Earlier this year, I lost my mother, after being fortunate enough to have a mom growing up, and sharing much of my adult life with her. I am grateful, true, but it’s been a very sad time as all of us know.
It has been difficult to write, of course, though I think it helped as part of my grieving to go through the rituals of communicating with other people about her death, to write her obituary, letters to family and to friends, and this has been a healing step. And perhaps, sufficient. I’m not certain whether it’s necessary for every writer to write all there is to say at times like these. But it was important to tell people about her for many reasons, and I was glad that the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center published an article in the April 2012 issue of La Voz, that I wrote about my mother and her work. [see http://www.esperanzacenter.org/%5D
Here, I wanted to share my mother’s artwork, so I’ll begin by including part of the article, and placing some images of paintings and other work. It will definitely be a work in progress, because I hope to add many more images as time goes on. ❤
“Adriana M. Romo was born in Santiago Chile, on December 12, 1929 and she passed from this world on February 29, 2012. She was an artist and a community organizer whose untiring energy touched the lives of people from Chile, north and south, to the U.S.– in Connecticut, Florida, and New York City. In 2007, she chose San Antonio to live the last years of her life. She is survived by my father, John D. Romo, her husband of 62 years, also from Chile, my younger brother John David, a graphic artist; daughter, myself, a writer, and my partner, June; my son John Christian O’Neill and his wife, Jenny, and their two boys, great-grandsons, Jack and Charlie. My sister Claudia Rosa, their middle daughter, passed away in 2009.
“Adriana was my mother, but she was also my teacher as an artist and an activist. She grew up in Santiago, Chile, in a quiet, working class neighborhood, northeast of Santiago’s downtown area. The oldest of five, her childhood was marked by many privations and struggles yet she always managed to find the energy to strive for a better life for her family and everyone around her. In 1939, while staying in the southern city of Chillán with her mother and younger sister, the night was rocked by a devastating earthquake. The family was buried under the rubble of the house; my mother pulled her sister Lorena out of bed, and they were both dragged to safety by my grandmother, a small woman who literally lifted the beams off them with her back. I know that the effects of this traumatic event stayed with her the rest of her life, making her always sensitive to the needs of others, and a believer in the need to organize a community of people to help each other.
“With my father as her partner in life, it seemed wherever they went they were soon surrounded by artists, idealists, creative people of all kinds. She didn’t believe in idle chatter, though, she believed in action, and in people taking responsibility for their community. In 1963 we moved to the north of Chile in search of a better life for my sister and me, a search that would take us to emigrate to the United States in 1966. In Calama, they founded “El Taller del Desierto” in 1964 with a group of poets and artists. She helped the Peace Corps build a clinic in a desert town, taught art to inmates in the prison, and organized the first Arts & Crafts Regional Fair of the Atacama Desert. This Art Fair recognized and included the artists from Indigenous villages in the desert for the first time in Chilean history.
“My brother John David was born in Connecticut. My father worked 7 days a week, while my mother raised the children, studied English, got her GED, and with my father opened a graphic arts firm. She earned her BFA from the UConn, Storrs, at the age of 52. However, times were hard, and the loss of their home in the 1980s took them to Florida, and finally to New York City, where my father earned his Bachelor of Engineering and Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the City University of NY (CUNY). Adriana taught art at Project Reach, a center for youth at risk in Chinatown, while John taught Math and Sciences at High Schools and Interboro College in New York City.
“My mother supported my efforts in my activist and writing work in New York City, as part of the Latino and LGBT communities. I remember when she attended a meeting of the Latina lesbian group, Las Buenas Amigas with me, and so many women were in tears because they’d never been able to speak to their own mothers about their lives as adults. She and my father helped us make a new banner for the group, made of multicolored fabric and paint, a banner which was proudly carried in Pride marches for years! She was then commissioned by other groups to make banners: The Astraea Lesbian Foundation, Lambda Legal Defense, and the LGBT People of Color Steering Committee. In 2000, she and my father attended workshops for parents of Latino LGBTs at the LLEGO conferences in Boston and New York. In 2003, my mother illustrated the book Felicia’s Favorite Story, by Lesléa Newman, about a little girl from Guatemala who is adopted by Lesbian moms.
“My mother was diagnosed with Type II diabetes at the age of 38, in her case a very severe condition. Even though she and my father loved the vibrant communities of New York City, my mother wanted to find a place where they could spend their retirement more quietly among friends, a growing city with rich cultural traditions, with ethnic diversity and with a strong Latino population of which they could become a part. She had already heard of the Esperanza Center and its work, of course, and she felt that as Chilenos who had lived and worked far away from family and community, this was was the home for them.
“Here in San Antonio, my father has taught Mechanical Engineering at SACC, and he continues to produce work in aeronautics with his Next Generation Compact Helicopter project, named “ADRIANA”. He hopes to contribute his expertise to this city with its open skies that holds a promise for so many. As we grieve for my mother’s loss, I know I will always be connected to the place where she rests.
There will be a Memorial held in her memory on December 12, 2012 at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, in San Antonio. To be on a mailing list and notified of this event, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
In lieu of flowers, all who wish to remember her would gladden her spirit by making a contribution to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, 922 San Pedro, San Antonio, TX 78212.
- Romo loved San Antonio for its arts community (mysanantonio.com)