"Nuestras Voces: Being Latina at MIT," a documentary produced by Latina MIT students and alumnae and by faculty in the foreign languages and literature section, has been included in the 2005 New England Film and Video Festival.
The prestigious annual festival, now in its 30th year, runs from Oct. 6 through 10. "Nuestras Voces" premiered at MIT in March 2004 and will be shown at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline on Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m.
Margarita Ribas-Groeger, director of Spanish language, co-directed the original project - a wide selection of video interviews - and helped edit those 20 hours of tape into the dramatic yet intimate portrait of seven Latinas that appealed to film festival judges.
In "Nuestras Voces," Latina students who came to MIT from Chilean, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican and Puerto Rican families share their own "challenges and successes, while giving voice to women whose efforts and struggles are often not recognized and who are underrepresented in higher education," Ribas-Groeger said.
The MIT group hoped "Nuestras" would reach both college students and a younger Latina community, including women in high school or junior high, for whom these stories "could be a source of inspiration. Also, a documentary about Latina students can educate a mass audience about the cultural issues that surface as minority individuals become members of institutions like MIT," Ribas-Groeger said.
The Latinas in "Nuestras" are Jazlyn Carvajal '04, Kateri Garcia '03, Maribel Gomez '02, Dalie Jimenez '01, Nelly Rosario '94, Karina Vielma '01 and Nicole Vlado '02.
For Jimenez, participating in "Nuestras Voces" was a "fantastic experience." She said, "Not only did I get to tell my story and process it at the same time, I also got to hear stories of other MIT women."
Jimenez currently works as director of special projects for state Sen. Jarrett Barrios (D-Cambridge). In her view, "Nuestras Voces" has "many things that speak to non-Latino women, that speak to immigrants or children of immigrants. Its biggest asset is that it can reach a large audience," she said.
As "Nuestras" opens, it introduces the Latina students, their familial and community relationships, and the response they received from their families, high school teachers and counselors when they expressed interest in going away to college.
The middle section depicts the women's lives at MIT, and in the end, the seven students reflect on how they changed during their time at the Institute.
It's a simple video, yet its candor cuts right to the heart of many young women's experience, Jimenez said.
"I've seen women cry when they see it and others be visibly moved. The film is powerful because it delves into the lives of these seven women, and at the same time it speaks about something much larger than them and their particular circumstances. I think it's definitely helped others, in particular younger women, truly understand that there have been women who came before them and had very similar experiences. That is comforting; it validates your experience," Jimenez said.
Adriana Gutierrez co-directed "Nuestras" with Ribas-Groeger. Cynthia Conti '01, editor and director of photography, filmed and edited the interviews. Isabelle de Courtivron, professor in the foreign languages and literature section, and Nancy Lowe, administrative officer, provided support.
The project was also supported by the Center for Bilingual/Bicultural Studies, the dean for undergraduate education and the dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 5, 2005 (download PDF).