As we start to poke our heads out of multiple layers of winter and pandemic confinements like nervous and tender voles, I want to take a beat to reflect on the fierce and fabulous women that helped us make it through the long nights of 2021. This winter, Onda Latina Ohio welcomed Katlin Marisol Sweeney-Romero, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at OSU, to be our featured performer. She was joined by DJ Aloha (aka Aleha Solano), a Colombian ex-pat artist, DJ and entrepreneur who hosts her famous “Apocalipstick” pachangas all over town. In between the two, a lineup of local poets, musicians, seasoned performers of all ages, several first-time creatives, and the always-sassy Chusma Box gathered to explore the turbulent waters of love and community in times of pandemia.
Our featured performer Katlin is at work on her dissertation, which explores how Latina content creators use social media accounts to produce self-images. Her performance titled “This is a Love Letter to My Body” was delivered as a poetic monologue describing the journey toward self-acceptance as a Latina with a mixed cultural background. In this bizarre moment in history, when body positivity movements must contend with the ever-increasing pressure to conform to a rigid set of beauty standards, Katlin’s performance was both soothing and mesmerizing.
Following the event, participant-performer and 4th-year OSU student Jaelynn Butler shared a touching reflection: “There were many transformative aspects of the event that affected me at the personal level. . . Too White for my all-Black friends and too Black for my all-White friends, Katlin’s performance helped me see that this is a common experience for mixed race children.”
Jaelynn’s reflection touched on the effort she dedicates to hair straightening and noted that her parents felt the need to give their children “White sounding” names so that their future job applications and resumes would be taken seriously. Finally, Jaelynn praised Katlin’s performance, saying:
“She talked about how her body had become her home, her body was something she needed to protect because at the end of the day it was always going to be there for her no matter what. She spoke of her body in such a unique way that changed my own view of my body. As a minority, it’s often hard for me to find a safe space, and I’ve often felt alone because of the environment I grew up in. The way she spoke of the body being her home made me think how I can also become my own safe space that I’ve so long needed.”
We’ve all worked hard to survive a long winter of plague and precarity, but Love in Times of Pandemia was contagious in all the right ways. Thank you Katlin, DJ Aloha, and Jaelynn for spreading the love!
Onda Latina Ohio wants to give special thanks to Anna Goulson and Anthony Palmiscno for helping with event planning and flow. Thanks to DJ Aloha for sharing her fabulous photos, Sebastian Muñoz Ruz for his deft handling of the Chusma Box, and Hannah Grace Morrison for serving big inspiration and leadership.
LAS CIBERNAUTAS WANT YOU TO STAY TUNED
In the beforetimes, the structure of Onda Latina’s open mic night has emphasized a Latina (based in the Midwest) as our featured artist while welcoming absolutely everyone to the mic to perform at our events. On October 22, 2020, instead of an open mic format, we invited a line-up of Onda Latina veteranas, most of them former featured performers, to share their work. The line-up included Katlin Marisol Sweeney, Sophia Enriquez, Elena Foulis, Sahily Tamayo, Paloma Martinez-Cruz, LROD, Carla Melo, Isis Barra Costa, and Peyton Del Toro, who joined us as the head of Onda Latina Cyber Command to ensure that our Zoom room was safe and our connections well-greased.
We concluded with the evening’s featured performeras, Isis Barra Costa and Carla Melo who debuted a special Cibernautas performance for us titled CuraARTEiras! Ligue Já! I was able to ask Carla Melo and Isis Barra Costa a few questions about their performance, and the Queens gifted me with their effervescent eloquence between sips of cosmic champagne:
The Other Mask:
An Interview with Rosemary Mendez Velasquez
Onda Latina Ohio, like so many live art communities during the Great Pause, was on hiatus in the spring of 2020. While we have plans to meet up for a Zoom open mic in the month of October, for now, I’d like to turn the focus to the importance of self-care in these times of uncertainty. And not self-care in pursuit of conventional standards of beauty, but decolonial Latina self-care, the kind that reaffirms the connection of cuerpo, mente, y espíritu that honors the body and face our ancestors gave us.
