Skip to main content

Full text of "Religion & Liberation Issue IV"

See other formats

Religion & Liberation 


Religion & Liberation 

Issue 4: Religion & Liberation 1s made possible by the Queens Council 
on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of 
Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. 



Founder & Director 
Stephanie Ahaga 
Magazine designed by Stephanie Alhaga 
Cover Art by Paola de la Calle 
Illustration below by Ariana Ortiz 

Creative Director 
Ariana Ortiz 

Content Producer 
Denisse Jimenez 


Reza Moreno 

Education Coordinator 
Yovanna Roa-Reyes 

Published by Mujeristas Collective. 
All rights reserved 2020. 











Catholic School Uniform 

Sarah Yanni 

Youth Day 
Alysa Bradley 

Dara Burke 


Denisse Jimenez 

Not For You 
Amy Bravo 

I Pray 
Reza Moreno 

Darling Alvia 

Alejandra Lopez 

Una leyenda negra 

Ariana Ortiz 

Ashley Sanchez 




2 | 






La pobreza del hombre 
Paola de la Calle 

La posteridad nos hard justicia 
Angela Portillo 

Tiquani Story 
Tanya Leyva 

Confiar en la Tierra 
Gabriela Hnizdo 

The land of milk and honey 
Darling Alvia 

Indigenous Roots 
Victoria Garcia 

Decaying self-portraits 
Gilda ‘Tenopala Gutierrez 

Guadalupe as Liberator 
Stephanie Ahaga 

Cerro de las Tres Cruces, 
Banu Bayraktar 


Growing up in the Black Church, 
women are valued for our appearance 
and the monetary support we provide, 



penny loafers: you wanted converse, anything else 
really. the shiny black leather, ephemeral shine, 
racked up mom’s card at the uniform store. your 
feet would protest, the shoes too slim, squeezing 
appendages on the journey from english to math. it 
seemed far-fetched, the notion of needing to erase 
variety, all the way down to the enclosure of toes. it 
was supposed to subdue class difference, although 
everyone knew. the knock-off loafers from target, 
one-eighth the price, an instant label. you placed 

a copper gold penny in the front for good luck, 
knowing you’d need it with the nuns / knee high 
socks: buckling knees, your father’s inheritance, the 
pain in your body you noticed the most. a choice of 
navy or white, the thick wool and cotton covered 
your shins, modest limbs. an august heat made 
manifest, the socks were non-optional despite triple 
digit temperatures. a trail of sweat on your lower 
legs, scrunched down near the teachers you know 
would go easy, a temporary reprieve, a blessing / 
pleated skirt: we took them off to let you in. years 
of shortening the thick fabric, hemmed, rolled, and 
for what? to look more seductive, i suppose. in 
middle school, mom made you wear it full-length, 
plaid and coarse, past your knees. you cried on the 
first day because you looked different, didn’t look 
sexy, didn’t know 13 year olds were supposed to. 

it was the beginning of bottom eyeliner and who 
did what behind the gym, and you wrote in your 
diary and made up scenarios about everyone who 
breathed near. you secretly bought a shorter skirt, 

wishing to belong, switching out of your long one 



in the back of your neighbor’s car every morning as 
it drove away from home / polo (tucked): baby pink 
color, always the favorite. you had a few options 
but none as subdued. a girlish pink, adequate and 
fitting for your bodies. virginal and fresh! a small 
school logo above your breast, a stamp for the 
public world to see. you didn’t go to any school, 
you went to the one with the convent, only women. 
you will get so used to tucking in your shirt that 
even after abandoning the uniform, the habit will 
continue. scrunching fabric near your tailbone, 
visible through all clothes. neckline buttons always 
falling off, you learned how to sew them back on 
regularly. baby pink yarn to match the polo, no 
evidence of disassembly / blazer: heavy shoulder 
pads made you feel safe, protected. larger than you 
actually were. pins adorned the collar, bright ones, 
from tender things that you enjoyed without shame. 
golden crosses puncturing fabric, that was the time 
you loved church and religion and found comfort 
in hymns. soon, you will remove them, put them in 
boxes, forget. you'll lose the clips, you’ll lose all 
faith. the blazer will assume its place in a plastic 
bag in a coat closet that smells like old age. like 
those parts of you, gone / ribbon: not an official part 
of the uniform, but a common adornment. the top 
of the christmas tree. young girls, good girls, soft 
ribbon atop a high ponytail. tied into a perfect bow, 
usually white silk. you always tried to use one but 
it protested against your coarse curls. it fell in the 
wrong way or out completely. another way you did 

not belong, another way your body did not match. 

but not the leadership potential we 
have. Women are often taught to 
silence ourselves into salvation by 
submitting to men. 

