Jan 30, 2016


LA LIBERTAD, birdcage, iron, felt, found nests, thread, collaboration with
Wendy Coulson Catalan, with assistance from Soledad.

Huipiles are known to speak through their symbols, but here, the cage as skirt is the symbol. It represents so many women’s issues, from staying to leaving, from the urge to nest to the urge to fly.  From feeling trapped to feeling liberated, to feeling comfortable somewhere in between. These are the threads that run through every woman’s life, that are “felt” by all of us at some point in our lives. The freedom to feel and acknowledge these things is perhaps the first step to being fully alive.

Adding threads to the felt to begin the huipil

Sol places wool over the felt and threads

Sol sprinkles it with water to bind them together

Then gets it really wet, with steaming water 

Plastic is placed on top and bottom, so the water
can be squeezed out.

Se sabe que los huipiles hablan a través de sus símbolos, pero aquí, la jaula como falda es el símbolo. Representa tantos problemas de las mujeres, desde quedarse a irse, desde el deseo de anidar hasta el deseo de volar.  Desde sentirse atrapadas hasta sentirse liberadas, hasta sentirse cómodas en una situación intermedia. Estos son los hilos que pasan por la vida de cada mujer, que “sentimos” todas nosotras en algún momento de nuestra vida. La libertad de sentir y reconocer esto es quizás el primer paso para sentirnos completamente vivas.

Jan 3, 2016


Yesterday, day 2 of the new year, I had some vague intention of recounting the glories of 2015, and maybe some of what I know so far about 2016. All my ideas and plans were soon washed away, when I answered a persistent knocking at the door. There stood a young migrante asking if I could hire him to pull the weeds and clean up the street in front of my house. Josué, pronounced 'Ho-sway', said he was from Guatemala, working his way to el Norte, and really needed some money. Hearing that he had relatives in Antigua, my home away from home, and Rio Dulce, where my sister lives, I felt an immediate desire to help. 

(You may at this point be thinking "Stop helping migrants cross the border illegally. We have enough here already.")

Well, guess what? If it weren't so illegal, there wouldn't be a problem with that. As a U.S. citizen who can easily and legally cross the border, I harbor all sorts of guilt about the inequity in this. 

So I told Josué that if he wanted, I would pay him to clean the entire street, weeds and trash and everything else. Two hours later, he returned for trash bags and a broom, and brought all four filled bags to store in my garbage bin.  I asked him if I could take a photo of him, and when he walked into my studio, the conversation opened up.

First, he saw the huipil titled "Las Trazas" (see August blog  http://lenabartulalahuipilista.blogspot.mx/2015/08/collaboration-immigration-and-traces-of.htmland began trying to read it. 

Josué Carlos Mascadreño

Seeing him struggle a bit, I asked if he wanted to read it aloud, and with my help on a few words, he finished it. Why did he need help, you ask. He told me he has never been to school. Not one day. Let that sink in for a moment. I know. It took me some time too. How many adults do you know that have never been to school? Now at 23 years old, having taught himself to read and write, what Josué wants most is an education and a job.

Curious whether the poem he had read made sense, I asked him if it rang true for the migrant situation he knows so intimately. At first he answered simply "yes" then began to tell me some of his experiences and those of other migrants he knows. 

"it's a place deported from everyday life, where witnesses remain ephemeral.
Barbed border a constant reality, a disturbing presence"

As he looked at my computer, I asked if he had ever used one; he said no, but he knows what they are. I let him use my phone to call the bus station, to get the price of a ticket to the border. He has never had a phone in his entire life, but he knows how to use one. He laughingly said that he might want one someday, but that the way he sees people so addicted to them, he's not so sure.

Sometimes we think we have to be in a primitive jungle or undiscovered forest, to meet someone who has never been to school or had a phone. We don't. Sometimes we just have to open the door. From that chance encounter, this blog has been brewing.
How many of us have had conversations about immigration policy with a real immigrant? 
Talked about poverty with a truly poor person? 
Listened to first-hand experiences of traveling without food for days on end, trying to survive rapists, killers and Border Patrol? 

Let me just say, it isn't anything like reading a post on Facebook.