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.

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