Personally, I’ve had to be extremely careful about sun exposure: I had basal cell carcinoma (BCC) twice in my early thirties. BCC is the most common form of skin cancer, and it is also the most curable when treated early, which, thankfully, was the case with me. But, aside from strict and daily use of sunscreen (containing both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), I’ve also benefitted from the care and advice of Rosemary Mendez Velazquez, a talented esthetician and inspiring Latina business owner.
I met Rosemary shortly after I first moved to Columbus, Ohio about seven years ago. The sun damage from my childhood in Los Angeles resulted in dark pigmentation spreading around my eyes. I learned this was called melasma, a common condition among women of color. On a whim, I walked into Rosemary’s A Spirit’s Touch Salon on High Street and learned about treatments that could help. After following her recommendations, I had outstanding results. I was even asked once – get this – if I was an esthetician. WHAT?! You made my day, homegirl!
But Rosemary is more than a professional esthetician who will get your skincare routine on the right track. Her quality of quiet presence and commitment to healing are a common theme in the reviews her clients post about her services. As one reviewer puts it: “Some people are just tired and want to get rid of their work to have some free time for themselves. But … with Rosemary, no one will be rushed… I felt she was enjoying her time even more than I was! She didn’t once look at her watch or rush me! Rather, she forgot herself and was immersed in her work!”
Below, Rosemary was gracious enough to share her time and thoughts on self-care, healing, and the other mask – the moisturizing version – we might benefit from wearing. (The interview was edited for length and clarity).
Paloma Martinez-Cruz: How did you get into cosmetology?
Rosemary Mendez Velasquez: The reason I got into cosmetology was that my husband was a hairdresser. I was a makeup artist, model, and, at the time, I was also working as a paramedic. I just needed a change, something more relaxing than the trauma of working as a paramedic.
PMC: When did you start A Spirit’s Touch?
RMV: I started A Spirit’s Touch in 2001. I branched off from my husband’s salon because I had a different view on how I wanted to run a spa. There was nothing wrong at my husband’s salon, it was just too loud. Cosmetologists have a different type of music – they need to get a client relaxed.
PMC: Do you feel like having worked as a paramedic influenced your decision to open A Spirit’s Touch?
RMV: Definitely. When you work one-on-one with clients, you get a rapport, you’re like their psychologist or their social worker, and with my training I can see and feel things for myself that they’re not aware of. For instance, I felt a lump on a client’s arm as I was massaging, and I was able to give her my experience with what it could be and if she should she get it checked out. I have a sense of touch, or I can look at people and see what’s going on with my ten years of experience as a paramedic. It’s helped me a great deal.
PMC: When I met you, I learned that your family is Puerto Rican. Do you feel like your spirituality and your culture are a part of your business?
RMV: When I was a paramedic, they were starting to teach physicians and nurses healing touch. A lot of hospitals were starting to use Reiki touch before and after surgery. I had signed up for it, but because I was just a paramedic, kind of down there in the totem pole, I was not allowed to take it. Not too long after that, I decided to become an esthetician.
One of my first clients as an esthetician was a Reiki Master and I was telling her how I was really interested in learning more about healing. There’s a lot of healing with just touching someone, hugging someone, just smiling at someone. And she said, “Well, I’m a Reiki Master, and I’m going to have a class coming up.” So, I quickly signed up for her class and I took Reiki levels one and two. My Reiki is a little bit different. I pray a lot. The healing is not from me, it’s from a higher power. I was raised in the church and I know that prayer is very powerful, so when I was trying to come up with a name, that’s where the name and the emblem on my card came from.
“There’s a lot of healing with just touching someone, hugging someone, just smiling at someone.”
PMC: It’s very beautiful. And I also have to say when someone becomes your client, you’re not telling anyone what to think or believe. The spiritual quality is just something that you feel is available when you walk through your door.
