Meet Nico Rodríguez Melo from the MICA Community Arts Center for Student Engagement

in Notes From A Native Daughter by

When I switched to this bonafide mail service, I discovered that you, my audience, are English dominant. So, my hunch to send this off in English from the get-go was right. I also learned that many of you are reading, and I thank you sincerely for your time.

 For the newer members, this effort to talk with creative workers began as an exercise to give me purpose during a tough time. The personal challenge soon turned out to be a must-do thing because the search for purpose gave me purpose.

Since I started in 2016, some of the talks have been in Spanish, like this one with Nico. A few months back the great Peri Coss challenged me to write in Spanish, but I don’t have the physical prowess to do it all, at least I don’t have the time right now. But I’m very present to my complicated hybrid Puerto Rican-ness. I’ve been out of my town for 30 years and counting. That’s a long time, and my mind works in two languages. English dominates my internal critical thinking. My conversational style is perfect Spanglish; unless I’m in an all-Spanish language setting, which challenges me to think and be present, or in a situation like the one I found myself with Nico where Spanish just flowed. We still used English to hang on. So, think of this NFAND effort as using Lingua Franca (English) not out of disrespect to Spanish, but out of a want to connect to a broader set. At the very least, to have you on the same page with the incredible people that have accepted my invitation to talk.

Which brings me to Nico and how we met and have not, but have…

Nico Rodríguez Melo is blood and soul Colombian—de sangre y alma. The Colombians I have met are all brave, tenacious, tender, and given—valientes, tenaces, tiernos, y dados. Y, los mejores bailadores de salsa que existen—and the best salsa dancers, ever.

In this talk, I asked Nico how he journeyed into MICA, the highly regarded art school in Baltimore’s heart.

I’m interested in journeys, the pull to thrust forward, to become, to stay the course. And Nico’s move here comes from hard-earned track walking, running, and being him. I’ve come to love this country because of its people, contrary to what it looks like, there are some amazing souls here, and Nico and Latinidad have everything to do with that Love.

Since not all of you will understand the talk, the skinny is that we met at the 2020 NALAC Leadership Institute, the first virtual NALAC convening. Both of us still think about the conversations we had about being Latino in this country during the NLI week. That in itself has no easy answers, but it does have benchmarks and women like Maribel Alvarez, who challenged us to think about our Latinidad in all its glory and complexity.

Nico’s journey to MICA came via the Art Institute of Chicago, and he had to go to the U.S. because of forces greater than him in his home country. Circumstances are not as noble for thousands of others.

This talk is for Nico and all the people who think there is no vision for them here.

There is. You belong here as much as the ones that came at the beginning of this terrible beginning. You belong because all human begins have the right to move and go wherever they need to go around the world for safety or a better tomorrow.

NALAC granted us a spot of diplomacy or truce if you will. Perhaps because of it, all our Latinidad came through in our mother tongue, Spanish. Separados por la distancia unidos por un mismo idioma (separated by distance united by the same language) palabras con luz (words of wisdom) by Don Francisco. By no means, the end, just a shared beginning with the same aspirations, to be seen, to be acknowledged. It is a perfect time to hold more of these connecting conversations, so we carried on.

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