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Hermana Resist:

"Healing Communities by Writing"

An interview with
Noemi Martinez

Edinburg, Texas, USA


by Haydeé Jiménez & Elke Zobl

February 2008

 

"
...media can be yours/and you can write your own history."
-
Noemi Martinez

 
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a single mami to 2 smart kids, Winter Brooke and Jonathan River. River is eight now, and made his first zine when he was five.I work full time and also am director/founder of a community group (CAFE Revolucion, Community Activists For Equality) and organize a few events in my community. I write the zine Hermana, Resist and a few other ones. I'm a Chicana/Puerto Rican hybrid living on the border of Texas/Mexico, deep deep South Texas-where it's called the Rio Grande Valley. Gloria Anzaldua was born and raised here and is buried here too. I work full time, never get enough sleep and like to bake vegan cakes.

How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?
The first zine I read was Taryn Hipp's Girl Swirl zine. I strarted ordering other zines she had listed in it. I was a new mom and didn't really identify with the zines I was reading. The first zine I put out was "Making of a Chicana" and it told of my travelling from Chicago to Mexico every summer when I was young, and small vignette style "story/poetry hybrids" that have become an Hermana, Resist identifier.


Hermana Resist- The Poetry Collection

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing zines?
Letting others know that there are alternative ways to make media. That media can be yours/and you can write your own history. When I began, I felt I was targetting other women of color and Chicanas. Now in addition to that, I feel that I need to do what I do to show my kids alternatives to mainstream tv/media -because, after all, they will be our future media makers & organizers and revolucionarios.

Please name some of your favorite zines and the reasons why you like them. 
Nosnowhere, by Nadia Abou-Karr is a favorite, as is Johanna's Sisu. I was finally able to meet them at the 2007's Allied Media Conference in Detroit where there was a Women of Color zinesters and bloggers caucus. I had long been an admirer of their words and zines. Some of my favorites have not been published in years and I'm eagerly awaiting to read zines like those that are passionate and by kick ass Xicanas and women of color. I"m really digging China Marten's zine collection right now too.


You have recently started Writing to Heal Peer workshops. What is your motivation and what has it been like to organize such workshops in your home community?
I became motivated to start this when I went to a workshop here led by a visiting author. CAFE Revolucion then applied for a grant to bring her back for a series of workshops and at the same time, so I could learn and co-facilitate them with her. But we never got word from them, so that's when we decided on the peer-led-learn-as-we-go writing forums. Right now we are discussing how journaling can help, and how to establish a safe writing community. In both the Writing to Heal and Art Heals Communities workshops, we work with the idea that in healing ourselves, we are healing the community. I feel both scared because I am not a teacher in the traditional sense, but also exhilarated that others are interested in exploring healing themselves via writing and art and how in doing so, we are helping our own communities.


Other great projects you have are MujerFest, Voices Against Violence and Café Revolución? Please tell us about them! What kind of feedback you have received so far?
Mujerfest is a festival for women and men to come together to learn, listen, celebrate mujeres, the mujeres in our lives and...

Café Revolución started out as a travelling cafe, where we would take our coffee mugs and have discussions and poetry readings. But it proved difficult to take breakable mugs with us everywhere. So, now we try to have food, snacks- cruelty free- at our events. We are comprised of community activists and other community groups with different AGENDAS but we intersect in many of them. Under the Voices against Violence project, we hold the vigil, the "Homenaje" and do a Voices Against Violence zine.  We organize a yearly Voices Against Violence vigil in October. We have poetry, speakers and survivor led discussions. We also honor the women who have died because of domestic violence in our lives, and in our communities. We share stories of our own abuses and lives, outcomes- and ultimately walk away llena de corazon (with a full heart). We also organize "Homenaje" a "Nuestras Muertas"- which is a Day of the Dead celebration honoring women who have died because of domestic violence and unjust laws.


We also do Writing to Heal and Art Heals workshops.

In conjunction with C/S Distro, CAFÉ Revolución has a travelling zine library where we have a couple of suitcases full of zines and show them around as we discuss/learn/teach/make zines.

Under Café Revolución, we also have the Gloria Anzaldua Legacy Project. Gloria comes from the Rio Grande Valley, yet most folks here don't know who she is or what she represents! A travesty indeed. So we hold events, poetry readings where we read Gloria's work and our own work inspired by Gloria and have also published the first zine about Gloria: This Bridge we call home-Finding Gloria.

Um, let's see... this year we are also planning on having a zine/diy fest and I want to start having children's zine workshops.

Which role does the Internet play for you? Do you feel that the blog format works well along-side of the print version of zines?
Zines for me will and always will be the paper format. Blogs have their own advantages and are great for networking, hearing about other's work, getting your info out there. But nothing will take the place of having a zine in your hands, knowing it was lovingly (hopefully!) put together by someone. Also, I always like to remind folks that not everyone out there is hooked up to the Internet and we might take it for granted. But zines are easily transportable, can be handed person to person and are cheaper. 

Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you? What is the zine scene like in Edinburg, Texas?
Actually, when the grrrl craze was going on, I was living somewhere in Mexico and I missed out entirely on that part of the current zine culture. I don't think it's exactly necessary to have been a part of it because I have heard, through zines, the problems of the riot grrrl scene. That being said, I understand that many zinesters and activists were born of that era. I actually went and researched grrrl culture (and then Ladyfest) a while ago and it does seem that I could identify with alot of what the grrrl scene is about.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why (not)? What do you think about feminism today?
Ah the F-word. I consider myself a mujerista and am of the thinking that feminism is planted on the backs of women of color. But if I'm speaking to someone who won't understand this or if I think saying this would put me in the educator role, I say I'm a feminist. I was tabling at a show once, and a young teen girl came up and asked what the mujerista buttons I was selling meant, and was it just feminist in Spanish. I told her definitely not, since feminism is a privileged white woman's movement.  She looked startled and like I had committed a sin. She muttered, yeah back in the day, but not today. Um, okay. 

What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-envisioned and transformed in order to become an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks and women of color? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?
I've never thought of what a grrrl friendly society would look like. I've never thought that far ahead. I work with the theory that we are working towards something, that I am teaching my kids, setting examples, of how we should form our society and the communities we live in. Maybe I'm pessimistic and maybe because I refuse to look at things with rose colored glasses. I mean, yeah it would be great if we could one day not worry about how television is influencing my daughter as she grows up, or how public school is teaching my son that coloring princesses is wrong and it would be cool if I didn't worry how much unlearning I have to do and how it's really not enough- and it would be cool to think that we're all valued in our communities with the gifts we had, and we could live in harmony and forget about the 8-5 workday- and how being a single parent is so effing hard and how most folks just don't want to hear it or own up and check their privilege- and it would be cool if I didn't have to worry about how expensive childcare is, and how I'm working entirely for childcare and little else- and it would be cool if I didn't have to worry about my kids getting sick and how much it would be to wait it out or take them to a hospital, or heaven forbid- I got sick. I mean, these are tangible problems I/we deal with every day and I don't think things are gonna change anytime soon. (I understand this is a US-centric reply and that other places might have adequate childcare and health care or at least more community-centered.).

Thanks for the interview!




 


info:

Noemi Martinez

http://www.hermanaresist.com/

http://www.caferevolucion.org/


email:

noemi.mtz [AT] gmail.com

mailing address:

PO Box 621
Edinburg, TX  78540
USA

 


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