Entre Todo, Todxs
Entre Todo, Todxs.
This body of work is a response to Nadia Hernandez’ 2020 exhibition, Entre Todo, Todxs; an homage to her great grandmother, Delia. The exhibition articulated the intersection between hope and conflict, through the documentation of collective memories, imagery, and sounds. A celebration, an honouring, and a remembering of the family matriarch.
Over the years Nadia and I have consistently encountered parallels in our experiences of family, love, identity, and spirituality, regardless of physical or temporal distance. The familiarity and understanding that underpins this speaks to the importance of community in the diaspora. We gift each other the space to share and feel seen in the joys, sorrows, privilege and pain of our own displacement.
Our experiences as Latinx people have been unique, but the ways they’ve manifested in our lives have been so similar. One of the most notable themes that continues to connect us is the acknowledgement of the invisibility of the Latinx diaspora in so-called Australia, and our commitment to telling our stories. To continue our journey as friends and collaborators I am exploring new parallels between Nadia and I in the ways that hope and conflict intersect within our respective familias and how it is reflected in our respective homelands, cultures and traditions.
As I walked through the physical space of Nadia’s exhibit, my own stories flittered in and out of my consciousness, triggered by the collection of her family’s memories of Señora Delia. I was transported with each interaction, and with Nadia’s expressions of the most celebratory and beautiful articulations of Latinx cultura; music, dance, food, bright folkloric art, and deep familial love.
When I’m thrown into a memory space it can be as painful as it is joyous; a bittersweet nostalgia. It’s a process I’ve started to refer to as ‘unforgetting’. Unforgetting to me, means breaking the culture of silence in mi cultura* and the sharing of truth in all its beauty and sorrow. Sometimes this means a gentle stroke on the skin, sometimes it’s a deep wound, but each brush stroke and each word is a necessary step towards healing, not just for me, but for my family and community past, present, and future. This goes for all of us in the diaspora, as we create and evolve our cultures in ways that break the cycles of intergenerational trauma.
My experience as a first-generation Salvadoran woman and daughter of war refugees underpins this publication, and each element either grieves or celebrates the process of reclaiming my culture.
*the terms unforgetting and culture of silence were ones I learned in Roberto Lovato’s 2020 release, Unforgetting: a memoir of family, love, migration, gangs, and the revolution in the America’s, and refer specifically to the experience of El Salvador in the last century.
Entre todo, este cuento que empezó así
To speak my language is a gift that has taken me a lifetime to appreciate.
My Spanglish is an evolution that reflects my experience in the diaspora. Mi primer idioma, y el idioma de los colonizadores, is a language I now reclaim, in its evolved form, in its messiness, in its expressiveness, in its volume, in its joy, in its pain, in its connectivity, in its violence, in its poeticism.
Being so physically far away from my homelands
(are they mine when I’ve only been once? Does it belong more to mi amigxs que visitaron en su año sabático, que tuvieron tiempo para conocer a la gente, a la tierra, las montañas? Que tuvieron la oportunidad de respirar el mismo aire que mis antepasados, mis amigxs que conocen la tierra física mas que yo? Es esa tierra mia?)
is a feeling of deep displacement; longing for a place that I mostly know in my soul, but not in any tangible way. I understand this longing comes from somewhere that is deeper than my physical self,
I remember my father speaking of how no place felt like home to him; after 20 years away, he was a visitor in El Salvador, and always a visitor in so-called Australia. I understood this, and when I heard Jorge Cafrune’s No Soy de Aquí… Ni Soy de Allá, I heard my father’s story through song.
This understanding made me realise I had to learn to access my home in ways that weren’t physical.
Language is one of these ways (music, food, dance and art are others).
Listening to the Entre Todo, Todxs soundscape (composed by Ryan Powderly with spoken and recorded contributions by Nadia’s family members) helps me sit in the duality of my experience. The gift of being able to understand my first language so naturally and easily, and the unforgetting of the ways my language has hurt me. I feel deeply connected to mi amiga Nadia in listening to the stories of Señora Delia, in the same way that it feels inexplicably familiar in my body to listen and sing along to the rancheras I grew up listening to, or rolling my r’s with ease…
(memorias de mi casa familiar, de mi tío silbando, mi papá cantando, mi mamá Tere bailando en la cocina, el sonido de las palmadas de mi mamá haciendo pupusas con mis tías).
