“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open,” Muriel Rukeyser wrote. Mireya S. Vela is that woman. What first drew me to Ms. Vela was what initially attracted me to the work of Frida Kahlo. Vela’s art and personal essays consider an important question: What is Woman? Vela outwardly displays her pain and frustration, and steps toward making sense of such experiences. Her voice is personal, honest, and penetrates the self in a courageous way.
On the page and on the canvas, Vela explores the conflict of abuse and resiliency. Born into a dysfunctional environment, Vela uses painting and writing to express doubts and maintain stability in her life. She believes that all life begins with a woman and often ends in the care of a woman.
“Women are pillars in the lives of children. They teach culture, language, religion, and aesthetics. They also teach us what it means to be a woman. But what happens when these pillars are as unhealthy as the situations and environments that created them? What does it mean to be a beautiful woman? What does it mean to be okay despite experiencing trauma?”
I sat down with Ms. Vela in February of 2019 in San Francisco to discuss her art, creative nonfiction, social justice, motherhood, womanhood, being marginalized in the United States, and her new book, Vestiges of Courage: Collected Essays, which we, The Nasiona, are happy to be publishing in April of 2019.
Vestiges of Courage is a collection of personal essays that explores inequities and injustice. Raised between two cultures and two languages, Mireya S. Vela discusses how the systems in her family and in society worked to create an abusive environment that felt crushing, confusing, and hopeless. In her book, Ms. Vela delineates her experience of living through sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. This book is much more than a collection of experiences, though. Ms. Vela wants to know how and why abuse thrived in her family. She digs deep to understand why these things happened and how she survived.
Terry Wolverton, author of Insurgent Muse: Life and Art at the Woman’s Building, wrote the foreword to Vestiges of Courage. Wolverton captures the essence of Vela’s work by stating that,
“Vela writes about speaking up, fighting back, demanding personhood, in the face of all who would deny it. She writes about fear in the face of those who would crush her. She reveals the loneliness of following one’s own path, all the while knowing the alternative is unthinkable. She writes about being an advocate to those who cannot speak for themselves. That’s why although the experiences Vela shares are raw with trauma, this collection of essays is never depressing. In fact, it is celebratory. Every word, this motherlode of language formed with loam and silt and clay, every breath, is a victory song against forces that would keep us mute.”
“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? Mireya S. Vela is that woman, and her truth is splitting the world right open.
The Nasiona Podcast shares stories that explore the spectrum of human experience and glimpse into foreign worlds. We focus on stories based on facts, truth-seeking, human concerns, real events, and real people, with a personal touch. From liminal lives to the marginalized, and everything in between, we believe that the subjective can offer its own reality and reveal truths some facts can’t discover. Hosted, edited, and produced by Julián Esteban Torres López.
MIREYA S. VELA is a creative non-fiction writer and researcher in Los Angeles. In her work, Ms. Vela addresses the needs of immigrant Mexican families and the disparities they face every day. She tackles issues of inequity and how ingrained societal systems support the (ongoing) injustice that contributes to continuing poverty and abuse. Ms. Vela received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Whitter College and received her Master of Fine Arts from Antioch University in 2018. She is also a visual artist.
Visual Art website: mireyavela.com
Julián Esteban Torres López is a Colombian-born journalist, researcher, writer, and editor. Before founding The Nasiona, he ran several cultural and arts organizations, edited journals and books, was a social justice and public history researcher, wrote a column for Colombia Reports, taught university courses, and managed a history museum. He’s a Pushcart Prize nominee and 1st place winner of the Rudy Dusek Essay Prize in Philosophy of Art. He has authored several books, including Marx’s Humanism and Its Limits, which was BookAuthority’s Best New Socialism Book of 2018, and Reporting on Colombia: Essays on Colombia’s History, Culture, Peoples, and Armed Conflict (forthcoming, 2019).
Go here to inquire about his editing services.