From July 2015 to July 2016, I will be traveling to different places around the world and exploring how women in different social, political, economic, and social contexts survive each and every day. I will be exploring how women survive in five particular contexts that are very important to me. These include migrant women attempting to create a new home for their family in a foreign country; women who are survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence; self-employed women who run home businesses or are street vendors; women using feminism on the ground to resist paternalistic politics; and indigenous women who are spearheading environmental justice movements focused on protecting indigenous land rights and indigenous women’s bodies.
My mother likes to say, El valiente vive hasta que el cobarde quiere. “The brave one lives only as long as the coward wants them to.” I have seen many women around me be dismissed and labeled as cowards. But I have more often witnessed women defend their livelihoods and survive.
My passion for this project directly lies in the ever-present light I hear and see in women. Women’s survival stories do not fill me with hopelessness, instead they propel me forward and remind me of the incredible potential that lies within all of us. All the women who have touched my life have molded my spirit. I am their daughter and I find amazing strength in knowing this.
What I mean by Survival
I want to learn what are women’s luchas. A lucha in Spanish has a meaning beyond the direct English translation of a “fight” or “the act of fighting”. It invokes a journey that requires your entire personhood to take on the heaviness that each day bears. A lucha is not about physical strength. Instead, it is a battle of the soul. A lucha is about preserving one’s spirit and protecting one’s livelihood. A lucha is inherently personal and ultimately, it is about survival.
I will explore what kind of survival––physical, emotional, spatial, generational, familial, personal––women are experiencing. What are women’s survival strategies, where do they learn them, and how do they physically and emotionally do it? I want to know when living become constant survival and what it means to survive all the time. How does this become a source of strength for women in the reality of their daily lives?
I further want to capture the second component of survival, which is how women continue to find love and joy to fill their lives, despite the darkness around them. What brings women moments of peace during times of hardship? What are the small acts, the little tangible things, and the abstract dreams that enable women to survive? Where do women find inspiration? I want to see the moments of happiness that women hold on to. I want to meet the people that motivate them, and I want to witness where glimpses of hope emerge from and see how they are mobilized as sources of strength.
I will allow women’s voices to be the narratives guiding my journey by listening and documenting their stories. I believe highlighting women’s voices privileges a particular type of narrative that is often overridden, attributes value to their stories, acknowledges the wealth of knowledge they carry, and commemorates their lucha.
At the moment my official itinerary includes Spain, Dominican Republic, Peru, Argentina, and Canada. I’m 99% sure Vietnam will be added and I’m open to other possibilities.