The life of Latin-American immigrants, their problems and needs, have been recorded by the photographer, with the aim of recognizing the work and the part played by women in social development.
The camera of this Anglo-Mexican has reflected the views of 11 young Latin Americans living in the UK. His work is being shown in the exhibition Empowerment Through Art: Photography and Latin-American Migrant Girls in London, at the New Art Exchange in Nottingham.
These images and the texts which accompany them, attempt to represent the life of Latino women in the British capital, and the show will soon be coming to London. In this multicultural city the Latino community is one of the most ‘forgotten’ despite numbering over 200,000 people.
Allison’s exhibition aims to celebrate the national and gender identities of Latino women living in the British capital. His subjects are aged between 12 and 17, and come from a variety of different countries.
According to Allison, he uses his camera “to transmit emotions”, and describes photography as “ a very subjective art” in which each person reflects on the image from the point of view of their own particular situation, always related to the general theme of liberty”.
The artist also beleives that his art will “help to improve the perception of Latin-Americans in the UK”, and break down the stereotypes the general public have about their lands, their culture and the people themselves.
Pablo Allison talks to The Prisma about his work, the situation of Latinos in the UK and Latin-American women in London.
Why does the exhibition focus on the lives of Latin-American women ?
The liberators are often talked about, but women have also been important in the independence of Latin America, without being recognized.
I planned to use the medium of photography to reflect on the life of the Latin-American woman in the UK, to show her strength, emphasizing the concepts of independence, freedom and triumphing over difficulties.
How is the city shown through the lives of these 11 women?
Many of them have arrived in a second migration, from Spain. In London they feel they have a lot of freedom, they feel at ease. The only problem that they all share is communication, because they they don’t speak or understand the language very well, which is an obstacle in their daily lives.
Some of them said they feel better adapted and less isolated in Spain, because of the similarities of language and culture there.
They are completely committed to their lives, they dedicate a lot of energy to improving their situation, and they persevere in achieving their goals. They all have a strong desire to live their lives fully. They are intelligent, and in different ways they want to do new things. This country motivates them.
They understand their situation, and although things are often not easy, they don’t give up the fight. That is important for any human being.
What is their life like here in London?
Their situation is complicated, because many of them have to look after other members of their families, – – – – and as young people they may be subject to many pressures that affect them psychologically. Some have mentioned that in their home countries they cannot be themselves, they have to stay in their homes.
What benefits does the exhibition offer to the Latino community?
I think that there have not been many exhibitions concerned with the Latin community in the UK. In Nottingham it was very well received despite the small number of Latinos living in the city. The exhibition in London will be a further step towards them becoming more noticed.
So far a lot of things have been achieved; for example the debate in Parliament organized a few months ago by the Latin American Recognition Campaign (LARC); or their official recognition as an ethnic minority in the London Borough of Southwark. These are small steps, which each immigrant community, by coming together, is making in order to be seen and heard, and so that the Latino community is not left out.
I joined the working group three years ago, before that I knew nothing about the community. But during this time there have been many improvements. There may be ideological differences, but the progress and the unity among Latinos is very clear. Their efforts are shown by those official forms on which we can now identify ourselves as ‘Latino’.
And new groups are emerging, with the aim of being recognized in the same way that other immigrants are. What all of us have to do is to be aware of the objectives to be acheived, our recognition. From being more visible many other things will come.
Yes, I believe this is a problem in Latin-American society. So Latino organizations like LAWRS (Latin American Women’s Rights Association) are mainly concerned with defending the rights of women in this country. I think both sexes are important and vital for the life of the world, but the planet is run by men, and women are in second place.
In general I think it is more difficult for women, their needs are different from men’s. The immigrant suffers a lot, they put up with harrassment . . . . . In countries like the UK, there is a lot of concern about the treatment of women, and efforts have been made to improve their living and working conditions.
The Latin-American woman is both strong and independent?
I believe they are tied to a role. In Latin culture, women are seen from a very traditional point of view, that they have to serve the family, keep the house clean etc. They don’t get the same respect as men. In this city there is a chance to see the feminine gender in larger terms than just as housewives, they have a chance to grow. It’s also important for British people to know the Latin community better, to break down stereotypes and improve our image.
Our continent has a history and a culture that goes beyond our music and dance or our cuisine.
Life here is different, it is very homogenized in terms of customs, everyone dresses the same, lives in the same way – – – -but they aren’t aware of some of the problems that are nearer to them than they think. There are Latino families that live in overcrowded rooms, in third world conditions – here in London – – – – . You have to open the door of a house to see how people live; in the street they pass unnoticed.
How would you describe the situation of the Latino community?
I think it is important for it to be recognized, this is the key thing in order to solve the problems of people who come mainly from the countries of South and Central America. If they continue being invisible, it amounts to a lack of respect for the thousands of people in this community.
It makes it difficult for them to access benefits and public services, or to offer them better opportunities for education.
(Translated by Graham Douglas – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos by (and supplied) : Pablo Allison