Inspiration: "in" to create inclusion...."spir" Latin word "spiritus" means "breath" breath life into something, fill it with spirit. We cannot see inspiration, but like air it is there surrounding us.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Maria Aponte... A Chamaca Chica and her Journey

Maria Aponte shares her passion and journey with Chamaca Arts....

Poet/Performance Artist/Playwright

Born and raised in New York City’s East Harlem, (El Barrio) Maria has worked extensively in Latino Theatre. She studied at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, The Actor’s Playhouse, and Henry Street Settlement. She has performed in various theatre productions. Maria wrote and performs her one-woman show Lagrimas de Mis Madres; a biography of the women in her family which made its debut at the Asia Society in 1996, as part of a multicultural theatre production called, Tides of Intolerance produced by Shotgun Productions. Tides of Intolerance, dealt with discrimination against women of color. Ms. Aponte also wrote and performs a performance piece based on the life of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Mexico’s first feminist poet and playwright called I Will Not Be Silenced. Maria performs her work nationally for conferences , colleges and universities. She has been published in the Marymount Review, the literary magazine of Marymount Manhattan College. Studied at Iowa University Summer Writer’s Workshop and, holds a BA in English Literature from Marymount Manhattan College. In March of 2000, Lagrimas de Mis Madres was published by Marquette University and Western Michigan University in Caribe Revista de Cultura y Literatura. Maria is also an educator and career/academic counselor at Fordham University and is currently pursuing her Masters in Latino Studies.

Life Journeys are My Inspiration by Maria Aponte 3/6/11

Growing up with a terminally ill mother as a single child in El Barrio in the 1960’s was not a topic I would find the courage to talk about until I turned 39 years old. I never experienced childhood because I was my Mother’s caregiver, keeper and, sometimes, her Mother, starting at the age of 9. As a young woman I just did what I knew best- survive, duck and cover when things got bad.

My safe place was the theatre. I knew from the 2nd grade that I would love the theatre, not film – but the stage. When I came into acting during the mid to late 1970’s I studied my craft and I only wanted to be an actress. I did not realize that roles were limited for Latinas at that time. The few roles available were stereotypical. Today I see a constant tidal wave of Latinos making it into the business, through theatre/film/art/poetry.

I am grateful for the work/accomplishments/ achievements that I see. However, I never forget that it took much sweat/tears/hurt/rejections to open those doors of expression. It is those women & men who opened these doors who I honor/respect and pay homage too. In order to say and feel and believe this I had to step back and take a journey within myself. I had to learn to open my mind/heart/soul to what was going on within me –not the outside world. To find the courage to change yourself and the choices you make in life is not easy. To stick to the idea that each day you take one thought, one action that YOU are responsible for- not those around you and work on changing that so you can be a better person, a better contributor to society is not easy.

However, when you can make that commitment to yourself then your life changes. Things turn around. I feel that when you become aware of who you are, all of your senses follow and your world changes. When I made that commitment to myself to change – my life changed. My surroundings changed and, more importantly, the women that crossed and continue to cross my path were movers and changers. It is these women who inspire me to be a better woman/teacher/mentor. I learned to respect myself and in doing so I have allowed others to respect me.

When I started this journey as an actress all those years ago on a dusty stage in a now non-existent building in Manhattan – little did I know that one day I would find the courage to tell my story in my own words. Little did I know that in changing I would be a better person for it. Today I’m in my mid-50’s. I have no shame about my age. As a matter of fact, I talk about my age and share where I am today because I want to be accessible to younger women.

You don’t have to do it alone. When its time for your door to open it will do so. I was single most of my adult life. I was the one who would sing/yell at the top of her lungs in the middle of the living room Gloria Gaynor’s anthem for single women I Will Survive. I never thought I would get married but I did. However this only happened because I was ready. I did the internal work to change my life. When that process happened my life changed and new doors opened as a writer/poet/teacher. This is what my Spiritual Sisters taught me and continue to teach me. I try my best to keep those that love me around me and give that love back. I also am a strong believer in giving without expectations. I find that the rewards have no price tag. My blessing to you is this: may you find your door. In the meantime, walk the journey. Don’t go too fast. You might miss something that you may need. Find inspiration in what you do. Listen to your Heart and Spirit. When the door opens the brightness and love that streams across will be what is for you.

