The fire of Latinx voices
Creating space to honour cultural identity and community is at the heart of Melbourne-based Latinx art collective Yo Soy. A fast growing number of artists are showcasing their work through Yo Soy’s platform and the collective’s first zine ay mi chicle is about to launch. Latinx-Australian writer and creator Ruby Pivet is the co-founder of Yo Soy and took some to chat about building communities through art, the importance of Australian perspectives in the Latinx diaspora and of course, astrology.
What’s generally keeping you busy at the moment aside from constant checking of the Co-star app?
I guess we are kicking it off by calling me out, that’s fine! I love Co-Star and especially because it’s the first time anywhere I’ve been able to get the username I actually want.
I’m currently working as a Digital Producer for an arts festival and it’s keeping me very busy! Someone asked me recently how many digital producers we have and I was like “it’s…. just me…” haha. Outside of that, I’m going to therapy, doing some freelance writing and consulting work, organising a few events and projects and working on my own personal arts practice. I’ve recently picked up my guitar again and have really been enjoying relearning and mucking around on that. I’m also part of this year’s Emerging Cultural Leaders program at Footscray Community Arts Centre and beyond hyped for that.
Tell us about Yo Soy Collective – who is it for and why was it personally important to you to start it?
Yo Soy started because my friend Jessica Ibacache and I had both been feeling for a while that a space for young Latinx creatives to come together was lacking. We wanted to create something for us, by us. I think it would be fair to say that largely and by nature of circumstances, Latin American communities of all kinds have always been pretty involved in organising (politically, artistically and socially). Yo Soy is partly about paying respect and homage to those who came before us and all that they created and partly about creating our own space where we can support one another and express ourselves. Personally, I lost that sense of community at quite a young age due to family politics, so it’s been really lovely and important to me to try and reconnect and rebuild. Art seemed like a natural place to start. We had kind of been running into the same creative people organically for a while before deciding to go ahead and actually set something up.
Can you tell us about how Yo Soy is growing and any projects or events you have coming up?
We started late last year and are always looking for new members and people to collaborate with! We’re lucky that we have friends who run their own collectives or projects who are super supportive and always happy to share information and resources and vice versa.
We have a few things in the works at the moment but coming up soon is our event Fuego, which is part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival. It’s going to be at Loop Project Space & Bar this week! That’s going to feature readings from members of the collective and also the launch of our first zine, ay mi chicle, which is my pet project that I actually started conceptualising before Yo Soy was even a thing. My personal hope for Fuego is that is becomes an ongoing storytelling series.
You write a lot about your personal perspectives on the Latinx experience in Australia which is not a commonly heard point of view in mainstream narratives. For you personally, what are the stories of your experience that are relatable on a wider level that you feel are most important to tell?
Feedback I got from, let’s be honest, white people, when I first started writing about it a few years ago was that there weren’t any Latin American people in Australia and I was making stuff up or trying to “be American” which is straight up incorrect. Australia has one of the biggest Chilean populations outside of Chile, for one example. The reason for that is political in and of itself.
I think it’s important to have an Australian perspective because so much of what we read from the Latinx diaspora or see in media is from the United States and indeed, Latin America. There are related experiences and similar themes and some which are extensions of others and they’re so important, but I don’t want to claim that our experiences and circumstances are exactly the same. They’re not, and to suggest as such would be disrespectful to all those different experiences and the nuances they each hold. That’s before you even get to the fact that everyone experiences being Latinx in Australia differently, especially depending on whether they were born here, grew up here or moved here later in life and so on.
So, there isn’t really just once experience, rather my experience is just one experience. But a lot of Latinx people here and also overseas have reached out to me to say they relate to the things I write and I feel that way when I read the work of a lot of other, particularly young, Latinx people living in so-called Australia. It can be really easy to say “representation matters” and not take it further than that, but even outside of what it means for things like opportunities and access, I do think that it’s important. Connecting, being seen and heard and understood and all that. I think the people who relate to my work are often connecting to the experience of simply being and being here. Much in the way that this is what I relate and connect to in other people’s work, whether they are Latinx or not. It’s probably a lot more nuanced than simply that, but I think at the core, that might be what it comes down to.
