Adriana Camarena is a Mexican from Mexico, complicated by an upbringing in the U.S., Uruguay, and Mexico. She became a resident of the Mission District of San Francisco in 2008.
Since arriving in the Mission, Adriana began collecting tales of borders, line-crossings, and overlapping identities told by residents to provide a layered picture of this traditionally working class immigrant neighborhood in California. Two of her published Mission essays are “The Geography of the Unseen” in Rebecca Solnit, INFINITE CITY: A San Francisco Atlas, UC Press, (2010); and “Street Food”, “n+1” literary magazine, (Summer, 2012).
Adriana Camarena is currently working on a literary book project titled “Unsettlers: Migrants, Homies, and Mammas in the Mission District of San Francisco”. Work-in-progress for this project will be featured and updated on this website. In 2013, the Unsettlers Project with Shaping San Francisco received a CalHum Community Stories grant to support its development.
In 2017 Camarena received the Creative Work Fund grant with Acción Latina to develop bilingual literary nonfiction works to be published in El Tecolote newspaper, forthcoming as of October 2017.
This project is dedicated to the residents of the Mission District, who shared their stories with me, and to all those who –like them— live in adversity with love, solidarity, and perseverance in the Bay Area and beyond.
- Unsettled in the Mission/ Inquietos en la Misión. A series of essays published periodically in the bilingual El Tecolote newspapers. The series will run October 2017 through January 2019. Supported with a 2017 Creative Work Fund grant.
- “Witness to Grief: Love and Justice for Alex Nieto” in Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief, Cindy Milstein (editor), AK Press (2017)
- “This Merits A Response”, Culturestrike online magazine (July 2016). Essay commissioned by YBCA Take This Hammer.
- “The Geography of the Unseen” in Rebecca Solnit, INFINITE CITY: A San Francisco Atlas, UC Press, (2010)
- “Street Food” originally published in “n+1” literary magazine, (Summer, 2012). Reprinted as an excerpt in the Utne Reader (March/April 2013) and in Volume 3 Bohemian Bridges: California as a Superstructure for Social and Cultural Change, Guardian Stewardships Editions (2016)
- “The Blind Spot” in Shift Happens: Critical Mass at 20, eds. Chris Carlsson, LisaRuth Elliott & Adriana Camarena, Full Enjoyment Books (2012)
- Self-published series of essays, photography and video on this site (2013-on going)
- October 6-November 5 2017. “Hilando la vida de una maya/ Threading the life of a Mayan” A collaboration with José Góngora Pat and Paz de la Calzada in honor of Luís Góngora Pat, a Mayan man killed unjustly by SFPD, and the women in his family who are left mending the threads of a broken migration story. The installation uses poetic references to textile as text, textile as a silent voice, embroidering as a Mayan art form, Mayan language, distance, and threads of migration; all while presenting a non traditional Day of the Dead altar for Luís Góngora Pat.
- March-April 2017. “Untitled”, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 30th Anniversary of Solo Mujeres Exhibition, an installation collaboration with Yolanda Lopez portraying three Chicana artists from three overlapping generations in a social media dialogue about the call to duty to resist injustice.
- October-November 2016. Installation. “A Traditional Mayan Altar in Honor of Luis Góngora Pat, killed by SFPD April 7, 2016,” in collaboration with José Góngora Pat, Luís Poot Pat, Carlos Poot Pat, Flora Campoy, Pearl Ubungen, SOMARTS Annual Day of the Dead Altar Exhibit, Theme: Promise Not To Forget. Documented here.
October 11-November 8, 2014. “The Twilight of Alex Nieto.” A Day of the Dead altar and video installation. Altar collaboration with Elvira Nieto, Refugio Nieto, Ivonne Iriondo, Maria Villalta, and Paz de la Calzada, SOMARTS. Video collaboration “The Twilight of Alex Nieto”, Directed and produced by Adriana Camarena, and filmed and edited by Ivonne Iriondo. Documented on website under #October Together, More Than Just Baseball
- October 11-November 14, 2014. “Unaccountable murders.” A Day of the Dead altar and video installation in collaboration with Erin McLeroy of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project & videographer Ivonne Iriondo. Visitors were invited to chalk a response on the wall to “Who or what do the police protect?” Documented on website, under #October Together, More Than Just Baseball
- February-March 2014. Installation. “Eviction Scene Investigation“, a collaboration with Yolanda Lopez, 17th Annual Sólo Mujeres Exhibit, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Documented here.
- November 2, 2015. Restorative circle. Facilitation and filming of a “Restorative Circle” with families and friends of loved ones killed by police, as part of “Altar para mi barrio: Art, Poetry, Food & Live Music for Day of the Dead @ 6:00 pm -10:00 pm. This circle was carried out in collaboration with Florencia Rojo (Justice 4 Amilcar Perez Lopez) and Sofia Elias (Red Poppy Art House). Participants included family and friends of Matt Chang, Alex Nieto, Idriss Stelley, and Amilcar Perez Lopez.
