Dance the Archive: The Power of Bomba

Group 3: Zarajane Macapobre-Interviewer, Mikias Berhan-Photographer/Photo Editor, Claudia Esplugas-Live Blogger, Marquis Spiker-Category Editor, Chase Skuza-Metadata Editor, Robert Pedersen-Quality Editor

On March 16th, 2019, our group went to the 9th annual Womxn Who Rock (WWR) (Un)Conference. This years theme was “Dance the Archive” and featured an interactive Bomba workshop, a panel featuring the numerous talented women drummers and dancers, and an opening blessing to highlight the honoring of ancestors as well as the native land on which the conference took place.

The event proved to be extremely moving and powerful as special guests Ivelisse Diaz, Amarilys Rios, Milvia Pacheco, Jade Power Sotomayor, Denise Solis, Monica Rojas, and Iris Viveros not only led the entire conference in beautiful dancing to the polyrhythmic drumming, but also led a discussion explaining how Bomba shaped and saved their lives. Often referring to Bomba as “the medicine,” these women opened up about their experiences teaching us that Bomba is more than just a dance, but also a form of community organizing. Many of the guests expanded on their experiences as women who played drums, something traditionally done by men, and Denise specifically opened up about how being queer has shaped their experience with Bomba. There was also a very moving moment towards the end of the panel where a women of mixed descent shared her story of discovering Bomba and getting more in touch with her Puerta-Rican roots at a time when she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

As a group, we tried to capture photos that showed the joy and pleasure of the entire conference dancing, as well as the beautiful opening ceremony, and captivating panel. We categorized these into Making Scenes, Write to Rock, Reel Rebels, and Building Communities based on whether they were showing how the dancing pulled everyone in (Building Communities), the individual experiences being shared (Write to Rock/Making Scenes), or if it demonstrated the performers going against the grain of traditional societal standards (Reel Rebels). Zarajane also conducted interviews to get a better first hand understanding of what the conference meant to the participants and special guests. As a whole, we learned the importance of embracing heritage and being active within communities and organizing, and how these traditions tie everything together.

The Photos

Alter Ofrenda. Making Scenes. El Centro De La Raza Centilia Cultural Center, March 16, 2019. By Mikias Berhan

This photo highlights making scenes as it paints a powerful picture of ancestor worship to set the tone of the conference. The bright colors and the table next to it where children could write love letters display the participatory nature of the conference.

Opening Ceremonies. Milvia Pacheco (left), Iris Viveros (right). Reel Rebels. El Centro De La Raza Centilia Cultural Center, March 16, 2019. By Mikias Berhan

Demonstrating themselves to be Reel Rebels, these two women are demonstrating fandango which is a dance originated in De La Cruz and expresses healing. A personal poem was sung throughout. We learned that there are multiple forms of this spiritual dance and many messages are delivered through them.

The Bomba Workshop. (Left to right) Jade Sotomayor, Ivelisse Diaz, Denise Sepeda, Amarilys Rios. Making Scenes/Write to Rock. El Centro De La Raza Centilia Cultural Center, March 16, 2019. By Mikias Berhan

These women are some of the best Percussionists in the world and travel across to globe to share their talents, out the conference Making Scenes. Seen in the background is also one the prints hanging throughout the conference meant to bring attention to the violence that women face.

Dancing the Archive. Jade Sotomayor Leading Attendees in Bomba Workshop. Building Communities. El Centro De La Raza Centilia Cultural Center, March 16, 2019. By Mikias Berhan

Jade Sotomayor Leads the conference in a dance to bring everyone together and to participate in the Bomba activities, demonstrating how much Bomba helps to Build Communities.

The Bomba Panel. (From Left to Right) Milvia Pacheco, Jade Sotomayor, Amarilys Rios, Denise Sepeda, Ivelisse Diaz, Iris Viveros, Monica Rojas. Reel Rebels/Building Communities. El Centro De La Raza Centilia Cultural Center, March 16, 2019. By Mikias Berhan

These women have all been participating in different types of music and dance in their life. They now share knowledge and pass it down to their kids and many others who are learning about their culture. They demonstrate how they are Reel Rebels by going against traditional gender roles.

