“The tears are for those stories that need to be told.” – Albertina Zarazúa Padilla, Curator for MiHistoria
Earlier this month, the César E. Chávez Branch of the Oakland Public Library and MiHistoria held a storytelling workshop in celebration of Latino Heritage month. MiHistoria is a storytelling project that allows Latinas to become authors of their own stories. MiHistoria works with women to gather their stories. Though the workshop was geared towards Afro-Latinas, everyone was welcomed. I was fortunate to attend and participate along with 12 other participants.
The workshop began with Albertina Zarazúa Padilla, Curator for MiHistoria, telling us a story that she carries. It was the story of her father and his struggles when he first came to the United States. Padilla told us how her father, a bracero (or farmworker), wanted to come to the Salinas Valley. However, when he arrived where the buses were transporting the braceros, he was placed on a bus heading to Arizona. He didn’t want to go to Arizona; he wanted to go to Salinas. He got off the bus and struggled to find his way, but made it to the Salinas Valley.
Padilla said the idea for the workshop was to capture the stories of Latinas “so that our younger generations and the ones to come will have those,” she said. “Telling our stories reminds us of our strength and our power.”
We introduced ourselves by saying one thing that “cost you nothing but our attention.” It was an interesting way to make our introductions. The responses ranged from a simple, single word to a brief insight into the story that the woman carries.
We were given a folder that included a small piece of blank paper and sheets of writing paper, and we partnered up with a member of MiHistoria. Padilla instructed us to sit at one of the tables and just speak, then write, and finally draw something on the blank sheet of paper. That was really all the guidance that was given, but the results were amazing.
After an hour or so, we regrouped and briefly reflected on the exercise. No one read the stories, as these will be posted on the MiHistoria website. But through reflections, pieces of the stories came out. There were tears, but there was also a lot of happiness and love.
One of the women said that she and her daughter and son had been through so much in their lifetime and it was freeing to be able to at last share her story. She didn’t realize how much she would cry and how emotional it would be, but the tears were good tears.
Another woman reflected about how many times in our cultures we are taught as women to be quiet and not talk about our life experiences, and how a workshop like this really helps get our perspective out into the world.
Overall, we all felt a sense of inspiration to be amongst a group of women who have pushed through the struggles that life produces and can now share their stories. One of the participants said it perfectly. She said, “en cada historia hay cosas triste y tambien alegrias.” (translates to, “in every story there are sad things and also joys.”)
It was an emotionally-draining afternoon, in a good way. In a few weeks, we will meet again to view the photographs that were taken by a photographer as the workshop took place. I can’t wait to once again be amongst this remarkable group of women.
Click here to view upcoming events at the César E. Chávez Branch.
Click here to connect with MiHistoria.