Join Maria Aponte and friends for some creative fun .......
Thursday, March 24 • 7:00pm - 9:00pm

East Harlem Cafe 104th Street & Lexington Avenue, NYC

Poetry Performance by Maria Aponte with musical accompaniment by Chacho Ramirez and Dwight Brewster. Special Guests: Authors David Perez & Veronica Golos reading from their recently published books. Artisan Mia ArtbyMia Roman will be exhibiting & selling her artwork and wearable pieces.

Admisson: $5.00

A Poetic word by Maria....

Out of the Brown Paper Bag

Blood Tears

Jutted rocks scattered throughout the road, bare feet crossing over, getting cut, skin opening, letting small rivers of blood flow from my being, the journey is long up ahead. As I look up see trees- dark branches entangled in an embrace, triangles of arms, legs, torsos. Different shades of white, brown, and black a piece of tissue, with bright red lipstick. My heart jumps with fear, a piercing pain goes through my heart—it can’t be! No it can’t be!

Don’t want to cry no more, long hair found in intimate parts of the bath. Long hair when these brown limbs own no long hair. The trees looking like shadowy figures in the night, wishing it were daylight so I can see. OUCH!

Another cut on my foot, another blood river. Looking up, the sky is covered with patches of crossing shadows in misshaped patterns of chaos—never really being able to make them out. Something pushes me. An invisible hand on my lower back guiding me, don’t want to go- yet it is destiny to proceed.

Blast of light, early morning, still enjoying the warmth of good lovemaking, feeling serene, more hair- this time on my shampoo! My heart stops, links connecting like a chain phones ringing in the night/changed plans/ full weekends cut down to half days. Asking questions, getting no answers!

Frustration/Anger/Hurt/ Fear- Betrayed.

Jutted rocks cutting into my feet, scattered rocks all over the road. My tears flow clear but of blood. Blood tears flow from my heart. Compassion squeezed out and my soul drying up. Rocks cut into my feet. Finally, looking down, I see that the road is smooth, not jutted with rocks. I look ahead, the branches are smooth, arms embracing, entwining, like intricate lace, making a pattern of flowers. There is light up ahead. The road brightens. My feet are healing. My heart lightening, my soul embracing, compassion returning for I am realizing that I no longer have to carry other people’s pain.

Maria Aponte

Gracias Maria....

Monday, March 14, 2011

From the country of Rising Sun - The 2011 Japan Earthquake and its Peoples VOICE

Mayo... Our Chamaca Chica from Japan has shared her voice with us straight from Japan. Her words call for help and give us an idea of what is immediately needed in Japan. It's always nice to have someone on the site giving a first-person account of the situation. Mayo gives us a short list of practical ways that we can help. I applaude her courage and thank her for giving us insight to something so devistating. Mayo... A Chamaca Chica Warrior!! Our prayers and blessings are with you and everyone in Japan.

A tsunami triggered by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in history slammed Japan's eastern coast killing hundreds of people as it swept away boats, cars and homes as widespread fires burned out of control. The 8.9 magnitude offshore quake unleashed a 23-foot tsunami and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks for hours, many of them of more than 6.0magnitude. The tsunami that crashed ashore swallowed everything in its path. Large fishing boats and other sea vessels rode high waves into the cities, slamming against overpasses or scraping under them. Being swallowed like toy boats and cars. Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water. A seen out of a Hollywood movie, the difference is that this is no movie and hundreds have lost their lives with the death tolls climbing daily.

A letter from Mayo....
In Japan, it was very strong earthquake.
I and my family are safe, because we live far-off place from focus of the earthquake. But some my friends live devastated area, an acquaintance of mine; she can’t contact her family still now.
I would like to know you about be careful things of not devastated area people.

