Feature Friday - Athena Torri
What is your full name and where are you from?
My name is Athena Torri Cervantes. I was born in Milan, Italy and grew up in Quito, Ecuador before immigrating to the United States. My mother is Ecuadorian, and my Father is Italian.
In your own creative definition or description, please share who you are :::
I have always had a hard time answering the question “Who am I”, because it is the question of my life and of my artwork. I exist in so many in betweens. I exist between the three disparate parts of the world that have raised me - Ecuador, Italy, and the United States. I walk between mountains and valleys, between races, between three languages. I feel these in betweens acutely as I move through nature - feeling myself as both colonizer and colonized, feeling an ache, a longing I can’t always place. I feel the largest joys and the deepest pains as I walk through the land. I find solid ground in being queer.
Please describe a meaningful experience in nature from your childhood :::
I grew in Quito, Ecuador, and my family loved the outdoors so we spent a lot of our free time taking trips into the Andes, Amazons, or the Coastal Region of Ecuador. In the summers we would go to Italy to visit my father’s family. We would spend our days there taking trips into the Alps, climbing up and over the most incredible mountain passes, reaching crystal blue glaciers, and sleeping in cozy rifugi (bunkhouses) on the mountains.
It’s hard to pick a single moment, but one that has always stuck with me was this one time when I was around 8 or 9 my parents took us to the refugio of the Ecuadorian volcano Cotopaxi. This is the volcano I saw every day from the window of my house - on clear days, Cotopaxi towers over the city. The refugio we visited sits at 15,748 feet high, but you’re able to drive to it, which is what my family did that day. Once we arrived our parents let me, my brother, and our friends hike back down alone while they drove down to meet us. I think this was the first time we ever took a hike like this without any grown ups, and it felt both incredibly desolate and exciting to hike down this colossal volcano’s skirts without any adult supervision. I remember we all were ecstatic and full of energy, and on our way down we found a the skeleton of a huge dead horse on the side of the volcano. We went wild imagining what the skeleton once was. We saw wild horses running together and until this day that image plays back in my head of their gallop through those hills. Like us, the horses were independent and not tied to a human. The entire way down felt like we were in outer space entirely alone. Arriving to our parents waiting at the bottom of the volcano felt like we had landed back on earth from the moon. This day stands out in its euphoria. A euphoria I have felt so many times in nature since then and before then, but on this day sharing it among kids with no adults it took on a whole other world and dimension the way kids’ imaginations do.
What role, significance or theme does the natural world hold for your life today?
It’s everything. It’s my morality, my God, my belief system, what raised me, it’s my parents, it’s where I feel the most at home. When I am in nature, I feel the closest to my ancestors, to who I was meant to be. Anytime that I feel that nature has power over me, that I am not in control, that nature can decide my destiny, that is what faith feels like for me. Even in the city in Quito, the mountains tower over the buildings, so they ultimately hold the power. Nature then has the wheel, not me, and I love this feeling.