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WEB SPECIAL: Incite.../Insight! Free Monthly Film Series

Mothers & Sorrows

In Mothers and Sorrows, Camarena explores the bonds of maternal love and the resulting heartbreaks of raising children in communities where poverty, drugs, and gun violence are commonplace.

Street Altars: A Mission District Photo Essay

Matres Dolorosas: A Watershed of Tears

Ocean fog protected the Bay from European discovery, until 1769, when explorer Gaspar de Portolá viewed the body of water from a mountaintop. Six years later, on August 5, 1775, the ship San Carlos sailed through the golden gate under a moonlit sky. The Huimen Ohlone awoke to find a 193-ton, two-masted brig, 58 feet in length, floating in their landscape. In the following days, the crew of the San Carlos set out to sound the Bay in their longboats. Second Pilot Juan Bautista Aguirre took a boat Southeast to scout for good anchorage. On an inlet of a cove, he observed three native people weeping; their faces painted black and streaked with tears.

The Ohlone ritualized their grieving as a village affair, and prohibited the name of the dead to be spoken, lest the spirit of the deceased be distracted from moving on to the Island of the Dead. A widow, most at risk of being haunted, would singe her hair close to the scalp, smear peet and ash on her face, and demonstratively claw at her breasts and cheeks to draw blood. That day, we do not know for whom cried the Ohlone, but impressed, Second Pilot Aguirre named this cove after them La Ensenada de los Llorones or the Cove of Weepers; later to be renamed Mission Bay. On that day, the watershed of the Mission was first christened by the Spaniards in the name of tears.

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Matres Dolorosas: A Watershed of Tears (audio)

Audio recording of reading performed by Adriana Camarena at Public Talks Series, Shaping San Francisco, on May 8th, 2013.