RMV: It’s just in my heart and spirit. I want them to feel like this is a safe place for quietness and healing, and that they can talk to me and it’s going to stay here.
PMC: I know that helping people is something that goes well beyond your place of business. Can you tell me a little bit about how you were involved with Hurricane Maria relief efforts?
RMV: I was really impacted personally with my family living in Puerto Rico. They live up in the mountains in Utuado. It was hard for me to get ahold of my family, to call them. I started looking on Facebook, and saw that there was a group of Marines, there were just six of them in the beginning, who were using their own money, their own resources to reach these people up in the mountains because the roads were gone. I saw that they were in the area where my family was living, and I reached out. How can I help? They said, “We need money, we need more resources.” I have an art background also, so I decided to draw up a picture, then someone said you should make it into a T-shirt. And I made T-shirts. I sold them at my spa and my husband’s salon. I was able to raise over $4,000 for these Marines. And it was nice to see the Marines on Facebook them wearing them, and they were able to use the money to buy supplies for these people.
PMC: A lot of people who are caregivers and have a lot of empathy for others, they often forget to take care of themselves.
RMV: We do.
PMC: Particularly during the COVID crisis and all its stressors, what are some of the things that we can do to take care of ourselves?
RMV: You know, we only have one skin for our entire lifetime and it’s the biggest organ that we have. It’s really important to take care of it because if we don’t have our health, we don’t have anything.
I did work in intensive care for a little bit when I was a paramedic. When people are put in induced comas it’s because when your body is at rest, that’s when it repairs itself. So nighttime is the most important time to cleanse and moisturize to keep your skin healthy. Another thing that’s important is if you can meditate. It takes a while, but if you can start doing five minutes a day, you can work to maybe get up to 10-15 minutes.
My thing is biking. I’ve been biking every day since May 15th when I came back to work, because it’s very stressful wearing a mask and wearing a shield all day long. I feel like I need to exercise my lungs when I get off work and regroup. I try to bike at least six to eight miles a day, but my body’s starting to feel it. Like, okay, it’s time to do two or three miles a day instead of eight.
PMC: For those of us who are fortunate enough to make an appointment with you, what are some of the measures that you have in place to ensure client safety?
RMV: We all have protocols through the state board, and they can come in anytime during any service. We have to wear gloves, and I’m taking your temperature and giving you hand sanitizers. Everything after each client has to be sanitized immediately. I wear a shield and a mask because with a lot of services that I provide here, the client eventually will have to take off their mask. I take a lot of precautions because I was a paramedic during the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Two weeks before we even shut down, when they were saying not to wear masks, I was already wearing a mask at work.
PMC: Has there been any client pushback against these precautions?
RMV: In the beginning, I had a lot of pushback. Some complained I was infringing on people’s rights. They were breathing in their own carbon dioxide or the government was taking over and I didn’t have the right. But what about my right to stay well? And to be able to work and stay open? We were closed for two and a half months. But it’s helped a lot since the governor has mandated it.
PMC: Are there any over-the-counter skin care products that are helpful if a salon appointment isn’t accessible? Could you recommend a mask treatment to do at home?
RMV: In 2017, the FDA finally got rid of a lot of those scrubs because they had the little pebbles going on and they were actually made of plastic. A lot of companies have now gone to natural types of exfoliant like the Pevonia line I use here. There’s a line called No7 and Target carries it. There’s some like Neutrogena and Oil of Olay that have some good things. A lot of girls don’t like to wear sunscreen. It’s very important to wear sunscreen every day. The ultraviolet rays cause damage even while driving a car and there are harmful ultraviolet lights in the office.
A lot of makeup companies now have sunscreen in their foundations, you just have to find the one that’s good for your skin type. Someone with oily skin might not be able to use a BB cream because it has too much moisture in it. There are CC creams now that are made for combination skin. Combination is probably the hardest to treat. And with melasma there’s not a lot of good treatments out there. You have to ask your esthetician or dermatologist about it.
