It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai… Gracias Profe Evo!
Posting from the DMV, February 10, 2016
María Isabel Urrutia Ocoró (born 25 March 1965) is a former weightlifter, athlete and politician from Colombia. Raised in Valle del Cuaca, she was always a stellar athlete. Starting out in shot put and the discus throw she represented Colombia in the 1988 Summer Olympics.
On the advice of her coaches, Maria Isabel switched to weightlifting in 1989 became an amazing champion. Urrutia won silver at the 1989 World Championships. She went on to win gold at the 1990, silver 1991, gold 1994, silver 1995, bronze 1996, silver 1997, and bronze at the 1998 World Weightlifting Championships.
Urrutia won a gold medal in the women’s 75 kg class in the 2000 Summer Olympics becoming the second Colombian woman to win a medal and the first ever to win gold. Maria Isabel Urritia is still the only gold medal winner to represent Colombia. During these games she carried the flag of Colombia in the inaugural parade. Post her Gold medal win, she was honored through out Latin America.
Nowadays she is retired from sports but she also became a politician. Urrutia held a seat in the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia from 2002 to 2010 (twice elected: 2002 and 2006). A popular elected official she was noted for her excellent legislative results and transparency in governing.
It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…
MimiTVA posting from the DMV, Friday February 5, 2016
Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando has been an inspiration to me for quite some time. Her films are treasures of knowledge presented in the way of a modern day Griot, proud and brilliant; they make me eager to connect to my ancestors and fill me with pride in the way my father’s booming voice did oh so long ago.
Gloria Rolando’s first film; “Un Eterno Presente: Oggún” is an audiovisual homage to the Yoruba diety Oggún. Oggún is the blacksmith diety resenting the modern world of industrialization, and works with metals and technology through the songs of the immense Yoruba vocalist, Lazarro Ros. In this film Rolando explains how the men and women of Lázaro’s generation, are the last bridge tying us to the Africa that gave birth to its roots in the Americas. “We must recognize that it contains legends and universal values that explain the world. My personal experience with Oggún demonstrates to me that this is possible.”
In”Eyes of the Rainbow,” was made in 1997, is a documentary about Assata Shakur, the Black Panther and Black Liberation Army leader who took refuge in Cuba after years of struggles in the US. The film integrates AfroCuban culture, including the Orisha Oya, to show Assata’s place in Cuba, where she has lived for the past three decades. In English.
Gloria’s latest film effort is about the Indepedientes de Color or The Independents of Color a Cuban Political party that was formed after the largely Mambi Army ousted the Spaniards from Cuba in the late 1800’s. Recent research in Cuba has established that this army was overwhelmingly made up of Cubans of African descent (80% and perhaps as high as 90%): consequently it was thus one of the largest slave revolts in the hemisphere. When the Mambises had ejected the Spaniards from Cuba, the plantocracy / plantation owners became allies of the Americans. These events led to the little known Massacre of 1912.
Evaristo Estenoz founded the Independents of Color in 1908 in order to secure a rightful share for Afro-Cubans in all aspects of Cuban society; specifically the government which had successfully marginalized them. He was murdered by Cuban troops in 1912 along with over 6,000 other AfroCubans, fellow party members, after an intense media campaign carried out by the plantocracy to demonize the party. As famed sonero Arsenio Rodriguez says: “Hay que adorarlos como a Martí!” Roots of my heart is the first treatment on film of a history that has been largely ignored by both sides of the Florida Straights.
It’s important to know who we are, from whom and where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…
Posting from the DMV, February 1, 2016
MimiTVA commits to post about different Afro-Latinos throughout Black History Month and beyond. I’ll start out with my personal favorite … El Negro Primero, the Venezuelan soldier, Pedro Camejo!
El Negro Primero, Pedro Camejo
In Venezuela, Simon Bolivar known as the liberator of South America realized the vital role Black men played in the colonies quest for freedom from the Spanish Crown. One of Bolivar’s fiercest soldiers was El Negro Primero, Pedro Camejo. Born a slave, Camejo’s nickname was a testament to his bravery for Pedro was always the first to enter the battlefield.
Frightening the enemies with his vicious spear, Cameo rose to the rank of Lieutenant.
After fighting valiantly in the Battalla de Carabobo, Camejo was mortally wounded and before taking his last breath he uttered this unforgettable phrase to say goodbye to his trusted leader, General Josè Antonio Pàez, “Mi General vengo a decirle adiòs porque estoy muerto” (My General, I came to say goodbye because I am dead.)
Camejo has a municipality named for him as well as a statue in Caracas, the only such statue of a black man in all of Venezuela. He fought for freedom and died a brave and unforgettable death.
Sara Gómez (November 8, 1942 – June 2, 1974) was an Afro-Cuban filmmaker. She was born into a middle-class family in Havana and she was afforded an education in literature, piano and Afro-Cuban ethnography.
She became a journalist before joining the newly-formed ICAIC in 1961, Castro a fan of film as art developed ICAIC as a new center for film in Cuba. Gòmez quickly rose in the ranks as an assistant director to Jorge Fraga and Tomas Gutierrez Alea, as well as to the visiting French director Agnes Varda.
