C& América Latina: Lydela and Michel, working together as sisters and artists in the duo Las Nietas de Nonó, you transformed your grandfather’s house in Puerto Rico into a community space. How did your interest in art develop and when did you begin working as a team?
Lydela: I discovered a connection to art in elementary school and spent most of my time at the library, reading. The staff at the school library approached my mother and suggested to put me in acting classes. My mother did her best, but after a while, she was unable to pay for the classes. I continued to participate in artistic activities at the school and one day, an opportunity arose to study modern dance and ballet at the Carolina School of Fine Arts, and I was there for three years. I wanted to be a ballerina but it wasn’t possible. I have always been big and the teacher told me to lose weight before I could put on the pointed ballet shoes. I got frustrated and gave up. Later, I studied social work and it wasn’t until the age of 28 when I reconsidered art as a way of expressing myself. I began studying theater but understood that the academic approach to art was too rigid for me, and I left that as well. I wanted to act at the theater and in movies and to free myself of stereotyped characters.
I reconnected with my sister in Buenos Aires in 2010 after not seeing each other for three years. When she told me she needed an actor for a character in a theater direction course, I realized that we were both in different countries but on the same frequency.
Michel: Ever since I was a little girl, I loved literature. I wrote novels, stories, poems, songs and plays, I just could not stop. At home we did not have many books but as my sister is three years older, I also read the novels that were given in her classes, I read the same books over and over again. When I was 22 years old, I got bored of the University, and so I became self-taught and started saving money to travel. I took a Theater Direction course in Buenos Aires with Juan Carlos Gené. To complete the course, I had to set up a theatrical scene. During this time, Lydela was visiting Buenos Aires and I asked her to play one of the characters in the play before returning to Puerto Rico.
I was writing a play with texts by Alejandra Pizarnik on silence and the poetic image of the double. I really wanted to collaborate with Lydela and I wrote the text with her in mind. When I finished writing Dialogues, Extraction of the Madness Stone, I sent it to her. I went to Puerto Rico to set up that play and then return to Buenos Aires, but I ended up staying on the island, and we began working together around the house of our grandparents (“Patio Workshop”). This process has given us the opportunity to create a collaboration between us that nourishes us as sisters, artists and neighbors.