Domestic workers and day laborers take center stage

When she landed in San Francisco at age 20, María Aguilar was practically a different woman. She had left behind two small children in Guatemala, she didn’t speak English and she didn’t know anyone.

She found work cleaning houses and began sending money home. “In the beginning it was very difficult for me. I felt alone, lost.” Aguilar, 42, said in Spanish. Today, 13 years later, she speaks confidently about her rights as a domestic worker and as a woman, and about her upcoming debut as a dancer.

María Aguilar before the dance rehearsal. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Aguilar is one of 11 domestic workers from La Colectiva who will perform alongside two workers from the Day Laborer Program on Saturday, September 24 at the Dance Mission Theater. Through music, theater, poetry and dance, the show entitled “Our Work, Our Dignity” will shed light on the experiences of workers, their experiences as immigrants and their self-empowerment.

Under the artistic direction of Andreína Maldonado, the 13 workers have been practicing for two months in preparation for the big day, Aguilar said.

She has practiced yoga and performed at festivals such as Carnival for the last three years through the dance collective “Cuerpos Sanos, Mentes Sanas” between Dance Mission Theater and La Colectiva.

“But this is different from the others, this is like our debut as artists,” Aguilar said with sparkling eyes.

In a statement, Maldonado said the program hopes to allow immigrant communities, and particularly women, not only to express themselves, but to understand and recover from their history and impacts. “These artistic tools are critical to shifting our perspective toward a vision where we determine the future of our communities and our bodies,” she said.

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Even the music, directed by the musician José Lobo, uses the language of the questionnaires that the workers answered.