Creator, storyteller, podcaster

WORDS

As a freelance writer I've contributed to a number of publications in the art and travel fields. Here are a few selections from HIP Paris, WSKG Public Radio &Television, the Broome Arts Mirror and Bustle Media


As A Latina, My Relationship With Hoop Earrings Has Been Long & Complicated

July 2nd, 2018

I flinched. I didn’t realize I had, but I did. My mother-in-law was offering me a gift: Gold hoop earrings. They were gorgeous, but I didn’t think so in the moment. At that point, I hadn’t worn hoops in years. Seeing them brought back a flood of associations and memories about about my community, my position in society, and who I am as a Latina woman.

I grew up in Queens, New York, the daughter of a single Colombian mother. My brother and I grew up knowing two things: We weren’t as well off as the other kids, and that my mother was una mujer fuerte — a strong woman. She was left to raise her kids alone in a city where, as young Latinos, we were very likely to end up falling into the wrong crowd. She instilled in us the value of hard work, the importance of family, and above all, the importance of dressing well.

“People make snap judgements,” she would say. “Never let anyone think you are less than them. When they look at you, you want them to see you as a person. Not your poverty. And definitely not the fact that you are a minority struggling in this world.”

 Me, at age 3 and yes, those are teddy bears with the American flag on them.

Me, at age 3 and yes, those are teddy bears with the American flag on them.

And so, with her modest means, my mother always made sure we were well-dressed. She took pleasure in dressing me up throughout my childhood, in hand-me-downs or hand-made clothes my grandmother and aunt confectioned back in Colombia. I grew up wearing dresses, blouses, skirts, and headbands that were as colorful and loud and in-your-face as our culture.

I also wore tiny gold hoop earrings throughout most of my childhood. Like many Latinas, I got my ears pierced shortly after I was born. To my community, it was the beginnings of my femininity. I was the youngest girl in the family, and thus subject to living up to Latin-American expectations on feminine culture, that is, dressing “lady-like” and, never, ever leaving the house without earrings.

“At least put on some earrings mijita. When I was growing up, I could have been close to dying in bed with a terrible flu. But no one could get me to take off my earrings. You always want to look good,” my mother would say to me, laughing every time I got sick and couldn’t be bothered to get dressed.

My mother came to New York in the '80s, fresh-faced and seeking adventure. She learned English, started working in a sweatshop, and worked her way from administrative job to administrative job. After many years, she became an American citizen, got married, and had kids.

Her experience as an immigrant in the U.S. is a common one, one tied to her status as a minority, and how the barriers of language defined her place in society. She would always be a secretary, never the boss. Her accent would be the butt of office jokes. And, in the eyes of many, she would always be considered an illegal immigrant, regardless of her very legal immigration journey and subsequent citizenship. She suffered through years of people making comments about her accent and those that referred to drug cartels when they found out she was Colombian.

When we’d want to dress down a little, she’d say, “Why make it easier for them to think negatively when they first look at you?”

Her logic about appearances, including her insistence upon things like hoop earrings, was informed by all of the prejudices she’d experienced firsthand toward Latin-American immigrants in American society. For my mother, presenting her daughter as a well-dressed feminine little girl was important, and my tiny gold hoops were a large part of that. They were ornaments of beauty and femininity, to be added without fail. But trends change, and so did hoops.

 My mother, at a party in the late 80s.

My mother, at a party in the late 80s.

In the late '90s and early 2000s, hoop earrings became more popular in the United States. Largely driven by hip-hop culture, giant gold loops were the accessory for young women in Latino communities. I remember seeing the trend explode with my idols at the time: Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and of course, J Lo. When they wore them, they were the bling of celebrity; shiny and new, an object of desire for young girls looking to emulate that beauty.

For non-celebrity Latina women and girls, however, these earrings were more than just a fashion statement: They were a source of both pride and division within our communities. In my middle school, the girls who wore big hoop earrings were tough, and often believed to be associated with gangs. This was sometimes true and sometimes not, though as my mother warned, school administrators were not Latinos and therefore were prone to making grand assumptions based on how Latinos dressed.