In many Black Churches, the pastors, 

reverends, and pulpit associates 
are predominantly male when the 
congregations are largely female. 

Speaking and preaching as a woman 
in the Black Church is always political. 
I imagine performing a poem is even 

more political. 

Listen to Alysa Bradley's spoken 
poetry performed at First Calvary 
Baptist Church in Brooklyn below. 

rah eo ‘ 

[4 ane Pye. 

me ep 


by Dara Burke 


Denisse Jimenez 

The funny thing about my connection to the 
Catholic faith is that no matter how much I work 
to distance myself from it, it always seems to be 


But a Catholic identity reaches far beyond one’s 
participation. My dad grew up as a poor Catholic 
in Dublin. My mom grew up as a poor Catholic 
in San Juan and the South Bronx. My parents 

are reasonable, relatively progressive people—yet 
both defend the institution of Catholicism in a 
way that appears wholly incompatible with every 

other aspect of who they are. 

My dad says the faith is in his DNA, a tagline 
that reminds me that Catholicism is not a 
political party I can simply choose to support 
or disavow. It’s woven into the fabric of 

my heritage and family history, along with 
famine, alcoholism, and the other maladies that 

perpetuated poverty for generations. 

I’m disgusted by the fact that Catholicism 

is so entrenched there, too. This disgust is 
compounded by the fact that my ancestors were 
forced into a faith that continues to be used to 
cut me and others off from fundamental rights. 
I hate the brash culture of conservatism and 
anti-intellectualism that permeates the Catholic 
community. Brett Kavanaughs were a dime a 

dozen on Sundays. 

When my parents outgrew their marriage, we 
steadily began to sit farther back during mass, 

and eventually sat awkwardly on a staircase 

behind the rest of the congregation. This broken 
system that has gaslighted generations of my 
family is like an extra organ sprouting inside of 
me. It sits in my innards, a lump of coal that fills 
me with guilt, regret, and self-loathing. I resent 
my family for refusing to allow themselves to 
detach from the church. But really, I resent that 
I can’t seem to either. This brave new world is 

a secular one, but part of my spirit still rests in 
the faith along with its history of abuse against 
the people that made me. I unplug from science 
and ethics for the comfort that is my faith in an 
omniscient, inherently merciful being. In true 
Catholic fashion, I feel great guilt about the fact 
that I still feel connected to the Christian God I 

was raised to believe unquestioningly. 

I sometimes wonder if I can ever come to terms 
with my Catholic identity and reclaim it as a 
point of pride. Perhaps someday I’Il be able 

to discuss my experience of Catholicism in a 
way that does not make me feel heavy. The 
trouble is, I don’t think that guilt and shame are 
compatible with pride. I believe that any sort 

of acceptance of my inner Catholic kid will 
involve forgiveness: forgiveness for my parents 
for baptizing me into a religion that promulgates 
hatred; forgiveness for the church community 
for not providing the support and acceptance my 
family needed and deserved; most importantly, 
forgiveness of myself for my inability to detach 
from my Catholic roots. To be honest, I’ve never 
been good at forgiveness. Hopefully God is, if 
all I was taught turns out to be true. Otherwise, 

I’m pretty much screwed in terms of the afterlife. 



I found this framed drawing of the 
Virgen Maria on Washington Avenue 
in Fort Greene. ‘The painting was 
behind glass which meant I could 
easily paint a new layer onto the image 
without damaging the original piece. I 
knew that this image had to have been 
made by someone else who was Latin 
American, and I was interested in the 
idea of collaborating with a stranger 
in my neighborhood who exists within 
my culture. I painted over the figure 
with white and left the face drawn 

by the stranger revealed, along with 
the linework and drawing of Jesus in 
the background. ‘This piece feels like 

a representation of my whitewashed 
upbringing but raises questions about 
whitewashing of religious figures 
throughout history. 

