'Performance has the ability to reshape our understanding of migration and citizenship'

Ana Gabriela Carmona-Pereda

Performing & Media Arts
Bronx, N.Y.

What was your favorite class and why?  

person outside old building

Prof. Aldape Muñoz’s PMA 3215: Performance and Immigration was one of my favorite classes at Cornell. As the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents and someone deeply interested in performance art, the course's focus on the power of performance in shaping discussions around migration resonated with me on a personal and intellectual level. The class delved into the complexities of immigration debates and the experiences of those labeled as "undocumented," "illegal," "displaced," or "exiled." Through a nuanced exploration of various performances, we interrogated how immigration narratives are constructed and challenged, and how belonging is redefined through artistic expression. One of the most compelling aspects of the course was the opportunity to engage with works by BIPOC scholars and artists such as Ramon River Servera, Josefina Baez, Marissa Chibas and Guadalupe Maravilla, who has an exhibition at the Johnson Museum through June 9, 2024. Attending live performances like the Kitchen Theatre’s "Sanctuary City" provided a tangible connection to the themes we discussed in class. Seeing these narratives come to life on stage reinforced the idea that performance has the ability to not only reflect but also reshape our understanding of migration and citizenship. As I navigated discussions on immigration policies and administrative processes, I found myself drawing from my own family's experiences and reflecting on how performance can serve as a means of exploration, healing and empowerment for communities.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?  

This semester I worked alongside a graduate student, Isabel Padilla Carlo, and Prof. Aldape Muñoz to lead workshops based on NAKA Dance Theatre and Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), a collaborative project known as, ¡Y Basta Ya! Working with immigrant and indigenous women in Ithaca and surrounding areas, we created a safe and empowering space for vulnerability and visibility. By April, we had visiting artists from NAKA Dance Theatre, Jose and Debby, join us along with women from MUA, to rehearse and stage a performance piece at The Kitchen Theatre. The result was an entire stage of folks dancing unapologetically to reggaeton, salsa and cumbia. I will forever be grateful for the joy, care and tenderness I experienced during the rehearsal process, final performance and community event. To be a part of Cornell is to know and cherish the communities that exist beyond the hill.       

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What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of?

Participating in Cornell’s Study Abroad Program during the fall semester of my senior year was an experience I cherish deeply and am proud to have accomplished. Having never left the country before, I took the opportunity to study abroad in Mexico City, where I immersed myself in the wonderful culture. There, I not only delved into the rich tapestry of Mexican traditions, festivals and cuisine but also forged meaningful connections within the local community, where I experienced the warmth of the people through their care and love. One of my favorite memories was when I got the opportunity to visit my relatives in Oaxaca, Mexico. This journey allowed me to strengthen familial bonds, foster cross-cultural connections and gain profound insights into my own identity that will reflect in my future artistic endeavors.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?    

person in skiing gear

I wouldn't have made it here today if it weren’t for the guidance of advisors at the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), who helped me recognize the truth in my power, potential and identity. The connections I built were largely shaped by my willingness to be open. In an elitist, competitive environment where many strive to maintain a composed façade, finding a space for genuine emotional expression was challenging but not impossible. Although there's no place that cradles and soothes me like the New York City subway, my advisor's office was where I found both solace and the courage to share my doubts and accomplishments throughout my time at Cornell. It was where I felt the most heard and celebrated for being my most authentic self. 

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first-year student, what would you say?

Bring your most authentic self into every space and opportunity you encounter. Make an effort to reach out to people and maintain those connections through honesty and vulnerability; here you will find support, love and encouragement. Trust that you will find your people and those professors/advisors/mentors who will support your career path and mentor you. Also don’t forget to give back in equal measure. Remember that there are a plethora of tools and opportunities available to support your artistic, intellectual and career endeavors, whether through grants, student organizations or research funds. Most importantly, there’s more beyond Cornell. Don’t be afraid to connect with those outside of the Cornell community to connect and learn!

Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2024.

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Ana Gabriela Carmona-Pereda