mexico for a year and a half to petition for asylum.
They arrive with nothing save the clothes on their backs. They are not allowed by immigration officials to even carry their own embroidery supplies through the port of entry. We make sure that when they come across, they receive bags filled with all the supplies they need to begin again. Donations we send them in return for their original handwork, help pay for basics: food, transportation, diapers and over-the-counter meds.
Separated for 17 years, Abby Reunites with her Mom
With the help of the lawyers at Justice for our Neighbors, Abby, one of our dear embroiderers in Nogales, made it across the border in June. The thin soft-spoken 22-year-old mother of two girls ages 5 and 1 year, was only 5 years old herself when her own mother left Guerrero, Mexico and migrated to the U.S. After 17 years, she was finally able to see her mother’s face.
“Meeting my mother again after all these years was so exciting, there were many mixed feelings,” Abby said. “I can finally hug her again and now we can give each other that affection that we could not give each other in all the years that we were not together.”
When I first met Abby in the summer of 2020 at La Casa de Misericordia shelter in Nogales, Sonora, she embroidered the cloth in her lap while feeding her infant at the breast. She takes pride in her work and now she’s one of our best.
“Es curative para mi. It is healing for me because I put every feeling that I carry inside me in each embroidery,” Abby says.
Social Investment: Community and Cultural Arts
Right now, Abby is embroidering two mantas for two donors whose generous donation seeded the U.S. Bordando Esperanza group this summer making it possible to help new arrivals. Residents of Northern California, newly retired Kim Kocher and soon to be retired Karen Ashford are the models of social investment though they may not see themselves that way.
Each year they gather goods from all their neighbors and host a much anticipated 3-day yard sale. All items are priced so low that the sale itself directly helps individual members of the community. They match the proceeds and disperse the funds to what or whom they feel needs the help the most. In years past, they have raised money for their local Food Bank, put a young undocumented man with no DACA support through cooking school, and sent money to No More Deaths. This year they chose to help Artisans Beyond Borders and we are so grateful.
“We are all migrants,” Kim writes in an email. We are blessed and honored to help these incredible women.”Kim Kocher’s own grandparents emigrated in the 1880’s to the U.S.A from Norway by ship, by themselves at 14 years of age. “I believe immigrants are the bravest, strongest, and most loving of all human beings, and we welcome them in our community, “she adds.
At the age of five, Kim recalls, she walked with that same grandmother through San Francisco to deliver a bag of tomatoes to her grandmother’s friend cooking out of a big pot in her yard for WWII veterans waiting in line. “Those few steps we took together taught me everything I know today about helping within the community,” Kim says.
The Maker Model
New immigrants and refugees, especially women, make a living with their hands, with their cultural crafts, culinary arts, and caregiving. This is the Maker Model, a smart and scalable way for families to navigate immigration. Our makers from Florida to California, create servilletas, using manta cloth to wrap foods with natural cotton instead of plastic. The benefit to our kitchens and our homes as we adopt this one custom in particular, is incalculable, and just one of a myriad of ways that immigrants enrich our culture.
Miguel, the young man who Kim and Karin helped get through cooking school became the best in his class and is now the head chef at a Domaine Chandon in Napa, California.
“Because of his success, his two younger brothers found a way to attend college as well. Kim said. “It’s a ripple effect, not unlike the tomatoes my grandmother and I carried up the hill in the Mission sixty years ago.”
ABB continues to provide assistance to 25+ migrating families at 3 shelters and on the streets in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Our long-term goal has always been to support the formation of collective(s) in Mexico where the artisans themselves, even in the throes of migration, can become independent and have full agency over their own creations. Now, we are beginning to see our goal met in new Mexican-run programs at the shelters leading in this direction. We are hopeful that, with support on both sides of the border, these artisan collectives will become increasingly independent.
Going Forward: Educate, Inspire, and Partner
As volunteers and longtime cultural arts workers on the border, our mission is becoming more educational in nature. A number of churches nationwide are interested in hosting a traveling exhibition of original Bordados Devocionales: Devotional Embroideries, created by our embroiderers. These mantas are awesome faith-filled retablos, windows on immigrant life during the pandemic. When available, the exhibition may also include Leaving Home: Immigration through the Eyes of Children, artwork by refugee youth.
Help market the artisan’s work through the Fall and into the Christmas season. Work remotely from home or at Tucson’s Artisans Beyond Borders office. Communications and Social media experience super helpful. Bi-lingual preferred but not a deal breaker. Email us at Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org.
A Serger with a volunteer to use it for the common good.
