Now in New York: Photography Exhibit about El Salvador

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
I don’t ever take for granted the fact that I live in New York City, where we enjoy so many resources and events related to Latin America. One of those resources is New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), which sponsors a number of lectures, exhibits, films, and other activities that are open to the public. Today, Francisco and I headed downtown to check out one of their current projects, the exhibit, “Stories of El Salvador.”

The exhibit is at NYU's Kimmel Center.
The exhibit is at NYU’s Kimmel Center.

There are many stories from Latin America that were never fully or well reported in the U.S., and the civil war in El Salvador was one of them. For this reason, the exhibit is important; at the same time, it probably doesn’t provide quite enough context and background for the visitor who happens upon it. Still, the powerful photos that comprise the exhibit, particularly the ones that were taken during the war itself, may be intense enough to provoke the viewer’s curiosity, compelling him or her to learn more.

“Stories of El Salvador” joins two different but complementary collections of photos. Because the venue, the Stovall Family Gallery on the 8th floor of NYU’s Kimmel Center, is not an actual gallery (just a hallway and part of a common room where students relax or study), and because it’s not staffed by anyone, it’s not immediately clear where the exhibit begins. Turn left and go through the glass doors, looking for the “Stories of El Salvador” text on the wall; after viewing the photos in the common room, come back out to the longer hallway for the remainder of the exhibit, which includes photos from the war and more recent images of women who were and remain involved in social justice initiatives related to the war.

A photograph by Susan Moelles in the exhibit.
A photograph by Susan Moelles in the exhibit.

The exhibit is only open through this Sunday, May 4, but the gallery is open daily. If you’d like to visit and you’re not a student, just be sure to bring a photo ID, which you’ll need to present to security on the ground level of the Kimmel Center at NYU (60 Washington Square South). The exhibit is on the 8th floor. There is no charge for admission.

Traveling While (Very) Pregnant: A Few Thoughts

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
It was noon-ish in Miami.

I’d just gotten off American, flight 647, JFK-MIA, and I was standing at the Ice Box Cafe in Terminal D, contemplating the relative financial and gastrointestinal merits of a salami and provolone sandwich versus “the green bowl” (brown rice, kale, and mushrooms) while waiting for my flight to Managua to board. For the record, I chose the latter.

I was also holding my phone between my shoulder and my ear, waiting for the receptionist at my midwives’ (yes, plural) office to answer the phone. At seven+ months pregnant, I’m at the point where I’m supposed to be making and keeping check-up appointments every two weeks, and I was trying to figure out when I could squeeze in the next appointment. Between my schedule (I will have slept in my own bed a total of two nights by the end of this month) and their schedule (the midwives only see patients Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday), getting something on the calendar before July wasn’t looking promising.

We made a tentative appointment I’m pretty sure I’ll have to reschedule and closed the conversation with “You’re feeling fine, though?” “Yep,” I answered. “I feel extraordinary.”

*

The observation tower.
The observation tower.
Due date: August 5-8, and here I am in Nicaragua, climbing to the top of an observation tower on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua to see the sun set. To be clear: I’m not throwing caution to the wind or inviting danger or coping with a crisis somewhere between quarter-life and mid-life. Instead, I’m on assignment, researching one of several big writing projects that were confirmed suddenly after a professionally fallow winter and early spring. I could have said no to these projects, and might have, if I didn’t actually feel as well as I reported to the receptionist. But I do feel well, so life and work carry on. Besides, in the writer’s feast or famine life, one learns to be pretty judicious about turning down opportunities when they come… especially if one is a writer who also has children.

*
Call it leaning in if you want to, but I want to be clear: I don’t say any of this to fly some flag that encourages pregnant women–especially very pregnant women–to throw off the proverbial bowlines, cut the safety nets, and hit the road (especially if your midwife or doctor has counseled against this. Mine have not.). One of the beliefs I hold most dear about pregnancy and parenting is that each mom has to trust her instincts. She has to know and act on what’s right for her and for her children, and she has to do this repeatedly, responding to constantly changing circumstances, both those that are intimately internal, including those that are physical, and those that are external, including the often limiting beliefs of others about what pregnant women and parents (moms, especially) can or can’t do. I know, for example, that it wouldn’t have been right or safe for me to travel alone and do what I’m doing during this pregnancy when I was pregnant with Mariel. Though that pregnancy was relatively easy, it was also different. I didn’t feel fleet on my feet. Instead, I often felt, especially by the third trimester, like a Weeble-Wobble in need of someone to follow me around and right me if I started tottering too far in one direction or the other.

