Fine Art Photography Daily

Iaritza Menjivar: First Generation

01_© Iaritza Menjivar

©Iaritza Menjivar, After dropping off her youngest son, Matheus, two, at his babysitter’s home, my mother’s sister, Doris DeLeon, waits for the bus to arrive at 5:40AM.

In a time when immigration is much in the news, Iaritza Menjivar‘s powerful project of the up close and personal day to day struggles of sacrifice to create a better life puts a face on the realities of a family born within and outside of American borders. This intimate project allows us to understand the complexities of life in a place that is not home, yet is home, the pressure placed upon the arriving generation and the first born generation, reflecting the decisions that all our families made at some point in the past (with the exception of native born Americans). Iaritza has been nominated to participate as part of the Emergi-cubes for Photoville NYC 2016 from September 21-25, 2016 and her work will be featured at the Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson, NY in the Annual Group Show opening September 3 and running through through October 2, with an opening on September 17.

Iaritza Menjivar (b. 1992) is a Boston based photographer, born and raised in Massachusetts. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography at Lesley University College of Art and Design. Currently, she works at the Griffin Museum of Photography as the assistant to the director. She also does freelance work which includes event photography and photo retouching. Iaritza’s personal project is about the high expectations set upon her generation by her family and the pressure the first generation personally feels to honor their immigrant parents. Recently, her ongoing project, First Generation, was featured on The New York Times Lensblog. For this same project, Iaritza was awarded a St Botolph Foundation Emerging Artist Grant in the visual art category. She was also a scholarship recipient for the Seeing Crete: A Photo Diary Workshop in Crete, Greece, part of Maine Media Workshops. Her work has been exhibited in multiple group exhibitions locally and internationally.

02_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, My brother Hugo Menjivar at age 14 and our father, Rubio Menjivar. Hugo helps my father and everyone in their household with daily tasks, specially anything that involves English

First Generation

For my cousins, siblings and I, the repetitive message from our parents was always clear: “I sacrificed everything: family, friends and my life to come to this country. I wanted to give my family back home a better life and my children the life I never had.” My family immigrated from Central America. They have given us, the first American born generation a great life, the life they never had. The abundance of food, clothes and technology our parents have earned through hard work is overwhelming, next to the poor lives they left behind.

03_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, My half brother, Hugo Menjivar’s 16th birthday.

As one of the oldest children from the first generation, I culturally grew alongside my parents. At an early age I would help with an array of things: from translating paperwork to helping with all technological tools, such as making a call back home on the new iPhone. Assimilating into the American culture wasn’t easy for them and it has not been easy for us, the first generation, to find our identity in the space between two cultures.

04_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, My cousin Arileni Baquedano, 20, on the right, shared her bedroom with me, on the left, for my four years in college.

At times I feel that my generation has been forced to accept a sacrifice, one we didn’t choose. I question my own feelings towards the magnanimous sacrifice and wonder if the pressure of being everything my family wasn’t has altered our identity. Now, I confront the expectations set upon us.

05_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, Aury Andrade, my mother’s aunt, maintains her family in Guatemala. Alexia Hernandez, the bride on the left, is Aury’s youngest daughter. Aury brought her four children to the United States all on her own

06_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, After a 12-hour shift, my father’s sister Maritza Menjivar vented about her long day to me.

07_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, Welcome home balloons in my mother’s bedroom.

08_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, Rubi, left, is my half sister Eleana DeLeon’s daughter, and my cousin Matheus, right, is the son of Doris DeLeon, my mother’s sister.

09_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, Matheus, left, and Salara Dasilva are both my cousins on my mother’s side. They are growing up without a father. More than half their time is spent at day care and the remainder of the time at home.

10_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, In my cousin Arileni’s household live both her parents and our Aunt Frany. Arileni, who is blow-drying her hair, basically holds that household together by handling the bills and with her ability to understand English. On the left is my Aunt Maritza, Arileni’s mother.

11_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, As I took this photograph, I remembered a story my mother once shared: “When I was a kid I used to play with wooden sticks and pretend they were dolls.” In the pink skirt on the left is my goddaughter Genesis Gutierrez and her friend Jocelin Maldonado. Genesis is the daughter of Cynthia Moreno, my stepmother Nancy Moreno’s sister.

12_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, The winter is the worst season for my mother’s sister, Doris DeLeon. She is a single mother who isn’t allowed to drive.

13_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, “Fly, fly, fly away Tia Iari!!” -Rubi Sepulveda, at age 3.

14_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, My stepmother’s brother, Jose Vidal, center, had only a few months in the United States. It was as if I were seeing a younger version of my father, a young immigrant working to survive.

15_© Iaritza Menjivar

© Iaritza Menjivar, When I was young I used to believe that when I grew older I would be able to save my family from everything. This specific day my aunt and her three children were being evicted from their home. I sat there and felt useless.

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