1. We must not send groundless rumor.
Sufferer, they have very strong fear, so nor sufferer, be careful not to send information frivolously. There are not only sure information, and not only information of goodwill. Do not disturb them!
Be careful it!

2. If you support sufferer, please use solid supporting organization.
If you send relief to earthquake victims by personally, you will disturb there. So please use solid supporting organization.
And when you would like to give blood to sufferer, please do planned behavior.

3. Menstruation
There are many women in devastated area, they hard to say “want sanitary napkin or tampon”. Please don’t lose of women!
Please give them sanitary napkin or tampon.

4. Please do long-term support.
Retrieval, it need many times.
Please do long-term support.
Thank you very much for many countries support my country, I am so glad at it.

I hope my friends will be safe, and my acquaintance can contact her family.
Sadly, there are many dead, I pray for the souls of the dead, and I hope the death toll will not increase from now.

In Japan, many countries support my country now, thank you very much!
My friends and acquaintance are safe and also their family safe.

I have to write additional thing.

In devastated area, situation of sufferer is getting bad by the minute.
There are many people, so there are many babies, but their diaper wanted,
Please don't lose sight of them!

Sites researched and recommended by Mayo to make a donation are as follows:

Thank you, thank you so much.


For those looking to help please take Mayo's advice and find a reputable institution to donate to. Thank you Mayo for your letter.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Women in Africa promote "UNITY" through Arts and Design

Chamaca Arts had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Rebecca Lolosoli Matriarch of Umoja Uaso Womens Village. She was warm, inviting and very inspiring. The work she has done and continues to do is nothing short of Warriorship and the signs of a true Leader. The results are proof that if we work collabortively in support of one another and are passinate about our causes, communities and tribes we can attain and empower the world as a whole.

In 1990, Rebecca and 16 other homeless women came together for mutual protection and formed the Umoja Uaso Women's Organization. Umoja, which means "Unity". It is now a safe haven for women and the girls fleeing abuse, as well as a training center for those seeking to promote human rights, economic empowerment, and the preservation of indigenous art and crafts. The women of Umoja provide for their children and themselves through the sale of their beaded jewelry and crafts. Which include traditional as well as contemporary products. Your purchase supports their efforts.

For more on the arts and crafts products see

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Red Tent by Nilima Raut - Nepal

NILIMA RAUT from NEPAL is currently working on her masters in Mass Communication and Journalism. She is a member of Rotaract and has served rotaract as Vice President, President and currently Public Relations Officer for the Rotaract Club of Charumati District Committee 3292 Nepal. She won the ‘MISS ROTASIA 2010’ award in the south Asian rotaract conference, held in India. She is also a voice of our future correspondent for 2010. Nilima was recently selected as an OUTSTANDING CANDIDATE to represent NEPAL at the One Young World conference, taking place in September 2011 in Switzerland ( The conference is described as "the premier global forum for young people of leadership calibre. It manifests the reality of common humanity and the shared existence of all the peoples in one world, Its purpose is to connect and bring together the youngest, brightest and best and to ensure that their concerns, opinions and solutions are heard.

She is looking for sponsorship to cover the 3,000 Euro tuition. You can support Nilima to represent Nepal in OYW conference by making donations, the best way to do that is WESTERN UNION and IME. Please email her at for enquiries. Feel free to tell her Art By Mia (Mia) sent you.

The Red Tent by Nilima… Nepal

Going to school was tough at that time due to the cold temperatures. Snowy in the winter season, there were hardly very hot temperatures even in the summer. This mountain area called Dolakha is where I was born. I developed my first crush on one of the mountains called Mt. Gaurishankar on a beautiful morning when the sunshine kissed the mountain and it glowed like heaven as I had heard in legendary stories about it. Named after the Gauri-goddess and Shankar-god from the Hindu religion, Climbing this mountain is prohibited because of religious beliefs and respect. But every time I went close to the mountain or saw its heavenly view, I imagined hugging it.
Imaginations and dreams were part of my life when I was growing up. However, as I got older, I noticed changes occurring in my body and this was a very weird experience for me. It was shameful for me to ask my parents about these physical changes and even my mom never told me exactly what would happen in my body as I matured. Back then, our culture didn’t allow us to talk freely about physical bodily changes, or reproductive or sexual health; even now, the custom remains in my country.

