isabella tjalve

Briana grew up in Texas. First in Brownsville and later in San Antonio. Although she was raised in the United States, Spanish was her first language and the language of her household. Brownsville, she describes, is an extension of Mexico, where Spanish is spoken everywhere, and where the US-Mexico border moved around the people. To her, moving to London and away from people familiar with her culture was both jarring and exciting. Her objects from home both serve as reminders of her roots and as ways of sharing a part of herself with others.

She keeps Polaroids of her family tucked into notebooks, next to journal entries. Images of her with her sisters, her with her parents. The photos radiate a warmth and closeness between them.

“I love to share my culture through my food,” she tells me, before detailing the joy of introducing her flatmate to tortillas and homemade salsas, which give some spice and flavor to meals that are missing that little bit of extra oomf.

Ali grew up in LA, but she was raised in a fiercely Cuban household. The phrase “next year in Havana…” is often heard bouncing around her house, as if to say, “next year in Havana we will return home, and everything will be ok"

To her, Cuba “has always been this mystical idyllic place that the elders would talk about” and hopes to one day return to the place she and her family still consider home. Until then, she keeps small tokens of Cuba around her to keep the memory alive wherever she goes: Orchids in her room, an ode to the many variants found in Cuba.

A necklace that consists of three charms: the crest of Cuba, la Vírgen de la Caridad – the patron saint of Cuba, and a delicate heart. She and her sister received identical ones as a gift from their mother, who also wears one. When they are apart, they are able to keep their country and each other close to their hearts.

Her items are reminders of where she comes from, of the people who raised her, and of the homeland she hopes to return to one day. Next year in Havana.

This series was inspired by my grandparents, who enthusiastically sent me a care package full of what they considered to be essential supplies from Mexico. Tortillas, sweets, packets of soup, rice, beans, and a selection of hot sauces. All little things sent from them to remind me of one of my homes.

I looked around my London flat and began to notice all the other items that I keep with me:

The classic Cien Años de Soledad by Márquez on my bookshelf that I’ve been meaning to read for years but can’t quite commit to. I’ll get to it eventually…

The jewelry box that is beautifully painted with La Virgen de Guadalupe surrounded by the soft flowers. It contains my passports, bureaucratic ties to home.

It contains jewelry given to my mother by my grandmother, beaded Huichol necklaces, all among items I’ve collected from different places.

I smile a bit every time I look at these objects, as names of family members and memories briefly enter my mind. I miss home, but I know home is always with me.

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