Zarajane interviewing Ivelisse Diaz. Write to Rock. El Centro De La Raza Centilia Cultural Center, March 16, 2019. By Mikias Berhan

Zarajane is exercising her “Write to Rock” gaining information about how the conference is going and what it means to Ivelisse Diaz along with engaging in a nice conversation. Many of the people at the conference had lots of knowledge and personal experiences to topics about the conference and life.

The Interviews

Date: 3/16/2019
Interviewer: Zarajane Macapobre
Method: audio recording
Device: Olympus Digital Recorder WS-510M

Milvia Pacheco (3 minutes, 4 seconds)

Zarajane: I am speaking with Milvia Pacheco… so what does this (un)conference mean to you?

Milvia: (Un)Conference, Womxn Who Rock, for me it means a place for healing… that is basically what it is. It’s really hard in Seattle to find a space where women and more women of color centered. It’s a link between community and university. It’s also a beautiful space where we can do reach-outs and understand people and have a lot of discussions about how we can decolonize, how we can bring the power of the feminine forward, how we can change perspective. People who have been doing this within the university are really appreciative of that, appreciative of the communities that are actually doing the work.

Zarajane: Yeah! Right?

Milvia: Yeah! They are just doing the work from the experience of living in the community, and I think that this space is made possible with both of our voices (both from the university and the community). It’s also a space for the students to experience the community, experience learning different ways, like a more grounding way that can bring energy back. Actually, they are Westernized (the students), and they experience how that happens in the body (the effect of dance)… what is happening (within you) when you are living and experiencing (dance) in a circle… use your body as expression, understanding the rhythm. Womxn Who Rock really created a space where I can heal and can connect and learn, where I can see how the work and the space that I hold can be ripples.

Zarajane: That’s beautiful. So, can you tell me what is the most significant part of this event for you?

Milvia: Well, for one, to feel the energy of the women who created this space, from the organizers, from that side, and also the artists’ side. It is incredible seeing those incredible musicians playing the drums. Doing Afro-Puerto Rican music…  they’re women, from the figures in the front to the drummers. It is a woman-produced event, and that is also significant. This is one of the most important spaces for powerful women to talk and share.

Zarajane: That’s awesome! Well, thank you so much and I really appreciate talking to you!

Ivelisse Diaz (1 minute, 47 seconds)

Zarajane: Hi, this is Zarajane Macapobre, and this is…

Ivelisse: Ivelisse Diaz. Chi-ca-go!

Zarajane: Ayyy! I’ll be asking you a couple of questions. So, the first one is, “What does this (un)conference mean to you?”

Ivelisse: Oooooh, wow. This (un)conference is love. It means empowerment. It means freedom. It means we are moving towards a better tomorrow and the next day, and it’s a beautiful thing. I’m so honored, to like, even be invited out of so many women who are doing the work. Don’t think it’s just, that these are the only women who are doing the work. That’s why I’m just so honored to represent women. Just women, in general, and mad love to my women of minorities for doing the work. And I’m just so blessed, so blessed.

Zarajane: Awesome! Last question, “What is the most significant part about this day to you?”

Ivelisse: The people laughing, the people actually connecting, the people actually having some type of connection with bomba. Laughing, forgetting that this is not probably part of their culture or their home. We just connect it all in one… we were flowing. That one time singing “Ay Mama,” that song has energy. So, you know, having unison songs like that just bring people together. That’s my favorite part. I love when people come together, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing giving this respect and all that good stuff. We got it, but it’s beautiful to actually see people share space with you. That was my favorite part of the whole workshop.

Zarajane: For sure! Thank you so much for sharing time with me and answering my questions!

Ivelisse: You got it, baby!

Live Blog Posts

Created by Claudia Esplugas

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #1: Entering the space Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #2: People start engaging with the music Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #3: Honoring el saludo Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #4: “Hey mamá, se quema la hacienda mamá” Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #5: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 1) Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #6: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 2) Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #7: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 3)


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