Due to cold my cheeks were redder than usual on this particular day; I was 12 at the time. Feeling some strange pain in my belly, I also felt like my underwear smelled. I still remember this day! I was wearing yellow underwear and later at home, I observed a red color on them. At first, I thought it was a stain I may have gotten while playing. Then I started thinking bad thoughts—maybe I had stomach cancer or an intestinal wound and maybe it would cause death. I was trembling with fear seeing strange things in my life. I couldn’t be sure that it was menstruation because our woman elders used to say, “Nachhhunu bhayapachhi nidharma tika lagchha.” This means we get a mark on our forehead when we have our first menstruation. I didn’t see any mark on my forehead. To this day, I am not sure why they say it like that. I was too afraid to tell my mom so I wore three trousers and went to school. The whole day I was nervous thinking of the heavy bleeding. I didn’t know anything about menstruation, except that my mom would not touch anything for five days each month.

The Nepali word for menstruation is nachhunu which means untouchable. It means while we are menstruating, we are considered untouchable or impure for five days and everything we touch becomes impure. When we have our first menstruation, we are not allowed to touch any males (including our father and brothers) and are not allowed to enter the kitchen or prayer rooms for 22 days. We also have to use separate utensils. Further, looking in the mirror during menstruation is considered bad luck. Our culture has the superstitious belief that menstruation is the punishment of sins from our previous lives.

So when our house maid noticed the blood on my dress after I came home from school, she immediately told my mom. They packed some of my dresses and told my dad to go out of house so that I couldn’t see him. I went with our house maid to her home which was approximately 1 ½ hours away. While there, I was given a dark room with no sunlight and given one plate and glass to use for eating. People said to me, “timi aba thuli bhayau” which means now I am grown up. Ohh! Now, grown up means I had to be careful from then on not to play with male friends, not to stay out too long, not to go out often or at all. I used to cry when I was alone for being grown up—all coming from this one simple, natural physical change in my body. I hated that blood which made this sudden change. At the time, I had to use rags because I didn’t even know there were things like sanitary pads. Using rags was unhygienic and I was also unaware of how to wash them carefully. Days were so hard; all of the restrictions were the worst part. On “those days,” I was kept away from school and feared what questions my friends and teachers would ask. I saw many of my friends miss school during their menstrual periods; I also saw some friends get married after they started menstruating because they were now considered “grown up” in my culture.

I was supposed to stay away from my home for 12 days but luckily my mom allowed me to come back on the seventh day. That day, I was given new cloths and new things. I entered our home after they sprinkled gold water (they put gold in water, as it is believed to be pure). I was told that I shouldn’t touch my dad for 22 days. This was extremely challenging because I was always “Daddy’s Little Girl” and couldn’t imagine not talking to or hugging my dad. I cried a lot and hated being grown up. Many people stared at me and scolded me, telling me it was a sin. This depressed me for a long time after that.

There are many cultures in Nepal. Some of them treat menstruation in a good way and some of them treat it as if it is a big curse(more in the eastern part). The majority of girls learn about menstruation from their mothers, sisters and girl friends but what happens when they don’t know about menstruation hygiene? And what happens when they have knowledge, but they lack proper facilities for their hygiene? As a result, some of them suffer from depression and some get various infections. Many girls prefer to stay home during this time, which leads to their poor school performance.

