My Coat of Armor by Mayana Nell Torres

It is known that pain trickles down through generations, that the life we call our own is intertwined with the lives that came before us. The roads that our ancestors walked paved our current paths. I believe that strength trickles down through generations as well. Their prayers and dreams are within me. It is as if their tears, their prayers, their highs and lows became our coat of armor, displayed with certain comfort meals like avena on a big test day, red lipsticks and earrings to look my very best, or the jazz music I play throughout my subway rides. It shines throughout me in my love to break down in dance, in my constant want to stand tall, proud of who I am.

Water flows through the rocks and currents to a pond that nurtures many. In these photos you might see just three women. However to me these three women represent a lifeline.  They symbolize the strength it takes to create a family and nurture it with love despite who society prioritizes.  They decided to give their all, coming from southern Black roots and being first generation Columbian- American, creating a new narrative in Brooklyn, New York. They came not knowing that now two generations later they would have nurtured three homes filled with laughter and that their kids now know Brooklyn as the place that holds their strong family roots. Had they ever thought that they would be at the root of something so great?

It’s very common for people to go, “please don’t tell me I’m becoming my abuela, pleaseeee don’t tell me I’m becoming my mother,” afraid to have passed on any traits that they grew up despising or promising themselves they wouldn’t inherit. These traits might not have always been bad but in that part of their life, they felt limiting. These traits speak for more than just them, but for the stories our communities were boxed into, stories that became a part of our survival, things that we are now with stability,  healing and rescripting. But even with that I find that there are even more moments where I am celebrating the pieces that shine the fact that I am community-made, moments where my food interest mimics my grandmother, moments where my timeline or hair cuts mimic my great aunts. These are the moments where my persistence mimics my mothers.  You find yourself looking in the mirror and seeing others standing with you and through you. In some ways by us living, so do their stories. 

When they asked for a photoshoot, I was honored to capture this trio that continued to multiply to create the foundation that I stand on. In this moment I realized that the women that I feel are so beautiful, show beautiful in more than their bodies but also in their lives work, for their ever young spirit, and for their constant love. 

But even though I personally found them close to untouchable, it would be incorrect to not acknowledge the way that society views older women. In Buddhist culture, sculptures of monks are portrayed with long ears to capture their age and wisdom. In Indigenous cultures, a village is not grounded without the elders for it is what allows a community to continue to live on. However in our current society, your life stops after twenty-five. Wrinkles and the portrayal of time, of a life’s journey on our bodies are pressured to be erased.

“How do you age out of creativity, how do you age out of beauty that is based within?” My grandmother said that in a conversation earlier this year. 

Our lives aren’t races, but rather long journeys with many moments to gain wisdom and experiences. The camera is for everyone, every age, ability and background. So is art, creativity, beauty. 

During the shoot we had the idea to capture their hands, their rings and bangles, their fragility and strength. Hand holding is something very important to me. It reminds me of Thanksgiving and coming together holding hands to say a prayer, acknowledging the present with touch while praying for the future, knowing and externalizing that you are safe, seen, loved. I don’t believe you age out of creativity the same way you don’t age out of love, out of family, out of being worthy of being shined a light on.

Mayana is a born and raised Brooklyn gal with strong Black and Latina roots. Her roots serve as the basis for her commitment to nature, wellness, and community. She is a Multidisciplinary Artist and Student Activist using different avenues of creation to not only tell her story, but amplify the ones of her community. Mayana uses her voice and passions to spread light and joy while also creating content based on being a college student and a young woman of color. She is committed to actively promoting the knowledge and mindset that supports global awareness of environmental and racial injustices.


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