✦ Botánica Cimarrón ✦
Hiiii STEFA! It’s been such a thrill to see your practice evolve over the years. Can you share a little bit about your ancestral lineage and how the voices of the past found their way into your 2018 EP titled Sepalina?
✦ Stefa Marin Alarcon ✦
hi luv <3 my ancestral lineage lies in the global south, abya yala. i was born and raised in queens, but my ancestors have been in colombia for centuries. as i became more aware of how displacement, colonization and amerikkkanization had shaped my experience growing up, i was called to piece together a history for myself through music. my grandmother, edith marin bedoya, was a part of the embera-chami, an indigenous community in colombia. i was never able to meet her. she died when i was a child and i watched my mother grieve from afar because she was unable to return to colombia due to violent immigration laws. i saw what borders did; how they were destroying families, causing pain, and making us live in fear. after college i was incredibly let down by white supremacist beauracratic "entertainment" industries. with these feelings came the realization that i had been singing other people's words, other people's melodies, most of which were euro-centric my entire life!
where are the songs about our grandmothers?
where are the songs about the land we've been separated from?
growing up in NYC, the curiosity went deeper-- where am i from? like, where am i really from? jajaja i was reclaiming that question for myself!
my abuela was the first thing i wanted to write about. i wrote "negra más linda" as a prayer to her. to what she went through as a mother, and how it connects to mother earth and what colonization has done to her, too.
i searched for music from the embera-chami and i found a medicine song being shared by an elder. i didn't know what the words meant, but i was called to put them in my mouth, in my body, as a way of returning. to see what it would change within me. i created a choral arrangement that became 'Sepalina'. musically, i love layering my voice, i used to sing in choirs for many years, and in Sepalina these voices felt like an extension of my ancestors, like i had a direct connection to them for the first time.
✦ BC ✦
There’s so much magic and intention in your songs. Una Casita can be a channel for manifesting a dreamy home, and Volver feels like a battlecry for earth warriors. Are there any earth sites that have helped you access these portals?
✦ SMA ✦
when i was on the coast of abya yala, for the first time i realized i was a part of the Earth. it was an intense, fruitful time at a collaborative residency with artists of the diaspora. i had never been in these tierras in this way. it was like i was activating my true self for the first time. that's where i filmed "Sepalina" and where i began to explore these songs. so many ideas for the record were manifesting before i even knew what was occurring.
any body of water, i am home. it makes me emotional! there is nothing like being close to water. she is there for me. the ocean receives my pain, i can talk to her, we become one, i become as boundless as her. if i could feel how i feel in the water all the time?! i'd be transcendent! where the mountain meets the ocean: my spirit was there once, it will return again. thank you, mar. te amo!
i also want to call in queens, ny as an earth site. all of the diasporic energies that come together there are charged with this collective yearning for home. people making a way out of very little, making a way out of pain, transforming the yearning into life, into vibrancy, into the fuel to keep going. i think it can be very powerful to make a home in a space like that. there is a vitality about queens that is unmatched :']
✦ BC ✦
Making a living out of being an artist in such an adventure! How are you making a way (or finding peace without) during COVID when life for us at the margins got increasingly intense?
✦ SMA ✦
i live and commune with beautiful, expansive, supportive people. for the first year of this rupture, we were trying to come from a place of love towards one another. like really, love. it's been hard and exposing and vulnerable. the home is so important to have as a place that grounds you where you can expand into ur full self. our bonds got stronger, deeper, i mean it was intense! but i really don't know how i would've made it through without my bbz. it took me eight months to be able to sing, to write, to dream ideas again, to remember it was possible. i've been slowly returning to music, to art and creating and it's giving me the energy i need to go on and go thru.
✦ BC ✦
It was always so sweet running into you back in NYC. Where would we all be without the radical love of our queer kinships?! What ritual of connection is giving you the most joy right now?
✦ SMA ✦
ugh! i miss running into queer cuties at the functions!
i'm really thankful for my angels who connect with me thru voice notes. i feel we are all slowly emerging from our chrysalises ~ so it can be hard to pin each other down for (another) zoom, or a facetime. i love receiving a little notíta from a friend telling me what they're up to, how their heart is. hearing their tone of voice, their giggles. it helps me remember that we will be together again and it will be divine.
✦ BC ✦
I know you're answering the call of the land because you feel it in your heart. If you could mail a love letter to the heart of the earth, what would it say?
✦ SMA ✦
(si tiene agua dele gracias a dios)
dicen que un dia
se va acabar
se va secar
y yo les digo
si lo que tengo 'dentro
como esta canción
la dejo brillar