HEART: Unifying Communities by Elvira Aballi Morell
Updated: Jan 18
"Our proposed project, HEART: Unifying Communities, is an initiative, envisioned by myself and two professors, to listen to the concerns of the LatinX community in Nashville and to give them the opportunity to express themselves through art and language."
“While researching my dissertation’s second chapter, I started to wonder about the LatinX condition and how creativity could help shape and express its identity...”
The LatinX Condition
While researching my dissertation’s second chapter, I started to wonder about the LatinX condition and how creativity could help shape and express its identity. In analyzing the silhouette by Ana Mendieta, Ñañigo Burial (1976), I started to use the value of the “X” in LatinX as proposed by Claudia Milian, with a capital “X,” to suggest the functionality and semantic plurality of the “X.” As a political term, the LatinX subject unfolds in border spaces, with blurred and flexible boundaries. The “X” geographical value is essential to understand Mendieta’s work, which alludes to both: (1) recreating themselves and how others perceive themselves from personal and geographical dimensions; and (2) strengthening the bond with their countries of origin and simultaneously assimilating into a different U.S. culture.
My Experience with the LatinX Community
My work as a community volunteer with Children of Hispanic Immigrants Collaborating to Overcome Stress (CHICOS) has influenced my research and dissertation. As a CHICOS team member, I have worked with the LatinX community in Nashville conducting surveys and taking health measurements to create a pool of data regarding stress and its impact on immigrant communities. CHICOS has also helped me understand the value of the material culture and spirituality of Latin American people. I emphasize diversity in my teaching and scholarship by exploring marginalized communities and non-mainstream religious practices within Hispanic and LatinX communities.
HEART UC in Nashville
Our proposed project, HEART: Unifying Communities, is an initiative, envisioned by myself and two professors, to listen to the concerns of the LatinX community in Nashville and to give them the opportunity to express themselves through art and language. We have seen first-hand the interests and needs of members and change agents in the LatinX community about having more places, equity, and opportunities to express themselves and tell their stories. There are not enough spaces for the LatinX community to be creative and even fewer opportunities to engage in a fruitful dialogue with Americans.
ContArte Latinoamérica and HEART UC
This year I am a fellow in the Digital Humanities Center, where I am developing my project ContArte Latinoamerica (CAL): a digital repository of works of art made by LatinX artists. CAL will showcase the resulting art pieces from HEART UC. Last semester, CAL hosted Marcela Castaño’s exhibit “Connections”. Her sensitivity to her craft and her passion made me want to expand our collaboration. Additionally, I met Vladimir Bedoya at Tennessee State University (TSU), an enthusiastic ESL teacher.
HEART UC and I
HEART UC would provide me with in-depth knowledge about the LatinX perspective and enrich my theoretical worldview with hands-on experience. This project will also impact my teaching practices, helping me shape a more inclusive environment. I believe that the way we engage with people and cultures can make students feel included or excluded. Finding sources that explore social justice content is not enough; choosing relevant articles or authentic resources or including language context in our classes is not enough. As teachers, we need to develop meaningful relationships through language, culture, and literary or artistic artifacts.