My parents were unaware of this and I am sure they didn’t do it intentionally. But I had to aware them about it so my younger sisters didn’t pass through the same condition. And I am spreading awareness on the same through rotaract. I am proud to be in Rotaract (sponsored by rotary club of Charumati) and one of our recent projects was a Girls Toilet Project for which I am a coordinator, funded by the Matilda Bay-Australia Rotary Club. We have completed the project and I am currently working voluntarily in that school to raise awareness on menstruation hygiene, as well as other basic teenage problems. This is the first step of a big mission of mine! I am still learning and seeking new ways and ideas to include both genders. And I am happy that young girls don’t have to suffer in the same way I did in my early days of menstruation.

It depends upon how different cultures practice menstrual hygiene. But it is a very important part of health education like other major health issues without which woman empowerment is incomplete. It’s only possible to increase menstruation hygiene when not only health officers but teachers and parents play a vital role in transmitting a message of proper menstrual hygiene. This wouldn’t only save girls from many health hazards but would break the barrier to their regular school attendance. And we can play a most significant role through communicating with each other to create safe menstrual hygiene in our families and in our communities.

This is where the woman empowerment begins…

Thank you Nilima for being a Goddess Warrior and sharing your VOICE!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Inspired Chamaca Chica... Nancy Arroyo-Ruffin

Nancy Arroyo-Ruffin of Spotlight Latino is a mover and shaker breaking down barriers one stone at a time and she does it all with her voice and determination to inspire, build, create, educate, nurture, support and empower the Latino community one person at a time.

Our Chamaca Chica of the week is the one and only Nancy Arroyo-Ruffin a Senior Consultant for the New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation. She is a strong American Puertorriqueña born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens. Nancy believes that the only limits that exist are those that we impose on ourselves and therefore feels that anything is possible. Her passion for education led her to pursue a B.A. in Accounting and an MBA in Healthcare Management. She is a firm believer that learning is a lifelong journey and doesn’t end once formal education is over.
For more information on Nancy or to read her blog and independent musings go to

Please join me in welcoming Nancy Ruffin to the Chamaca Chicas Blog where we recognize women making moves toward change, growth and education ….. We RISE as ONE VOICE!!!

INSPIRATION - Written by Nancy Ruffin

Make your own path and leave footprints for others to follow. This is what it means to inspire.

I live to inspire. Why? Simply because to inspire another human being is the one gift in which you give your heart, soul, and spirit to another who in turn uses that same energy to give the gift of their heart, soul, and spirit to the world. To inspire is to make someone want to be better, greater, and more productive than what they ever thought they could be. Inspiration makes us feel like anything is possible. I live to inspire, by my actions, my thoughts, and my words. I live to inspire because it is what we’re all meant to do, yet very few of us do so. How many people have inspired you to give more, to do more, to be more? The person that I am today is the direct result of the many people that have inspired me. Some inspired me and weren’t even aware that they were doing so. The following is a piece that I wrote dedicated to all of those that inspire me on a daily basis…Thank you!

I am inspired by fearlessness, by kindness, by independence, by strength, by love, by knowledge, by pain, by fear, by the will to never give up.
I am inspired by those who are not afraid to be true to their spirit. I am inspired by those who can stand up and give a middle finger to the naysayers, the non believers, the haters, detractors, and conformists.
I am inspired by anyone who is willing to fight for what they believe in even when what they believe is not the popular or generally accepted viewpoint.

I am inspired by the little girl or boy who knows at a tender age that fitting into society’s definition of “normal” is just a bunch of nonsense so instead of conforming they live to stand out.
I am inspired by those that challenge the status quo. I am inspired by those that dare to be different. I am inspired by the individual who embraces who they are, unapologetically and fearlessly.
I am inspired by those who stand up for others, by those that give a voice to those who cannot or are afraid to speak for themselves. I am inspired by the abused woman who says she will no longer be a punching bag and fights back.

I am inspired by the single mother that does what’s necessary to make ends meet. I am inspired by the father that chose to stay rather than running away when she said “I’m pregnant, and the baby’s yours.” I am inspired by those who take responsibility.
I am inspired by beauty. Not just physical beauty but by mental beauty, intellectual beauty, and emotional beauty, by those that radiate beauty from within. I am inspired by you.
I am inspired by persistence. I am inspired by those who don’t take no for an answer and go after what they want. I am inspired by the man and woman that get up day after day looking for work even though they are constantly turned away.

