Volcanic Women – The Activism of Exile

Interview with Heyling Marenco and Ximena Castilblanco, co-founders of Volcanicas, based in Costa Rica

A women’s collective uses its online platform to tell the stories of Nicaraguan migrants, exiles and displaced people.

By Katherine Estrada Tellez (confidential)

HAVANA TIMES – It’s 10:00 am in San José, Costa Rica. Ximena Castilblanco and Heyling Marenco get together to plan the work program and give some final touches to the script for the last episode of their podcast.

They meet in one of their homes and communicate by video with the other young women to decide what to discuss. Once that is defined, they spring into action, digital recorders in hand and the Zoom platform active.

These young Nicaraguan women have launched a collective they call “Las Volcanicas ”. Like tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, they had to leave their country due to the socio-political crisis that erupted in 2018. They were forced to flee because they had participated in the protests against the Ortega-Murillo regime.

They arrived in Costa Rica, and after successfully settling down, they decided to continue their activism. They wanted to serve the populations of which they were now part.

Since November 2018, the twelve women involved in the collective have worked to create presentations on the forced displacement, migration and exile of women in Central America and the Caribbean. Ten members of the collective live in Costa Rica; one is in Spain and the other in the United States.

In Nicaragua, they were university students and activists who participated in social movements and feminist groups. They are communicators, sociologists, psychologists, social workers and lawyers who have discovered that they share many ideas. They decided to form a group and create a safe space for women.

They had followed training programs for young Nicaraguan exiles, organized at the University of Costa Rica. Every Thursday, before starting their working session, they meet for an exchange of experiences during forced displacement. They also discuss the obstacles they faced in the new country. Thus, they accompany each other in the pain of exile and develop common solutions to their economic needs.

A virtual platform for women by women

The Collective was born to make women like them aware of their rights. They want to target women who have had difficulty accessing these rights because they are refugees and immigrants.

For more than two years, they have worked to create a virtual platform for migrant women, where they present different stories through podcasts, short films and discussions.

In addition to reflecting the realities that women experience, they also address topics of mental health, sexual and reproductive health, violence, machismo, education, economics and empowerment.

“In Costa Rica, the subject of the immigration of women seemed to be something very distant. Many of us did not have access to health or education services. Some of us, the young women who have been deported, have not been able to complete their careers, nor access [further] education, ”says Heyling Marenco. She was referring to students who were expelled from their Nicaraguan universities for participating in protests against the government.

An immigration podcast

Despite all their limitations, the Volcanicas have produced a series of podcasts. It’s called Volcanic Furia [“Volcanic Fury”], and they created it in collaboration with the group Managua Furiosa. It can be heard on Spotify and Apple Podcast.

So far, they have completed two seasons, a total of 17 episodes. These have served as a means of reflection and dialogue for many immigrant women and their families.

They don’t have a recording studio or fancy equipment, but they make up for that with the time and effort they put into portraying the lives of women like them. “From the start, the mobile phone has been our main tool,” says Ximena Castilblanco, co-founder of the Volcanicas.

The series Volcanic Furia won the third edition of the Digital Innovation Prize, offered by the Public Freedoms branch of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. “For us, in exile, it was a great success,” Castilblanco remembers.

The collective has also produced two short films: “married”And“ Gabriela ”, which have received recognition and honors in Costa Rica and Central America. “We learned from other situations, such as the stories of women who immigrated to Costa Rica thirty years ago. Like us, they fled the country in a similar context (..) they suffered persecution ”, comments Marenco.

The goal is for The Volcanicas to be a safe space where they can connect with more women, raise awareness of their issues and complaints, and offer them tools and solutions.

Their experience motivated them to take new initiatives in social activism, despite the limits imposed by exile. These young Nicaraguan women want to serve as a link between communities of immigrant women in different places, so that they can feel supported and visible to each other. “We want to let immigrant women know that they are no longer alone,” they conclude.

Learn more about Nicaragua here.

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