One of only two black filmmakers at ICAIC at the time, and for several years its only woman director, Gomez made a series of documentary shorts. One of which is featured here…
“De Cierta Manera” was her last film and her first feature although Sara died after filming.
De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another) a 1974 Cuban romantic drama was Directed by Sara Gómez. Considered Avant Garde; the film mixes documentary-style footage with a fictional story that looks at empoverished neighborhoods of Havana right after the Revolution of 1959.
The film illuminates the history before the Revolution and the development that occured after Castro took over in 1959 Cuba.
Its plot shows how tearing down slums and building modern settlement will not change the culture of its people.
Gómez wrapped filming with Mario Balmaseda and Yolanda Cuellar just before her death; technical work was finished by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Julio García-Espinosa y Rigoberto López before its posthumous release.
As De Cierta Manera reveals, Sara Gómez was a revolutionary filmmaker at a crossroads; the Afro-Cuban community, its cultural traditions to include the African based religions, Abakuá and Santería, women’s issues, the treatment of marginalized sectors of society, and the role of family within the context of the revolution and workers’ rights. For its time, the film was extremely radical both in form and content. Sara Gómez remains one of the most significant filmmakers from Latin America. There is an award named for Sara Gòmez in the Women in Film and Video Chapter of Cuba.
Ay Celia… I celebrate her this September – October in my La Vida En Hispanic Heritage Month posts and I would be remiss to not celebrate La Reina, So here ya go!
As a constant source of inspiration you never fail to impress, Celia you still reign supreme in a world where you were meant to be just a this or a that. But it was your destiny to touch hearts it was your purpose to make your people proud, that those who looked like feel as though they to could be respected and revered by their grace, talent, beauty.
As the ONLY Afro-Latina with her very own expansive exhibit displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC, you had weaved yourself into the very fabric of this country, unlike any other Afro-Latina in the world. The exhibit was complete with costumes designed by you and your music it was such an amazing thing to see and enjoy. A Grammy nominee, ten times over, Celia sang only in Spanish because as she used to claim her “English was not very good looking.”
She received a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement award, a National Medal of the Arts, and honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami. A street in Miami was also renamed in her honor.
Her trademark orange, red, and white polka dot dress (an original Celia design) and her personally designed shoes have been placed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute of Technology. According to the European Jazz Network, Celia “commands her realm with a down-to-earth dignity unmistakably vibrant in her wide smile and striking pose.”
Celia was a big star in Cuba before she came to the US. She replaced the Puerto Rican singer Myrta Silva in the famed Cuban Orchestra, La Sonora Matancera in 1950 much to the chagrin of the white aristocracy in Cuba. This singular move would propell the orchestra and Celia to international stardom. She became one of the first Afro-Latina women to lead an orchestra and Sonora Matancera took Cuban music around the world with Celia Cruz as “La Guarachera Cubana.”
I will never forget the way I felt driving down Constitution Ave, when I saw this mega building sized posterof Celia emblazoned with her battle cry to sing Azùcar! in DC. Our national museum of American History had this beautiful icon covering the front of their building it was a win. And I remember thinking ..wow Celia, you were
It was amazing to see An entire exhibit devoted to our queen, our music, the ancestors were so very pleased. Couldnt you feel it in her voice? I can, to this day, still hear her singing in my heart, felt her spirit in my soul, “La Vida Es Un Carnival” La Vida Es Un Carnival Live
I was filled with an inexplicable level of pride at who Celia was and what Celia Cruz means to me and people who look like me. She is irreplaceable our Queen, La Reina! It was confirming to see that Celia Cruz a naturalized citizen, of these United States was still honored and revered with her own exhibit. She was a treasure.
I have my favorite songs of Celia’s I love “Usted Abuso” with its lovely arrangements and of course “La Negra Tiene Timbao” my anthem because I am Ese Negrita que esta caminando…
But the song that just breaks my heart in its mastery of lyrics is a cover En Español of I Will Survive. Recorded just months before she succumbed to brain cancer. Her voice rich but strained emmitted the wonderful Adios of this legendary singer.
“Yo Vivire, en el alma de mi gente, en el cuero del tambor, en las manos del congero, en los pies del bailador, yo vivire, ahi estar, mientras pase una comparsa, con mi rumba cantare, sere siempre lo que fui con mi azucar para ti, yo vivire, yo vivire…”
(Translation) “I will survive, in the soul of my people, in the skin of our drum, in the hands of the drummer, in the feet of the dancer, I will survive, and there it is, while my song is playing, with my rumba I will sing, always being alive with my azucar for you I will survive… I will survive”
Below every latin vocalist from Gloria Estefan to Jose Feliciano and Marc Anthony come on stage with Celia to sing one last song with her. A truly proper goodbye. I am always rendered to tears each time I see it.
Today, March 15th ; I honor the making of our personal familia Angel, the woman who formed our being, the Madre We are blessed to call our own… I cannot begin to describe the level if blessing we all have had by being a part of her beautiful family.
I can however share one story she told that truly guided my faith and ordered my steps to “do good” so that “good would always follow” me, and all of us.
