What’s happening now with Artisans Beyond Borders? Adaptation with Migration

Spring/Summer 2022

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 Borders supports 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.” 

Panelists:

Shelter Mural painted by Sr. Lika

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

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. 

Katherine Smith

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 ProgramKatherine 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.

Valarie James with a bordadora at Tucson’s Casa Alitas Shelter

Panel ModeratorValarie 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.

Bordando Esperanza ~ Embroidering Hope
April 2022, University Religious Center,
University of Southern California

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 “seeing with the eyes of your heart.” Email: contact@ArtisansBeyondBorders to book the exhibition at your University or house of worship.

Columbus Alive

NPR

Yes!

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.

Covering enough freshly baked bread with embroidered servilletas for residents to make it through a week at the shelter.
La Bordadora at la Casa de la Misericordia y Todas las Naciones Shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico

And in case you missed it – A beautiful inspirational Story from the shelter (in English and in Spanish):

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Artisans Beyond Borders Fall/Winter 2020 Newsletter

Now that we are heading into the Winter of the Pandemic, asylum-seekers and their families waiting in México are hanging on by the slimmest thread. Yet, artisans beyond borders are undeterred. Each is creating a future of her own composition in life-affirming color and resilient faith.

Small but mighty hummingbird of the south, aztec symbol of strength in life’s struggle.

Our wonderful new Logo created by student Aurora Nicole Ambrose from the University of Arizona School of Art class in Designing for Community & social good.

Threading Hope

     Now that we are heading into the Winter of the Pandemic, asylum-seekers and their families waiting in México are hanging on by the slimmest thread. Yet, artisans beyond borders are undeterred. Each is creating a future of her own composition in life-affirming color and resilient faith. Together, they ply that slim thread into a braid of hope as strong as Spider Silk. The chance to apply for Asylum in the U.S., could be just around the corner. They will wait as long as it takes.

Profiles in Courage and Creativity

Patricia’s newly embroidered bag. Find the all new work from the artisans at the Etsy BordandoEsperanza Shop.

     “For me, all the memories are beautiful,” says Patricia, a 32-year-old single mother of three whose favorite things to embroider are flowers and fruit. Her family has always embroidered the natural manta cloth they use as satchels for wrapping warm tortillas in. In addition to the recuerdos tranquilos –tranquil memories of home that she fondly recalls when embroidering, Patricia now has a measure of personal agency.

     Patricia’s garden in Guerrero, México was a field of flowers and fruit trees, they tended until organized crime came to their beloved part of the world, killed male members of her family, and threatened to kidnap the children. Patricia and her kids and a now fatherless nephew fled through the forest to Nogales, México, to seek asylum at the U.S. Port of entry. 

“It was very difficult for me to leave everything and be able to get here (to the border) because I come with very low resources and with my three children that are minors which makes it difficult to work. The support that the Artisans’ group gives us for our labor embroidering the mantas is for me a great help to feed my children,” Patricia says.

“Jesus and the Roses” by Patricia. Churches and Universities, Humanitarian and Cultural groups can arrange a Zoom viewing of the Artisans’ new faith-filled group exhibition: Bordando Esperanza: Devotional Retablos of Asylum

Spotlighting the artisanal embroidery of Patricia, also shines a light on one of ABB’s key partners: Border Outreach Coordinator Kat Smith, featured in “Embroidering Hope” We would not be able to receive artisans’ wares across the closed border without Kat’s on-going commitment to outreach.

 ArtisanS Beyond Borders new shop

     For now, they have this bit of work. It is not near enough to meet their family’s needs but it is something and people in the U.S. are beginning to discover the artisan’s Etsy shop. Zoom presentations by Artisans Beyond Borders Zoom also help bring people to the border to accompany, witness and support them.

     With the Etsy shop, they can get their work out there and buyers can choose their favorites. The makers are excited about designing and making new work – Market bags, mantas, and decorative guest towels. They watch the shop’s sales faithfully, and are lifted up each time someone makes a purchase.

Collector’s Corner

Embroidered Manta in the collection of Anita Tokos, Ohio

We extend our deep gratitude to Anita Tokos from Ohio, an ardent supporter of Artisans Beyond Borders from the start, who recently placed an order for 12 mantas for the holidays, our largest single order to date. Anita was raised in an immigrant family herself, and her words and the heart behind them, confer great respect for the other.

They arrived! … It was special to savor each manta, picturing who should have a particular one. True to my nature, I was a bit emotional by the time I got to the last one. Have always been moved to tears easily. I knew immediately the one for each of my daughters – fruit for Anne who loves to try new foods and cooking, a quiet floral for Andrea who is calming and gentle, and the Calla Lily for Amelia who loves that flower. Looking forward to giving them to my daughters, sister and friends…and keeping another for myself…”  

The purse is wonderful and so appreciated. I did not even see the other side with “Dios es Amor” until this evening. Thank you! …All are vibrant and beautiful. As with the first one I received and framed, all are as the holy cards of my childhood, calling me to prayer for each person who did the stitching… and those who make it possible for them to stitch.

Hope my Spanish is spelled correctly – almost typed “ricamo di speranza” – the Italian version (of Bordando Esperanza)! I knew my prayers in Italian before I knew them in English. Love how that stuff pops into my head. So on that note, be blessed in all the beautiful languages of the world…”

Anita welcomes an embroidered tapestry by an Artisan Beyond Borders into her home.

*Fans of Artisans Beyond Borders ~ We are just beginning to establish social media platforms. Please take a minute to open and like, favorite and follow: Etsy, FB, INSTA, Pinterest, Youtube. It is very much appreciated by the makers.

“Hope hallows the heartache and activates a sacred imagination.” Sr. Julia Walsh writes in the Global Sisters Report. We’re here and it is hard but it is holy, and we are heading somewhere mysterious, and it is holy too…”

Artisans Beyond Borders missing family today and every day on Father’s Day, 2020

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Artisans Beyond Borders asylum seekers missing family, embroider together in a shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

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Honoring our male Artisans ~ Asylum seeker David’s beautiful embroidery.

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Artisan Beyond Borders Asylum seeker David on the floor of the shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico designing a manta to embroider.

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“Little Virgin Guide my Steps” original embroidery by Asylum seeker Israel at the U.S.- Mexico border in the middle of the pandemic.

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Gentleman Embroiderer Israel on the U.S. – Mexico border, Father’s Day 2020

Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders

Last Summer, I answered the call in this article: Migrant Women fleeing violence find Beauty and Healing in Embroidery

Over the next few months, that call flowered into Artisans Beyond Borders, a primary driver for creativity and grace, dignity, and economic empowerment for vulnerable asylum seekers in Nogales, Mexico.

The Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders offer presentations and the artisans work in the U.S.  It is a joyful initiative operating in a grim arena on the border, a rare project that works. Let’s do everything we can to keep it going. Join us. Become one of a growing number of Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders.