Tag Archives: guatemala

Letting go of 2013, one day, one moment at at time…

29 Dec

Its 3 days before 2014.

30 days ago I freaked out when I realized the year was coming to an end.

3 weeks ago I asked my partner, what do you have planned for New Years Eve? And I began to cry.

Grief hits in the most unexpected ways.

3 days ago I took the graduate school entrance exam for the school im applying to. I passed the exam, drove home excited, and then the tears rolled out.

My successes also bring about my grief.

In the past, I am always ready to let go of the year and bring in the new. This year will be hard to let go of.  2013 will be the year when I lost my father. It is the year that I buried him.

To let go of this year, means to continue letting go of him in this physical realm of time and space. The spirit world has different boundaries.

Last night I was listening to “El Condor Pasa”, one of my dad’s favorite songs, from his favorite genre of music, traditional Andean music. We had conversations about one day traveling out to Peru together. And in 2014, we were going to drive from Guate to Oaxaca in his truck. We were going to travel up the mountain and stay in Oaxaca for several days.

It’s not that I miss the trips that will never happen. It’s that I miss the conversations, the arguments, the understanding, and the friendship we were building as adults. I spent my childhood and adolescence with resentment towards the man my father had been towards my mother. I had witnessed and felt things that children are not supposed to see their parents go through. And once I was mature enough to understand the complexity of his victimization and suffering as a young man, I forgave him for eventually becoming a perpetrator.

My father had changed in many ways. Having seen those changes through the years manifested in him when I visited him a year ago. It made me proud of him. And I told him. I was at the airport, returning to L.A., and I called him para despedir me, and I said, “Dad, estoy orgullosa de ti.” Those words meant a different chapter for us in our relationship.

The months leading up to my father’s passing, we were in conversation about me going to grad school and my new job. We were going to meet up in Costa Rica in June, and instead I had to drop off his murder investigation files at the embassy.

2013 was the year I had the courage to finally apply to graduate school. It was the year I lived in Costa Rica. It was the year I turned my career into what I wanted it to look like, a teaching artist with organizations that use art as healing. It was the year that my nephews were old enough to recognize me as their Tia and listen to the lessons I have begun to teach them about patience, compassion, and anger. I have a home. I have food. I have health. I have friends. And I have a lot of love inside of me. It’s been a year I will continue to build and grow from because it taught me lessons of forgiveness, faith, and love.

Im writing this because im letting go… of what specifically, im not sure… but im acknowledging the pain in letting this year go.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxVMNQo4HAM

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I just got dropped off here

8 May

“Just because i was born here, doesn’t mean i have to stay here”

That’s what i keep telling myself. There are hardcore loyalists to the city of Los Angeles. And i love my home. But in the larger timeline that exists amongst my family and ancestors… i just got dropped of here. My mom and dad dont even live here anymore. They both retired and are kicking it in Guatemala. The cost of living is more affordable for them over there. And I just happen to be born in Los Angeles, CA.

So since i returned from college in 2006, I’ve been trying to assemble my life, my home, my friends/community, family connections, career, etc. Its been a cool little journey so far. Ive found some really cool friends along the way. And I also found the person im in love with here. But I cant shake off the feeling of flying somewhere else.

A couple full moons ago, Olivia Chumasero of the Farmlab, reminded us during a gathering about how we are just visitors to this land. This was placed in the context of acknowledging the indigenous people of this land, the Tongva,  who were displaced off this land we now inhabit and call L.A.. I thought back to my ancestral land and I fully identified with being a visitor here. And that’s why i dont have to stay here.

A tree has several roots. I have a stubborn root that stretches all the way from Central America, then another one stuck in the Southbay/South Central. I even had a tiny root growing while i lived in Santa Cruz, but I had to yank that one out and take it back to L.A. Now im contending my next growth.

As i consider my future, and the generations to come, I realize that I have an opportunity to give my children a different home where they can grow there own little roots. Then i realized that they are just wanna head out somewhere else too and grow roots in some other corner of the world. Before I knew it, my mind traveled into the future and i saw my child deciding to move to New York for his/her career move. And so before Ive even given birth, im already aware that I have to say good bye.

I put myself in my mother’s shoes. All her daughters spread out across L.A… and she brought us here. The irony is she cant completely afford to stay with her family. Its a struggle. And its hard for her and for all of us. She’s coming back though, and my nephews and nieces are gonna have a grandmother again for a few months. Then she’s gotta go back. Ill probably go back with her to Guate for a few weeks. This is the root that needs lots of watering.

Nada es imposible!

22 Nov

Often times I’ve dreamed and hoped that one day ill get to travel and paint walls.  Even though walls are by far my favorite way of doing an art piece, they are not always the easiest to find…legally. Needless to say that combining the dream of painting on walls abroad has seemed far fetched…

And then I was in Xela sitting at Cafe R.E.D.. I got to talk to the owner, Willy, and pretty soon i learned a whole history of activism, revolution, spirituality, hopes, and dreams. Cafe R.E.D. is an awesome space with food, music, poetry, and film nights.  The walls are covered with amazing murals and photography. I mentioned to Willy that I was also an artist and he surprised me by inviting me to paint at the cafe. I said YES! and I returned the following week with brushes and a sketch book in my hands. The wall i painted was on a cute little balcony on the 2nd floor overlooking the cafe’s patio. 

my sister Maria helping out her little sister paint!

I learned that paint back at home in LA is really good paint bc what I was working with was kind of a hassle. It took several layers of paint to get the true colors out. Ni modo. It was part of the experience and it was still fun...

Almost done... it's the details that complete the vision ...

It’s a compliment when other’s think an art piece is done and it’s really not. It’s only done when the artist thinks its done. The details complete the vision. The vision lies within.

Soy Libre, ~7' x 5', 2011 (c)

The text reads: “Soy libre como el colibri. Vuelo desde las montanas Inkas hasta los templos Mayas. Al segui mi vuelo visito templos de Teotihuacan. Descanzo en tierras del Huichol y tomo medicina. A un mas lejos llego con amigos Apache, Navajo, Hopi, y Chumash…”

Because CAFE R.E.D.’s birth comes from a story of migration and a fight for liberation I wanted to paint a mural that proclaimed freedom. Birds are a representation of freedom for me and the only bird that is found in both North, Central, and South America are Hummingbirds. The flower has the America’s painted on it because our lands are beautiful, majestic, and fruitful. I painted a Mayan glyph symbol of the moon to honor divine femininity. And that more or less is my piece in Guatemala.

I feel really happy about contributing art in Guatemala. I would love to paint again and again in Guate. There are many huge cinder block walls that need color. Graffiti has been coming up in Guate… maybe next time ill get to spray paint…

Graffiti and Street Paving in Xela

As i continued my own flight across the America’s, my next stop was Panama. I shared some of this experience on my previous blog, aqui. The last two nights in Panama i stayed at a hostel in the historic town of Panama City. Panama City sits on the Pacific Ocean side and it is crazy, it has overgrown immensely, lending itself to tourism. (PIX will be uploaded later) Colon, which is the canal’s city on the Atlantic side is a mess… it seemed to me that it is forgotten and poverty overrides the streets. The Panama Canal expansion is set to open in 2014 and Panama City is very much rapidly changing and preparing itself for its GRAND Opening to the world. The canal is indeed impressive, even more impressive is the amount of cargo that passes through. Most of it going to the States where we consume, consume, and consume… Anyways, I learned alot about the history of Panama and there’s still so much more to understand.

All that to say that I was in the historic, colonial looking side of Panama City sitting in a hostel when i read that they need art in exchange for free a room. So i asked and that same afternoon I began painting… the only colors they had were purple and white… ni modo …

Nade es Imposible!, 5' x 8', 2011

The turtle says: Nada es imposible, tienes toda tu vida para alcanzar tus suenos… Nothing is impossible, you have your whole life to reach all of your dreams.

I wrote as a reminder for myself and a womyn named Maria, she works at the hostel cleaning rooms and she came to peek at my painting. We ended up talking for a good hour and she shared with me the story of her children. Her oldest daughter is 21 and she birthed her when she was only 17. Her daughter recently graduated from college and she told me that her daughter’s success was also her own success and dreams reached. We talked alot but i mentioned to her what I learned about turtle wisdom, which is that they know they have their whole life time to do everything they want to do. I remind myself to take it easy, i will reach my dreams, we all do… and so far I got to paint on walls in Guatemala and in Panama…I hope there’s a wall for me in Colombia…

Witness to a feminist movement in Guatemala

25 Oct

I made it! To Guatemala. The plane ride sucked. I left LAX at 2am and woke up from time to time on the plane. When the sunrise showed thru the window, it was absolutely beautiful. A thin orange and red glow outlined the top of mountains and the navy darkness covered the rest of the open sky. 

On Monday I went to check out my friend Kimberly Bautista’s film, Justice For My Sister. This film is about a womyn and her relentless efforts to fight impunity and convict the murderer of her sister. Even though her family is threatened, she continues to fight head on for her sister. In the struggle for her sister, she opens a fight larger than herself. It is a fight where a whole nation of womyn are seeking justice and an end to impunity. It was shown at a gathering of organizers preparing themselves to take on a nation wide campaign to help womyn against violence. My cousin, my mom and sister went with me. I’m so glad that they went. 

I had not seen the film in LA. But I am glad I saw it in Guatemala. The discussion after the film was so raw and truthful.   Every womyn that spoke yesterday has a personal story to share about how patriarchy and machismo has hurt them in their lives. One womyn shared how she hid her pregnancy until the day after she graduated from school. She was afraid her father would not let her finish her education. There is an ever growing urgency by womyn to demand an end to a culture that has allowed womyn to be mistreated, under-educated, raped, and killed. 

Violence against womyn happens at so many levels in Guatemala and around the world. But i sense a movement that is only growing bolder, stronger, and louder. This movement is telling boys and men to help womyn take care of the home. It is pleading with men to stop hitting their partners and instead learn to communicate and create harmony at home. It is telling men to take responsibility within their fatherhood. It’s telling society to respect single mothers. That a womyn’s body belongs her and not to a man or the state. This movement has recognized that their is war on womyn’s bodies and it needs to end. 

Silence is ending. Today i went to a womyn’s art festival, El Festival Ixchel. It is a 2 week long series of events organized by womyn. They have created spaces for womyn to showcase their art, sculpture, photography, graffiti, film, poetry, and music. Tonight i saw a series of short films made by Guatemalan womyn. Each film is dynamic, taking on multiple issues that affect womyn. One of my favorite short films was done by a collective of Indigenous womyn from Solola named Asociación Centro de mujeres comunicadora mayas “Nutzij”. You can check here and here to learn about them.

I am witnessing a feminist movement in my mother’s homeland. It is not a new movement, but it is colorful. It makes sense, Guatemala is very colorful! 

Me Voy

21 Oct

Im leaving again. This time its not for youth work or to escape. Im going to Guatemala to spend time with my family. Then I am hopping over to Panama. Ive never been to Panama and im so happy that I get to see this part of Central America. One of my goals in life is to visit every Latin American country. So far I’ve been to Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, & Guatemala. During this trip im checking off Panama and Colombia on my list!

While in Colombia I will be attending the 12th Latin American Feminist Conference, aka: El Encuentro Feminista. I attended the conference in Mexico City in 2009 and I was in full bliss to sit among 1,600 self-proclaimed feminist. Since then i have reclaimed my identity as a proud feminist womyn. I’ve chosen to define my feminism. One that encompasses compassion, healing, & self-care. One that talks back when disrespected. One that builds with womyn. And also

one that builds with men bc they are our fathers, brothers, cousins, friends, and sometimes our partners.  I do art, work with youth, walk my spiritual path, and it all fits within my feminist identity.

I will return in December. My birthday month! So i”ll see you then and trust! we are gonna celebrate the Sagitarius reign when i get back! 

Below are two videos inviting womyn from all walks of life to the feminist gathering. Even if you think you’re not a feminist, most likely you are… check it out! 

 

 

more videos herehttp://www.12encuentrofeminista.org/pagina.php?p_a=26&d=videos-encuentros-feministas-latinoamericanos-y-del-caribe

Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama

4 Oct

CENTRAL AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL

October 19-21 | 2011

12PM – 8PM

@ the Charles E. Young Research Library,

 Main Conference Room | UCLA

art by Ana Ruth Castillo

 

Central America’s recent films emerge out of the ashes of political turmoil, war, immigration, and uneven development. To bring a ention to the region and its issues as well as its vibrant culture and artistic creativity, this festival presents films by both emerging and established artists. 

Highlights include La Yuma, the first Nicaraguan film in forty years and Amor y Frijoles, a gem of Honduras’ nascent film industry, among many
others. The festival kicks off with the documentary Paradise for Sale, which will be preceded by a short introduction by filmmakers Anayansi Prado and Carolina Rivera.

The complete schedule is available at http://www.library.ucla.edu/news/14124.cfm.
Admission is free, and no reservations are required; seating is on a first-come basis.

Co-sponsored with the UCLA César Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies and the Latin American Institute

 

 

An Open Letter to Ms. Yates on Granito: How to Nail a Dictator

3 Oct

Dear Ms. Pamela Yates,

I went to the opening of Granito in Los Angeles.  I am thankful and I appreciate the work, time, and energy you have given to the people of Guatemala. When I went to see the film, I did not imagine that the story would be told in such a personal manner. Most journalists or film makers seem to take the back seat because they are so set on telling the story of others, but your personal accounts weave this story together beautifully.  I really appreciate the humanness you have shown through your film making.

There is something you said in your film describing your commitment and connection to Guatemala:

“Guatemala wrapped its arms around my soul and wouldn’t let it go…”

I get it. Through your film, you shared with us what you had witnessed and there’s no way your soul, your being, could not have been impacted so greatly during your time in Guatemala…

I have seen a number films about Guatemala, including Searching for Dominga, Killer’s Paradise, and La Limonada. The level of violence, suffering, and injustice is so extreme and heavy, that it never stops feeling like you can detach yourself from Guatemala. I want to share with you my connection with Guatemala…

I was born in 1982 in Los Angeles. The first in my family to not have been born in Guatemala. When i was a girl I would turn to the index pages of history books, hoping to find something on Guatemala. But hardly anything was ever accessible to me in that way. Before I turned 15, instead of having a quinceanera, I asked my mom to take me to Tikal, Peten. I haven’t stopped drawing pyramids since…

I was not witness to Guatemala in the 1980’s, the height of the repression, the massacres, the disappearances, the reflection of the devil upon earth. However, since I was a little girl, I knew something was wrong in my mother’s country. During my first visits to Guate as a 5, 7, & 9 yr old,  poverty became a concept i began to understand, i would question why my mom’s country was so poor, children my age were begging for food, why are people living so different??? I tried to comprehend the poverty, the alcoholism, and the oppression. I did not have the vocabulary, but i saw something that made me uncomfortable deep inside. When I went to college at UC Santa Cruz, I naturally fell into Latin American and Latino Studies. I had an intense need to learn about Guatemala and Latin America.  My mind has acquired a historical, economical, and political understanding of what went wrong in my ancestral land, but my spirit still mourns.

It saddens me, to know that so much potential for a more righteous and just Latin America was on the brink of existence during the 20th Century. Cuba was the kickoff, but the dreams of Chile, Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc.,  were over-taken by the CIA, military coups, and U.S. installed dictatorships. Through U.S. tax dollars, war has been funded countless times. And in the 1980’s, dollars manifested into Genocide and Femicide in Guatemala.

Where are we now? Where is Guatemala… how are people living and surviving? One look at the cover of La Prensa Libra will tell you the violence never stopped. And the trauma has not healed. My cousin, a 20 years old, was murdered in Huehuetenango during March of this year. He left behind his wife, a baby girl, and a grieving mother. His baby girl will grow up and find the story of his father in the newspaper, but the newspaper captured a lie. The town will tell her the truth, and she will be filled with fury to learn that men dressed in uniforms, murdered her father. I will tell her about the donuts his father and I use to eat when we were kids. But that is all I can offer…

Where are we now? I couldn’t answer it completely. It makes my stomach turn upside down. My entire family is in Guatemala. I hear lots of stories; good, bad, evil, miraculous… I will be in Guatemala in a few weeks. I will be spending time with my family. We will catch up, I will find my little cousins that are 5-10 inches taller than last year, the kids are becoming teenagers, and the family keeps growing. I look forward to the story telling, it’s always the best! I will share with my family for a moments worth, then i will fly away from that reality… but Guatemala also holds my heart and my spirit in its hands…

I’ve added a little granito here and there for Guatemala. There was a time when I produced a radio program for womyn that aired in Guatemala. I organized film screenings for two Guatemalan documentaries. I created a collective of womyn called Chapinas Unidas to raise awareness about the femicide in Guate. We participated in the women’s march in Los Angeles in 2008 and also held a conference with an all womyn panel of speakers who were survivors of violence in Guatemala. I still write about Guatemala and inform my friends about what I’ve learned and experienced. In the past couple of years, my granito turned inwards, and i began my own healing, including the healing of inherited traumas. I want to add more granitos de arena, if I can contribute to the next steps of the film, I am open to learning more. In the meantime, Ill encourage my friends to go watch the film!

Take care. Know that you are meant to be safe and protected on your journey. The helicopter falling captures that miracle, the access you were granted is of no coincidence. Everyone has a purpose to follow and I thank you for being a messenger of our people, sharing our stories through film,  and having the courage to act on a purpose bigger than yourself. 

Con Amor, Respeto, y Agradecimiento,

Ana Ruth Castillo

For friends who are reading this open letter, please add Granito thru your facebook: http://www.facebook.com/granitofilm and go catch the film at the Laemmle

Granito de Arena = a film and a humble expression of a collective process for change