Amanda Gutiérrez: Topography of Time

Proyecto Latina collaborates with the 5th Electronic Music Festival/Festival de Música Electronica Latina (FMEL Chicago) to present

by Amanda Gutiérrez

Monday, August 20, 2012 @ 7 p.m.
Co-Prosperity Sphere. 3219-21 S. Morgan St.

A lecture and video installation that explores the archaeology of memory,  home and the relation to landscape: dissolution, edification and construction of immigrant transit.  The use of new technologies and exploration of narrative that emerges from the documentary through performance and real-time oral recreation. Topography of Time is a site specific video installation that weaves through the choice of pictures that illustrate more than three stories that are immigrant characters taken from the community where the project is developed. There are three basic concepts: dissolution, edification and constructing solutions that you link with real stories highlighting the adaptation process, and the symbolic relationship through memories of the city.

Amanda Gutiérrez a native of México City and resident of Chicago earned her Masters in performance and new media at The School of the Art Institute in Chicago.  She was only eight years old when she began working with performance and audio–fusing both disciplines into installation.  She has presented at festivals and exhibitions that include the Primer Encuentro de Performance México-Japón, Tercer Festival Internacional de Arte Sonoro, Segunda Bienal de Arte Contemporáneo (Puerto Rico),  KhiasmaGallery (Paris).  She has also participated in The Fellowship Competition (2007) and the Community Arts Assistance Program (2008), and she was selected as a finalist for the National Prize for Art Artadia Chicago (2009).  She is currently a recipient EMAN-EMARE 2012 (FACT, Liverpool).  Learn more about Amanda at

Details on the 5th Electronic Music Festival and free workshops, lectures and live art visit


April 2012: Victoria Martinez

Welcome poetry month!  Get your poems ready and bring them with you to the next Proyecto Latina because we want to hear them.  Then you are welcome to chime-in on the collaborative poem we are creating in response to the work of our featured artist Victoria Martinez, who is exhibiting a new body of work at Cobalt Studio in April.  Excited to integrate poetry into her work, Victoria is providing pieces of cloth for this activity that will be pieced together to create an exquisite corpse.  As for the Chisme Box–she will be front row, center and provide kudos and a high five if your chismes are in haiku format!

When: Monday, April 16, 2012
Where: Cobalt Studio, 1950 W. 21st St.
Time: 7 p.m.

Victoria Martinez is an interdisciplinary artist from Pilsen who received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is also a teaching artist who will be collaborating with youth from Yollocalli Arts Reach to create a soft sculpture installation to be exhibited at The Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University this summer.

Other Side Breathing a body of work inspired by various sites around Pilsen. They include alleyways, the abandoned mini mall on Cermak, the late La Unica taco shack, a flower shop and convenient stores. Upon the completion of exhibit, installations will be planted at designated sites and left to rest, live or disappear.

Suicide and the Silence that follows

Last November, I added my mother's name to an interactive ofrenda for Day of the Dead at Mattie Rhodes Gallery in Kansas City.

Last September I placed a call to speak to suicide survivors.  I chose to tackle a personal topic that carries a heavy social stigma as part of our Reportera Series.  I was not sure if anyone would respond—I knew firsthand that it was a private issue for most families and probably even more so in Latino communities. My grief still raw—I was determined to figure out a way to dissect the source of my most disempowering life experience. The call was followed by a level of silence and I chose to do what I have occasionally done in writing and reporting–sometimes you just have to wait and let the story unfold at its own pace.

A close friend that has recently dealt with this very issue in her life, expressed wonder as to how I could be so open about it.  So, I thought maybe it was a good starting point for me to explain why I chose to talk about becoming a suicide survivor on a public platform?

First, a story about my mom:

As a teen, I once accompanied my mother to a friend’s apartment.  Her friend was overweight, tired and unable to reach her feet and properly care for them.  As a result, she had festering calluses and they were a source of a lot of pain.  My mother took a plastic pan, filled it with warm water, poured Epson salt and had her friend soak her feet.  She then sat across from her friend, spread a towel on her lap and proceeded to take each swollen and battered foot and began to slowly massage it, slough away the rough skin and offer words of encouragement.

At the time,  a squeamish youth, I watched in quiet horror but in retrospect I recognize that my mother was providing her friend with the gift of love and care.

I saw this same friend at my mother’s funeral.  She offered her condolences and in her puzzled grief quietly inquired about the cause of her friend’s death.  Not many people had asked me directly, but because I knew she was my mother’s friend I decided to be honest.  When I told her my mother died by suicide she physically retreated in shock—as if it was a contagious plague or curse.  It was a reaction that initially caused me pain, then anger and finally sadness because it helped me realize that my mother’s community of peers—immigrant and working class—is not having an informed dialogue.  I suspect that its ingrained religious and cultural views that may prevent them to consider a more scientific view that concludes that suicide is the result of a mental or emotional disorder.  My mother suffered from depression and anxiety, pretty common conditions, one study found that one in five adults has a mental illness but these are topics that we don’t talk about.

Perhaps its a lack of understanding. I admit that my awareness of mental health prior to losing my mother was limited. I had misconceptions of mental illness, I thought it had to be extreme–think media imposed clichés.  But what resonates with me now is an aunt’s description of depression–subtle, silent and as toxic as carbon monoxide.  I now understand that mental health can be compromised by a spectrum of conditions and they can be obvious or illusive.