When it comes to your own writing in this space, is it more important for you to educate or to process personal experiences and provide a community for other Latinx creatives?
This is where I draw a distinction between being understood by my community and the people I write for aside from myself and being “understood” by those outside of those spaces. I think the former can be really important for a number of reasons, like holding space for different ideas and experiences and opinions… but the latter is… pointless might be too harsh, but it’s a lot of work to try and achieve and even then it’s unlikely that you ever will, so why keep focusing energy there?
If educating in this sense is articulating my experience and asking or hoping or expecting to be understood and respected, I used to think it was important to educate. Then I realised that it wasn’t really an exercise that I benefited from and was actually pretty detrimental to my mental and emotional health. And honestly, this theme of ‘educating’ had also crossed over into my personal life. It was a lot of work and it was constant. My therapist asked me some time last year how many hours in a day, when I’m working on a piece, do I feel like I’m putting my emotional wellbeing at risk or working in a heightened state of stress. The answer was 12. That almost the entire time I’m awake during 24 hours. So now, I make whatever I want to and that isn’t always identity-related work.
You can write a nuanced, referenced piece (because people are so concerned with having “evidence” of experiences, as if someone saying “this is true of my life” is not evidence enough but I digress) about your experience and people who don’t want to understand, won’t and they’ll usually demand you either justify yourself or shut up. So now a days I’m not necessarily concerned with having people I don’t know “understand” me, particularly if they’re going to refuse to anyway. But I am interested in understanding myself and the people around me, building connections with my communities and communities with similar/related experiences. I am interested in taking up space and even more interested in creating space for others to express and create, I think that’s far more important. There’s a lot more value in those things to me than in educating people who don’t actually want to learn. I was a music journalist for a long time, that’s actually where I’ve come from first, writing about art and entertainment. Sometimes I just wanna write about a show I binged on the long weekend and not have to talk about other shit. I think a lot of writers of varying marginalised backgrounds experience this pressure (from editors and readers and even themselves) to relate things back to identity, but perhaps that’s a whole other discussion.
You mentioned Yo Soy’s zine ay mi chicle, which centres Lantinx writers, launches this week! Can you give us any kind of idea on the kind of stories it will feature or you’re hoping to feature or the vibe of the zine in general?
Honestly this whole project started from a meme and that’s the energy that I, personally, like to bring to both life and a project. That being said, there are some really beautiful pieces of creative non-fiction, an interview with Aimee Flores who runs Sangre Migrante in Sydney, honest tales of growing up Latin American in Australia (which was the theme for this first issue, to give context for the zine going forward), an excerpt from Gerii Pleitez’s wonderful debut novel On The Sunday, She Created God and a few other things that you will just have to get a copy of the zine to find out what they are!
What are your plans for Yo Soy long term?
Long term we’d like to continue expanding, adding more people to the collective and such. We’d love to run more community events and showcases and projects and have some in the works we are keeping close until they’re ready. As Jess puts it much better than I do: our goal is to continue to grow as a collective and provide opportunities for Latinx artists in Melbourne to showcase their work – across art forms – so that we become part of the Australian arts narrative. Latinx people often have to deal with the stance that since were a minority within a minority, we don’t exist, we don’t matter or our experiences are less valid. We’re here to change that through art.
Lastly, how long is too long before speaking to/dating someone before you do their birth chart and add them on Co-star?
Listen, apparently this is poor form, but I wanna know during if not before a first date! I’m curious more than anything but also if someone makes the “oh you’re into that stuff?” face then I know I’m not keen on taking things further lol. There’s some interesting writing out there on queers and people of colour and other marginalised folks in regards to astrology, which is super interesting and like, fitting.
Issue on of ay mi chicle launches Friday, June 26 at Loop Project Space & Bar Melbourne. You can find out more about Yo Soy Collective and ay mi chicle below.