As a result, as a teenager, my mother banned me from wearing the hoops she had encouraged me to wear as a kid. For her, those hoops had become the difference between someone thinking I was associated with Colombian drug cartels and thinking I was just a regular kid. She'd seen the kinds of looks girls would get when they wore those big hoops. They were othered, and seen as trashy or classless. She didn't want me to experience that feeling. And though they remained a symbol of femininity for her, she rejected them for the negativity they attracted, especially for young Latina girls in the U.S. In the years that followed, I internalized this, the feeling that they had so much power — the kind of thing that signified who you were before you even opened your mouth.

At the same time, I felt a kind of uneasy about not wearing them. They were so representative of being Latina, so synonymous with who I am, that rejecting them was like rejecting a part of myself. Yes, I didn't want to be seen as the loud Latina with the big hoops. But being the loud Latinas with hoops was also what made us stand out. When I chose not to wear them, I was actively deciding to hide that part of me.

I was at an age when I was discovering who I was, and looking to create a sense of style. An introvert at heart, I wanted to be the quiet nerd who blended in with everyone else. And so that became my style: Nothing too flashy or shiny, or too tight. I wore a lot of neutral colors and, my earring of choice for many years was a pair of pearl earrings. I had a few Latina friends who felt similarly. Together, we turned away from that part of ourselves to remain discrete, to blend in.

In the end, I chose to reject them entirely. In fact, up until recently, I never even wanted to have a pair. I found my own personal sense of style without them, and became an adult without ever really thinking about the effect those choices had had on me and the woman I became.

These were the thoughts that flooded my mind when my French mother-in-law tried giving me the earrings. At the time, I explained (with great difficulty) that the earrings had a very particular meaning to me and to others, and that I would prefer not to wear them. In the end she chalked it up to cultural differences and decided to refrain from offering me hoops in the future.

That was three years ago.

A lot has happened since then. Almost a year and a half into a presidency that openly criticizes the Latino community, I've witnessed a real change in the way my fellow Latinas present our experience and culture. Mine and my mother's trouble with hoops has always been a fear of prejudice, a fear of presenting ourselves fully and unfiltered as Latinas in the U.S. Now, it feels more important to embrace our identity than ever, including the things we've always worn, for better or worse. Hoops have become a symbol of beauty, femininity, power and now, pride.

I went shopping with my mother recently, and we'd been talking about hoops and the meaning they carried for us over the years as Latinas. They're trending now so we saw them everywhere. I remember we both admired a gold pair on sale.

She looked at me and said, "Why not?"

I bought them and never looked back.

Originally published on Bustle.com


Francophile Radio: Tuning in to France’s Best Podcasts

January 24, 2018

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Though French radio has long been the first stop for francophiles, a steady stream of producers have begun launching independent podcasts in Paris over the last two years, giving lovers of all things French a new way to tune in. From audio documentaries to tips for well being, these French producers are drawing attention for their departure from traditional French radio.

Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Julien Cernobori, Rives de Seine

Walk the streets of Paris with this audio documentary. Over the course of 12 episodes you’ll hear France Inter journalist Julien Cernobori walk along the Seine River as he describes and interacts with the city of lights. Produced by Binge Audio for the city of Paris.

Best episode: Quai Branly, déborder d’amour

2.Lauren Bastide, La Poudre

One of the first feminist podcasts to launch in France, La Poudre features one woman activist, artist, politician, mentor, role model per episode. The show is hosted by Lauren Bastide, a former Editor at ELLE magazine. Produced by Nouvelles Ecoutes.

Best Episode: Amandine Gay

3. Charlotte Pudlowski, Transfert

Transfert is one of Slate’s few French language podcasts. Hosted by Charlotte Pudlowski, each episode is a unique exploration into a personal temoignage. If you’re a fan of Radiotopia’s Love and Radio, you’ll enjoy listening to these deeply personal stories. Produced by Charlotte Pudlowski for Slate.fr.

Best episode: L’histoire d’un appel qui a changé une vie

4.Clotilde Dusoulier, Change ma vie

A weekly podcast with 10 to 15 minutes of simple wellness advice from the author of the food blog Chocolate and Zucchini. Her tips cover everything from how to deal with stress to remembering gratitude. Produced by Clotilde Dusoulier.

