writing

Dr. Célleri’s scholarly areas of expertise include transnational and decolonial feminism, queer/cuir/jotería studies, monument studies, cultural/media studies, archival research, and reproductive justice. She’s currently working on her first monograph, tentatively titled Uncovering the Virgen del Panecillo: Quito’s Postcolonial Urban Transformation & Decolonial Future Imaginaries. The book is a cultural analysis of one of Ecuador’s most popular tourist sites—the monument of the Virgen del Panecillo, a 41-meter-tall aluminum statue of the Virgin of Immaculate Conception placed in Quito, Ecuador’s colonial city center in 1976.

The book examines the history and response to the construction of the Virgen del Panecillo to analyze the role that monuments play in postcolonial nations both as authoritative sites of official national narratives and as strategic sites of decolonial future imaginaries.

I argue that the monument is not simply a tourist site, but that her location on top of the hill of the Panecillo, the city’s financial investment in her image, and the assertion of her historical significance all combine to operate as an ideological tool for nation-building. In other words, the book reveals how the Virgin acts simultaneously as a reminder of Quito’s colonial Catholic history; as a focus of postcolonial and neoliberal investment; as a geographic marker that separates the urban periphery from the rest of the city; as a religious mediator with a specific moralizing gaze; and as a site of decolonial possibility.


did you know?

The monument of the Virgen del Panecillo:

  • Is made up of 7,400 aluminum pieces?
  • Is the tallest aluminum statue in the world? Taller than Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?
  • Is based on the winged woman that appears in the Book of the Apocalypse, Revelation 12? And that she is the same woman that the Virgen de Guadalupe is based on?
  • Is built on the same site where the Incas built Yavirak—their sun temple?

Currently, there isn’t a book that tells the contested history of her construction, which lasted over 80 years to materialize, since 1892 when Father Julio María Matovelle passed a decree to have a bronze monument of the Virgin Mary built atop the hill colloquially known as “Panecillo.”  Given the rising interest in public commemorative sites such as monuments in the last few years, from the state to protect them, from protestors rallying to take them down, and from artists seeking to reimagine them, the question of their potential is timely and significant.


publications

“The Sounds of Rebellion: A Radionovela by and for Migrant Domestic Workers.” Canadian Theatre Review, Performance & Housing 191. Summer 2022. 53-56.

Abstract: When the world went into lockdown in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic sensitized people to how power dynamics and access to capital play a role in how we access housing and experience being at home. This article focuses on the creative ways that migrant domestic workers are negotiating their relationships with the houses in which they live and work in the context of economic, social, and physical vulnerability and deep-seated inequalities. It introduces the work of a Madrid-based migrant women’s collective of domestic workers, most of whom are migrant women from Latin America and the Caribbean, called Territorio Doméstico. The article focuses on their latest performance project, the radionovela Querían brazos y llegamos personas, an eight-episode audio soap opera released in November 2020 over SoundCloud and later adapted for a stage performance. Written and performed by domestic workers during COVID-19, Querían brazos y llegamos personas is an important cultural product that demonstrates the connections between home and power, home and migration, and home and gendered labour politics.

Keywords: radionovela; domestic labour; feminization of migration; labour organizing

“From La Virgen del Panecillo to La Virgen del Legrado: (Trans)national Feminist Struggles for Reproductive Rights in the Andes.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 41.2. Fall 2020. 1-25.

Abstract: This article explores how (trans)national feminist artists and activists in Ecuador, Peru, and the United States strategically (re)appropriate Catholic cultural artifacts to denounce religious, patriarchal, and heterosexist colonial laws, mandates, and symbols around reproduction and bodily autonomy. Throughout I employ a (trans)national feminist analysis of the fight for women’s reproductive rights in both Ecuador and Peru in the early 21st century and analyze two instances in which the Virgen del Panecillo—a famous monument of the Virgen de Quito that was constructed in Quito, Ecuador, in 1976—has been utilized to highlight state and church control over women’s bodies and reproductive rights. The first is a public action staged atop the monument in 2008 during which two feminist organizations used the strategic location of the Virgen del Panecillo as part of a larger campaign to legalize abortion in Ecuador. I pair my analysis with a photograph by Peruvian artist Cecilia Podestá, titled “Virgen del Legrado,” released on September 28, 2009. My examination of the photograph highlights the (trans)national circulation of the Virgin—in many ways, reminiscent of how the Virgen de Guadalupe in Mexico and the United States has circulated and been reimagined by Chicana feminist organizers, artists, and scholars to extend women’s rights. I demonstrate how the artistic uses of the Virgen del Panecillo underscore histories shaped by colonialism and uncover the intimate relationship between empire and the constructions of race, class, sex, gender, and sexuality.

Keywords: abortion, Ecuador, Peru, Catholicism, Virgin Mary, social action, artistic (re)appropriation

“América’s Home: A Dialogue about Displacement, Globalization, and Activism.” Co-authored with Denise Fuller, Delia Fernandez, and Danielle Olden, Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 34.1. Spring 2013. 130-134.

The 2012 documentary Americas Home, directed by C. A. Griffith and H. L. T. Quan, delves into the history of gentrification and Puerto Rican grassroots community activism.’ The film examines the consequences of policies that privilege progress over individuals, community formation, and cultural memories. Beginning with a brief description of the colonization of Puerto Rico, the documentary focuses on América Sorrentini Blaut (Meca), an activist in both Puerto Rico and Humboldt Park, a Chicago neighborhood. Meca’s childhood home. Casa Sofia, is a historical building that faces destruction to accommodate modern development in Santurce, one of the most populated working-class communities in Puerto Rico. America’s Home is unique for its woman-centered narrative. Meca’s voice guides viewers through the lived experiences of urban renewal, and we see women playing a central role in the grassroots efforts to preserve community and home, although both men and women work to resist gentrification.The editors of Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies asked four emerging scholars from different disciplines to collectively review and analyze the film. The resulting discussion centers on several major themes: progress, cultural displacement, community activism, renewal, and affect, as well as the ways in which these themes inform one another in both our historical understanding and our contemporary lives.

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