But in this pregnancy, I’ve felt steady and sure and safe, and as I’ve been tearing around New York State and now, Nicaragua, baby Orion and I are rocking on.

Tonight, as the sun started to set on Lake Nicaragua, I looked up at the observation tower on the property where I’m staying. It looked high, sure, but not dangerous; it was well-constructed and even the last scramble to the top by ladder had sturdy handles. Wouldn’t it be absolutely incredible, I thought to myself, if I could one day tell Orion that we’d climbed to the top, he and I? If I could say to him that we’d listened to birdsong and watched the sun slide across the lake’s surface before it slipped behind a volcano to sleep?

What would that say to him about the gifts of this world and the possibilities that were open to him and to his sister, who also traveled with me when she was in utero? What would it tell my children about how much I loved the world, its places and its people, and how much I want them to know it, to go explore as much of it as they can for themselves?

I put my backpack on a lower platform and started climbing.

The view from the top was everything I hoped it would be.

View from the top.
View from the top.

And more.

Nicaragua in a Few Photos

Text & Instagram Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
I’ve left fashion and design behind in Managua, setting out first to the west (Leon) and then to the east (Granada) to see what I can see of Nicaragua in just a few days.

My brain is on information overload and I have a hundred questions, at least, but for now, I’m just taking in as much as I can.

Nicaragua Photo Collage.
Nicaragua Photo Collage.

Photo Descriptions:
Lion’s head door knocker in Leon, Nicaragua.

Bell of La Catedral Metropolitana de Leon, Nicaragua.

Water vendor with “Madonna! Madonna! Madonna!” cap. (Yes, he actually likes Madonna).

Cigar rollers at Dona Elba Cigars in Granada, Nicaragua.

El hombre Sandino. Statue at Loma de Tiscapa in Managua, Nicaragua.

To see more photos from Nicaragua, check out my Nicaragua gallery on Flickr.

Nicaragua Disena 2012: Video

Text & Video:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
Nicaragua Disena 2012 concluded tonight at the Crowne Plaza Convention Center in Managua, Nicaragua. The two-day event was full and intense, and in addition to feeling inspired by the work I saw presented on the runway and off, I especially enjoyed interviewing some of Nicaragua’s young, talented fashion designers and artists.

Here’s a quick summary, in video form, of the event. Though it was the first iteration of Nicaragua Disena 2012, I know it won’t be the last.

Diseña 2012 Opens, Inspires in Nicaragua

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**

Minister of Tourism, Mario Salinas, cuts the ribbon, signifying the opening of Diseña 2012.
Minister of Tourism, Mario Salinas, cuts the ribbon, signifying the opening of Diseña 2012.

Unlike most things in my life, I approached the opening of Nicaragua’s first design fair, Disena 2012, without expectations. I know a bit about Nicaragua’s culture and history, though not much, and I know even less (much less) about fashion, so for me, Diseña 2012 was the blank slate upon which any story could be written.

And what a story it’s been so far.

Massimo Argnani with one of his recycled lamps.
Massimo Argnani with one of his recycled lamps.
Speeches were offered and a ribbon was cut; then, attendees streamed in by the dozens. They circulated through a salon where designers of all types exhibited their work: lamps and furniture made of rescued trash and driftwood; handmade leather sandals with rope straps; spray paint art; and much more. The hum and buzz of the room was literal, the excitement completely palpable.

Then, those who came out to attend the free event, Nicaragua’s first international design fair, enjoyed a series of impressive runway shows, starting with student designers from the Universidad del Valle and concluding with the introduction of Shantall Lacayo’s newest line. Even without a strong grasp of fashion trends, I knew what we were seeing was good.

Really good.

Though all of the clothes and accessories (and the shoes… my God, the shoes! I have never seen so many high-high heels in one place in my life!) presented on the runway had qualities that impressed, the student designers were particularly impressive. I hope to track some of them down tomorrow for interviews.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos. And mark my words: Soon, Nicaragua will make itself known in global fashion circles.

Model practices on the catwalk while a future model observes carefully.
Model practices on the catwalk while a future model observes carefully.
Models on the runway during the first show.
Models on the runway during the first show.
The most impressive student designer's work on display on the runway.
The most impressive student designer’s work on display on the runway.
Models show off the work from Kuero, a collection of leather goods.
Models show off the work from Kuero, a collection of leather goods.
Pieces from Shantall Lacayo's new collection.
Pieces from Shantall Lacayo’s new collection.
Shantall Lacayo celebrates the showing of her newest collection.
Shantall Lacayo celebrates the showing of her newest collection.

Follow along on twitter, instagram (@collazoprojects), and Facebook. And for more photos, check out our gallery on Flickr.