Best episode: La gratitude

5.Chanel’s 3.55

Chanel’s 3.55, (In both French and English) is a collaboration between Chanel and Colette. Hosted by journalist Daphné Hézard, each episode features an interview with a different artist or musician and explores what it means to be an artist today. Produced by Nouvelles Ecoutes.

Best episode: Ibeyi, franco-cuban musicians.

6. Siham Jibril’s Generation XX

Siham Jibril’s podcast about the startup generation features French female business owners discussing how they got their start. Produced by Siham Jibril.

Best episode: Mathilde Lacombe, co-founder of Birchbox

Bonus: Hungry for more French podcasts? Podcastore is THE podcast about independent French podcasts. Each episode features a roundtable of friends reviewing the newest French podcasts.

*Originally published on the HIP Paris Blog.


AUTUMN JAZZ EVENTS IN PARIS: Jazz sur Seine, Blue Note Festival & Postmodern Jukebox

September 28, 2017  by Lory Martinez

There’s something about autumn that is inexorably linked to the cool brooding sound of a saxophone or just the right melancholy piano melody. In fact, many a Paris flaneur seeks a good jazz show in the fall, when la rentréebrings us back to reality.

Jazz came to the City of Lights during the first World War when Harlem-born American soldiers brought over music from artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Sidney Bechet. The resulting scene sparked the opening of legendary clubs in the latin quarter and across the city. Thanks to their success, one can find dozens of clubs, festivals and open-air performances from St. Michel to Montmartre, 365 days a year.

But fall is the season for jazz in Paris. The autumn leaves bring us the best jazz the city has to offer. Here are a few can’t miss shows to check out:

In October, the city’s best jazz clubs come together for the Jazz sur Seine festival. The event takes place over the course of two weeks and hosts 180 concerts at 25 venues across Paris.

November’s Blue Note Festival brings the best of the historic New York club to the city of lights. From artists performing odes to Charlie Parker at New Morning jazz club to a soirée dedicated to the jazz music of Disney, this festival never disappoints.

And last but not least, early December brings us a special performance by Postmodern Jukebox at the Olympia. The group known for putting a jazzy spin on modern pop hits by the likes of Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Beyonce is the perfect mix of old and new.

Still not enough jazz for you? Check out the Paris Jazz Agenda which offers a comprehensive list of  shows to check out every night of the season.

*Originally published on the HIP Paris Blog


BU Start-Up Launches Local Scavenger Hunt App

 Students at Binghamton University search for scavenger hunt prize.

Students at Binghamton University search for scavenger hunt prize.

December 29, 2014

*Produced for WSKG Public Radio, audio version aired during NPR's Morning Edition

“So we had this idea of creating a daily treasure hunt that would put a smile on someone’s face everyday," says Avraham. "And the prizes that we would hide in the treasure hunt would be different businesses prizes allowing businesses to interact with students through a fun game”

The app is simple: every couple of hours a student on the Campus Pursuit team hides a prize on campus.

It could be under a couch in the library, under a stack of newspapers or hidden under a flyer on a bulletin board. The prizes include discounts and gift cards from local stores and even free gym memberships.

“So we’re engaging students with businesses through this interactive scavenger hunt, they find prizes and the prizes they find could be to businesses that they’ve never heard about before,” says Witsosky.

Witsotsky and Avraham have expanded from the BU campus to SUNY Albany, Cornell University, and Ithaca College. Witsotsky, who graduates this year, plans to continue working on the app and getting other campuses interested.

Originally published on WSKG.org


Taking A Closer Look At The Word 'Townie'

 Downtown Binghamton has been revitalized in recent years, in part to entice more university graduates to remain in Binghamton.

Downtown Binghamton has been revitalized in recent years, in part to entice more university graduates to remain in Binghamton.

Dec 1, 2014

*Produced for WSKG Public Radio, audio version aired during NPR's Morning Edition

When I first arrived in Binghamton as a Binghamton University student, I wasn’t interested in this city. I was raised downstate.  I thought there wasn’t much to this town outside of State Street. But I’ve come to love this city.

