JESSICA OFELIA — PHOTOGRAPHY
photography | 24×36
Witness the Isthmus: Central Americans in Houston
I come from a family of storytellers. My father would tell my siblings and me bedtime stories laced with mysticism, talking iguanas, 1000-year-old mango trees, cotton fields and dormant volcanoes. On somber nights, he would share stories of his border crossings, the first meal he had when he arrived to the United States, and his American dreams while working at a fast food chain. His stories would leave us bewildered, enchanted, and triumphant in his transnational migration.
However, the mainstream media stories of Central America violently clashed with the idyllic scenes painted from my father’s stories. El Salvador, my father’s home country, was synonymous with gang members, criminals, and poverty. This grossly inaccurate misrepresentation dominated the narrative of this tiny Central American country.
My interest in the series Witness the Isthmus: Central Americans in Houston began as a way to document my family’s history and to reimagine Central Americans in the arts and media. Rather than perpetuating the same trodden stereotypes, I accurately portray them as they are: dignified community leaders, devoted church members, industrious entrepreneurs and such. Their identity is more than their struggle.
Jessica Ofelia is a visual geographer and storyteller. Coupled with her background in journalism and social justice organizing, she uses photography as a way to document and reimagine immigrant narratives, particularly that of the Central American Diaspora. Jessica is currently completing a Master of Journalism at UC Berkeley.