by LeighAnna Hidalgo

Desaparcid@s: A Fotonovela on Brown Bodies Disappeared and Divided by the Border

“Desaparecid@s: A Fotonovela on Brown Bodies Disappeared and Divided by the Border” includes photographs, short films, video interviews, documentary footage, audio material, poetry, and mixed media. This fotonovela accompanies the body of work developed in a Community Cultural Development course offered by the Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies and SPARC, a community-based, non-profit arts organization. The fotonovela was part of the exhibition that audiences could take home and continue to interact with long after the exhibition had ended. The production, layout, and editing of the fotonovela was done by LeighAnna Hidalgo using AR software, film/photo editing to establish the “cartoonified” aesthetic used to protect the identity of the participants and recreated in the exhibition for visual continuity. The content within the fotonovela included poetry, interviews, research, and photography produced by members of the Chicana and Chicano Studies Doctoral cohort and other UCLA Students: Jacqueline Caraves, Omar Gonzalez, Silvia Rodriguez-Vega, Carlos Rogel, Kendy Rivera, Tsukasa Bender, and Claribel Valdovinos, Angélica Becerra, and LeighAnna Hidalgo. 

This fotonovela is the second of four fotonovelas that exemplify a research method LeighAnna Hidalgo has developed, called Augmented Fotonovelas. Augmented Fotonovelas are multi-modal new media objects that center the knowledge of the Latina/o community in ways accessible and meaningful to multiple audiences. Augmented Fotonovelas draw on the aesthetic of traditional fotonovelas, but incorporate new technologies to produce Augmented Scholarship. LeighAnna defines Augmented Scholarship as knowledge production bridging the gap between communities of color and the academy, where researchers and communities draw on creative research and traditional research methods to co-collaboratively produce counter-narratives, revealing erased histories that are seen and heard using Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that overlaps an image or video on a user’s view of the real world, thus making a blended view. 

Like the exhibition, the fotonovela emerges as an attempt to convey a parallel between the Latin American experience with U.S. Violent interventions, such as the cases of Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, and Argentina. For us, the metaphor underlying this parallel is the concept of desaparecid@s (the disappeared). As a collective, we sought to challenge the idea that families should be lawfully separated from each other and to disrupt majoritarian stories that normalize highly militarized inhumane practices such as detention and deportation justified under “the law is the law” rhetoric. We began analyzing the way that disappearances manifested themselves as state sponsored deportations in our communities. We focused on the following six counter-narratives: 1) Desaparecid@s, 2) Family Separations, 3) Wards of the State, 4) Transgender HIV Migrant, 5) Family Reunifications, 6) Repatriad@s. These counter-narratives demonstrate how the increased militarization of law enforcement agencies, policing of brown bodies on both sides of la frontera, and the displacement of “surplus” populations is a result of the same capitalist border that cuts across them, and consider the displacement of migrants to be a violation of human rights. 



LeighAnna Hidalgo

                              contributor 2014 first edition


LeighAnna Hidalgo is a doctoral student in the Department of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has a Master’s Degree in Applied Anthropology from California State University Long Beach (CSULB), with a focus on economics, urban space, and visual media. LeighAnna’s research interests include access to credit and finance, self-employment, entrepreneurship, and resiliency among Latino migrants. She continues to practice a mixed methods approach, using community-embedded research and utilizing anthropological methods with a focus on political economy, migration, urban spaces, and visual media as vehicles for advocating social change and community empowerment. 

Recently LeighAnna has been working on incorporating Augmented Reality technology into fotonovelas, to produce a hybrid of traditional media and new media called the Augmented Fotonovela. Augmented Fotonovelas are new media objects based on a research methodology LeighAnna developed, which draws on critical race theory, Chicana feminist epistemologies, emancipatory research praxis, and visual ethnography. Her current work is a multi-tiered project where she is conducting ethnographic interviews to reveal the economic contributions of Los Angeles street vendors on the local economy and co-creating an Augmented Fotonovela used as a savvy city-wide social media campaign informing the public and policy makers about their efforts to legalize street vending in Los Angeles.