Nothing encapsulates the two views of Binghamton more than the word, “townie.”  Students in college towns everywhere use the same term to describe the locals. But its meaning varies depending on who you talk to. So, in Binghamton, what exactly is a townie?

“A townie is more of someone who’s like hobo looking to me, I wouldn’t say a normal Binghamton local’s a townie,” says BU student Phil Patty.

“A face with no name of people who probably inhabit this city that they don’t necessarily know personally in any way, shape or form,” says another student, Henry Aery.

Patty and Aery were downtown on a First Friday. I met them while spending a night wandering from gallery to bar and back again to find out just what that word means.

When you’re looking for students on a Friday night in Binghamton, the place to start is State Street. The road closes down so the students can linger outside or wander from bar to bar.

“I’m a nursing major, I’m from Orange County. I’ve gotten the word ‘townie’ as people who live locally that try and join with college community at night, and uh, generally not the best term, but I don’t know,” says Kelly, a student downtown at the bars on a Friday night.

I’ve heard this version before. For all you listeners out there who don’t visit the bars on State Street, on a Friday night, you probably aren’t a ‘townie’. This use of ‘townie’ pervades the dining hall conversations on campus. Kelly’s version is part of the story shared by students over breakfast on Sunday morning.

First Friday festivities take place just two blocks down from the bars. There’s an air of refinement, and fine wine…. and, everywhere you look, ‘townies’.

“Let’s see, a student wrote an article and it made it all the way out to Alfred through facebook and whatnot and it sort of compared townies to zombies of the apocalypse,” says artist Samuel Guy.

Guy is talking about Pipe Dream, the university’s student newspaper, and an article published in 2012. Among its observations: “It’s hard to ignore the downsides of this town, a place that could be the perfect backdrop for a post-apocalyptic zombie movie.”

“Of course, as townies, we’re a little hurt by that,” says Guy.

At least three people brought up this article. It’s a good representation of the separation between the students and the community. Peg Johnston is Director of Cooperative Gallery 213 and she says part of it is because of geography.

“I’ve always said you know this university is out in the middle of a cow pasture, cause that’s what it originally was, and there hasn’t been much exchange between the two,” says Johnston.
Henry Aery says students should try a little harder to get to know Binghamton.

“I think students need to realize that State Street is much longer than one block,” says Aery.

So there’s the distance, and there’s the idea that students should be more openminded about exploring Binghamton. But what about the locals? Do they dislike the word? What’s the difference between a local and a townie? I need a more concrete definition, so I walk over to the Brunelli Fine Arts Gallery.
As I speak to the intern at his gallery, John Brunelli listens and smiles.

“Growing up in Binghamton, I lived on campus actually because I wanted the college experience and ‘townie’ was a big name being thrown around at that time, I think at that time I was a bit offended by it but now I’ve sort of taken the term and wear the ‘townie’ pride,” says Brunelli.

So it’s not a good word, but it doesn’t have to be offensive. I wonder if it might just be simpler to use the word ‘local’.

“You know language is important and it’s not a friendly community building language to use. I think theres a differentiation between people who go to school at BU and local individuals and there’s a lot of tension,” says Ashley Aupont, a local grad student at Jungle Science.

Ok, so here’s what I’ve learned: A definition for ‘townie’: person who lives in a college town, not a student, but could be. Its negative connotation demonstrates a disconnect with the town that can be easily remedied, it seems, by walking just a little further up State Street.  And who knows? Maybe one day it’ll be less of a loaded word, and more of a light nickname you wear with pride.

Originally published on WSKG.org


Bilingual Bard Entertains at BU

May 2, 2015

*Reviewed for the Broome Arts Mirror

A clever bilingual adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream opened last weekend in the Watters Theater of Binghamton University’s Fine Arts Building, presented by BU’s Theatre Department in conjunction with Chile’s Duoc Universidad Catolica. Directors Tom Kremer and Rodrigo Nunez have collaborated successfully to present a Spanish/English version of this classic farce of fairies, love spells and hilarious misunderstandings during one midsummer night.

