As part of their project Women & Weather, writer Hafizah Augustus Geter and photographer Daniel Ramos recently spent time talking and visiting with queer and trans inhabitants of a small tent city installed on the UANL campus in Monterrey. Hafizah shares with us her impressions of that space of radical possibilities.
March 2022: From the rooftop of Daniel Ramos’s late abuela’s house, the morning sun is done rising. Daniel points to a mountain in the distance where Coca-Cola’s Topo Chico factories run despite the historic drought plaguing Monterrey, one of Mexico’s wealthiest cities. It’s early. The heat of the day has yet to hit. Like those around us, we fill up empty buckets with water as the entire city braces for the coming rationing, which will deny certain neighborhoods running water.
In 2021, I approached Daniel about Women & Weather, a project that for me, has been years in the making. Over the coming years, from Latin America to Asia, Africa, and the U.S., we’ll make a full-length photo-essay, a “memoir” of the collective that shows how freedom struggles reverberate across communities by centering racialized peoples, women, queer, and trans people, and how our lives and activism intersect with the climate crisis.
Here, in Monterrey the Presa de la Boca is dry. My second day, we visit the once full reservoir. Where there was once water, people rollerblade and dance. They take pictures leaning against formerly sunken boats now exposed and cracking like the ground beneath them, dried by the sun. Daniel’s parents and grandparents were born in Mexico. This city, poised to die of thirst is, like the U.S., also his home.
But in this moment, this day one of Women & Weather, on his abuela’s rooftop—me, a Nigerian born, U.S. raised queer Black woman and writer; Daniel, a straight Mexican U.S. photographer, and artist raised between Monterrey and Chicago—the two of us set our pens and cameras down. We talk about what it means to be at a “beginning,” and how much they require knowledge of the past. As artists, how do we ethically engage with liberation through linguistic and visual narrative?
Beginnings, to me, are a fundamental part of how I think about the work of abolition. Prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition organizer and activist Mariame Kaba describes it as “a vision of a restructured society in a world where we have everything we need: food, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, clean water, and more. Things that are foundational to our personal and community safety.” The courage and imagination to begin again, is one of the many requirements when facing a system that, since its inception, has failed to deliver justice, reform, or safety.