A volunteer or two to periodically receive, wash, and iron the artisan’s new offerings, and/or compile familial craft activity bags for folks migrating through the Tucson shelters.
Artisans Beyond Borders ~ Bordando Esperanza: Healing trauma through the Arts and upholding the Maker Tradition since 2018. All donations and sales from the artisan’s Etsy shop go directly to the artists and to fund the program. A.B.B. is a Border Arts Ministry of Tucson’s progressive Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
“Greetings from Berlin. Hello, you all! I am very happy and full of love to see all this beauty. Thanks for your wonderful shop, all the embroideries are sooo beautiful. We are all Mother-Earth-Women, and we stand together.” Svenja”
April 2021 Good News!
After waiting over a year and a half in shelters and on the streets in Nogales, Sonora Mexico, a number of asylum-seekers in the Artisans Beyond Borders collective are lawfully crossing the border to rejoin their families in the U.S. Pro-bono lawyers at Justice for our Neighbors in Tucson and at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, are working overtime alongside the U.S. Consulate, to free the makers and their families who’ve been stuck at the port of entry the longest.
They’ve been granted permission to cross the border now, one family at a time. First stop is Casa Alitas, Tucson’s lead shelter until travel arrangements can be made by relatives and sponsors waiting for them across the country. To see these families now, temporarily sheltered, fed, even embroidering at Casa Alitas is like seeing the sun come up in the morning, warm and bright, and full of hope.
Artisans Beyond Borders U.S. Support Team
Seven of our original artisanal embroiderers and their families, now in Chicago, Florida, South Carolina, and soon Washington D.C., may continue lawfully working with Artisans Beyond Borders while they wait for their court hearings. They are happy and relieved. Supporters of la Artesanas de Bordando Esperanza EE UU ~ Embroidering Hope U.S.A, can also breathe easier knowing that we have a way to continue to help meet these family’s immediate needs in the months ahead.
Winter was a nightmare for asylum-seekers stranded at the border. Though many families stranded for over a year on the borders of Texas and California were released, there was no such help for asylum-seekers in Arizona. Cold nights bitter with despair gripped the people. Ideas of crossing the desert on foot wouldn’t let up. Aid workers stomachs clenched with apprehension at the thought. We borderland residents knew that the odds for survival in our desert, especially for the very old and the young, were not in their favor. There was little we could do or say, for they were losing hope. They had waited too long.
Each One, Teach One
At the same time, because the waiting was so long, artisans had time to hone their skills and create wholly original works of spirit and complexity. One core group of makers were admitted to a really good shelter with a garden and chickens and a gate that locked. Here they were finally safe. Highly skilled embroiderers, natural teachers all, emerged from the group and like family, taught the others.
By March and April, some could wait no longer to reunite with their families, and left. The rest stayed. We set up formal classes and the embroiderers recruited 9 new students into an ‘Each One, Teach One’ model. Selene, a sister bordadora and onsite coordinator, took photographs and made videos, a gift to new students in the future.
The classes became a life saver for the asylum seekers that stayed. Their first teachers, two patient and encouraging sisters, both artisanal embroiderers, explained how important the classes were to keep the women engaged and safe from crossing the desert. In addition to the restorative calm – tranquilo- of familial handwork, purpose and dignity, especially for migrants is everything.
As more of our veteran artisans leave for the U.S., we witness the new artisans coming up and we are proud. What we know now world-over, is that generational cultural arts are the first thing that people lose when forced to migrate. As Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders, we want to celebrate cultural diversity and preserve Heritage craft. We will uphold the beloved hand-maker traditions of our neighbors to the south no matter what happens with the politics of immigration.
If you’ve been following the Artisan’s Etsy shop, you may have seen our new Hospitality Mantas offered in singly or in pairs:
Now that we are able to begin opening up our homes again to old friends and new, we can set a beautiful table for long-awaited guests. I, for one, look forward to a day that I can welcome these courageous and creative women in the way they have welcomed our volunteers into their families and their traditions. Their individual Hospitality Mantas also bring beauty, stillness and grace to our Altars, Ofrendas, and Santuarios.
“A soul of hospitality and a heart of humanity is a house of love, peace, freedom, liberty and justice.” Asulig Ice.