Now, I’ll admit, I was a bit apprehensive when I heard the famous comedy would be performed in two languages. As a native Spanish speaker, I felt it might be a bit redundant, what with all of the repeated lines. However, Nunez and Kremer have managed to bring the best of both worlds to this comedy of errors, guiding an international cast of actors through a brilliant representation of cross-cultural humor.

Instead of producing a disaster of living, walking subtitles, the directors have selected a talented cast that works well in the two-language world. Their repetition of lines in Spanish (or in English depending on the scene) is hilariously self- aware, with some of the best bits coming from having the actors translate for each other.

My personal favorites were Puck 1 and Puck 2 played respectively by BU’s Christina Catechis (seen earlier this season in Dead Man’s Cell Phone) and DUOC’s Amanda Lia Muller Pino. Watching the dynamic between these two is like watching echoes of great comedy duos, from Lucy and Desi to Bert and Ernie. Their master, Oberon (Andrew Bryce), add to the pair’s banter.

The Fairies — Constanza Escudero Munoz, Lindsay Ryan, Rocio Cuadra Vergara, and Paula Carolina Hofman Villar, led by Queen Titania (Anita Contreras Vegas) — are the source of some of the best “I see what you did there” moments. During one scene in particular, Ryan’s fairy is supposed to translate what the three Spanish-speaking fairies have said and, instead, merely says “Si” (“Yes”) — no doubt a note to the near-impossible nature of a completely comprehensible bilingual production.

The main plot features lovers wandering about a forest being manipulated by the fairies as they navigate the mists. Rudy Bamenga and Mayra Cuadra Calvanese play the stately Duke and would-be duchess preparing for their impending nuptials. Expertly cast, this pair plays royalty pretty convincingly. I imagined a young Queen Isabella as I watched Calvanese navigate the stage.

Katherine Prew plays Helena, the wronged mistress of Demetrius (Benjamin Gorrono Cooper), who is to marry Hermia (Stephanie Gomerez). Of course this is one of those complicated Shakespearean entanglements we know and love, so Hermia is in love with Lysander (Giordano Bruno Rossi Sara). Keep an eye out for Prew’s accent, perfectly outfitted for a Shakespeare stage. The suitors, Cooper and Sara, are hilarious caricatures of spellbound romancers, and as their partners only speak English, the cross-cultural differences are highlighted, adding more laughs to an already droll play.

Last, but not least, an honorable mention must be given to the actors of the play-within-the play, Pyramus and Thisbe: Bottom (Jake Wentlent), Quince (Carlos Sanchez Elissalde), Flute, (Gino Porras Abarca), Snug (Juan Ignacio Hartwig Bahamondes), Snout (Anthony J. Gabriele) and Starveling ( Denis Silvestri). I cannot give away too much, but suffice to say I was tearing up from laughing so hard.

IF YOU GO: A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be presented at Watters Theater at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (May 3 and 4) and 2 p.m. Sunday (May 5). For tickets, call 777-ARTS or visit Anderson.Binghamton.edu. An eight-night run is planned for this summer at the DUOC campus in Chile.

originally published on the Broome Arts Mirror


‘STUPID F##KING BIRD’ IS SMART, WELL-ACTED THEATER

March 10, 2015

*Reviewed for the Broome Arts Mirror

Last weekend (March 6-8), audiences piled into Binghamton University’s Watters Theater for the opening of Anne Brady’s production of Aaron Posner’s Stupid F##king Bird, loosely based on the Anton Chekov play The Seagull. The show, which addresses the nature of theater in a changing world, leaves one with a feeling of having seen something both incredibly absurd and thought-provoking.

One of the best things about going to the theater is seeing a character we can relate to or seeing a scenario in which we can cast ourselves perfectly. This play does that and so much more. It presents us with real human emotion — the desire for love and affection, sadness and regret — all while providing a heavy dose of metacommentary on what the theater does for us as audience memberss. Bird is a play that asks the question “What does art make you feel?” and answers it with deconstructed scenes in which the characters tell us how they feel about their art.