Amy Bravo 

I Pray 

Suffocated with guilt 

Judgement day 1s all around us when religion pours through our veins 
If religion is going to separate us as brothers and sisters and put borders 
between us, then I want no part in that 

But I still find sanity when I close my hands real close to pray to a God I 
can’t seem to see or hear, even if this God doesn’t exist, they take away 
my fears and anxieties 

I find security inside a church because it reminds me of my parents that I 
seem to be lacking 
If this same church is going to throw hateful words around, then leave me 

If I ever feel the need to force feed my children these hateful words that 
somehow end up in Christ’s children’s mouth then tie up my hands and 

throw away the key: please, I pray that I never end up like my parents. 

Growing up Catholic in my family meant saving myself for marriage, 
that a man would never want me if I was tainted. 

Growing up Catholic meant I was not allowed to explore different ideas 
or beliefs. 

Growing up Catholic meant I was shackled to a bible that preached no 
form of liberation for the humanity it was trying to control. 

This is why I pray, I pray, I pray. I pray for those blinded by spirituality to 
one day see. 

Reza Moreno 


Darling Alvia 


"ie ay et rrr? 

fs i So a amy 

4 oy 

The base layer of the photo is my grandmother's passport when 
she immigrated to the United States in 1963 from Dominican 
Republic. Her middle name was Altagracia, which is the patron 

saint of Dominican Republic so I made her into a more modern, 

pastel version of Altagracia. 

Alejandra Lopez 

una leyenda negra 

those who need to know, know: 
the old magic still runs hot, underpaints 
air, ground, the sunspots that fleck the wall 

in weak, irreverent moments, 

I hope its echo limns my body, too, 
helps guide yours closer, 

thready pulse at my back 

though the true binding—the names, the 

has long since been sapped from our heads, 
wrenched from our mouths 

but what are matters of truth when la virgen, 
crowned, brownskinned 

smiles at me warmly, her dark eyes leading me 
to love? 

arlana ortiz 


on Sunday I 

looked for god in the mirror. 
unbraiding my hair, 

I paused because 

Mary doesn’t have thick eyebrows, 
her face is smooth and hairless 

and it doesn’t look like mine. 

angels dont look like me either, 

they are peaceful and they are pale and blonde. 

they do not carry the reality of brown womanhood on their shoulders. 

not like me. they have nothing to lose. 

so, it only made sense, on that Sunday morning, 

that god wouldn't look like me. 

god cant look like me, 

a brown woman with a halo of black hair, 

and dark eyebrows and dark peach fuzz and dark eyes to match, 

because god wouldnt be told to stay in the shade and god wouldnt be told to 
silence themselves, 

god wouldnt be told that she bleeds every month because the first woman on earth 
was a sinner, 

god wouldn't be told that she came from the rib of man, 

god wouldnt be told to compromise. 

on Sunday I 
tried to talk to god, 

I was six when my mother taught me how to talk to god. 
with our right hands outstretched she showed me, 

first touching the temple, 

then the center of the chest, 

then each shoulder. 

she told me our conversations were holly, 

god would protect me because I, too, am a child of god. 

I was six years old and I remember I tried to speak to god that night. 

god knew my name because when I was too young to remember, 

my parents took me to church, and I was bathed in holy water and 

my grandmother cried, 

then in the third grade I was clothed in white once more 

and my grandmother cried 

when I consumed Jesus's flesh and blood. 

that night, god listened until I fell asleep, 

and I was calm, and my mother was calm because she had showed me the way. 

when I was old enough to hear the story 

of my grandmother’s immigration to the united states, 

she told me that it was thanks to god that she did not die in the desert, 
thanks to god that she is here now, in her apartment, 

now a citizen of the country that raised me. 

and in that apartment, above the dining room table, is Jesus himself, 

painted sitting at his own table, at his last supper. 

for as long as I can remember Jesus has watched us eat, 

for as long as I can remember crosses hung above my grandmother’s door, 

for as long as I can remember she has lit prayer candles in times of need. 

god listens to my grandmother, and god listens to my mother, 

and that makes me think that maybe god 

is a brown woman. 

because god listens and understands, and god made sure that my grandmother made it here 
safely. she looks out for her own. 

and maybe the painters had it all wrong, 

maybe Mary was brown like me and her upper lip also had peach fuzz, 

maybe her eyes, too, were brown infused with the gold that was ripped from the earth, 
maybe her mother told her to stay in the shade and that is why she made sure that 

I was born with the same brown skin, because she wasn’t allowed to celebrate her 
brown-ness and she wants her daughters to be able to. 

maybe they had it all wrong: 

maybe god didn’t want riches all in her name, 

maybe god didn’t ask for invasion and colonization of my parents’ countries. 
I wonder, 

does she look at the empire on which the sun never sets and 
feel pain, 

does she see the phrase “holy war” 

and laugh at the thought, 

does she hold her breath and wait for liberation, 

does she ache for restoration like me, does she 

cry when she watches over us. 

something tells me god just wants her creations to be appreciated. 
something tells me she is tired of conquests and steel and smoke. 