I was born in Douglas, AZ, across the border with Mexico. Seeing such poverty first-hand made a lasting impression. The workmanship and creativity of the mantas is amazing. I gift them to family and friends. I do keep some that I alternate to display on the back of my bedroom chair. It is the first thing I see each morning—it brings me joy to think of the strong women who created them. Thank you Artisans Beyond Borders for helping the embroiderers bring us such beautiful art!” Collector Jane Powers, Tucson, AZ
New Digs & Gigs
ABB is pleased to announce that we have moved to a new office in downtown Tucson, with a common space that we share with other small non-profit Refugee organizations including Tucson’s Owl and Panther and MCC Border Outreach. In the Fall 2021, we hope to be open for visiting groups by appointment. Right now, we’re seeking a dedicated computer for the new office and a cell phone with a good camera. We are also looking for two new volunteers:
ABB Administrative Coordinator. PT, Unpaid
The all-volunteer Tucson Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders, affiliate of Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has grown to need a part-time Administrative Coordinator to manage our office and help with volunteers, financials, communications, & marketing. Our ideal person would be bilingual (Spanish/English), flexible, computer-savvy, and passionate about borderland Arts/Immigration and the restorative healing of traditional handwork. Contact Mary at Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org
ABB U.S Support Liaison, PT, Unpaid/Volunteer/Intern
As our embroiderers arrive in the U.S., we want to continue assisting them in marketing their artisanal craft as they settle into their new homes. Bilingual (Spanish/English) mandatory for this position, organized, detail-oriented, social media savvy, and passionate about the preservation of Cultural Arts and immigration and the restorative healing of traditional handwork. Creative project possibilities. Contact Valarie at Contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders.org
Over the spring semester, we were fortunate to work with Bethany Ward, an intern from Bentley University in Boston, minoring in nonprofit management. She brought a bright and creative spirit to ABB and helped us with social media and non-profit research. We wish her the very best of luck pursuing her career goals related to environmental and climate awareness.
*Artisans Beyond Borders brings healing, grace and agency to asylum-seekers stranded at the border or struggling to get on their feet across the U.S. ABB is an all-volunteer grass-roots initiative that exists soley through the support of donors and collectors. We are actively seeking social investors who want to change the story at the border and partner with us in creating a new vision that we can all be proud of. Please reach out at Contact@ArtisanBeyondBordes.org
Mothers Across Borders, Madres Unidos Sin Fronteras through the wall organized with delight by Voices From the Border on Mother’s Day, 2017
Last but not least, the artisans beyond borders are excited and proud to be part of “Canvas of Hope,” Community Art Auction to benefit all of the shelters along the border. Please join us on Saturday, May 1 at 12 noon AZ time. Bidding open until end of day.
“When asked what inspires her, asylum-seeker Selene, our Artisans Beyond Borders on-site coordinator in Nogales states pointedly: ‘What I am, what I have lived, and what I like.’ The 31-year-old mother of three…”
When asked what inspires her, Selene, our on-site coordinator in Nogales states pointedly: What I am, what I have lived, and what I like. The 31-year-old mother of three is vulnerable and strong in equal measure, and what she has lived through – the attempted murder of her husband, the father of her three children – is enough trauma for her and her kids for a lifetime. For Selene, thrown into forced migration, ripped and torn from all she knows, the act of embroidering, slow and steady, is a restoration of the soul.
Artisans Beyond Borders, (ABB) a bi-national ministry at Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal in Tucson, began in 2019 as a way to bring trauma-informed arts and activities to asylum-seekers and their families waiting in shelters and on the streets in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Now in 2021, in the shadow of politics and a pandemic, therapeutic arts and the dignity of artisanal craft continue to bring comfort to the traumatized and hope to asylum-seekers who have been in limbo for a year or more waiting for a chance to petition for asylum. Bordando Esperanza – Embroidering Hope, the flagship program, also helps restore personal agency and income through Etsy shop sales of the artisans’ original hand-embroideries.
As a Tucson ‘Friend of Artisans Beyond Borders,’ I’ve had the opportunity to develop friendships with many of the asylum-seekers in our program. Even while communicating across a closed border on WhatsApp (only), sensitive discussions about family and faith, truth and beauty, have brought me to tears more than once.
Relationships need time and care to develop and cross-border connections are especially tenuous. Yet, during the pandemic lock-down, enduring friendships have taken root and flowered through the universal experience of art and familial craft, a shared cultural bridge when language (including google translate), fails.
Not unlike the contemplative focus needed for fine embroidery, the more attention we can give each other, the more respect we confer. To take time to really see and appreciate original family-based craft accomplished in the most difficult circumstances imaginable is to listen to what’s beloved and cultivated by family everywhere: home and land, the fruits of harvest, and all aspects of the natural world left behind.