The seven characters in the cast know they are in a play and indeed comment on that fact several times throughout the show. Rob Tendy plays Conrad, a young writer struggling to make it as his girlfriend, Nina, falls in love with a more successful writer, Doyle Trigorin. Trigorin’s lover is Conrad’s mother, Emma, an actress who has never supported her son’s work. Mash is in love with Conrad, who will never love her. Dev, Conrad’s best friend, is in love with Mash, who, naturally, will never love him. And then there’s Sorn, Conrad’s uncle, who just wants to be loved — by anyone.

It’s a big, messy, Russian love story that plays with traditional form, turning it into a modern multi-dimensional dramedy.

Bird is dramatic and, at times, dense in theatrical commentary, but it remains lighthearted and charming with the help of a talented cast. Among the outstanding performances: Eric Berger as Sorn and Imani Pearl Williams as Emma. Berger is an audience favorite because of his perfect comedic timing. In one scene, as the characters line up to tell the audience what they want from life, he says with a big smile on his face, “I want a hug … that lasts a month.” Williams’ Emma speaks with incredible bravado when Trigorin is tempted to leave her for Stephanie Gomerez’s Nina.

Danielle Nigro’s Mash adds a charming musical element to the show with her singing and ukelele-playing while Anthony Gabrielle’s Dev is delightfully awkward around her. Tyler Downey’s Trigorin fascinates when he speaks about the nature of fame and appearances, and Rob Tendy’s Conrad is mesmerizing as he jumps from one idea to the next in his monologues about theater, life and love, mirroring the author who created his character.

In three acts, Stupid F##king Bird does what I think a lot of plays strive to do: leave a lasting impression, changing the way audiences perceive things after exiting the theater and making them appreciate beauty differently.

This show is not for those seeking instant gratification with a few laughs here and there (though there are plenty to be had) but rather for those open to a new form of theater, one that presents us with the life it takes its art from.

IF YOU GO: Performances of Stupid F##king Bird will be 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (March 13-14) and 2 p.m. Sunday (March 15) in BU’s Anderson Center. For tickets or more information, call 777-ARTS (777-2787) or visit theatre.binghamton.edu.

Originally published on the Broome Arts Mirror


‘REWRITE’ IS CINEMATIC LOVE LETTER TO BINGHAMTON

Feb 11, 2015

*Reviewed for the Broome Arts Mirror

This past Sunday (Feb. 8),  Binghamton University hosted the official U.S. premiere of The Rewrite, a film written and directed by BU graduate Marc Lawrence. The lighthearted romantic comedy, starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei, is set in Binghamton, not the ever-popular New York City, thus putting our college town on the map for movie goers. Location filming occurred in 2013 in Broome County.

In the days leading up to the Anderson Center screening,  there was what can only be called a lot of hullabaloo on campus. Bearcat Pride was everywhere. Complimentary tickets, which were given out a week in advance, were gone within minutes.

The Rewrite tells the story of a washed-up screenwriter who gets a teaching job at BU and falls for a single-mom student. It’s light-hearted and witty and has just the right amount of love-story-meets-inner-spiritual-development to be a perfect romantic comedy, but it’s much more than that.

As I sat in the audience, I realized I was part of something that few people have the opportunity to experience: to see a much beloved place being recognized on the big screen. The applause and the laughter that came when Grant’s character, Keith Michaels, tries a spiedie for the first time was unique to a an audience that has a special connection to that Binghamton food. When Grant walks through Rec Park and spends some time at the carousel with Tomei talking about Rod Serling, we smiled in recognition of the great things about our town.

Lawrence loves his alma mater, and though the school has changed quite a bit since he graduated, he has kept his appreciation for Binghamton alive and well. One sees another love story behind the scenes: one of a kid who grew to love a town and remembered to write a love letter to it, thanking it for its rainy days as well as its sunny ones.

The Rewrite opened in England last fall and, in Europe, is already out on Blu-ray/DVD and can be purchased through Amazon. By Friday (Feb. 13), The Rewrite will be released in select U.S. theaters and will be available as video-on-demand and to stream on Itunes. The American release of the Blu-ray/DVD is set for the end of March. Binghamton-area fans are still hoping the movie will be shown at a local theater.

Originally published on the Broome Arts Mirror