Photoville‘s 4th exhibition welcomed 76,000 visitors this year in Brooklyn Bridge Park over the span of a few days. From September 10 – 20, 2015, Photoville featured 400 artists from all over the world, in exhibitions and installations inside and out of re-purposed shipping containers. This modular venue, built and produced by United Photo Industries, meant to create a “physical platform for photographers of all stripes to come together and interact.” Over the span of the exhibition, Photoville hosted talks, panels, workshops, and photo walks with several well known photographers. Night events in the outdoor beer garden featured presentations from Getty Images, The New York Times, National Geographic, and POV.

On the evening of September 18 in Photoville’s outdoor beer garden, POV curated a program around the theme of immigration with short films, exclusive clips and a panel discussion. The night included a sneak preview of Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie), which follows undocumented immigrant activist Angy Rivera, before its national broadcast premiere on PBS on  September 21st, 2015. Also presented was a selection of short indie docs, including Paraíso, which follows three immigrant window cleaners who risk their lives every day rappelling down some of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers, as well as animated shorts from renowned oral history project, StoryCorps.

Alexandra Vasquez, an intern in the Community Engagement and Education department at POV, helped work the event. Alexandra, who is currently a Master’s Candidate at the Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School, reports back on the night and her personal connection to the stories.

I was in charge of taking photos during POV’s Photoville event and, throughout the night I had the opportunity to speak with audience members about the clips we shared. I had a great conversation with a woman who could relate to the narrator in the StoryCorps Short, Facundo the Great. In the film, Ramòn “Chunky” Sanchez recounts how a new kid at school becomes a hero to his fellow Mexican-American peers when teachers are unable to anglicize his name. Ramòn attended elementary school in a small farming town in the 1950s, and by the time he got to second grade, his teachers called him “Raymond.” His friends, Maria and Juanita, also had their names Americanized to “Mary” and “Jane”. However, when a new kid named Facundo arrives, the administration has a hard time finding a substitute after realizing that shortening his name to Fac would make his name sound like, well, you know… the F-word. Facundo gets to keep his name and the children rejoice.I can certainly relate to Ramòn. My parents immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the late 1980’s, and when I was born, I was given my father’s last name, Vasquez. I pronounce my last name similarly as one would in Spanish: “VAS-kez”. Regardless of how I say it, however, people often Americanize the pronunciation to “vas-kwez”. Even if I introduce myself first, my name quite often becomes “vas-kwez” and I could not help but think of my own experiences in elementary school while watching Facundo the Great. My teachers would Americanize the pronunciation of my last name, and I grew accustomed to introducing myself as Alexandra “vas-kwez”. I was not aware that I had picked this up from my teachers until I got to high school when a peer of Dominican descent asked me why I pronounced my last name that way. I realized that I had the right to honor my Latin roots, and since then, I have pronounced my last name in the correct way.

Even my first name also gets manipulated. From time to time, someone finds out that I am Latina and Alexandra turns into Alejandra, in an effort to Spanish-ize it, even though it is in fact pronounced “A-lek-SAN-drah” in Spanish. As a result, I now try to take the time to ask people, “How do I pronounce your name?” I do this at my on-campus job at the English Language Studies Department, where many of our ESL students are from countries such as South Korea, Japan and China. I strive to pronounce their names correctly, even when some students say, “Don’t worry” when they sense I am struggling. When that happens, I like to tell them, “I am happy to learn how to pronounce your name correctly.”

The Photoville event also included sneak-preview clips of Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) and a conversation with Angy Rivera, featured in the film, Mikaela Shwer, the director, Lauren Burke, co-founder and executive director of Atlas: DIY, and moderated by Katia Maguire, producer at Quiet Pictures. Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) follows the life of undocumented immigrant Angy Rivera, who at 24, becomes an activist for undocumented youth with a popular advice blog and a YouTube channel boasting more than 27,000 views.

I was deeply moved when I first watched Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) and I could tell by the reactions of the audience that they, too, were sympathetic to Angy’s story. She puts a face to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, and her journey throughout the film made me aware of the challenges undocumented immigrants and their families are faced with. As a college student, Angy struggles to obtain financial aid and  finish her college degree on time. Her mother’s fear are heightened when Angy goes public with her immigration status because their family is of mixed status (she and Angy are undocumented, but her children have US citizenship). I was truly impressed with Angy’s growth as an activist, which leads her on a journey towards empowerment and freedom from the constant fear of living undocumented in the US. Watching stories such as Facundo the Great and Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) sheds a light on the experiences of immigrant families and allows us to understand their day to day struggles and fears, which is not always presented in the news we receive surrounding immigration issues.

Watch Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) on POV through October 21, 2015 »

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Alexandra Vasquez
Alexandra Vasquez is a Community Engagement and Education intern at POV. She is a Master’s Candidate at the Julien J. Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School and teaches English to beginners in Brooklyn, NY.