Mummy used to go on pilgrimages to different sites around the world where the Blessed Virgin Mary appears with Catholic church groups from Canada, the US and the Caribbean. She was dedicated to these pilgrimages so mych so that, even our vacations as kids were made around these sites. A trip to Portugal was begun in Fatima and when we went to France, a stop in Lourdes was on our itenerary.
One of her pilgrimages was to a town known at the time in Yugoslavia, called Medjugorje. The apparition of the Virgin began in 1981 and of the six children that saw the “Lady of Medjugorje” on a daily basis three continues to see “Gospa” (Croatian for “Lady”) today.
About 1987 Mummy and one of her groups from Canada went to Yugoslavia to “make a pilgrimage” to the Medjugorje site. It is one of the newer sites for apparitions and the conditions at this location were not really designed for a woman in her late 60s, so I expressed my concern. Mummy responded to me in her loving but firm way telling me that she was compelled to visit this site. And I thought, really who was I to say where my world traveling Madre with her tremendous faith could go and visit. I knew by then Any journey rooted in prayer was blessed and protected, so off she went. And when Mummy returned she told me about it in very much this way with her sweet Trini lilt and charming way.
“I wanted to help an elderly lady so me and dee lady was walkin’ up behind the group up the Hill. Crnica Hill was dee name, in their language you know. We stop just before the place where The Virgin was appearing, and there was a man selling water. So I got water for us, and we continue to the spot on this hill.”
“It was like a bluff or an opening; decorated pretty pretty wit rosaries, flowers, candles an’ ting. We went to kneel in front of what we thought was a statue but as we were praying the statue took on another form. It looked so true and real with a glow around her that felt warm like the sun. I felt a peace and was a little shocked because I didnt believe I was worthy to see this. I look to the elderly woman and she look at me in this same kinda way. We prayed a few more minutes and we got up to go back down the hill behind everyone else. “
” When we reach the little bus we all start talking about the place. Only nobody else is talking about what we saw neither the man selling water nor the statue we both had seen. Right there I knew what we saw was for us alone. I wanted to drop to my knees right then but was on the bus and couldnt. So gurl I just shout out thank you God praise the Father that, I would be chosen in this way. I was both humbled and proud.”
“Always remember girl, The blessed Virgin will Guide you through any trouble, you must pray to her every day. Do good and good will always follow you.”
Today Mummy you went home to your rightful place in heaven. And I shout out to God in Praise to say thank you Lord! Thank you for all the love you gave us all. Thank you for our beautiful family. Thank you for the wonderful memories. Thank you for the life we all get to live today. We love and miss you every day.
Today’s La Vida En Black History Month features the Baby Catchers, Las Parteras, the doulas, the midwives. These women keep our people alive… they do the work of nurturing our women through the single most important event of their lives: dando luz a un ser humano or bringing to light another human being.
On this, my very own born day I honor the long line of midwives from wence I come. My Aunty Nenen (Mother’s Older Sister) or Nurse Luces as she was known in Trinidad; brought hundreds of babies into the world as a midwife.
Ironically Daddy’s mother, my grandmother was also a Trinidadian Midwife. Ada Machado was a force with which to be reckoned all over that island of my parents’ birth. Nurse Ada Machado brought children into Trinidad during the Great Depression, initiating hundreds of women into Motherhood. Doulas are a part of my historical DNA and celebrating that DNA is my mission in all the work I do.
So naturally an entire episode of the La Vida En Black documentary series will be dedicated to La Partera extraordinaire, Ynanna Djehuty, an Afro-Dominicana from the Bronx, NY.
This talentosa jovencita is a gifted writer, an emerging intensely powerful doula and a passionately motivated reproductive health activist. Ynanna Djehuty is THE spiritual midwife a pregnant woman wants in the room catching the baby; ushering her into the new life in the power and grace that comes with the Motherhood phase of life. And Djehuty comes armed with an arsenal of knowledge and awareness of the African ancestors and that influence all that she possesses within her spirit. A modern-day ” Aminata Diallo!
Ynanna is empowering women and young people of the African Diaspora, intentionally through her Afro-Latina Identity. Her experiences as a birth doula raise awareness on maternal and infant health for women, and ultimately shines a light on the crippling disparities in the healthcare system in the United States for women of color. She is a clear and present danger to the unacceptable status quo, a soldier of midwifery advocating for the woefully neglected low-income woman and their overall well-being. Simply put Ynanna’s goal is to uplift the way we bring our humanity onto this earth. I am honored to feature her in my La Vida En Black Documentary Series and as my La Vida En Black History Month feature today.. My Born Day!
An Excerpt from Ynanna Djehuty “While our Black/Latino male counterparts are active in the fight to defend black and brown lives against police violence, they seldom acknowledge the attacks on our reproductive capacities experienced by women of color. What is more important for humanity than the ability to bring and sustain life on the planet? Who can deny that the most valuable resource in making that happen is women? Therefore, calls to reinstate our homegrown midwives and healers, improve the conditions our women experience in the hospitals and create spaces for comprehensive reproductive healthcare are imperative to the survival and thriving of people of color in this world.