I think god is a woman. 
she is tired and 
her work is taken for granted. 

maybe god is brown like me, maybe angels are brown like me, 
maybe god made us bleed because we are ferocious and powerful, 
menstruation a reminder that we can support life, a reminder that we are divinely human. 

maybe she knows the secret that women did not sprout from man’s rib because 
us women belong to ourselves and nobody else. 

the force of creation lies within me, 

and god made it so. 

maybe I, too, am holy. 

on Sunday I 

looked for god in the mirror. 

she smiled back at me, 

brown eyes the color of earth and honey. 





ETpar Overs COUT UINORE: U0 Sak = YC Sep eee A + 

hy i 

SUSY SR Re. Liberation ‘Vheology insists that we center the poor in our 
= ees WL2.WA NW, Sees — t+ 
es BE VAAN : 


~ y. struggle for liberation. ‘This mixed media collage, which 

SS 7 a 1 

ON AAS 3 St so Th | FE sits on top of a map of South America, urges us to look at 
2 : 1 capitalism, colonization, and the exploitation of America 

Latina as the root cause of poverty and migration. 


Paola de la Calle 

* "The poverty of man as a result of the richness of the land 


Angela Portillo 


Confiar en la Tierra 

Gabriela Hnizdo 

‘Tanya Leyva 

20 21 

The land of milk and honey 

Sunday mass, sermons about the promised land. 
The rules to get us there. 

I was promised a land of milk and honey. 

A lane paved with gold. 

Finding serenity in His kingdom. 

‘The rules to keep us pure. 

‘Til judgment day, kingdom come. 

Why go to heaven, when heaven is here? 

I found the promised land in her words. 

The lane paved with gold rest down her belly. 
The kingdom between her thighs. 

Her lips taste of milk and honey. 

‘There are no rules to reach her. 

Come as you are she whispers in my ear. 

I fall to my knees. 

‘The quiver in her voice is the Holy Ghost. 
And I feel a revival. 

Now Sunday mass feels like an extra task. 

A pointless act. 

I know how to find the promise land. 

I hear it in every good morning. 

And I can taste it on my tongue. 

I can feel it in her fingertips, while they glide across my body. 
She is the kingdom. 

The promise. 

‘The land of milk and honey. 

Darling Alvia 


As we discover the history behind “Catholic” beliefs and practices within 
Latin America, we end up connecting with indigenous roots. There are 
still so many traces of pre-Columbian culture in our present-day spiritual 


Victoria Garcia 




tie de) , 7 
ae mle oe ne 

Gilda Tenopala Gutierrez 


Expanding the liberation image of Guadalupe in a decolonial and pro-indigenous womanhood 

La Virgen de Guadalupe s “cinnamon brown” skin and her Aztec (of Nahuatl) tongue gave the 
indigenous people a symbol of freedom after the European Catholic conquest of the Americas and 
gave Mexican-Americans a cultural and religious identity and also a symbol of liberation in social 
movements. pale pei dressed in traditional clothing and appearing to be an Indian or mestiza 

shows tl aly OL) a we i of _. 
However, r n skin gets | tional and popular images 

and loses her ae of being an indigenous or mix Me ale that gave the conquered 
people a desirable image to identity with. In order to réclaim The érasure of the racial history 
of La Virgen de Guadalupe, we must reframe a liberating, anti-racist, sex positive, pro-brown 
and indigenous womanhood imagery of Guadalupe in these traditional and popular images. Artists 
and theologians have bgen constructing their own representations of Guadalupe inspired by their 
own experiences — sexual identity, but what about addressing the westernized images of La 

Virgen de sii: 3 TTC 

Before jC agate of La Virgen de LEC in a ‘FON: 1S Kou 
female deities and Were closely connected to the energy of the eartl Y). ents 

and human life yoomedicuc, which translates from Nahuatl to “shirt of snakes,” was the goddess 
of the cosmos, sacred guardian and mother image for the Mexican nation and Mexican motherhood. 

