The healing love between Indigenous women

CC standing, and Castro seated, each wearing traditional dress of their culture. Photo courtesy of the interviewees.

This article was written by Tatiana Suarez Patiño for Muy Waso, and is republished on Global Voices under a media partnership agreement.

Love is in the details, and no one can convince me otherwise. That is why I am fascinated by art, because it is full of details that reflect the artist's total and boundless dedication.

If we talk about plastic arts, those details can be in the minimal point of light inside the pupil of an eye that transforms it into an observing subject, or in the delicate way in which yellow paint can become the mid-afternoon sun.

I have spent years of my life looking for these signs that reveal love, and without being arrogant, I can consider myself an expert in finding them. I not only see them, but also feel them.

That's why the first time I saw Castro and CC together I recognized that love that comes from the details, and because of that magic, I was compelled to ask them for an interview to write the story that I share with you below.

Castro (left) and CC (right). Photo courtesy of the interviewees.

I was in Phoenix, Arizona, in the U.S. when I met them. They live there and that's where they carry out their resistance. I met them at Cahokia, a venture led by Native American women, which works to generate sustainable economies through the development of artistic projects that promote creativity, the recovery of ancestral memory and the strengthening of Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Castro is Stephanie Guillermina's last name and nickname; she is 32 years old, born in Queens, New York. Her parents are from Colombia and Chile and she is of Muisca and Mapuche descent. She identifies as Queer, and is a multidisciplinary artist, event planner, and doula.

Stephanie Guillermina Castro posing with her work. Photo courtesy of the interviewees.

Carrie Sage Curley, better known as CC, born on the sacred lands of San Carlos Apache in Arizona 34 years ago, is a lesbian, multidisciplinary artist, community organizer, and cultural keeper.

Carrie Sage Curley posing next to her work. Photo courtesy of the interviewees.

In 2020, the two met during devotions at the Apache Stronghold ceremonial center at Oak Flat, a mountain sacred to the Apache. In 2022, after participating in an event, Women of the Desert, in Phoenix, they felt their paths were not two, but one, and they have been walking hand in hand ever since in the same direction.

That direction is everything. They do not have a relationship, they have a healing purpose: to make Indigenous women visible and recover their wisdom through art. Recovering their image taken away by centuries of colonization is not a minor struggle, and that is one of their goals — to build their image away from the visual clichés imposed by the dominant white ideologies, and they do it by painting one mural at a time. Their artwork can be found in the streets of Phoenix, in galleries, in social spaces, and in private collections, portraying strong, free, and autonomous Indigenous women, with their lights and shadows.

In this regard, Castro says:

I hope to capture an authentic representation of my ancestors through the lens of the spirits that guide me and my brush. I hope to provoke a connection to the Andes for those who have been displaced through migration. I hope that my relatives and those who experience my art will feel the power and light that traveled through me. And that they see the beauty and deeper meaning of intergenerational wisdom and love.

CC and Castro during a peaceful protest for the rights of sacred Indigenous lands. Photo courtesy of the interviewees.

For CC, her art is a connection to herself and to her roots through culture. It is interrogating her existence. She says:

I use my art as a weapon for the people. I love to paint my people, especially the women. It is an honor to be Apache. Whoever comes across my work I want them to feel loved by theirself and proud.

There is an ancestral voice that guides them and connects the past and the present to build a future, and those voices are materialized in art pieces, as CC explains:

We are our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers. The clan is passed down from generation to generation. Our connection to the land is through our clan. I paint the strong women of the past and present. My mother is a local seamstress who continues to keep the spirit of dress alive. I photograph her work with my family and the women of the community, and that is why I am like this, I find my strength in my culture and the land.

CC painting a mural on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. Photo courtesy of the interviewees.

The story that both are building is deeply inspiring, for it is the story of liberation. The liberation of our bodies and our image, as Castro says:

I feel that colonization has robbed us of our sensuality and connection to our divine sexual power and energy. I work diligently to regain this sensual awareness and connection to my body and my sexual power. The freer we are as individuals, the freer we are as a people. Returning to our ways in which we followed spirit and nature. Because our sexuality is divine nature — as plants and trees pollinate, so do we.

The sexual revolution is a pending issue in Latin America, and in Indigenous communities even more so; however, this story of transformation and light shows us that another reality is possible, where traditions, spirituality, and creativity are not at odds with sexual diversity, but rather complement each other and become one.

In this regard, CC shares the following reflection for all those people who have an internal debate between their sexuality and their traditions:

You should know that there is nothing wrong with you. Our creator gave you the spirit you carry. I know it can be scary to think what others say when they think of you but show them kindness and love because that is who you are. You need prayers, the earth, and people to be supported healthily.

CC and Castro fused in a loving embrace. Photo courtesy of the interviewees.

I thank them for the moments I was able to enjoy their company and I thank them for allowing me to tell their story. I feel it is a duty to share the life of these powerful souls, so that the force that brought them together can be amplified, and their experience can inspire others to live a freer life, far from the shackles of puritanical glances that condemn the healing love between Indigenous women.

As I finish writing this text, and my memory returns to the first day I met them. Castro looked at CC and smiled at her, and a whole universe opened up in the room. Planets, languages, silences, and ecosystems lived there that no one else could understand but them. And so I reassert my stance: love is in the smallest details.

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