When I was 18, I decided I wanted to leave, go far away from my little town in my little country of El Salvador. I wanted to fulfil my dream of studying Fine Arts away from the limitations of my conservative family and society.
However, I never imagined that the act of leaving the place I thought was limiting me would place upon me even more limitation. In Spain, I came to be perceived as ‘the other’, the one not from here, and was permanently marked by my place of origin.
And so I was no longer the daughter of Señor X, nor a citizen of El Salvador – I became just another woman, another body, another Latin migrant whom they considered to not know how to properly speak Spanish let alone understand Catalan.
Latina Face DIY, 2018
It was at this point that my identity turned into something complicated, real and tangible for me. It took time to understand and identify the complex elements that together created my perspective of what it means to be a woman – a Latina American woman – in the great city of Barcelona.
Falling into otherness meant moving into a separate space where what defined me and so many other women was based on our difference and opposition to the women of Barcelona and of Spain, who look at and understand themselves to be the ‘norm’.
How we as Latin American Women have been represented in national and international media, soap operas, movies and television series has played a very important role in the experience of otherness.
For the longest time, these social representations and stereotypes weighed on all of my social interactions, and as a result, I felt anger and shame. I had the feeling that before any introduction, even before saying my name, the person in front of me already had an idea of who and what I was based solely on the features of my face, my body and my accent.
¿Who and what am I?
Answering these questions has been a complex process to which I still have no clear response. What I can see clearly is a number of stereotypes that have defined, through appropriated imaginary, the representation of women coming from ex-colonial countries. We are seen as hypersexual, violent, superstitious, naive, docile and in service to the figures of power, especially those related to white men and women.
Since these themes have lived long before me and will clearly exist beyond me, and after trying for so long to stay away from these definitions, I decided to stop running away and face them. Through my art practice of photography, I resurrected these stereotypes to try to dismantle the fiction within them. Costume and performance became the vehicle to get closer to the truth of what represents and defines women coming from Latin America into a European context.