“no reflex on knees”
“no sensation on skin”
“…do you remember?”
I was about to turn 17 when the car brutally flipped out of control and violently threw my body out the windshield. I flew 27 feet and landed on my neck. Still alive and in and out of consciousness, I heard a whisper say: you flew like wonder women!
Wonder women! I took that to heart. Here I am 18 years later taking on life like a wonder woman. Not the fictional character, but the real one, me! With a severe physical paralysis and after getting the mental and emotional fuck up straight, my life turned into a constant challenge and mocking it became my weapon of choice.
It took me four years of trial and error until I was able to use my new body enough to live independently. That’s when I got my shit together, moved to another country (by myself) with 3 wheelchairs, two suitcases and zero English. And against all odds, I made it: I graduated from college, grad school and worked full time jobs for seven years. Now I am a performer and I’m ready show you how a physical impairment creates a heroina!
At this point in my life, challenges have become a necessity, especially to understand my nature and also to keep my heart pumping. Modesty apart, that’s a pretty darn cool way to live life!
To me being “queer” is to be different, to be extremely unique and creative (with your art, but also with you life), and perhaps be to be perceived as odd by most people. As much as I hate categories, I do consider my self and my art as queer. I have a lot to tell and, most likely, it may push your comfort zone. It may be just that, odd.
However, it is a challenge to be queer in this society and even more, in this about-to-collapse economy. Most of us queer folks live on the edge, financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, to name a few.
So I like to define “queer economy” as the way in which we reach emotional, physical, mental and financial sustainability in our lives against all odds.
Jesse asked me a few questions to trigger some thoughts. Thanks J! And I have to say that I feel the most comfortable talking about being “broke” (!?) and how I manage to stay afloat.
Living in a queer economy goes beyond the financial aspect to me. And the only way in which I am broke is financially—and thankfully that doesn’t keep me awake at night. I still feel fabulous, though. Based on my experience, I don’t have to be rich to feel fabulous.
I feel fabulous, for example, when I find ways to avoid depending on and fuelling an economic system that’s unjust to the core. My way? Simplicity. If there is something that goes against a harsh capitalist economy is that, simplicity! Creating more, consuming less should be our mantra. Ultimately, we make art, we love creating stuff so sculpting a beautiful life for us should be our first challenging piece of art.
This capitalist system is repulsive to me. It is a system that will (maybe not in my lifetime) become obsolete. “The more I have, the less you will have?” That is not fucking ok! I’m pessimistic in my thoughts, but optimistic in my heart that other models of economy that prioritize people’s needs will ultimately win over this suffocating capitalist one.
Other countries (and I am not talking about western Europe), take Latin America, are string up a new era in which principles of Cooperativism and Socialism are being applied to their constitutions. These governments are strongly supported by the people, especially the poor, because their main goal is to revolutionize a system in order to eliminate poverty and illiteracy. Unfortunately, we just don’t hear this in the news…wonder why?
Anyway, venting aside, a little anecdote that also makes me feel fab: As soon as I get out of my home, I have an audience unexpectedly awaiting me. On my sidewalk, in the train station, in the train ride…you name it. People are fascinated or scared or surprised by someone using a wheelchair to move around. Regardless of how my audience reacts to my “piece,” I have to say they make me feel fabulous! I feel fab because I’ve come to peace with what I used to call harassment, insensitivity, condescendence and thoughtlessness. In reality this 24/7 mundane acts become “performance” merely due to human ignorance and lack of tact in its most pure form. It is indeed fabulous to be under my skin and body and still feel compassion for those around me (or around differently- able bodies, for that matter) rather than hatred.
At last I have to say that I find balance when I know I have a community. When I can hear “yeah, I hear you. I understand. You are in deep shit. This is how I deal with it.” That definitely is the main floating devise I have, my community, those that know my name and what I am made out of.
Me second floating devise: LIGHTS UP! Don’t fear to stare. I’m performing for you. I won’t see you. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear stories of trauma, frustrations, insecurities, discrimination, but better yet, you’ll hear stories of empowerment, survival, confidence, strength and pure joy.
About Cristina – Born and raised in the Caribbean, Cristina, was trained in modern dance from a very young age. She has performed in David Dorfman’s LIGHT SHELTER for AXIS Dance Co., Kristin Smith Photography exhibition Bodies of Thought, studied with Jess Curtis/Gravity and Shinichi Iova-Koga. She joined Dandelion Dance Theater Company in January 2011. Since, she has performed in FRIEND as part of Eric Kuper’s artist in residence with CounterPULSE and THE DISLOCATION EXPRESS, a collaborative performance between AXIS Dance Co. and Dandelion Dance Theater Co. She feels extremely lucky to work under the direction of choreographer/artistic director Eric Kupers, who she considers her mentor.
Arthur in Underland by Dandelion Dancetheater
March 2nd – 18th, Fri./Sat./Sun. at 8pm, 2012
CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St. @ 9th in San Francisco
TICKETS: www.counterpulse.org or (Eventbrite) #1-800-350-8850
MORE INFO: www.dandeliondancetheater.org