Marela Zacarias was born in Mexico. She came to the United States, more specifically to the state of Ohio, to enroll in an American university. After studying four years at the university, she returned to Mexico for one year. After one year, she obtained a new visa to return to the US. Marela later came to Hartford, where she met and married her husband. Since then, she has lived here in Hartford, returning only sporadically to visit her family in Mexico.
Marela is a professional artist and an art teacher. Her artwork primarily consists of mural painting. She has completed several public murals in Hartford, around the United States, and in Mexico. Marela devotes another part of her life to activism; in fact, you could say that she is a professional activist. A couple of years ago, Marela, along with other activists, formed the group called Latino/as Contra La Guerra (Latino/as Against the War). This organization promotes knowledge and understanding about the two American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The group also explores, defends, and presents the Latino reality and influence within these two wars. This interview discusses the work of Marela as a local activist with Latino/as Contra La Guerra as well as her work with another activist organization, Stop the Raids! Students of Trinity College. Furthermore, Marela discusses her experience as an immigrant activist and her cultural transition to Hartford, and the way in which her experiences as an immigrant have influenced her life, art, and political activism.
The following questions were asked and addressed in the interview with Marela Zacarias:
-What is your particular story as an immigrant to the United States?
-What was your profession in your country of origin?
-What is/are your profession(s) here in Hartford?
-Why did you decide to come to the US?
-How was your cultural transition to American everyday life? Was there a culture shock? What were some of the biggest challenges?
-Do you have family members in the US? Is it easy to keep in touch with your family who stayed in Mexico?
-What subject does your art address? Are there reoccurring themes in your wok?
-Around what themes does the group Latino/as Contra la Guerra mobilize? What is the official, articulated opinion of the group towards the war?
-Have you had to confront any challenges being Latina, or a Latina political leader?
-How have the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq affected the Latino/a community? Is this theme discussed often in the Latino/a community in Hartford?
-Do you believe that Latino/a history during American wars is recognized? Why do you think that when there is a high level of recruitment concentrated in Puerto Rico (or in Puerto Rican communities here), we don’t hear of the Puerto Rican courage and sacrifice in political discourse?
-What do you think of the way in which Latinos/as are presented in the press and the media in this country?
-Is there a difference of opinion about the war among different generations? Is there a difference of opinion among various groups of Latinos/as?
-In Hartford specifically, how do you view the Latin community? Is there unity among different groups such as the Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Peruvian communities? Is there division?
-As a Latina woman who lives in Hartford, what is your opinion of the Latina political situation in Hartford? Do you believe that Mayor Perez represents the Latin community?
-Have Latino/a politicians received your work with open arms?
-You also work with Trinity College’s group, Stop the Raids! Students of Trinity College. In fact, you just premiered an exhibition of your art in the Broad Street Gallery, which related to the theme of Latin immigration in Hartford. What do you think about this issue?
-As a Latina immigrant, what advice can you give to other, more recent immigrants to Hartford with respect to both legal and cultural issues?
-How has the opinion or perspective about immigration within the Latin community changed between different generations?
-How do you perceive the relationship between Trinity College and the community of Hartford and Frog Hollow particularly?
-In your opinion, what can students of Trinity College do to develop a better relationship with the community of Hartford?
-Have you thought of returning to Mexico, now or in the future?
**For more information you can visit Marela’s website, www.marela.org