Yolanda Nieves: documenting the daughter's of the diaspora

Yolanda Nieves: documenting the daughter's of the diaspora

I had the opportunity to sit down with Yolanda Nieves a couple of weeks ago in anticipation for our Proyecto Latina March 16th feature of Brown Girl Chronicles. It was a couple of days before they premiered the sold-out show and I was invited to stick around after our chat to see a dress rehearsal of the show. What a treat, I can’t wait to check them out again tonight–and I know that they have recently scheduled more show dates for May.

Yolanda and the inter-generational Vida Bella Ensemble allowed me back-stage access and indulged all my questions. Below is the my interview with Yolanda Nieves. She speaks about how Brown Girl Chronicles emerged, the idea of permission is explored, and you learn how she decided to focus her lens on the experience of second generation Puerto Rican women from Humboldt Park—-she calls them daughters of the diaspora* whose families immigrated from Puerto Rico to Chicago through Operation Boot Strap**.

Part I: Interview with Yolanda Nieves, 8:18

Part II: Interview with Yolanda Nieves, 7:54

Part III: Interview with Yolanda Nieves, 5:32

*The term diaspora refers to the movement of any population sharing common ethnic identity who were either forced to leave or voluntarily left their settled territory, and became residents in areas often far removed from the former. Diasporic cultural development often assumes a different course from that of the population in the original place of settlement. It tends to vary in culture, traditions and other factors between remotely separated communities. The last vestige of cultural affiliation in a diaspora is often found in community resistance to language change and in maintenance of religious practice.

**Operation Bootstrap or “Operación Manos a la Obra” is the name given to the ambitious projects which industrialized Puerto Rico in the mid-20th century. The goal was that the densely populated island could not subsist on an agrarian system, so the government encouraged the establishment of factories. Puerto Rico enticed US companies by providing labor at costs below those on the mainland, access to US markets without import duties, and profits that could enter the country free from federal taxation. Through this project, a rural agricultural society was transformed into an industrial working class. Unfortunately by the 1960s, Operation Bootstrap was increasingly hampered by a growing unemployment problem thus leading to the forced migration that Yolanda Nieves spoke about.

PROYECTO LATINA – MARCH

PROYECTO LATINA – MARCH

The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: The Director’s Cuts Otherwise Known as “Antojitos”

Springtime is right around the corner and Proyecto Latina has some wonderful surprises for you! We KICK OFF our March Proyecto Latina with a special Director’s Cut from the Brown Girls’ Chronicles so even if you missed their sold out show you can still check them out.

The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women and Resilience is a
collection of the stories,voices and songs that long to be heard; the stories of how race, ethnicity, gender, and colonialism shape the lives of marginalized women.

Proyecto Latina Co-Producer Irasema Gonzalez will be doing an interview with the lovely and talented ladies of the BrownGirl’sChronicles. You can listen to the interview Sundays at 6 p.m. orcheck back on the Proyecto Latina website for the podcast.

Monday, March 16 @ 7 p.m. -FREE!
Radio Arte1401 W. 18th StreetChicago, IL 60608
http://www.mapquest.orgNear blue line / 60 Blue Island Bus/18th St. Bus
Gotta a question? Info@proyectolatina.org
Written and directed by Yolanda Nieves, The Brown Girls’Chronicles are the stories of second generation Puerto Ricanwomen who in their day-to-day lives are the embodiment ofstruggle for independence of mind, soul, heart and body.
The Brown Girls’ Chronicles is the long-timerealized desire of Nieves to continue the constructionof her identity, a desire shared by her generation andby the youth of Chicago too. The show, based on thecollection of interviews from scores of secondgeneration Puerto Rican women, is perfectly describedas “…a vibrant and truthful perspective of the Puerto Ricanwoman’s experience in Chicago…” by cultural/artistic activist Carlos Flores, “…it eradicatesan existing void.”
The Vida Bella Ensemble features:


Laura Magdalena Nieves is a third generation Puerto Ricanwoman born and raised inChicago. Laura is pursuing herbachelor’s degree in zoology and is a member of Phi ThetaKappa, a national honor society. She is also a spoken wordartist and a sketch artist. Laura has danced with Grupo Yuba,a bomba-plena dance troupe from Chicago, as well as with SpicyDance Rhythms, the all women’s dance troupe at Wright College.Two years ago she made her debut in the play “Brown GirlsSinging.” Laura is excited to be working with the amazing cast of“The Brown Girls’ Chronicles” and is grateful for the influence strongPuerto Rican women have had in her life.

Anabel Duarte is a second generation Puerto Ricanwoman and isproud of having been born and raised inHumboldt Park. A Gordon Tech High School graduate,Anabel is currently attending Northeastern Illinois Universityand majoring in business management. “The Brown Girls’Chronicles” is Anabel’s first production. Anabel is excitedand thankful to be part of this endeavor. It is her desire thatwomen everywhere can connect with the universal messageof the Brown Girl Chronicles.

