Veronica A. Perez
Thames Street/ Eastern Promenade Trail
This isn’t meant to be pretty or assuage your guilt.
Arms reaching out for help and nothing is there.
Left in its place – hair- a stark reminder of the event.
Evidence of a body.
A photo of a child on a beach in Turkey.
A photo of Mothers and children running away from smoke bombs and gunfire at the Mexican border.
A photo of a pregnant woman in Brazil on the front lines of protests.
Immovable, like the ocean.
The sugar is gone but the hair remains.
The body remains.
The fight remains.
For this piece, I referenced the histories of the trade between Portland and Latin America and the West Indies. The trades that took place between Portland and Latin America and the West Indies in the 1800-1900s were crucial to growth and expansion monetarily and culturally in Maine – molasses, sugar and rum were the goods traded.
During this time, some Latinx folx did make Portland their home, however, it was difficult as they were met with disdain and aversions from the founding community.
From his book, Creating Portland, History and Place in New England, David Carey writes “the historical silencing of Latin American and Caribbean influences in Portland obscures both the local Latino community and an understanding of Portland as a global city.” I additionally learned in this book that there were US border patrol sweeps in the Portland Latino and Somali communities in 2004. After the sweeps, which deported 10 people, Reverend Virginia Maira Rincon says, “You don’t see Latinos. We are invisible. But some don’t want to be visible for two reasons. They are afraid of discrimination and they are here to work and not bother people, so they keep a low profile.” Invisibility silences the contributions that Latinx folx made and continue to make to Portland’s economic, social, and cultural life.
Learning about the importance that Latinx folx played in the growth and expansion of Portland as a global trade port – and subsequently learning about the silencing and treatment of Latinx folx around 1890s and 2000s – the words silencing and invisible came up and out a lot.
For this work, I created 15 sugar sculptures of hands and arms reaching up out of the water where the trades took place. As they deteriorate, it reflects on the quiet silencing that Latinx people suffered through in the 1890s and now.
Please visit https://space538.org/exhibition/re-site-historical-silencing/ for more information.