The place of worship for the deity Coatlicue was located on the hill of Tepeyac in Tenochtitlan, 
Mexico City (Peterson 14). Spanish conquistadors destroyed the place of worship at Tepeyac to 
impose Christianity on the tte but they weren t able to destroy the birth of La Virgen 

de Guadalupe “C Oa’ Tl Tio fe beliefs. 

On December 9, 1531, a Nahau Indian man named Juan Diego was on his way to his categhism classes 

when he heard birds singing at the hilltop. He then heard Q and when 
he followed it to the top of the hill of Tepeyac, he saw -Onant 0 7in e Nahuat 1 
language and gdentified herself as Mary, the mother of nd She asked Juan Diego to go to the 
bishop of uan Zumarraga, to build a shrine in her name on the hill of Tepeyac. 
Since Juan Juan: indigenous man, the bishop did not believe him. After the third time 
of going to > bishop, the bishop finally believed Juan Diego when he dropped his tilma and roses 
fell on the ground and the image of Guadalupe was imprinted on his cloak. The Nican Mophua is the 
most popular version of Guadalupe’ s story written by Luis la Vefg in 1649. It is also 
argued that Don Antonio W&eriano wrote it. 

What’ s so significan ek ©: Guadalupe is that 6 ek, a lowly Indian 

Or mestizo when she co ave’ aasylY-appeared to a noble Spanish ruler or a respected 

official. Her physical appearance resembling Juan Diego’ s brown skin made indigenous pet “ee 
represented and closer to Guadalupe. Her location on Mount iis was the ancient sit 

Aztec goddess Tonantzin that had been worshipped for decade i 
“The Spa ha OF hay 
The Spanish “yo Hernan Cortés Madonna with higeden 

searching for g and encountering the indigenous peoples of Mexico (Kilroy-Ewbank). Tel White 
(European) VirgS 
to the New Wag te 
In 1764, Guada became the patroness and national symbol of Mexico’ s liberation. }=—/-jed 
Mexican War of oo in 1810 to 1821, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla chose Guadalupe’ s 
image to ral los ton tron indigenof®s peoples while changing “Viva Guadalupe.” 

During the rath fee mee trom V7 & ve ff Possature was carried with the 
C.': P¥n beginning of 1960s in California, 

peasant fighte oP os Emiliano Za 
the National FartfWorkers Association led by César Chavez and Dolores Huerta chose Guadalupe 
as a labor ee eigen for farmworkers i led 1Ousands of campesinos to strike against 
exploited work ‘a ae represent n : alin . The power of Guadalupe S 
dark complexion owed nes ge WAC a symbol to rebel ‘against 
the rich, upper ay middle class >~@gainst their subjugation - he poor and the indio.” These 
examples show t the representation of La Virgen was able to unify in Mexico and the United 
States, stephanie aliaga 

Latinx feminist artists and writers began reframing a sex-positive and queer 
representations of Guadalupe, coming from their own sexual identities and experiences of their 
sexuality in their culture. They also challenged the passivity and sexuality of Guadalupe. In Alma 
Lopez s digital art piece, “Our Lady challenges the patriarchal concepts of womanhood and a 
women $s sexuality such as queerness and to have control over our bodies and identity. Which pone 
against the concept of marianismo and the controlling image that the Virgen Mary can be perceived. 
In 1973. Evelvn P. Stevens. coined the word. marianiema which hac ite rante fram the Raman 

r the “black virgin” of Spain was transformed and appropriated am 
‘eh 169). 

Concédeme la serenidad para aceptar 
las cosas que no puedo cambiar 

el coraje para cambiar las cosas 
que puedo y la sabidurta para 

reconocer la diferencia. 

Banu Bayraktar 

In Religion and Liberation, 

Mujeristas Collective addresses a vital part of Ada 
Maria Isasi-Diaz’s vision of mujerismo: liberation 
theology, a grassroots Christian movement that 
emphasizes action to achieve freedom from social, 

political, and economic oppression. 

Containing visual and written works by women 
of color and Latinas across the U.S., “Religion 
and Liberation’ explores our layered relationships 
with spirituality and organized religion itself, and 
confronts the entangled natures of politics and faith. 
It delves into the question of whether there is a future 
in religion as a means to liberation, and where 

that might begin. 

Published by Mujeristas Collective 

a]eD ke] ep ejoeg Aq We 19A072