By Vanessa Quintero
I had the opportunity to interview Delfina Martinez-Pandiani, a sophomore at Harvard University who recently created a mural that speaks for the voices of the Latina immigrant community, which is in desperate need of help and awareness. Her academic paper can be found here (it’s a pdf of ayuda-me-project.weebly.com, is there a way we can link it by itself?) and the website for the project is here (ayuda-me-project.weebly.com). All photos were taken by Camilla Gibson.
What exactly is your project about, for those who have not seen the website?
My project aims to garner attention and pay homage to the help-seeking experiences of Latina immigrants who face Intimate Partner Violence. The mural depicts the obstacles that these women face in their quest for help, which include cultural, structural, situational, and institutional barriers. The mural complements an academic paper that I wrote in regards to this topic, which carefully analyzes the precarious position of Latina victims through an intersectional and social-justice framework.
What, in particular, inspired this?
I was fortunate enough to be able to enroll in “Sexual Health and Reproductive Justice,” a seminar class at Harvard taught by the wonderful Madina Agénor. Through this class, I was able to research, question, understand, and address issues of reproductive justice through an intersectional approach. There, I was faintly introduced to the topic of domestic abuse among the Latina immigrant community in the US, and I decided to further research this topic on my own because of my own Latina identity and the prevalence of domestic abuse in this population. This in turn led me to pursue an academic paper on the topic, and the subsequent mural focused on this group because Latina immigrant victims in the US find themselves in an especially precarious position; intersecting axes of power frame their experiences, including gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status and class, among others.
I think that an understanding of the multiplicative effects of different social standings of distinct groups is imperative for effective prevention, intervention and advocacy programs. Thus, comprehending the precarious place that Latina immigrants populate when facing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) thus necessitates an intersectional approach that considers all levels of barriers: from the micro to the macro, from personal convictions to institutional policies.
How long did it take? Did you do it alone?
The mural took me approx. 5 days. I did it mostly alone. However, various friends passed by at different points to contribute some refreshments, company, and helping hands.
Is Harvard keeping it? Is it in a public location that people can visit?
The mural is currently in the basement of Lowell House, at Harvard University. Because the ‘mural’ was not done directly on the wall, but rather on a 7 x 7 ft. piece of canvas fabric, it is movable and can be taped to any wall. My goal is to be able to move it through different locations so that it can reach a broader audience. I am actually in communication with the Harvard College Women’s Center, it might potentially be moved there. I am certainly open to lend it if there is an organization/group interested in presenting it for a while (contact at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Have you gotten any feedback from the Latinx community on your project?
After sharing the project and pictures in social media, it was widely “liked” and shared, and I received various messages from Latinx friends and acquaintances expressing their gratitude for my decision to pursue this project. Some of this Latinxs expressed that they found it personally moving and poignant. Many asked for more information about the topic, so I decided to include the academic paper of the website I created for the project. I found this especially motivating and it has given me further incentive and enthusiasm for pursuing academic and artistic work that tackles these types of – often ignored – issues.
Do you hope to continue to create art that has an impact on the communities that need it? Do you have any future projects in mind?
I certainly hope to continue to create art that has an impact on the communities it references. I am currently toying with the idea of designing and creating another mural focused on a very different idea – that of “queerness” and its relationship with the Buddhist concept of “exchange of self and other.” Buddhist thought on non-dualism is extremely thought-provoking and I find that it is philosophically and theoretically very aligned with many concepts modernly thought of as part of “queer” theory. So that would be an interesting project to pursue. But there is an endless list of artistic projects I want to pursue, so I am not sure which one I will tackle first.