I was ashamed of my language because it made me different from everyone else. I saw how poorly my parents were treated because they looked and sounded different. I understood racism and xenophobia and classism in my bones well before I had the language to describe it, before I learned English at five years old, but especially when I started school... I quickly understood that to fit in was better so I did everything possible to do so. I saw my family repress and assimilate to survive and I did the same.
But, in the home I lived another life, one where mi cultura era la regla; un El Salvador pequeñito adentro de mi casa; yet, I carried nothing but shame around my first language for many years and refused to speak it.
As I reclaim my Spanglish, it becomes one of the ways through which I can heal the relationship to mi cultura;
My entire life I felt like I have had so much to say, but there was a mute button that I couldn’t disable. It’s just one of the many, insidious ways that the violence of assimilation affects the diaspora.
There is power in my language and how and when I choose to speak it. There is a connection between mis amigxs Latinxs and myself when I speak Spanglish, like a special club that we’ve all been looking for, one that we sometimes saw on American TV, or maybe experienced that one time we went to Los Angeles, one that I could never seem to find, one that didn’t seem real.
Mi idioma es una bendición. I listen to the stories of Señora Delia and I feel like I am on the phone to mis tiás, telling stories about mi mamá Tere. I sign off to Nadia with ‘TE QUIERO’ or ‘QUERIDA’ or call her mi hermana, and I truly feel a sense of comunidad that is deepened by this way of communicating.
My language is a gift, a bridge between worlds, a dance between joy and suffering, a poetry, a history, a future.
Mi idioma es una bendición, and I will never apologise for it again.
Entre todo, la gloria y la paz
El silbido familiar
Es una cosa que recuerdo cada vez que voy a la casa de mi familia.
El silbido es una manera de cantar cuando no se puede cantar.
Entre todo, this is a celebration;
what emerges from the chaos of conflict; comida, música, chisme, familia, amigos, amor.
Among everything, there is hope;
Explosions of joy, care, and community, amidst the sorrow of loss y guerra.
The sound of Abuela Delia’s silbido transports the family to moments that exist solo en las memorias del corazón.
Mi mamá Tere was always whistling, the soft, brown wrinkled skin of her arms a haven for my child sized head, her silbido a sign of safety, of familiarity, of acknowledgement, like that of Abuela Delia. The women of my family have always been the strongest, despite (or in spite of) the machismo attitudes of mi cultura. Amidst the oppression, they raised families, migrated across the world to protect them, carried the emotional and physical labour of keeping a home, continued to love the broken men around them (or didn’t), and continued to care for the family they had to leave behind.
The matriarchs of our families hold us together and keep us alive with their love, their food, their care, their patience and their resilience.
Entre todo, cocinaba, bailaba, y hablaba con los pájaros.
Realising that I am the result of my ancestors’ resilience, struggles, secrets, and remedies, I return to the spaces in my memory that hold the ways I saw my grandmother honour those who came before me.
Mi mamá Tere tenia una ofrenda; todo los días contaba sus rosarios, y prendía una vela para mis antepasados, la familia que nunca voy a conocer, pero que son parte de mi alma.
When the physical displacement from our homelands means that we are 15,000+ kilometres, thousands of dollars, twenty hours, and an immeasurable spiritual distance from the tierra that we grew from; how do we continue to hold the stories and the knowledge of our people?
How do we, as diaspora, affected by the intergenerational trauma of our familias, reconnect to our all but erased (by design) histories?
We speak the names of our ancestors and we remember their ways (through embodiment, in liminal spaces, always listening).
Our access is limited; some of us feel so disconnected that it can feel impossible to reach our living elders, the culture of silence so loud that it catapults the violence to multiple generations beyond today; you can hear the reverberations from here.
The layers of trauma in the histories of our familias can create a wall between us, obstructing the sharing of stories and experiences, because of the retraumatisation it can unlock in the storyteller… part of that being the inevitable and painful realisation of the internalised violence within each of us.
Accessing these memories are relegated to very specific safe spaces, if ever.
Las mujeres en la cocina con cervezas preparando tamales, los hombres fumando y compartiendo historias en la única manera que sabían… borrachos (y feliz en el momento)
¡Pero siempre, SIEMPRE había música, comida rica, y todo el mundo tenía que bailar!