“My best friend was raped.”
“Love is not abuse.”
“Igualdad” or equality in English.
These are only three of the 150 messages you can find at the Embroidering for Peace and Memory at the University of North Florida. The event was started by Dr. Constanza Lopez four years ago in order to let students voice out their opinions against violence around the world and to raise awareness.
Dr. Lopez was inspired by the actions of many women around the world who would embroider for peace. She mentioned mothers in Ciudad Juárez, who used sewing as their way of raising awareness when their daughters disappeared and were killed. She also mentions arpilleras, or burlap pieces sown together, that were created by people who were suffering under the Chilean dictatorship.
Dr. Lopez keeps two arpilleras in her office. Both pieces were created by students, who were inspired by the arpilleras in Chile, to voice out against violence. On one of the arpilleras, the words “Donde están nuestros queridos Pinochet?” This refers to the several thousands of people who have either disappeared or been murdered during the Chilean dictator’s, Pinochet’s, rule.
Though Dr. Lopez was inspired by other people’s works, it was her students who encouraged her to start the event at the University of North Florida. She mentioned students in her Latin American Literature and Film feeling discouraged because they felt as if they could not do anything to help.
“I realized that people here at UNF want to have a voice and they want to be heard, and they can do it through sewing and tracing with needle and thread. By doing that, we also put an invisible thread around the community,” said Dr. Lopez.
Dr. Lopez mainly funds the event herself. She receives some funding from the university to cover some of the materials, but most of the cost comes out of her pocket. However, she enjoys being able to share the experience with students each year, being able to raise awareness for human rights, and being able of “building a community that can help change the world.”
“One piece really doesn’t tell you anything, but when you begin to put all those pieces together it really begins to tell a story. That’s when the story becomes strong and important,” Dr. Lopez said.
Some students enjoy the event so much they return year after year. She even mentions some students who return to participate even after graduating from the University of North Florida.
“My grandmother taught me how to sew. It’s time to test my skills and make her proud,” said Paola Hernandez as she joked around with several of her classmates.
However, students without prior experience in embroidering are encouraged to participate. They start by sketching the message they choose with pencil on a white cloth. After that, they thread a needle and start following the trace marks starting from the back of the cloth to the front. Then, it is a matter of repetition, patience and determination.
“I have never embroidered in my life, but the event was fun and very peaceful and therapeutic,” said Natasha Gisela, who is in Dr. Lopez’s Communication and Communities class for native Spanish speakers.
Dr. Lopez hopes to take her project beyond the University of North Florida into the Jacksonville community. She hopes to one day be able to set up at Hemming Park and let others in the community be able to peacefully “speak” for human rights.
To learn more about Dr. Lopez’s Embroidering for Peace and Memory or to see some more photos of the event, you can visit her website in the following link: http://constanzalopez.weebly.com/teaching.html.
“By embroidering their stories, we honor their memories and make others aware of their struggles in hopes that their stories are not repeated.”
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Embroidering for Peace and Inequality <a href=”https://t.co/fjUXLRThdS”>https://t.co/fjUXLRThdS</a></p>— Alex Torres-Perez (@alextp12) <a href=”https://twitter.com/alextp12/status/724829462043435008″>April 26, 2016</a></blockquote>
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Dr. Constanza Lopez speaks about her project that lets students speak out against the world's problems. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BeHeard?src=hash”>#BeHeard</a> <a href=”https://t.co/d4nDKAlPRX”>https://t.co/d4nDKAlPRX</a></p>— Alex Torres-Perez (@alextp12) <a href=”https://twitter.com/alextp12/status/721914257982533632″>April 18, 2016</a></blockquote>