Each of our bodies, as Latina women, tells a story. I wear a scar on my left arm from an immunization. My belly is has Chile carved into it via an appendicitis scar received in Chile. The Chile on my bariga is surrounded by waves of stretch marks that curve down my hips and wash down to my belly button. These are from my MapucheRican, conceived in Chile. You wouldn't see these tales across my physical landscape unless you saw me in a bikini or even better yet, naked.
But we, as Latina women are told not to tell these stories. Not only we are told to verbally shut up and not use our voices to express our experiences but we are taught that the physical manifestations of out personal histories are ugly and should be covered up.
Yesterday I got to strip and tell my story and not in the same way I have with a lover or how I did for money. I had the opportunity to pose for an hermana of mine in front of many hermanas of mine, whom I had never met before today.
A talented and intelligent chica, whom I know from my early days as an activist, is a photographer. Her project LatiNatural
focuses on Latinas in the United States and the stories we all have and how the chapters of those stories are in our hair, our skin, and our scars.
I found out through a listserv that I am on that she was doing a last minute shoot for the project. I hadn't seen/spoken to the sister in years. Remembering her integrity as a Latina activist, I couldn't think of a better person to get naked in front of a camera for and a more interesting way to reconnect. In the years since I had last seen her, she had gotten married and even gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
I filled out a long online questionnaire about my body, my latinidad, my womanhood and the spaces where they connect before showing up at the studio with la MapucheRican in tow. I felt it was important for her to be a part of the experience as a Latina little girl who will one day be a latina woman.
When I arrived at the studio there were other women there already. One was telling the stories of the scars on her legs through tears. Then she slipped out of her clothes and into a white sheet before walking to the shoot area and proudly showing off her beautiful legs.
Another Latina, who had been photographed already, spoke about the scars she wore, caused by the bullet of jilted ex, a bullet she still carries with her.
A chicana with the most beautiful breasts , was photographed before me. She had brought a Lila Downs cd to give her strength and courage. She, a photographer, had just moved to New York City from Los Angeles a week earlier and now was among a sisterhood discussing everything from body image to motherhood to relationships.
I asked the hermana to leave the Lila Downs cd while I posed. I agreed to be fully nude, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me even a little bit. I felt incredibly beautiful if slightly physically uncomfortable beneath the hot lights as I moved my limbs emphasizing my hips, my belly, my breasts.
As I exchanged numbers and emails with some of the other woman , another woman posed, she resembled nothing less than an ancient Greek statue, except she was Latina. When she walked out of the studio with me, we both were laughing and commenting of how wonderful we felt, like we were the hottest things on the planet, like we could do anything.
Soon I will see the pictures. Maybe my naked figure will be in a coffee table book or be on a wall at an exhibition, but what will remain even more than the image, is the amazingly empowering experience and sharing it with other Latina women.