Rebecca Jackson and Chloe Chon, both MCST majors from my year decided to make a documentary about La Colmena, and we all thought that was an awesome idea. During the time they were here, Rebe and Chlo recorded some of the events and workshops we had, many interviews with people involved in the project, and some other fun things that happened in the house (like when we played cebollitas! For those of you who don’t know what cebollitas is, wait for the documentary to come out!). I liked seeing them record stuff at the house, because it made me reflect on what was happening at that moment and how we might think about it in the future. It seems like things at La Colmena change all the time, really fast.
But anyway, this post is about one of my favorite moments recording a clip for the documentary. It was Rebecca’s last Sunday in Mexico City, a couple hours before the Sunday meeting started, and we were, as we often are, hanging out in the kitchen. Java was broadcasting on Radio Colmena from his computer, and when he put on some music I asked him to tell me a bit about what made him join this collective.
Java said he was at first intrigued by the idea of meeting people from abroad, and that what has kept him here is the atmosphere that was created when we all started working together. Java grew up in Ciudad Juárez, and he said that his image of citizens of the United States was shaped by the stories of racism and violence committed against Mexicans he heard all the time, living near the border. Coming to La Colmena was for him a way to explore these issues and to challenge prejudices.
I have slowly been realizing that having people from abroad come to Mexico City to join La Colmena has been central to the experience of everybody participating in the project. Among other things, it has confronted us with an important challenge, which Java mentioned: attempting to communicate not only through cultural differences, but also through linguistic barriers. Many of us spoke at least some of both English and Spanish, but there were others who only knew one of these languages. We dealt with this difficulty at the meetings by translating everything, an often tiring and time-consuming endeavor, but a very important one. In more informal situations, using physical language was useful too, and also quite fun and sometimes funny. I believe that having to learn another language is an exercise that makes us all more humble, and that seeing others try to learn from us can also make us more willing and excited to learn from them, and Java agreed with me on this point. He said that overcoming language barriers made him connect to people in La Colmena in different ways, and that he thinks we all have learned a lot–and not only about English and Spanish–from this process.
As we had this conversation, Melipona climbed up to our bag of bags, and curled up to take a nap. She has become fluent in English and Spanish, and she has also had a chance to practice her French, Cantonese, Mandarin, and even a little Portuguese, Hebrew and Korean. Watching her sleep so peacefully and beautifully makes me automatically feel more at home. She was the first resident of the Colmena house, and we tell the story of how this happened in that same clip for the documentary, so I won’t go into it right now. I’ll just say that I’m happy this old house which remained empty (and maybe even haunted, but that’s another story!) for a long time has now been adopted by Melipona and her loving Colmena crew.