How Immigrant Pain is Healed Through the Art of Mabel Valdiviezo

MABEL VALDIVIEZO immigrant communities

Art is a medium through which a lot can be communicated and healed. Peruvian immigrant artist Mabel Valdiviezo is using multiple forms of technology combined with healing practices in her latest public art performance piece Metamorphosis: Phase 1. Immigration is a layered reality for many that can be littered with trauma and adverse mental and emotional pain. Often times these hardships often go unacknowledged and untreated however, Valdiviezo seeks to change that. 

Earlier this month, we reported on a recent study by Associate Professors Dr. Carol Cleaveland and Dr. Cara Frankenfeld from the George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services found that Latina immigrants face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at four times the national rate. Researchers were moved to conduct this study after realizing that a number of mixed immigration status women were coming to them for care and slowly opening up about the traumas they have faced before, during, and after their immigration journey.

As a Latina immigrant woman, Valdiviezo left Peru in 1993 after seeing a number of her artist and activist friends being incarcerated by the government for daring to live out loud. She felt that it was better for her to leave than to stay and thus she left for the United States with a tourist visa. 

The truth is there is a lack of healing taking place for immigrant communities. Even upon arrival in the United States, immigrant communities are burdened with a unique set of barriers and often are working long and arduous hours and jobs that leave very little time for exploring one’s mental and emotional state.  

In many ways, Valdiviezo’s piece is seeks to help provide a space of healing for immigrant communities especially during a time where it seems they need it most. 

Through using shared story sharing, dance, and intentional use of images and projections in her performance piece Valdiviezo speaks to these realities and offers ways that people can come into relationship with their healing – even in difficult times. 

Mabel Valdiviezo art healing BELatina immigrant communities
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Using her art to heal and have conversations about the immigration experience – particularly for Latina women – is something the artist has done before. In her self directed work-in-progress film Prodigal Daughter she shared her experience of not seeing her family for 16 years, the hardships she experienced alone in the United States, and revealing secrets to her family in bold and direct ways in an effort to heal past wounds. “My dream is to help new immigrants – especially Latino women – to uncover the power of the human spirit in conquering challenges of U.S. immigration policies, family isolation and illness by sharing this message through my passion for art and film.”

A highly accomplished artist her other film Soledad is Gone was part of the Cannes Film Market in 2007. 

Metamorphosis: Phase 1 is a love letter to the immigrant community that they are enough, that they are worthy of joy and healing, and that they are more than they summation of the experiences that they may have had in their lives. Mabel says, “the performance and the workshops aim to alleviate the stress felt by the Latinx community due to inhumane immigration policies that are directly impacting immigrant families and exposing them to post-traumatic stress.” 

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