PMC: How often do you recommend a mask treatment at home?
RMV: Probably a moisturizing mask once a week. But you have to know your skin type. If you’re very oily, you’re going to know it, and people who are sensitive usually burn easily in the sun. They have the broken capillaries around their nose or the cheeks, sometimes on their chin. Someone who’s very sensitive will usually have rosacea. They get irritated easily and break out from alcohol, spicy foods, coffee – these can lead to some disfiguring break outs.
PMC You basically just named all my favorite things!
Rosemary Mendez Velasquez is the proprietor and esthetician at A Spirit’s Touch full-service spa in Columbus offering facials, relaxation massage, and waxing. Please consider supporting Latina-owned businesses of Ohio. ¡Sí se puede!
Learn more about A Spirit’s Touch here: http://aspiritstouch.com/?fbclid=IwAR38joNqapmxIpkkFsK5_qDAw9QDmgp6ZIGMG3WpPK0OIY0KBNQ3FbR4MC8
With over thirty years of experience performing and fifteen years teaching dance and producing choreography, the conceptual work of Laura Rodriguez has expanded to include political sites of resistance that require full, participatory engagement of audience members. Masked in red lace, Rodriguez’ performance persona “LROD” created such an environment at Wild Goose Creative in Columbus, Ohio on November 30 of 2018.
Prior to the event, Rodriguez shared a conversation with Lisa Hamant, a student in Paloma Martinez-Cruz’s Gender and Power in Latin American Cultures class in OSU’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. When Lisa asked how they might describe their aesthetic priorities, Rodriguez replied, “Deconstruction. Because that’s the realm I’m working in—deconstructing a colonial model of post-modern dance, looking backward and giving a present momento analysis of what’s happening right now. Looking forward but not moving toward a utopia, and looking at present momento, right now issues.”
As such, Rodriguez’ many masks and media are concentrated to “kick-up” or “disrupt” political and aesthetic traditions and structures, offering, instead, a restorative and transformative space of courage for performance. “For me, my performance is making a signature out of things that have already been done…finding the intersectionality of dance, material and performance and weaving that together within a Chicana rebellion and representation…. creating almost an individually designed performance for each space.”
Rodriguez traces some of their ideas to the time they spent with Guillermo Gómez-Peña and La Pocha Nostra in the summer of 2018. “The idea of radical tenderness, [allows us to] enter a brave space and public performance discourse where political themes might emerge, but still be wrapped in tenderness and care.” With this in mind, Rodriguez’ audience-driven works give the public the opportunity to intervene as the performance unfolds, but also invites them to stay back if the decision not to participate is the more comfortable one for them. Rodriguez adds, “LROD is queer machismo and the most Chingona of my alter-egos.”
When asked what it meant to be a featured Onda Latina Ohio artist for the Chingona Fire Caravan event in November, Rodriguez was more interested in emphasizing the significance of being part of the Latinx-in-resistance community, rather than accruing an individual distinction.
“Being selected as a headliner is a wonderful opportunity, but at the same time, it is this kind of alignment of ideas, connections and gathering that leaves its unique imprint on me. Going back to communication and connectedness, merging a community together is central to my feelings about healing, and trusting this community I am intervening is a radical performance of care and help. I am ready to be apart of Onda Latina Ohio, ¡vámonos!”
To visit the Laura Rodriguez website: http://www.laurarodriguez.work
The modern-day sanctuary movement took inspiration from similar movements of the 1980s in which churches provides safe-havens for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. Today’s movement unites congregations from Catholic, Quaker, Unitarian, Mormon, Jewish, Episcopalian and Methodist faiths in a response to the inhumane and unjust policies that detain, deport, and incarcerate migrants seeking relief from circumstances that were not of their choosing. Asserting a faith-based rationale for the creation of inclusive cities where everyone can feel safe, beliefs about the dignity of all people, and support for pathways to legal residency are hallmarks of today’s sanctuary cities, schools, and churches.
