“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.
Last month we profiled Irma (above), an indigenous weaver and long-time embroiderer from Guatemala whose faith sustains her while she waits at the border with her toddler to apply for asylum. This month, in the face of COVID, she shares her embroidered prayer: If I am contagious Lord, may it be with your Faith and your Love.
41-year-old Esmeralda, from Guerrero, Mexico, also learned to embroider at a young age from her beautiful mother, may she rest in peace.
In her own words, she writes:
First of all, a greeting to each one of you. Being here is a bit of suffering because we leave behind all the beautiful moments of coexistence, of peace and tranquility, in our beautiful towns. As an indigenous woman, I am proud of my roots, although for others I am an ignorant and Indian woman, as the mestizos tell us. Being humiliated before society for the simple fact of being what I am “Indigenous,” is sad. Now what brought me to where I am is not knowing about the men who believe they have the power to decide if they let you live or not, it is sad. Living in fear, afraid and thinking you are not going to wake up because they have you there watching over you, you do not live in ease, everything scares you, the streets, the roads, and other towns not even to go out to travel. The only option that you have is to go out to look for protection to other countries where my children, my husband, and I can be safe. Because the truth is, I don’t want to lose anyone else from my family since losing a loved one is a pain so strong that it is difficult to overcome. Months ago, after they assassinated my Father-in-law, we fled from them, but God is so great that he would protect us and bless us in this place that we are at today and thank you to each one of you, for your valued support, Kino Kitchen, San Juan Bosco shelter, Panchito and his Christina (Voices from the Border), and you (Artisans Beyond Borders) for supporting us. From my heart, thank you and God bless you always.
The most difficult things about being here is how to pay the rent, worrying about our safety here on the border, and not having any news regarding our asylum application. Nuestro proyecto – our project: bordando esperanza – embroidering hope, also helps a lot with food, water, and electricity since it is most necessary.
When I am embroidering, I feel happy and I forget for a moment all the bad that is happening to us. It expands my creativity and brings me love and much tranquility inside my heart.
Women, fiber art, and Immigrants
Many of you have asked how Artisans Beyond Borders has managed to survive much less thrive through a long summer slammed by politics and the pandemic at the border. We survived because of donors like you and like Patricia Zimmerman from Portland, Oregon who donated her entire stimulus check, benefitting 20+ families for a full month.
Patricia (Pat), a serious handweaver, heard about ABB through the Weaving a Real Peace (WARP) newsletter. She says it hits all three of her hot buttons: “Women, fiber art, and immigrants” and when she received handpicked mantas in the mail, she was hooked.
Like many of us, Pat takes it personally. She told us how frustrating it is to witness a long-time friend unable to get a green card to work legally in the U.S. though he is married to a U.S. Citizen. “He and his family are the most decent, hardworking, and honest people I know,” she says.
Pat’s generous offering is the single largest donation we have had to date. Donations through the website this summer have been a godsend to the women and men we serve, especially now. While most of us can stay safe in our homes here in the U.S., asylum-seekers in Nogales feel blessed to have found a rare bed at a shelter for themselves and their kids. A few have been able to find a cheap room to rent. Others bed down each night at the town’s bus station.
New ABB Materials Fund
Embroidery and crochet materials people donated from all over the U.S. sustained ABB ever since we began in the summer of 2019. Some needleworking materials were new and still in the package, and some were wonderful vintage finds from thrift stores. Unfortunately, non-colorfast vintage floss bled in the wash one too many times. We still had enough new unopened materials in our stash to get through the worst of the pandemic this summer and the artisans were grateful for the supplies. Now that the shops are opening up again in Nogales, artisans can pick out their own materials from their favorite fabric store(s) such as the more culturally aligned (and in many ways, superior) Mexican thread they love.
Going forward, part of your donations will be going to the Artisans Materials Fund so they can purchase their own embroidery materials and supplies in-country. We want the makers to have as much agency and as many choices as possible and we want to support the local economy in Nogales.
Artisans Beyond Borders News
Design for social justice & community well-being
ABB has been chosen by the University of Arizona School of Art “Clients in the Community” class to collaborate on “Designing for Good,” with the focus on Social Justice: how good design makes a difference in the well-being of the community. From designing ABB ephemera to new social media, we are thrilled to work with such talented young designers, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.
Artisans Beyond Borders ZOOM Presentations to begin in October
Starting with a ZOOM PowerPoint presentation for the Migration Ministries Committee at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio, ABB is happy to offer congregations, social justice committees, Artisan Guilds, and college-age students a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation of our inspiring origin story with a Q & A and a digital “trunk show” of available mantas for each presentation. Participants can choose their favorites and when possible learn more about the individual artisans who created the work.
The resilience of the makers in the face of insurmountable odds humbles us beyond measure and inspires us to do better. Their personal stories bring the truth of migration to the table and give us the chance to understand how current policies impact families on our Southern border. To arrange a presentation for your group, email us at Artisans Beyond Borders
In truth and grace,
Tucson (and beyond) Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders.
*Translations by Elizabeth Gaxiola, Instructor & Doctoral Candidate, College of Education, University of Arizona.
This winter’s exhibit at Tucson’s YWCA has now closed but the powerful imagery displayed at “The Path of the Migrant: Raw Reality through the Arts,” continues to haunt. Never has the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words,” been so true as it is in this collection of graphics by artists around the world.
I am posting a few of the photos I took of the artwork to keep them in the public gaze. Current rhetoric around the issue of migration is too often reductive and soul-deadening. These images give the viewer the opportunity to drop into a place of depth behind the words, and through the eyes of these artists, quietly reflect on what migration and displacement looks like.
“Each artist has represented in a graphic way their personal conception of the migratory phenomenon, either by their own experience, by that experienced by a close relative, a friend, an acquaintance or by having learned through the media. Where the transit from the simple to the complex, from the playful to the harsh, from light to dark, is perceived. From what is proper to what is foreign, from action to contemplation and very likely from the present to the future.” …From the exhibit press release.
“We are People not Papers,” Erendida Mancilla, Mexico
The acclaimed international poster art collection “LA MIGRACIÓN: una mirada a través del cartel” originally featured in the 14th International Poster Biennial of Mexico in 2016, and promoted by the National Commission of Human Rights in Mexico, was curated from over 900 personal entries.