New exhibit, film document the undocumented experience in Baltimore

Written by on September 4, 2013 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

San Juan de Limay, Nicaragua - Photo by Lindsay Sparagana

CASA de Maryland volunteer Missael Garcia displays his mural in the film "De Donde Sean." - Courtesy photo

On Thurs., Sept. 5, the Creative Alliance will debut an important documentary for the East Baltimore community.

“De Donde Sean” (English translation: No Matter Where You’re From), a 25-minute film chronicling Baltimore’s growing immigrant reform movement, with a special focus on East Baltimore residents who are undocumented, will premiere during the opening night of “Gallopinto: Five Years of the Art of Solidarity,” a group show by former MICA students, coordinated by community artist and Creative Alliance outreach coordinator Maria Aldana.

The film that opens the show, “De Donde Sean,” was made by Nicaraguan filmmakers Jonys Diaz and Eddy Avendano during their summer residency in Baltimore, along with Baltimore’s Mi Espacio Youth, and Casa de Maryland, a Latino and immigrants’ organization that supports immigration reform.

Aldana co-founded The Art of Solidarity, a cultural exchange program that fosters artistic collaboration between North American and Nicaraguan artists, educators, and activists in 2008. Locally, the program partners with MICA.

Each summer, Aldana takes a group of MICA students to Nicaragua for a month to learn about local culture, meet local artists, and work on collaborative projects in art and filmmaking.

“This year, no one signed up to go to Nicaragua,” she says.

So Aldana, with grant support from the Research Associates Foundation and other organizations, decided to bring Nicaraguan filmmakers here.

Aldana, who is executive producer on the film, commissioned the film from the filmmakers as an independent artist and coordinated the project herself.

The filmmakers, who were visiting the U.S. for the first time, taught a class at the Creative Alliance, lived as Aldana’s guests in her home, and made a film about the lives of undocumented immigrants who live in Baltimore and their quest for immigration reform.

Several of the film’s subjects live in Highlandtown and Greektown.

“The Creative Alliance saw this as an opportunity,” she says. The organization allowed the filmmakers to edit the film with their equipment and were supportive in other ways, she says.

Aldana describes making the film as, personally, life changing.  “I’m rooted in the East Baltimore community through my work at the Creative Alliance, but I didn’t have much time to work [as an artist] with the people here,” she says.

The film was made over the course of a few weeks, and she got to know the undocumented immigrant experience firsthand.

“I understand better why some of the Latino community can seem a bit isolated. If you are not here legally, you feel unsafe. You’re vulnerable. You fear being separated from your family,” she says.

One of the film’s subjects, Yesenia, who lives in East Baltimore with her husband and four-year-old son, has lived here for eight years.

“I came here for a while when I was 7, then again when I was 9, and again when I was 21,” she says in English. Yesenia has attended community college and would like to return. She is interested in hospitality and business, but struggled to pay tuition as an international student.

Yesenia wanted to be interviewed for the film so that other people would gain a better idea of what her life is like.

“I like Baltimore. I have lived here for a while. Some of my culture is from this city. My son was born here. I want to work, to educate myself, and make a better life,” she says. Her dream is to find a path to legalization.

The film “De Donde Sean” will be shown following the Gallopinto exhibit opening reception at the Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave.

A question-and-answer session  with the filmmakers and representatives of CASA de Maryland will follow. The opening reception is from 5:30- 7:30 p.m., and the screening begins at 8 p.m.

The cost of the screening is $12, a portion of which goes to the filmmakers. for more information, visit or call 410-276-1651.

by Danielle Sweeney

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