Activists, congregations, and some Democratic lawmakers are at the forefront of national calls to abolish ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency), such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, winner of the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district, who has stated: “It’s time to abolish ice, clear the path to citizenship, and protect the rights of families to remain together.”
Columbus, Ohio is home to two women living in sanctuary. Miriam Vargas entered sanctuary on June 27, 2018 at First English Lutheran Church. A mother of two children, ages five and nine, is fighting to stay in Columbus, Ohio with her family.
Edith Espinal was the first woman to go into in sanctuary in Columbus. Edith has been in sanctuary at the Columbus Mennonite Church for one year fighting to stay with her family. A slate of events are scheduled for this Week of Action, culminating in a march and rally on Thursday, October 4. Participants will assemble outside the LaVeque Tower (50 Broad St., Columbus, OH) at 12 PM to call on ICE and elected officials to #LetEdithStay.
“The Mexican … is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, and celebrates it. True, there is as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away: he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain or irony.”
Octavio Paz, Labyrinth of Solitude (1950)
As we celebrate Día de los Muertos from this side of the Mexico-United States border (and from this side of the grave), I am always humbled and inspired by how the ancient Mesoamerican practices continue to beat in the heart of Día de los Muertos observances that we practice today. El Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Latin American countries and parts of the United States. Combining indigenous traditions with Catholicism, it is believed that the spirit of the deceased children visit their families on November 1, and adults arrive on November 2. In Mexico, the streets near the cemeteries are filled with decorations of cut paper, flowers, candy calaveras (skulls), and parades.
In terms of the beliefs distinguishing Spanish and indigenous practices, the Catholic system holds that the dead undergo purification (purgatory) before they can reach heaven, and their surviving loved ones must pray for their souls that are in need of mercy. In contrast, the natives saw death as a continuation of their relationship to the deceased that was strongest during these days in which their loved ones returned. The Mexican Día de los Muertos is a joyous and sacred time, a time to welcome the souls of the dead back to this world and celebrate life.
The first time I set up a home altar was in 2003, the year that my father died of lung cancer. I was living in Mexico City at the time, a student in my junior year on a study abroad program, and I needed to have a form, something tactile, a way to acknowledge the complexity of the continuity of death and life, and a way to show my gratitude not only for what my father had given me, but also for what death was teaching me.
Many years later, I began to create altars with my students and members of my university community in the wake of September 11, 2001 in New York City. It was cathartic to come together and express not only our profound distress, mourning, and fear, but also the determination to cope, and find strength in each other as we prepared collective altars and took refuge in ritual.
Over the years, I came into contact with one of the most important Midwest celebrations of Día de los Muertos when I lived in Chicago’s predominantly Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen. It was there that I began to conduct calavera poetry workshops, a tradition that eventually traveled with me to Columbus in 2013.
Here in Columbus, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of collaborating with Leticia Vazquez-Smith of Latino Arts for Humanity at the Muertos celebrations she coordinated at Frida Katrina Mexica Folk Art (2014), and this year at the Green Lawn Cemetery (sponsored with Columbus International Program). Here I’ve posted some photos of this event, which included a procession led by Columbus’ one and only Danza Azteca ensemble, a Catrina costume contest, original artwork, conceptual live art by Aleha Solano, and arts activities for participants of all ages.
Ph.D. candidate Fernando Lima e Morato, Leticia Vazquez-Smith, and I shared a combination of original and published calavera poetry. Since the 19th century, calavera poems have been a way that Mexican culture satirizes the prominent public figures of the time, giving a voice to the people who use this poetic form to remind powerful elites that, in spite of their displays of privilege, are all going to end up in the same place as everybody else in the end.
