Latinx Women Gather in NYC

To celebrate the first year of gatherings with fellow Latinx Women living in New York, the artist Bel Falleiros wrote a testimonial on her experience with the ongoing Manas Americanas project, initiated during her residency at AnnexB in June 2018.

Celeida Tostes,  Passagem  (Passage), 1979.

Celeida Tostes, Passagem (Passage), 1979.

ABOUT THE project

LATINX WOMEN GATHER IN NYC - one year of the Manas Americanas gathering group

Text by Bel Falleiros

It was the spring of 2018, and after a 2-year nomadic journey upon my arrival in the U.S. (a journey full of rich experiences but without a place I felt I could belong to), I decided to give NYC a try. I had just arrived in the city, refreshed after an empowering residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, in New Mexico. Larissa Ferreira, the founder of AnnexB (NYC-based residency for Brazilian artists), invited me for a coffee in Brooklyn. We met and spoke for hours about our recent experiences, dreams, and future projects.

"Would you like to participate in the next season of AnnexB's resident artists?" She asked.

"What project would you envision for your time at AnnexB?" She continued.

The previous residency was still reverberating. I'd met amazing artists, and we'd bound as a family of immigrants and first-generation 'Americans.' I found a home in them. I was also meeting with Tewa Women United (a native women-led organization), where together, we'd envisioned a project for my Equal Justice Residency. In walks, meals, and afternoon talks, we connected, had called each other 'sisters,' and for the first time since leaving Brazil, I found home again. I carried this impression of the land and the people in my body as I navigated an entirely new landscape, in New York.

"I think I'd like to invite fellow Latinas living in the city and working with arts, culture, immigration, and social justice, to start a gathering group," I answered Larissa.

AnnexB was about to move to a new studio in one of Bushwick's industrial buildings to celebrate two years of existence, and I was happy to inaugurate it. I wanted to honor the vision, the hustle, and the step-by-step "ant work" (trabalho de formiguinha as we call in Brazil) that these amazing women had done to make this residency program happen. Ant work makes the real revolution.

As I'd just arrived, I didn't know many people in the city, but with help from contacts and suggestions from Larissa and Tatiane Schilaro (AnnexB's creative director) we put together a group of women who inspires us. I didn't know what to expect. To my surprise, most of them quickly answered my invitation e-mail and, by the end of the month, we were having our first gathering.

We are all related, but we are not all the same, the words of Marjorie Beaucage (an indigenous artist and SFAI fellow) was the introduction of the e-mail, followed by We are all sisters under the Flesh, from the Chicana poet Sylvia Gonzalez and an image from the performance Passagem (Passage) from the Brazilian artist Celeida Tostes (on view at that time at the Brooklyn Museum, part of the Radical Women/Mujeres Radicales show). At the end of the e-mail, the proposed date was June 26th, exactly one year ago.

Since that day, when we talked for over 4 hours without noticing, we had gathered in fluid conversations and created a natural bond. As we marathon daily in city's non-natural rhythms, we'd found in the group a place to take a BREATH and BEND TIME. Like a seed waiting to sprout, Manas Americanas was born.

Thus far we've shared laughs, tears, doubts and advice over mescalitos, sopas, pão de queijo, maracuya juice... We talked about HOME, LAND, CENTER, and IDENTITY, going from the most mundane issues to more existential questions. We learned more about ourselves and each other by listening to the diversity of our voices. And we found HOME and UNITY in our sister-stories'.

Over the past year, we gathered in different settings: indoors, outdoors, improvised, and more structured spaces. We've learned that very little is needed for our gathering to happen, often leaving with the sensation "we should be doing this more often." We also learned that if "you couldn't make to this gathering, there will always be the next one."

Manas Americanas is an ongoing project, growing over care, time, and necessity. We are making bridges between Brooklyn, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Florida, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and hopefully, many other countries and places to come.

Thank you Ana de la Cueva, Dianne Herbert, Eva Mayhabal, Lina Puerta, Joiri Minaya, Larissa Ferreira, Monica Espinel, Paola Francisquini, Felli Maynard, Stephanie Mulcock, Tatiane Schilaro, and all the other Manas that are still trying to make it 'to the next gathering.'

It is beautiful to build this space together, amigas.

On struggle and joy,

Bel Falleiros