I worked on Presença (Portuguese for presence) during the summer of 2022, using photos I took on my iPhone during self-funded trips to Washington, DC to advocate for immigrants’ rights. I didn’t see much of an impact from these visits, and I was starting to wonder what had even been the point. But I still had these pictures. I wanted to put them to use somehow, to redeem my “DREAMer” era. I printed 16 × 20-inch photographs in both color and black & white, and then I interrupted them with pink thread. The goal is to depict a disruptive, transformative immigrant presence in this country, yes, even at these spaces, even at these monuments to power. I chose pink because it reminds me of gum—something that doesn’t belong but is ubiquitous in our environment, stuck to buildings and sidewalks. Gum is usually used up, then thrown away—like the way immigrants are treated in the US. I wanted to use the resources I had: these iPhone photos, thread and needle, and my ability to embroider. In the end, I gave a lot of my time to this project. I made these spaces all mine. Ours—even in this small way. We are here.

—Aline Mello

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