Here are two of my calavera poems that I shared at Green Lawn Cemetery this year. I hope you can join us in celebrating Día de los Muertos this year on November 2 at the Thompson Memorial Library (2-3:30) for a talk by Dr. Ignacio Corona and a calavera poetry workshop led by yours truly, and on Saturday, November 4, for the all-day family festival starting at 11:00 AM at the Gateway Library, and ending at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum on the OSU Columbus campus. Here come the dead!
CALAVERA TWEET #45
Here lies a great president
Who died of grief
From having hands that were too small
Now he’s there in the tomb
Nothing left to exhume
Tossing paper towels
To the dead
COLUMBUS LOVE IN THE BONES
Columbus love in the bones
Two rivers, zero U-turns
From game day traffic, no escape:
La calaca wears a Brutus cap
On December 2, we had our year-end Onda Latina open mic event at Wild Goose Creative that featured graduate student performances from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at OSU. Andy Downing published an article in Columbus Alive about minority perspectives and responses to the election featuring Onda Latina’s event. Check it out here!
We’re grateful for all of the energetic and heartening performances, including the CHUSMA BOX (“Rabble Box”) that was filled with anonymous comments from participants struggling to come to terms with the top-down climate of hostility after the election. In keeping with the tradition of audience members randomly selecting Chusma papers from the box and reading them aloud, we selected a few random papelitos from the box to share with you here, followed by a few images from the featured performances:
“The only wall that I like: Pink Floyd’s one”
“I’m tired of the myths we tell ourselves. Some people are not just blessed, it’s called privilege. Let’s call it what it is.”
“I carry my woman card. I carry my Latina card. I carry my friendship card. I will fight with love.”
“TAKE A SPANISH SELFIE”
At the “Take a Spanish Selfie” performance intervention, audience members posed with performers Celia Martinez Saez and Eric Garn.
“THE TRUMPOCALYPSE TEXT”
An audience/participant embraces Ryder Cunningham, who performed with Estelí Puente Beccar and Mariona Surribas Balduque in “The Trumpocalypse Text.”
Onda Latina Ohio is grateful for your participation and solidarity in 2016!
Onda Latina Ohio open mic partners with OSU Spanish and Portuguese graduate students to create an evening of performance art and spoken word with a focus on gender, power, sexuality, and the Trumpocalypse. Open mic available to ALL, en el idioma que prefieran, regardless of identity markers, with consideration to the creation of a safer space for Latinx and allies.
When? Friday, December 2, 2016, 8-10 PM
Where? Columbus Wild Goose Creative, 2491 Summit St, Columbus, OH 43202
All ages welcome, but parental discretion is advised
Where can I get free pizza for bringing visibility to Latin American women around the world? Read more…
Where: 160 Hagerty Hall
When: November 2, 5-8
Help us give visibility to Latin American women on the web by translating Wikipedia articles (from Spanish and Portuguese) into English!
We have a list of 70+ important women in Latin America who have very poor (or non-existent) Wikipedia pages in English and we hope to give them more visibility on the web and, consequently, make them more well-known in the US context.
Plus, it’s a great opportunity to practice your language skills!
How it will work:
1. When you arrive, give us your lastname.# or other email account;
2. We will email you a Google Spreadsheet with the following information: Name of woman, Country, Field of work, Link with source article, Approximate number of words in source article, Link with target article for you to edit (or, if it’s N/A, you will create a brand new page for her!).
3. Once you choose which article you want to translate (based on your favorite Latin American country, area of interest, or–let’s be honest–number of words), add your name and lastname.# to that article and highlight it in yellow. If an article in the Google doc is highlighted in yellow it’s because it is in progress of being translated.
4. Log in to your Wikipedia account. (We will teach you how to do it, it’s very easy.)
5. Translate away! Don’t be too shy to ask for help or ask any questions; we want this to be a very collaborative event.
6. Once you’re done, highlight in green the article in the Google doc. If an article is highlighted in green it means that it’s all done!
***BRING YOUR OWN LAPTOP***
There will be some laptops available for students who don’t have theirs, but not many.