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Stitches that Endure: With ‘Reparaciones,’ New Visions of Healing

May 16, 2024
One of UC Merced Professor Yehuda Sharim's photos for the "Reparaciones" essay with Professor Lorena Alvarado
One of Professor Yehuda Sharim's photos for the "Reparaciones" essay with Professor Lorena Alvarado

Two UC Merced professors have collaborated on a meditative and innovative exploration of the literal and figurative threads that weave through a Southern California city.

“Reparaciones,” created by Lorena Alvarado and Yehuda Sharim, is a multimedia poetic essay about a Latinx neighborhood in Huntington Park, about six miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The nexus of the tale is a clothing alteration workshop along the Pacific Boulevard, the city’s main north-south street.

“I was raised there,” Alvarado, a professor of music and performance studies, said of Huntington Park. “A largely Spanish-speaking immigrant city that has, and continues to be, a source of quinceañera boutiques, stories, wounds, stitches that endure.”

“Reparaciones” is presented by the University of California Humanities Research Institute. It is a contribution to “Care & Repair,” the annual theme set by UCHRI and the UC Humanities Network.

Many Spanish-speaking tailor or garment workers refer to completing their tasks as hacer reparaciones — to make repairs. The phrase echoes reparations — the correcting of wrongs against underrepresented people.

Huntington Park tailoring and garmet alteration shop
Sharim found the Huntington Park tailor shop he photographed to be "deeply poetic."

In the poem “paradise is far from the freeway,” Alvarado writes:

Justice refuses to look at our mothers. Justice refuses to clarify the crimes against their daughters. Justice does not visit our streets: Soto and State, Broadway and Lincoln, Avenue 26th. Justice loiters, looking beautiful. Where are the assemblies, the search committees, the witnesses, the closed palaces of justice? Who shall force open their doors?

Alvarado, a professor of music and performance studies, said there are autobiographical elements in “Reparciones” — her mother has had a long career as a tailor and garment worker — but there also is “a witnessing of the images, a making of history at large, of that and those which surround and embrace and misunderstand us and our interaction with the world.”

Sharim, a professor of media and performance studies, said he chose Elvi’s Suit & Tailoring as his visual centerpiece because the store is a community gathering place where stories are measured along with arms, legs and waists.

“I found the space to be deeply poetic. Attention is given to the smallest details — details that make and shape our lives,” Sharim said. “Often, we don't pay attention to such spaces, just like the fields and prisons that surround us in the Valley. When you dare to pause and examine the so-called realities we are forced to accept, many horrific and mysterious aspects of life reveal themselves to us.”

Jody Murray

Jody MurrayPublic Information Officer

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