The passport has been an object I always keep rigorously updated and safeguarded. I have come to love the various stamps, seals and watermarks that inhabit its pages; they are small tatoos of victories over tedious bureaucracies that legitimize my being wherever I am, and keep a visible track – a compendium- of my travels, voluntary or not. Twice, however, I have been in places where my passport hasn’t been stamped, so I have taken other objects- a Senegalese franc, a Dutch train ticket- to supplement this proof. Passports and visas also have another important quality- the photo, which is a snapshot of the time and place, and the fingerprint, actual trace of the body.
I have held a similar affect towards my festival badges- some with photo, some with just my name handwritten- which also admitted me to restricted places: quasi-sacrosanct parties, roundtables, screenings and dinners at exclusive venues, or even access through barricades (at a festival in Oaxaca last year that took place in the midst of a teacher’s sit-in). Why do I keep the badges?
The old passports I often find I need to refer to when renewing my visa, but who ever asks for proof of having attended a festival? Festivals of course are events, and though they may be held annually at the same places, they are never the same experience. The badge is the fragment that echoes the narrative (and in many cases, the graphic campaign) of the lived, unique experience; a trophy, a souvenir.
Now in New York, alleged city of immigrants, I have taken note of how Latin American peoples are represented in the media and in museums. I sometimes photograph myself against there backdrops, to see how well I match the picture or whether I dispell the message simply by my presence. Am I a Latina in this country, or still a migrant/tourist snapping pictures?
American Museum of Natural History, 2002