This week I interviewed Celina. Celina is a current resident of Newburgh, NY who lives with her 4 year old son Ricki. Prior to living in Newburgh, Celina was a member of the residential community of East Harlem. As a predominately Hispanic area, East Harlem served as a cultural hub for Celina, however the area left her with much more pain than pleasure. At the age of 18 she began to romantically see one of the local drug lords. Celina described her attraction to the man as
“espontáneo (spontaneous) and libetador (liberating).” However the invincibility and liberation that Celina felt in her relationship resulted in physical abuse enhanced by drug use. Celina left the hostile environment in East Harlem and moved in with a friend in Newburgh, upon discovering that she was pregnant with her first child. The concept of the American dream fueled Celina’s hope, as can be seen in the optimism she expressed while speaking of her move to Newburgh. “Los ángeles de los Estados Unidos me salvaron (The angels of the United States saved me),”stated Celina.
Celina’s journey of motherhood is a story of personal development in response to environmental change. One month after moving to Newburgh, Celina was informed that the father of her husband had died from heroin use. This news triggered depression and “oscuridad (darkness)” for Celina. She now lost financial support and the man that loved Ricki as much as she had. The father of Celina’s child had been the critical agent in suggesting that she move to Newburgh in order to raise their son in a safer area. Though the environment was much better to raise a child, Celina felt more removed from the community and therefore did not have the same community support as she had in East Harlem. Week to week, Celina works as a cleaning woman however the pay is not remotely sufficient to cover the costs of living for she and her son. Motherhood for Celina has brought new challenges and standards. Celina expressed that her standard of living significantly increased when she had Ricki because she wanted to provide the best for him.
In her times of darkness, Celina turned to her belief in God. “Dios está siempre conmigo (God is with me always). Celina said that combatting the darkness in her life as a mother is more rewarding than the battles she has had with darkness prior to motherhood.
About the Artwork: The artwork featured this week with Celina’s story represents the darkness that she experienced and the dream of safety that was not fully achieved in terms of her mental and emotional health. As a mother, Celina said that she felt as though she was drowning in information and in anticipation of the future, however the serenity of her surroundings helped bring some peace to her life. Celina continues to dream and move forward in her life, but more emotional assistance needs to be provided for single women in our communities. Sympathetic looks and kind words are not enough to emotionally support a mother and her child.