Something else that I recently discovered is that the suicide rate has risen steadily in the last ten years.  I was already familiar with  a study released some time back that revealed Latina teens were at higher risk, however the Centers for Disease Control does not differentiate between genders and reports that, “Native American and Hispanic youth [have] the highest rates of suicide-related fatalities. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9-12 in public and private schools in the U.S. found Hispanic youth were more likely to report attempting suicide than their black and white, non-Hispanic peers.”

According to the American Association of Suicidology, for each suicide there are an average of 6 survivors.  I don’t have enough fingers to count the people impacted by my mother’s death.   In the days that followed my loss, as non-functional as I was, I arrived to two conclusions: First, I needed therapy to help me cope.  Second, I would not let my mother’s suicide become an oppressive weight of shame to carry in addition to the grief.  It was a heavy load I saw many loved ones take on and I thought it was a disservice to her memory.  I still regret that it will be some time–if ever– before her friend learns to remember my mom as the caring friend she was and not how she died.

One of the greatest gifts that arrived into my hands, was a phone number to the LOSS program at Catholic Charities which provides support and resources for suicide survivors.  My therapist knows a lot about suicide—he’s a credible source as a survivor himself—and he gently explains and reminds me that, “People don’t chose to die by suicide—just like they don’t chose to die of cancer—it’s a disease that chooses them.”

Eventually–after placing my call to speak to suicide survivors–messages trickled into my inbox.  Some shared their own experience, and some offered encouragement.  These texts were quiet, virtual whispers that reminded me of the people that approached me in the days after losing my mom and shared their stories about suicide and mental health issues.  They were tid-bits of information that helped me understand that I was not alone—that there were a few out there that understood and shared my situation.  I got to sit down and speak with a couple of women and because of the sensitive nature of this topic I allowed and encouraged them to share terms of engagement—maybe, not the best journalistic practice but necessary in ensuring that I honor their stories–I will share a part of those conversations in futures blog posts.


Suicide Survivors

United States

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255), which is available 24/7, can be used anywhere in the United States, and connects the caller to a certified crisis center near where the call is placed.  More information can be found on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website:

This project is supported by the Local Reporting Awards, The Chicago Community Trust , Community News Matter initiative.  Get the full scoop on The Reportera Series.

What's it like to grow up in Little Village?


Early 90's: Primas and photobooth silliness at Ford City Mall.

Love in the time of Aqua Net and Crushed Cherries
was a piece I wrote a few years back when my friend Diana Pando posed the question, “What’s it like to grow up in the Little Village neighborhood?”  I didn’t start off writing about love–it’s a theme that emerged as the piece evolved and I allowed the creative process to guide me on a journey that ultimately led me back to my youth.  Below is the segment that includes the radio edit of this story–it aired on Vocalo on WBEZ a couple of weeks back.

[mp3t track="" title="03-24 Vocalo Hour 2"]

Did you grow up in Little Village?  Perhaps you grew up elsewhere but what was it like for you?  How does that story compare to what you read and see on the news and media?

You can share with us via the comments or drop us a line if you would like to guest blog.  Another avenue you might be interested in: Vocalo Storytelling Workshop is currently recruiting for a new group of storytellers deadline is April 16th.

Year-end reivew: Who were the creative risk takers?

A year ago Diana Pando provided a year-end review and five tips for the creative tool box–exercises to tone our artistic muscle.  After all, being a productive and dynamic artist takes the same attention and discipline an athlete might dedicate to a sport. A  look at the 2011 roster of featured artists at our Proyecto Latina Reading Series, and the work they presented is proof of the time and dedication that this group of women invest in their art.  Month after month, from comedic to somber each featured artist presented her work with a lot of heart and passion.  I had the privilege to witness many moments of courage and vulnerability as these women took creative risks on the Proyecto Latina stage.

What follows is a quick snapshot of our third Mondays in 2011:

  • January: Sandra Delgado shared a lyrical monologue that weaved family history and of the art of perfume making.
  • February: Xenia Ruiz shared excerpts from her novel, a memoir and her most recent manuscript.
  • March: Awilda Lyse Gonzalez shared short stories and poems on identity, her experience as a single mom,  and issues that effect women and our communities.
  • April: For National Poetry Month we featured Yolanda Nieves who read from her book The Spoken Body.
  • May: Kansas City writer Xanath Carranza presented poetry and narratives in English, Spanish and Nahuatl.  We also had work on display from visual artist Maria Esther Leon.  
  • June: Gwen La Roka  infused us with plenty of  laughter with her comedy. 
  • July: Claudia Martinez brought more humor with her improv and comedy.
  • August: Natalie Marlena Goodnow visiting from Austin, Texas presented her solo play Mud Offerings
  • September: Jazmin Corona exhibited photography and read a memoir piece. 
  • October: Stephanie Manriquez delivered a multi-media presentation on the challenges that drive her to create.
  • November: A tad bitter-sweet year-end when our feature Kelly Norman Ellis cancelled because she was sick and unable to present but that didn’t keep us from selecting a few poems from her book to share.

After the November Proyecto Latina Reading Series our team went out for celebratory drinks to toast to another successful year of creating literary and artistic programs in Chicago’s Southside communities of Little Village, Pilsen and Bridgeport.  We got down to business and on a cocktail napkin drafted a wish-list of 2012 calendar of features.

As I write this we are extending invitationsas soon as we have logistics confirmed we will be sharing our calendar.  As always, if you have someone you think deserves the spotlight drop us a line:

See you in 2012! Remember to save the date for the next Proyecto Latina,  01/16/12 @ 7 p.m. Details coming soon.