This is the border through the lens of bordado embroidery. Make no mistake, the truth is stitched in and through the “prettiest” embroideries. Read between the lines and you will hear this: Bienvenidos,Welcome to my world.
For those of us el otra lado, on the other side of the wall, Theologian Cecilia Gonzalez -Andrieu, and author of Bridge of Wonder: Art as a Gospel of Beauty writes: “…the artist asks us to enter into their pain, aloneness, or devastation. If we open ourselves to their otherness, work that breaks our heart through beauty or its’ absence will increase our capacity for love and compassion…”
Selene’s mother stitched traditional manta cloth for servilletes to keep tortillas warm and also adorned the furniture with embroidery to beautify the home. Though Selene now coordinates the work of 15-30 artisans, she actually did not learn to embroider from her mother. She instead learned from her companeras at the San Juan Bosco Alberque, the oldest established shelter in Nogales that her family stayed in when they first arrived.
Selene learned by watching other women and men embroider for Artisans Beyond Borders. I liked it so I dared to do something,and I learned little by little. She’s deeply touched that her mother is proud of what she has managed to learn. Selene’s 17-year-old daughter Alyson has also learned to embroider and crochet and that makes Selene especially proud. She can keep busy without thinking so much about everything we’ve been through.
Selene and some of her companeras have since relocated to the safe and well-appointed La Casa Interfaith shelter run by the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. They’ve had stability for many months now and the variety and skill level of their work has grown by leaps and bounds.
Artisans living between three different shelters and the streets, are evolving into self-organizing collectives, an outcome that we friends in Tucson had hoped for from the start. Working hand-in-hand with Aid partners in Mexico is a winning combination. Where we once provided U.S donated supplies for instance, now the artisans buy most of their own and share, empowering individual makers and supporting the local Nogales, Sonora economy.
Solidarity amongst makers from such diverse countries as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, and Nicaragua, has grown organically with time. We’ve learned to live together, to really know each other, and to empathize with each other. I love that through embroidery we have created a family bond.
Since the beginning of our program in 2019, a percentage of embroideries created would be devotional in nature, stitched with messages of faith, but since the pandemic, the number of devotional bordados quadrupled.
Selene had fallen away from her Catholic faith but migrating north she found herself practicing a ritual she had learned as a child. When we leave home, we would always entrust ourselves to God and to our Virgin de Guadalupe.
The first night we arrived in the forest, we had to sleep in the chapel. Standing in front of the crying virgin, I exclaimed why she had put us on this difficult path. After a month and a half, I dreamed of the virgin very close to me. I understand now that God’s times are the perfect ones and I accept the path that he has set us upon.
Like the quiet confidence in God that Selene has come to know and trust, this I know: As volunteers on the border, every time we truly connect with “the other,” it is we who are redeemed.
Gonzáles-Andrieu writes that “works of art can be redemptive if they help build communities of vision and renewed purpose… In the end, art that is redemptive will be so because it makes the promise of truth and the eternal awesomely felt.”
Whether embellished with traditional religious symbolism and iconography or unconventional expressions of faith, the artisan’s devotionals are felt testimonies of faith, intimate visual prayers on the Border. They all can be seen in the group exhibit Bordando Esperanza – Embroidering Hope: Devotional Retablos of Asylum, available (only) as a virtual exhibit at this time.
The complete exhibit is included in the Artisans Beyond Borders Zoom presentations that allow viewers to accompany, witness and support the makers at the border. ABB Zoom presentations include the initiative’s inspiring Origin story, an audience Q & A, and a link to the Artisans’ marketplace.
Embroidering a Recuerdo for Juan Francisco Loureiro
Last month, we lost Juan Francisco Loureiro “Don Paco” the Founder of the San Juan Bosco shelter in Nogales, to COVID. In honor of Don Paco, Artisan Felicitas and her family who stay at the shelter, presented his wife Hilda Loureiro with an embroidered recuerdo, a memory cloth, from all the Artisans Beyond Borders, together with our partners at Voices from the Border.
About the Author Cultural Arts Worker Valarie Lee James, a longtime resident of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, is the founder of Artisans Beyond Borders. A former Clinical Art Therapist, she was coordinator of the all-volunteer Trauma-informed Arts & Activities Program at Tucson’s Casa Alitas Migrant shelter, and co-curator of “Hope & Healing: The Art of Asylum” an exhibit of artwork by Casa Alitas migrant youth. She writes about Arts & Immigration at America Magazine, and as a Benedictine Oblate, contributes to The Global Sisters Report.