This project focuses on undocumented Mexican immigrant women who came to New York decades ago in search of opportunity for their families. Overtime they have built lives here and have become the elders of their community: the abuelas. Many have children and grandchildren living on either side of the border. Yet, twenty and thirty years later, still remain invisible and undocumented. The series centers on portraits of these women photographed in the intimacy of their homes. These images seek to convey the women’s relationship to place and the shaping and appropriation of their environment. In these photographs, the homes´ decorations become part of the women's wider symbolic recreation of culture, memory and ownership beyond borders.
I photograph these environmental portraits in a participatory manner. I ask the women: "How do you like to be seen or represented through photography?" They choose how and where they want to be seen in their homes and what outfits they want to wear. The series seeks to offer them the opportunity to face the camera and be depicted in a way that reflects their own sense of identity.
Although these grandmothers are seemingly well established in the city of New York, they must work in unstable jobs with low wages and are often the victims of exploitations and human rights violations. They work as house cleaners, seamstresses, nannies, factory workers and in restaurants.
Gisela Bravo Martinez in her apartment at 45th. St. in the neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York. She is from San Bernardino, Acatlán de Osorio, State of Puebla, Mexico. She has been living in New York City for more than two decades working in groceries and factories, though she is a professional seamstress. She is 66 years old and is a grandmother of 6.
Eugenia Cayetano is an immigrant from the state of Michoacán, México, born in a Mazahua indigenous family. Eugenia has been living in New York for 24 years and is part of a cleaning workers´ cooperative named "Si se puede”, based in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York.
Magda Gutierrez, born in the state of Tlaxcala, México, migrated to New York 22 years ago. She has three children and a granddaughter born in the USA. Magda has been part of several community organizations working for the rights of immigrants in Sunset Park. Brooklyn, New York. At her age, 38 years old, she is pregnant with her fourth child.
Yolanda Leticia, is a Mariachi singer from Veracruz, México and coordinator and teacher of the Mariachi Academy for children in New York. In her house in Jamaica, Queens she has a studio where she rehearses her singing. Yolanda, is considered the Queen of Mariachi in New York, appearing in various scenarios around of the United States singing the vernacular music of Mexico.
Elizabeth Herrera, in her house at Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She is From Temascalapa Puebla, living in New York for the last 16 years. She has two children born in United States, for now she has been working in a bakery and is part of the Adventist Church.
Alicia Cruz, is from Acatlán de Osorio, Puebla, México. She Works as a street vendor in a flea market in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Irma Verduzco is from Morelia, Michoacán, México. She came to New York 26 years ago, crossed the border with one of her two children. Actually, she has three jobs: cleaning houses, as a babysitter and picking up plastic bottles out on the streets. She lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York.
Dionisia Martínez, in her bedroom at 45th. street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She is a singer and dancer of Mexican folklore, born in Atencingo, Puebla, based in New York since 2002. Since then she has worked washing dishes in restaurants, selling balloons and cleaning. But her passion is singing. She is better known as “Lupe Cantarrecio” (Lupe “who sings out loud”). She has a role in the documentary “Me Voy” (I go) directed by the film making collective Mu Media.
Alicia Mendieta at her home on the 62nd. St. of Bay Parkway, Brooklyn. Alicia is an activist for immigrant rights in the city of New York. She has been involved in different pro-immigrant organizations. She came to the United States 16 years ago, leaving all of her family back in México. Her grandchildren call her “la abuelita de las maravillas” (wonder Granny). She has worked mainly as a nanny.
Juanita Torres de León, in the kitchen at her home on 59th. Street, Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She was born in Atencingo, Puebla, but 27 years ago she lives with her whole nuclear family in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York. Juanita is a member of St. Jacobi ’s Church and coordinator of the community kitchen. Juanita was part of the team that eventually came to be known as ¨Occupy Sandy¨ in 2012, feeding the volunteers who were helping hurricane victims.
Engracia Arellano, in an immigrant from Temascalapa, Puebla, México. She has been in New York for 25 years, working in different kind of jobs, but mostly in factories. The last 11 years, she has been living in Bushwick with her Family. She loves to cook Pozole.
Honorina Moran from Huajuapan De León, Oaxaca, she is 67 years old and lives in Long Island city with her family. Honorina came to New York 12 years ago, crossing the Mexican border to reunite herself with her family because all of her daughters and grandchildren live in the United States.
Mary Rojas, is an immigrant from Izúcar de Matamoros, Puebla, México. She has been in New York for 20 years living in Astoria , Queens.
Paulina Garcia, is from the community of San Juan Tianguismaninalco of the state of Puebla, she has been in New York for 20 Years. Paulina has one grand daughter born in the United States. She is a hairstylist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is 50 years old.
Guadalupe Lara, is an activist. After the hurricane sandy in 2012 she became involved in the church of St. Jacobi, -where she is the president of the church council-, the main hub of what came to be known as ¨Occupy Sandy¨, where she organized and coordinated the food supplies that kept coming every day to provide food and help to the victims of the hurricane. Lupe likes to go to casinos.
Alejandra Mendez, is from the neighborhood Colonia León, Atlixco, Puebla. She immigrated to New York 20 years ago, since that moment lives in Corona Queens with her husband and two children. To make a living Alejandra works cleaning houses while in her spare time she likes to do crafts and cook.
Yolanda, Is an activist member of the organization New Sanctuary Movement. She is originally from Xochihuehuetlán, state of Guerrero, México. But for 20 years she has been living in the Bronx. She likes tattoos and cook the traditional food of his town, like the “pozole".
Josefina Torres, is from La Unión Tecomatlán, Puebla. She is a professional baker of traditional Mexican breads. Josefina emigrated to the United States in 1974 and since then she has been living in the Bronx. Currently, she has 13 grandchildren.