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Learning the Ropes

Body and Rope, Ongoing since 2019 

2019, from the Mexican border to the border with Canadian, I traveled across the U.S. through 15 states stopping at various locations in urban and rural areas. In each place, I jumped rope one hundred times. The thousands of jumps tell stories about movement, transition, and adaptation, which have defined my life and the lives of all immigrants. The persistence and resistance required to jump rope encompass the immigrant experience of personal and cultural identity, the realization of one’s hopes and possibilities, the challenge of new ways of doing and knowing, and the sense of belonging everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time.

Jumping rope is a statement -- it is an act that claims the landscape, while at the same time it underscores the frailty and transience of human history. Jumping rope in various geographical locations contrasts the innocence of a simple act with the gravity of issues that pervade the landscape, such as walls along the border and Confederate monuments in contemporary settings. The more one jumps the more one surveys the complexity of the landscape and questions whether the land belongs to anyone.

Jumping rope is a human experience, as evanescent as a chord in a song. The body is the instrument; the rope is its accompaniment that provides shape, speed, and direction to the movement. As the feet strike the ground, they make a connection, a momentary contact before the body springs back into motion, thus symbolizing the immigrant’s freedom vis-a-vis space and location. As the body leaps unbounded, its state of elevation embodies the dissolution of the immigrant’s identity. As the feet touch the ground again, they connect the body to place and culture, to an acute consciousness of a relationship, with or without belonging. The rope limits and liberates, oscillating between connection and detachment, and the space between the two is where the immigrant resides.

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