Cecilia Portal


Documentada (Documented) explores my immigrant experience through the official documents that have defined my identity as I have migrated from Cuba to Mexico and from Mexico to the United States. From my first handwritten passport at age 5 to my current U.S. passport (with a tracking GPS chip), these papers relate my biography—telling the story of where I’ve lived, what I’ve looked like, what places I have access to, how educated I am, and how I’ve earned my living.

In the United States, the immigration debate often ignores that the path to becoming documented can be an overwhelmingly complex and difficult bureaucratic process. These complexities are compounded when my country of residence, the United States, has no official relationship with my country of origin, Cuba. This situation limits my travel to Cuba and denies me access to my native soil. Having documents is also an issue of class: In many countries, those who live remotely or who are born into poverty often have no birth certificates. I enjoy the class privilege of having a birth certificate and other papers necessary for obtaining legal status. Once I began exploring how documents define who I am, I realized that my entire life has been plagued by these mechanisms of control (student IDs, press passes, social security cards), which I include in this series.

Documentada (Documented) is a body of work created in 2011 and consists of 25 large scale pigment prints (ranging from 44”by 56” to 44” by 145”) that are montages of documents scanned and assembled digitally. This is the first body of work that I have created using a scanner and not a camera. It also marks a breakthrough from black-and-white into color work.