Natalie Mia Bermeo is a second generation Puerto Ricanwoman with a strong passion for acting and the performing arts.A sophomore at Carl Schurz High School, Natalie has beenacclaimed for her work in improvisational theater. A member ofLas Caras Lindas, a mentoring program for young Puerto Ricanwomen established this year in the Humboldt Park community,Natalie is delighted to be a member of the Vida Bella Ensemble,and is determined to pursue acting for many years to come.

Yolanda Nieves is a second generation Puerto Ricanwoman born and raised in Humboldt Park. She is the“The Brown Girls’ Chronicles” playwright and director.Yolanda is also an award winning poet (The Jane’sStories Foundation award winner 2006) and publishedher first collection of poems, Dove over Clouds, in 2007.In 2007, Yolanda successfully co-wrote and co-directedher first production, “Brown Girls Singing” which wassuccessfully staged at University of Chicago and JaneAddams’ Hull House. She has also performed parts of theplay to great acclaim at the University of Manchester, England;the University of Guanajuato, Mexico; and the University of Rio Piedras in Puerto Rico. Yolanda performs her poetry atvarious Chicago venues and is an active memberof the Neighborhood Writing Alliance-Humboldt Park Branch.She holds a B.A. from Loyola University, an M.A. from LoyolaUniversity,an M.A. from Northeastern Illinois University, and is currentlya doctoral candidate at National-Louis University. She is alsoa Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Fellowship winner. Yolanda isgrateful for the circle of women, those of the past, present, andfuture, and all the godmothers and godfathers that have sustainedthe creative integrity of “The Brown Girls’ Chronicles: Puerto RicanWomen and Resilience.”

Diana Cruz is a third generation Puerto Ricanwoman. She is honored to be part of the Vida BellaEnsemble and performing in the Brown Girls’ Chronicles.A Chicago native, she holds a B.A. in Communications andis pursuing her Master’s degree at Spertus Institute. She is aproud member of Saboreando Obras Latinas (S.O.L.), andindependent publishing press, and is an active participant ofthe Neighborhood Writing Alliance. Diana also sings with theChicago Puerto Rican Community Chorus. She has beenpublished in several issues of the Journal of Ordinary Thoughtand Area Magazine. Diana sends her love and gratitude toher S.O.L. sistas, her family, and husband.

Esmeralda Cuevas is a second generation Puerto Ricanwoman, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and joins VidaBella Ensemble as a first-time performer. She has alwayshad an interest in theatre performance, and has acquiredvaluable experience through various acting classes andworkshops at both Columbia College and Act One Studios.Aside from her theatre aspirations, Esmeralda has alsofounded her own dance instruction company – Move URHips, Inc. – offering private dance lessons in non-competitiveLatin dance styles. She is also a member of Las Divas Promotions,with fellow cast member Yvonne Nieves, providing public relationsand marketing services to local businesses. In addition to thesevarious interests and commitments, Esmeralda spends her daytimehours working as an assistant for the Human Resources departmentof The Marmon Group/ Chicago Public Schools.

Marisel Melendez is a second generation Puerto Rican mother,daughter, sister, poet, and author. Her current work is an unpublishedmanuscript in progress that relates her personal experiences of herlife’s challenges as a Puerto Rican woman growing up in HumboldtPark. Marisel has a passion for the spoken word and she is the founderof the Amaryllis Book Club, where young Latinas in middle school getthe opportunity to put their thoughts into poetry. She is a proud memberof Saboreando Obras Latinas (S.O.L.), an independent publishing PuertoRican women’s press. As a member of the Neighborhood Writing Allianceshe has had several of her poems published in The Journal of OrdinaryThought, and most recently in Area Magazine.

Yvonne Nieves is a third generation Puerto Rican and a budding entrepreneur. After working as an organizer for yearsin the PuertoRican community and obtaining her degree in Anthropology, sherealized that her passion was working in the music industry. She isthe head of Las Divas Promotions and works as an independentcontractor, providing support and resources to records labels, localbands and small businesses. You may recognize her for her role asTuti in the 2004 film “Urban Poet” produced by New Film Productions.

Sandra Posada is a second generation Puerto Ricanwoman born and bred in Humboldt Park. She is a teacher,published artist/illustrator, artisan; creator of Coqueta Creationsby PiXie- jewelry line for women. Sandra has been a Bilingualeducator within the Chicago Public Schools for 12 yearsand was recently nominated for the Illinois Golden Apple Award.Sandra successfully co-wrote her first production, “Brown GirlsSinging” which was successfully staged at University of Chicagoand Jane Addams’ Hull House. Sandra performs her poetry atvarious Chicago venues and has presented her art work at variouslocal venues including the University of Illinois, Chicago andthe Symposium for Women of Color in 2008. She holds a B.A.from Roosevelt University and is currently a working on her M.A.in Bilingual/ Bicultural Education at DePaul University. Sandra believes strongly in that art can educate. Sandra hopes that everyone who comes to see The Brown Girls Chronicles will walkaway with a fresh perspective of who “second generation PuertoRican women” are.