I am inspired by the child who falls off the bike but gets back on because they know the scrapes and bruises will eventually heal.
I am inspired by those who fight for their lives when the threat of disease, illness, sickness attacks their bodies. I am inspired by their tenacity, their bravery, and their will to eliminate the enemy.
I am inspired by the optimist who see the glass half full, who sees the light at the end of the tunnel and doesn’t stop walking, running, climbing until they reach their destination.
I am inspired by the sun that shines, by the winds that blow and by the rainbow that is sure to come after the storm.
I am inspired by confidence. I am inspired by those who know who they are even in a world where most walk around aimlessly pretending to be someone they think everyone else wants them to be.
I am inspired by the person who shouts “screw you, you idiots in your idyllic world full of nothing but propagated realities”, because they know it is far more dangerous to remain quiet than to speak out.
I am inspired by dreamers, doers, lovers, writers, artists, anyone who can paint a picture by any means necessary; those that can go beyond the realm of normalcy because it feels so damn good to be different. I am inspired by you..

Let me be your muse. I am here naked, free of prejudicial thoughts, innocent and pure. I am yours to inspire. Please inspire me!

IMAGINING BEAUTY - Written by Nancy Ruffin

As a Latina woman, family has always been the cornerstone of my life because for Latinos family means everything. Family has never been something that I’ve had to think about because it is a part of me, it’s my DNA, it’s my heart, it’s my blood and without it I would be nothing. When I got married 10 years ago starting a family was something that I knew that I wanted but was in no rush to start. I was 23 years old and had plenty of time to start working on babies or so I thought. At 33 and childless I am starting to hear the loud ticking of my biological clock and now that I am emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and financially ready motherhood seems to be evading me.

What seems to come so easily for some can be a virtual uphill battle for others and we never realize this until we are the ones battling in what seems to be a lost cause. As hopeful as I am of becoming a mother I will never really know what that feels like until the day that life is born from my body. And until that happens all I can do is imagine…
I don’t know what it feels like but I can imagine, the love between a mother and child. The inexplicable connection that is formed even when the umbilical cord is cut and that new life is no longer physically attached to the body.

I don’t know what it feels like but I can imagine; it’s the immediate need to love, nurture, and protect your greatest asset; something so special, so unique because it is a very real part of you.

10 fingers, 10 toes, 1 heart beating full of dreams, ambitions, and hopes; beauty that is wrapped up in golden satin sheets of new beginnings, innocent eyes looking back at me, a reflection of my soul.
You are a flower blooming in spring, yearning for sun, water, and so I feed you. You cling to me sucking all that I have to give. I am yours, you are mine.

I watch you grow and wait in anticipation to see you become that beautiful and rare African tulip you are destined to be. You are special. Like a sun shower. I am the artist and you are my canvas. In you, I see all of the things that I am not; so I dip my brush in the paint and with soft gentle strokes you become patient, brave, warm, and calm, like a desolate island that has yet to be discovered.You are an untapped resource yet I am drunk, inebriated under your influence I stagger not knowing which way to go. I’m a novice. I’ve never done this before. You didn’t come with an owner’s manual. What if I screw you up? There’s no return policy and so I become afraid.

Lost, searching, grasping, alone in the dark it’s just me and you so I close my eyes and you are there in my arms. Inhaling, I smell your scent. Intoxicated, I lose my breath. For you are my air, the sole and soul purpose of my mere existence. I touch you and your skin is like suede. Soft, perfect like untouched snow you are summer, you are winter, you are spring, you are fall, you are day, you are night, you are a thousand dollar bill and I will walk naked, bare, uncovered through thorn filled rose bushes just to protect you for no other reason except that I am your Mother.

Gracias Nancy...