Throughout history, women of color have raised consciousness, moved communities and demanded social change through self-publishing, and this week's #WCW Alma Rosa Rivera carries on this tradition through zines.
The Los Angeles-based Xicana zinester uses words and art to reclaim narratives that have been used to vilify brown women, resist patriarchy, find healing and give back.
Whether dedicating a zine to Latinas and mental health, organizing art events that are inclusive of queer and trans women of color or using function profits to gift homeless and impoverished folks in her community with menstrual products, the 25-year-old Alma Rosa is kicking the patriarchy’s ass. Here’s how:
Tell us about your work in Xicana fiction, poetry and zines:
My work and relationship with Xicana literature all began with one book: “Caramelo” by Sandra Cisneros. I checked it out from my local library when I still lived in Santa Clarita, a town with a large population of brown people but not much action going on politically. I will never forget that day because it was on that bus ride with that book that I realized there were writers and characters in books that told my story and had brown skin like mine. To say that moment was life-changing is an understatement. Since then, I have been obsessed with Xicanx literature. I collect books and zines the way others collect records or baseball cards. I focus a lot of my activism around books largely because it is through books that I found my own identity. I really believe in the power of books and creating zines as a way of finding ones self as a person of color, so I really try to spread the concept in my community to read, write and create our own literature. I don't believe in waiting around for the day publishers like Puffin Books or Knopf reach out to me; I'm too punk rock for that. I think of zines as creating something beautiful and important with items that are cheap and on hand, sort of how you would turn a plain tortilla into a buñuelo or rice into horchata. My mom always made amazing meals with so little, I guess it's in my blood to work this way.
Love that! Your zines cover a multitude of themes, particularly focusing on Latinidad, culture, womanhood and more. How do you decide what each will touch on?
As a full-time Chicanx student who lives on her own, zines have become not just an artistic outlet but also a form of income. So when I think of creating my zines, I see it both from an artistic level and a business level. I choose my topics based off of my interests and personal experiences. My most popular zine, “Tranquila,” was created out of my own personal battle with an anxiety disorder. I felt that mental health from a muxeres perspective was a topic that wasn't being talked about, and my mentality has always been this: if you see something that needs to change, why not do it yourself? So I did, and I continue to choose topics that I feel aren't being discussed enough or topics that I feel I have an original perspective on.
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