Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz Enlightens Sidwell Community

Nolan Lewis '21

Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz recently spoke with students for the 2017 Daryl Reich Rubenstein Guest Artist Lecture. During the presentation, Raimundi-Ortiz reflected on her experiences of living among different cultures, finding the willpower to navigate through her environment, and how her journey remains at the heart of her artistic endeavors. Thanks to Sidwell art teacher Anna Tsouhlarakis, the two were able to reconnect to showcase Raimundi-Ortiz’s work, which Tsouhlarakis describes as an “interesting and different voice for the Sidwell student body.” 

As a Puerto Rican Bronx native, Raimundi-Ortiz is known for her inspirational visual and performance pieces. Her stories often showcase the daily struggles of colored individuals who have faced oppression and injustice due to racism, police brutality, and gun violence. Raimundi-Ortiz recalls a “particular time [she] was working in a corporate office and [she] had to work with a colleague that was always asking [her] to ‘do something to [her] hair so that it wouldn't appear so savage-like,’ or answer bizarre questions about cultural acceptance of children out of wedlock in the Latino community.” Raimundi-Ortiz said, “It was certainly a hostile environment.” 

One of Raimundi-Ortiz’s most recent pieces is a tribute to her mother and her battle with illiteracy. “Honestly, I didn't know [my mother] couldn't read until I was halfway through high school. She was masterful at balancing life and I never felt as if I was missing anything...Once I found out, my respect for her only intensified...It was a profound awakening for me that has made an intense bond between us all as a family,” Raimundi-Ortiz said. 

Raimundi-Ortiz is also known for the creation of her alter-ego, Chuleta. Raimundi-Ortiz describes Chuleta’s style, which balances humor with real-world issues, as “a classic strategy for doling out harsh truths and critiquing the powers that be.” Raimundi-Ortiz continued, “This is evident in Shakespeare, [as] usually the buffoon characters are the ones that know the truth...Whether tragic or satirical, the impetus is the same. Cut as close to the bone as possible, get as close to my version of the truth, expose as much of the underbelly of whatever topic I am getting to without completely alienating my audience. Make them uncomfortable enough to want to move, but not so irritated that they aren't listening. At the end of the day, I categorize myself as a sort of storyteller, soothsayer, shaman, conduit through my work. It is what I crave in my work and in my life.”

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