A Blade of Grass Films

S1 E16 | FULL EPISODE

Alternative Futures: Las Imaginistas

Las Imaginistas work with the community in Brownsville, TX to explore the impact of colonial history on the city's architecture and infrastructure. Their project Hacemos La Ciudad (We Make the City), through workshops, performances, and visioning sessions, provides an opportunity for Brownsville residents to imagine and enact a decolonized future along the southern border.

AIRED: November 09, 2020 | 0:06:18
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TRANSCRIPT

Woman: Brownsville is on the southernmost tip of Texas.

It's sort of wedged in between the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico,

and right across is Matamoros.

It's a binational space. It's bilingual.

Guevara: I think about this idea of, like, migrants

really being the experts of dreaming.

And we're kind of following that legacy.

[ Applause ] Houle: Thank you so much.

So our project that we're presenting to you all

is a project that we made in collaboration

with over 200 members of the city,

where we've engaged with them

in a practice of dreaming and asking what it is

that we want to see for the future of our region.

Houle: The city was named the lowest income city

in the United States.

We're also in the heart of the immigration crisis.

Guevara: Seeing that border wall every day,

it's a strong image of hate and violence.

How does the border wall impact our consciousness?

How does the architecture in a space

impact my perception of myself?

And how does it also dictate to me what I think is possible

and what I think is not possible?

The history of the region is very much framed

around the colonizer,

and it ignores and erases everything that comes before.

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Guevara: We collected objects.

We invited people in the community to donate

what we called"chucherías," objects

that were kind of laying around in their home.

Houle: And then the way that those objects are painted

and arranged is representative of the different ideas

that people had about what the future of the region

would look like.

We worked with three communities.

We think of the city as one community.

We think of artists, thought leaders, academics,

nonprofit leaders as another community.

And then we think of individuals

working to make change in their neighborhood

as a third community.

If you're going to think about

how to change a geography, it has to take into account

the implications of everyone in that geography.

We heard people wanting

to see the built environment reflect them,

people wanting to see streets named after cultural leaders.

People are craving more spaces

of gathering to build community.

Like, the traditional plaza.

What we heard from residents was that they wanted

to have more opportunities for ideas

and people to move back and forth between the two sides.

You can see we have many different bridges

where people can cross freely from one country to the other.

This is a currently vacant building.

And one of the things that we imagined

was that this would be a mixed-income housing space.

It's not just imagining.

It's imagining an action.

It's imagining and change.

It's imagining and reimagining.

Asking the question of "How do they want to respond?

How do we want to respond?"

We are so grateful to have with us

some of the actual community members

who participate in these sectors.

With everything that's going on,

especially all the construction downtown,

there's concerns of our community.

Houle: We could list for hours

the number of community development problems

any individual here is experiencing.

The people who came to the event today, miraculously are people

who are working nearly 24 hours around the clock

to respond to different urgent needs of the community.

They took the time out of their day to come to this art event

because it is relevant to them.

Together:Uno, dos, tres.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Being able to imagine and kind of dream

of something better is a crucial part of the work.

Houle: If the community says what we need art to do

is to make change, then that is art.

And that is the community defining art on their own terms,

understanding what it means to live in extreme poverty,

what it means to live in a part of the country

that is being expressly ignored by the federal government.

If you want art to include those communities,

then you have to ask those communities,

"What does art mean to you?"

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