- Note: I filmed the Restorative Circle in collaboration with Karla Gallardo. We later asked same questions to Elvira and Refugio Nieto. We have a raw cut and once Spanish/English subtitles are concluded that video will be posted on this website under the Unsettlers Project.
- August 2, 2014. Storytelling circle. My Mission Blood: Tales from the Hood, with participation of Antoinette Rios, Oscar Salinas, Henry Murillo Jimenez, and Ray Ysaguirre (all Mission District natives) presented during #wheredoyoubelong as part of MAPP night
- March-April 2014, “Eviction Scene Investigation”, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 27th Anniversary of Solo Mujeres Exhibition, an installation collaboration with Yolanda Lopez representing the eviction of a senior Chicana artist from her lifelong home as a crime scene investigation. Later exhibited again in June 2014 at the Red Poppy Art House.
- January, 17, 2014. “Campfire: Eviction Ghost Stories and Other Housing Horrors.” Opening prayer by Catherine Herrera, Ohlone descendent. Storytelling by fourteen evictees. Closing prayer by Roberto Hernandez, ‘the mayor of the Mission.’ Co-partnered with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Shaping San Francisco. Silvertop Café patio. The event was filmed and is a series of publicly available “Campfire: Eviction Community Stories” video clips.
- June 1, 2013. “La Llorona: A Public Lamentation on Ellis Act Evictions.” A procession to sites of Ellis Act Evictions in the Mission. Featuring Mission poets, artists, and residents. We walked the night regretfully asking: “Where are my Mission children?/ ¿Dónde están mis hijos de la Misión?” in likeness of La Llorona (the Weeping Woman.) The event was filmed and is a publicly available video “La Llorona.” Co-hosted with Shaping San Francisco.
- Showcasing selection of videos, Campfire and Twilight of Alex Nieto, and reading from “Matres Dolorosas” in “To be and to become Mission Street San Francisco”, Exhibition, August 15 to October 13, 2017, CIIS. (Note. Saturday, August 26, 6:30-9:00PM Exhibition OPENING and reading with Adriana Camarena)
- May 7-June 4, 2016. Video. Ivonne Iriondo and Adriana Camarena, “The Twilight of Alex Nieto” exhibited as part of FTP: For the People, La Galería de la Raza, San Francisco, CA . Helped facilitate altar by Elvira and Refugio Nieto.
- March-July, 2016. Video. The Campfire storytelling series, which was documented in collaboration with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Shaping San Francisco under the 2013 Calhum grant was included in the AEMP exhibit in YBCA Take This Hammer
Public presentations and readings
- June 7, 2016. Reading, Take This Hammer: 10 Bay Area Writers Respond. A response essay to the YBCA Take This Hammer Exhibit
- June 4, 2016. Reading, The Naming of Things. Co-curator of PORCH Festival Performance with Keith Hennessey and Chris Carlsson, in collaboration with the Red Poppy Art House. Location: Porch of the Pigeon Palace, 2-5pm. Also featuring: Rebecca Solnit, Oscar Salinas, Yayne Abeba, Ivy Jeanne & Morgan Stickrod, Pearl Ubungen, The Print Syndicate, LisaRuth Lovin’ From the Oven, and Posted brand.
- May 18, 2016, Panel. Weapons of Mass Displacement: Homeless Sweeps, Police Killings and SF’s Crisis of Gentrification. Urban Institute for Development and Economic Alternatives. Bindlestiff Studio, San Francisco, CA
- October 4, 2014. Presentation of Unsettlers Project for “Real Estate: Creating Land Value and Dispossession“, Headlands Center for the Arts
- September 12, 2014. Presentation of Unsettlers Project. 4th Annual USF Critical Diversity Forum, “DIS/PLACEMENTS”, USF, or facebook event page here
- August 2, 2014, Reading. 108 Homes, porch of the Pigeon Palace, 7-10PM, curated by Red Poppy Art House, as an experimental test run of Porch Performance Festival during MAPP
- October 13, 2013. Off the Richter Scale: Oral History, Litquake, (participated instead of Peter Orner)
- Nov. 30, 2011. Recent Human Movements: Tania Bruguera and Adriana Camarena, Kadist Foundation, (event co-presented with Headlands Center for the Arts and California College of the Arts.)
- Various MAPP appearances
- April 12, 2016. Interview. Death by Gentrification: Alex Nieto killed by hail of bullets in a changing San Francisco. Democracy Now, Interview with Rebecca Solnit and Adriana Camarena
- December 6, 2014. Interview. “One Drink: Adriana Camarena” by Christian Frock, San Francisco Chronicle
Grants and residencies
- 2017 Creative Work Fund grant with Acción Latina, bilingual work to be published in El Tecolote newspaper
- 2013-2014 Community Stories Grant, California Council of Humanities
- September 2013, Residency, Blue Mountain Center, Indian Lake, NY
- December 2012, Thematic Residency: Other Histories, Headlands Center of the Arts, Marin County, CA