Fui Sin Haber Nacido by Gabrielle Garcia-Steib


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Produced during Gabrielle Garcia-Steib’s residency at Paper Machine, Fui Sin Haber Nacido is a documentation the artist’s relationship with Latin America and a commemoration of her ancestors who found sanctuary in New Orleans, and for those who seek it today.

Artist’s Introduction:

My grandmother Dora Solís, and her parents Julio and Nelly Solís, left their country of Nicaragua because of political prosecution. My great-grandfather, a political writer and professor, spoke against the dictatorship of President Anastasio Somoza García. The government stole their land (a coffee farm), and they received death threats forcing them to flee the country. They headed to New Orleans, not knowing anyone, but only through word of mouth they knew a wave of Latin Americans existed in the city who had migrated through the Banana Trade. There first home was Uptown on General Pershing, which they turned into a boarding house for other Latin American immigrants. My great-grandfather taught language classes and continued printing and publishing political material about Nicaragua, and my great-grandmother became a seamstress for Mardi Gras balls. My grandmother Dora met my grandfather, Alfonso Garcia, at a social gathering in New Orleans. He was a Mexican painter who dropped out of Tulane’s medical school. Eventually the two married and moved back to his native Mexico. To their surprise upon moving back to New Orleans years later, the Latinx community had grown extensively, and there had been a development of social clubs, jobs, and schools that were specifically geared for their community. Somewhere in between moving back and forth from New Orleans and Mexico City, my mother, and her three siblings were born. Although the community flourished during this time in Orleans parish, shortly after, they were being pushed out and into the suburbs of Kenner and Jefferson. My mother’s first house was Uptown on Marengo Street, but by the late ‘60s they had moved to Inez Drive in River Ridge. A majority of schools at this time did not accommodate english language learners, thus putting my mother and her siblings in classes with students of special needs.

A few years ago I became an ESL educator, working primarily with Central American children who had fled their countries due to gang violence, death threats, and poverty. They were coming to class with their parents being in the process of deportation, or missing class to attend court. How are children supposed to function in a classroom setting when they are suffering from so much trauma? Post-Katrina thousands of Latinx immigrants were permitted to come to Louisiana to reconstruct our city, and over a decade later they are carelessly being forced out. Currently there are 10,000 migrants incarcerated in 14 Louisiana detention centers.