Irene Herrera (right) and her mom (left)
I emailed Professor Herrera a series of questions and this was her response. The questions given to her were not easy to answer. I am extremely grateful to her for taking the time out of her already busy schedule to give each question the deep thought that it deserved. For doing so, the UPRIZINE Team extends our sincerest thank you. The perspectives that you shared with us come highly appreciated and valued.
Who was a woman in your life who inspired you to become who you are today?
My mother. I know it sounds cliché but experiencing unconditional love is probably something that doesn’t just happen accidentally. There is something about being born from a woman’s womb, having her blood run through you that’s quiet powerful. It’s sort of like a karmic bonding. There are of course many kinds of karmic bondings and this might just be one of them. But there is this sense of being in this together. I also deeply connected with both of my grandmothers. I feel like I am part of a lineage of women and I admire them all tremendously. I've also been blessed to have an amazing stepmother and spiritual teacher.
In general, I admire all women that have in some ways effected change. Whether it was socially, culturally, economically, emotionally. All women are worthy of being recognized in their power. They are indeed very sentient souls with this innate wisdom that goes beyond the intellect.
Professionally, I admire all female journalists because it can be rough being on your own in the middle of nowhere, or in a conflict zone. They often have to carve out their own road in a male dominated industry. I admire all the women that have done something for the rights and privileges I have today. In many ways we are a minority. So many of the world’s women and girls are struggling and living under repression and it’s our responsibility to help this process. All women and girls should have choices and access to their dreams.
Last year was an eye opening year for many of us. It was tough to learn what had happened to so many women in different industries. To read Selma Hayek’s words, to listen to Rose McGowan. So many of us saw ourselves reflected in those experiences. There was this huge empathy and compassion. It’s difficult to embrace. Our virtues and physicality are uses to our disadvantages.
I admire Gloria Allred. She’s amazing! The more I learn about her the more I love her. She’s my favorite sheroe these days. Malala is another one who has always impressed me with her resilience. The girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram or the Yazidi girls that escaped ISIS. I don’t know these girls but I read their stories and I am not only moved by their strength but I also feel their pain. There is such a long list of women out there.
In what ways did she help you become the person you are today?
With my mother, there is this synergy. It’s the one person that knows me to my core, my bright and dark sides, and is still there for me. She was a single mother, did her masters while sitting in the bleachers during my baseball games or my gymnastics competition. She would stay up working on my science projects together, sewing costumes, or helping me with my homework. She’s just always been there and has given it all she’s got.
What aspects of her do you see manifested in yourself?
Well once you hit my age you start to realize how similar you can be to your mom. I now understand more than ever that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m grateful for this! We learn from each other and just try to grow, nurture ourselves and evolve.
How do you carry on her life or legacy?
I haven’t thought about this yet. I hope to simply try my best every day. Give it all I got in every aspect of my life. Spiritual growth is at the top of the list. If I can become as loving and wise as my mother I will have succeeded. I might need a few more decades.
Irene Herrera is a Cuban-Venezuelan filmmaker and video journalist with more than 15 years experience producing and creating documentary and journalistic content with a focus on Latin America and Asia. She has also been an active collaborator, producer and director for the Lebanon and Japan Chapters of the Global Lives Project. Among her documentary works are Kodo wa Awaseba (Gran Prix Expo Aichi Film Festival); Gaijin no Honne (2004); You Can Call Me Nikkie (2008); Women in Refugee: Stories from a Border (2009) and Crossing Hispaniola (2010).