That Place Called Home

The patriarchal system that is openly manifested in some Latin American homes is a dark mark in our own history; this particular one is ephemeral, no one hears or sees it. It is forgotten as soon as it is pronounced and disappears to benefit only those who oppress.

For centuries we have fed on this violence, now naturalized, which has permeated our homes like ink on paper. A violence that is so within us that it has poisoned entire families, leaving the most fearsome endings.

My own house was the scene of these forms of violence, and from then on I assumed that it was normal, since everywhere I looked it was the norm. Arriving in Richmond, Virginia in 2017, I had to face this reality that spreads like a plague in the only place where today an undocumented immigrant in the United States can feel safe, their home.

The immigration policies of the United States have created the perfect climate for these stories to remain hidden, as victims are afraid to speak out and report their perpetrators. The unexpected change in US immigration law that removes protections for women who have experienced domestic violence in their country has helped spread the violence. Abusers now use this change in the law to further control their victims. Lying to them that if they speak, no one will listen to them.

Some might say that this argument is close to reality, and that is why some people have decided to remain in the shadows but little by little more people are taking action on their own. These women that I began to document in 2017 and through 2018-19, have been some of those who have not only taken action against their oppressors but also want to be an example to other victims that they are not alone and that within the community there are tools to support them.

This photographic essay aims to highlight a dark part of the intimacy of the Latin American home in the United States; also reflecting how these power dynamics in our homes are getting worse. Power dynamics that have been fueled by changes in immigration laws that give perpetrators more control and how this has impacted the mental health of undocumented immigrants who experience this abuse.


La Cumbia Del 30

In the small town of Guamal, Magdalena at María Luz Saucedo's restaurant, during a party about 40 years ago, Maximiliano Guerra, Jhon Alvarado, Orlando Ramos and José Ignacio Mejía, as a way to unite their community, had the idea of ​​going to the town of El Boton so they can hire musicians to give life to what has been called "La Cumbia del 30" for more than four decades.

It all starts a few days before December 30th, when the small “Johnsons”, that are motorized canoes, arrive to the shore of the magdalena river, with all the merchandise for the festivities. Also, some visitors from other neighboring towns who join this great celebration.

In the early morning of Dec. 30th, the sound of fireworks let people know that it is the day of "La Cumbia". Throughout the day, the Guerra family, prepare the square in front of the family house, where the men would later bring a banana palm of about 3 meters high, as the tradition of the cumbia in the region dictates, they dig a hole in the ground to be able to bury it and the women of the family will then decorate it.

At 8pm, the musicians arrive, driving around town while playing their instruments to encourage people to join the party. Until 'El mono' appears, as some guamaleros say as a nickname for the sun, to the sound of the 'milleros" they dance, laugh and get drunk. Between drinks and dances families are reunited, because some had to leave town to seek a better life for themselves, they do return every year to share this tradition, which has not lost its charm and continues to be a symbol of union in the region.

Carlos Bernate

Carlos Bernate, born and raised in Bucaramanga, Colombia, is a photographer, videographer, communications specialist, and writer. Their work is focused on human rights, identity, and social humanitarian-related issues. In 2016, Bernate completed a four- year degree in Photography & Film from the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá, Colombia. Carlos’ work has been published internationally, notably in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, amongst many others. They have also been recognized with several honors and awards. For example, the AI-AP American Photography selected Carlos as both a 2021 and 2022 winner and three awards by The Virginia Press Association in 2019. Their stories have also been exhibited worldwide in Portugal, Argentina, Colombia, and the USA. Currently, they're dedicated to documenting their community in Richmond, Virginia, where they have been based since 2017. Additionally, Carlos works as a Communications Coordinator for a Latin American non-profit organization called Sacred Heart Center in Richmond.
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