Mi Madre Vuelve A Sus Raíces | My Mother Returns to Her Roots
My mother, Gina, was born in Manta, Ecuador, on September 12, 1966. When she was only eight years old her older sister Estrella boarded my mother, five other siblings, and my grandmother on a plane to Venezuela. My mother lived here until she was 30. In 1996, she took another life-altering flight to the United States with her four-year-old daughter (me). My father had found a job months prior and we all lived together in a small apartment in Florida. We built a new life here and many other family members from Venezuela followed suit. When my mother turned 50, she finally visited the country she was born in yet had spent so little time in—Ecuador.
We spent two weeks in the summer of 2016 touring the small South American country. I followed her around with my 35mm film camera documenting her experience of navigating 42 years of history, politics and performance of identity in her native country.
A duality was present: being a tourist and a native. My mother navigated through the map of her early childhood through memories of relatives. She saw where she and her 16 siblings were born. She visited her father’s grave for the first time. She walked through the isolated town, Las Pampas, where her mother raised several children before relocating to the port city of Manta, where she was born. There she met her half sister for the first time. In Guayaquil, she hugged her eldest brother for the first time in four decades.
She walked the line between knowing and learning, remembering and forgetting, seeing and feeling, connecting and disconnecting.
Accompanying my mother on this journey was very meaningful to me as it was my first time in Ecuador. It was also significant because my mother’s mother, my abuela Maria, had passed away a few months prior. Spending time in her native land allowed us to reconnect with her and our roots in a deeply healing way.