Comadres y Paisanos

"Comadres" designates a strong bond between Latin American women. Beyond its original meaning of godmother to one's child, "comadre" is a term of kinship and sisterhood

As two Venezuelans in London, photographer Silvana Trevale and stylist Daniela Benaim experienced this magical relationship, finding in each other a sister, ally, and collaborator

With their work, the two creatives want to bring attention and more opportunities for Latin American immigrants in the UK and Europe. Despite being one of the UK fastest-growing demographics, the Latin American community is rarely discussed or granted visibility.

Featuring only Latin American immigrants and British born Latinx, Silvana and Daniela created the series "Comadres" as a homage to their heritage, reimagining traditional food, dress and rituals.

"Comadres" explores migration as an alchemical renewal. Inspired by the work of female artists like Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Violeta Parra, and las Arpilleras (women who created colourful burlap-based artworks during the military dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile), the images honour Latinx femininity and textile traditions. At the same time, with its homages to Walter Mercado and Muxe identity, they celebrate gender-bending as part of the journey of transformation.

Immigrants' narratives are often pigeonholed into tales of solitude, longing, estrangement and alienation. This story looks instead toward the spaces where immigrants have succeeded in celebrating their roots, finding joy and community amongst each other, and crafting experiences that taste like home.

Daniela and Silvana continued celebrating Latin American immigrants in London and British born Latinx in their recent piece “Retablos”. Adapting the style of the retablos or ex-votos (rustic folk paintings in Mexico and other regions of Latin America offered in thanksgiving for miracles in everyday life), the images tell real-life stories of misfortune, resilience and triumph of London’s Latinx community during the COVID-19 pandemic. From a lockdown wedding to a successful beauty shop, and the birth of a baby, the photos share the fears, needs, dangers, dreams and aspirations of members of the community.

"Pueblito Paisa”, on the other hand, a project made in collaboration with London’s Latin Village's traders and community members, is a homage to Seven Sisters' Indoor Market, which holds dozens of Latin-owned small businesses (the majority of the owners are women), and it has been threatened by closure and gentrification.

Silvana and Daniela want to homage their culture while showing the richness and diversity of the Latinx diaspora in Europe. Reframing folktales and traditions, they work with Latin American immigrants, engaging in a magical-realist re-telling of their stories.

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