They are each unique, with nuanced journeys of hardship, trauma and, ultimately, resolve. They are also bound together by their similarities: Latinas, facing impossible odds in a complex immigration system that has, in many ways, left them behind. Above all else they are drawn together by their shared love of family, the sense of home it creates, and an unwillingness to let it go.
All are undocumented and all know the day-in and day-out reality of claiming sanctuary, the inability to leave church grounds in an effort to remain close to the ones they hold most dear. These four women, Araceli Velasquez, Ingrid Encalada Latorre, Rosa Sabido and Sandra Lopez, are the focus of Women of Resolution, a new multimedia performance piece created by Motus Theater’s artistic director Kirsten Wilson. A mix of storytelling, photography, music and spoken word, the show never allows the viewer to disengage; it seeks to familiarize the audience with the raw emotion of these women’s stories, to experience the grief, helplessness, hope and courage they wrestle with on a daily basis.
“If you don’t have a family member who is undocumented, who is negotiating the violence of the rhetoric and the actions on the border as well as detention centers, it’s easy to put that on the list of things that aren’t going well in the country right now,” Wilson says. “But if you know someone, you’re aware that this is part of a core issue of identity that will affect not just the people on the border but everyone.”
To start, Wilson collaborated with photojournalist (and editor of Boulder Weekly) Joel Dyer, as he traveled around the state conducting interviews and photographing the four Colorado women for his Windows, Walls and Invisible Lines Project.
“I saw this as an opportunity to make sure that when people heard the stories of these women, who are courageous enough to not go quietly into an unjust system, [they would] reflect on the stakes of this,” Wilson says.
Using her experience with autobiographical monologue form, Wilson took Dyer’s initial conversations with each woman and wove their stories together to be read by Colorado legislators Rep. Jonathan Singer, Rep. Leslie Herod, Rep. Joe Salazar and Rep. Mike Foote.
“If I can use some of my power and privilege to help show that these people are our friends and neighbors, then I think it’s about time we should do that,” says Rep. Jonathan Singer, who will be reading Ingrid Encalada Latorre’s story as part of the performance. He has visited her several times at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, where she’s been in sanctuary since mid-December 2017.
Four generations ago, Singer’s family fled to the U.S. from Eastern European pogroms, and he says that as a country of immigrants, we can’t forget where we’ve come from.
“I’d like to think that if I were ever in a situation where I had to leave my country, I’d want to know that there were people there that maybe didn’t look like me but were willing to accept me and not only accept me, but celebrate me,” he says. “Fundamentally what I’m about is that we treat people like humans and remind people that we’re the country that loves people no matter where they come from.”
In an effort to leave space within the performance for that emotional response, the readings will be accompanied by Dyer’s photography interspersed with a capella singing by Teresita Lozano, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Colorado Boulder who specializes in research about how music influences transnational identities.
“We want people to really be able to pause and feel. What do you do when you feel powerless? What do you do when you hear things and you want to stop it, but you don’t know how,” Wilson says. “The music actually helps us hold the bigness of the pain and the bigness of our lives and people’s lives so that, I believe, we will be able to take in the stories in a deeper way and in a reflective way.”
To end, Denver spoken-word poet Dominique Christina will perform a poetic response. “This entire event is about having a human conversation and asking people to think about what it is like for these women and what it would be like for any one of us in a similar situation, how we would want to be held, how we would want to be treated, how we want to be spoken to and spoken about,” she says. “For me it’s as simple as these are women like I am a woman, and they are mothers like I’m a mother.”
With the performance comes a call to action. While in sanctuary across the state, the four women banded together to create the People’s Resolution, a blueprint for policy changes on a local and state level in hopes of creating a legal way for them to leave sanctuary without the threat of deportation. They are currently gathering endorsements before referring the resolution to the state legislature.
“I see this performance as good medicine for the community,” Wilson says. “I think people are profoundly concerned with justice, and it will give people an opportunity to both grieve and feel inspired and empowered.”
On the Bill: Women of Resolution. 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14. Live performance at eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder. Watch the live stream with Ingrid Encalada Latorre in sanctuary at UUCB, 5001 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder. For more information visit motustheater.org.
To view the original essays or for more information on the Windows, Walls and Invisible Lines project, click below: