I love the moment when I drive into Chicago and the southside view of the city skyline appears. It shines like an Emerald City when the sun hits it just right. There are so many possibilities. As I get closer and closer to the city proper, I feel Chicago embrace me every time, take me in, offer me a home and I know that those possibilities are there for me too.
Ever since I moved here eight and half years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, I felt like I had been reunited with an old friend. The city streets seemed familiar to me. The faces were warm and welcoming and they recognized me as a friend also. The city and everyone in it began to share its creative energy with me. Around every corner, there was another story being told, another work of art being created, another song being played. Right away, Chicago showed me what it held inside. It showed me its pain, its joy, its sacrifice. It showed me its heart and more than that, it made me a part of its heart along with all the other warriors of a people that live and love in this city.
Everyday, something or someone would inspire me. Some days, I would put on my dance shoes and follow the sounds of the jarana and the harp. Those melodies would lead me to the fandango so I could jump on the tarima to zapatear for a night. Memories of my days as a Folklorico dancer would come sailing back along with the reminder of how significant my Mexican culture is to me. Other times, I would make my way to a theatre with a live audience. I would put on my costume, step on the stage, and live truthfully under those imaginary circumstances for a few hours.
Then, there were the times that the poetry of the streets would let me choose between my camera and my pen and I could decide how I wanted you to see me and how I saw you. There were moments when I was so overwhelmed by what I was experiencing that I would get scared that my stories weren’t good enough. It was during those times when I could almost hear the city whispering in my ear, “Don’t be afraid of the words you write. Don’t be afraid to show in images what you find beautiful. Don’t be afraid to try.”
Let me also not forget to mention how the youth of this city has inspired and moved me, energized and stirred me. As a teaching artist, I have had the opportunity to spend time with so many young people throughout Chicago. I have been able to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way and celebrate with them the art that is within themselves. However, I could never teach them more than they teach me every single day.
You see, in Chicago, the people make their dreams come true for themselves, for each other, for their city. As a non-native Chicago artist, I want you to know that I see and respect that so much. Thank you for allowing me to witness and become a part of all of it! Thank you to all those wonderfully unselfish individuals that have helped and encouraged me directly or inspired me just by doing what they do, fearlessly. Chicago, you have given me a place to work, imagine, and soar. What can I do but offer you the best of myself in return? Here are my hands, Chicago. They are offering you my heart. – Jazmin Corona
ABOUT JAZMIN CORONA – She is an actor, photographer, writer, teaching artist, and former dancer, born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She sends a special shout out to her hometown, the city that taught her discipline, work ethic, and what it means to be an artist in the first place. (I haven’t forgotten you, Cleveland!) She has worked with Goodman Theatre, Urban Theater Company, First Folio, Teatro Luna, Collaboraction, Babes With Blades, among others. She has several on-camera credits including Dawn (Jaime Mariscal) and The Southside Has Many Beauty Queens (Ricardo Gamboa), both having been shown at the Chicago Latino Film Festival with the latter winning the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film. Jazmin has been a featured artist with Proyecto Latina and her poetry and photography has been published in Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology. Her photography can be seen at www.jazmincoronaphotography.com and www.theurbaness.com. She has, also, worked with several schools throughout the southside of Chicago, bringing theatre and dance to the classroom.