New York Memory Project: Beatriz Torres Guzmán
Beatriz Torres Guzmán lives in a low-income 1 bedroom apartment in the Essex Crossing Development. Interviewed by Antígona González.
Keywords / Subjects:
Childhood, Youth, Displacement, Housing, Getting a place to live, Work life, Activism, Community
Notes from the Interviews
“We talked for over an hour. Beatriz wanted to speak mainly about how she got a low income 1 bedroom apartment in the Essex Crossing Development. Her mother, her siblings and her, were evicted in 1967 from the former Steward Park Tenement.”
Quotes from the Interview:
“My mother was displaced in June or July 1967, at that time I was 6 years old.” “I later found out that many families were moving and getting displaced by the city and we moved to Brooklyn, that was the beginning of life of displacement really or basically moving around”
‘We have to be able to be more empathetic, to have more empathy for the people that are struggling, people that have to depend on their savings accounts, and people that didn’t have savings accounts that are struggling now, they getting waivers, but the debts are not going to be suspended, they have to pay their bills and their mortgages and their rents, and we don’t know if there is going to be another round of this virus, we don’t know if it’s going to hit us again and we will starting back from the beginning, it’s going to be devastating.”
“Never stop caring for the next person, we have technology and we know a lot of people that are connected technologically, we have to use technology more and be better prepared to organize ourselves, to be able to reach out to each other and speak online, we have to have a whole paradigm shift on how we communicate.”
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, FABnyc responded by dedicating staff time to aiding local efforts to calling senior members of the LES community to make sure they had all they needed during the lockdown. As we talked with the elders, we realized that beyond basic human needs, connection and conversation can also be meaningful, particularly for those with limited online access. Out of this realization came the New York Memory Project, which was taken on as an oral history project by artist and FABnyc collaborator Antígona González.
The New York Memory Project aimed to achieve a deeper understanding and create dialogue between the artist and the interviewed elders in order to communicate and share their (and our) truths, in spite of what we all were facing: isolation, uncertainty, and fear throughout these difficult times.
After recording several interviews, González has developed her own narrative of the project, and highlights interviews with folks who have lived through times of social injustice, political upheaval, personal growth, and, now, a global pandemic exacerbating all of the above. The New York Memory Project, in centering the artist’s experience and work, seeks to uplift the voices of the most vulnerable and yet most powerful of our community: our elders.