We had the good fortune of connecting with Lina Cuartas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lina, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
This is a very propitious question, although I was intrigued by the quality of the options. Perhaps my recent week inspired me to choose this particular question. We just survived the Odd Days of Winter in Texas, and I was transported to my days in the Amazon. I had to gather wood for heat, I had to boil water with lemon peels to make it potable. We became a commune to survive, and made the best of what we were given. This is how I have always lived. I grew up in a country where surviving the day was the task at hand. Complications were the norm, and I think I developed a very resilient nature and mentality. I also grew up with the tales of my Mother’s near-death experiences, and so my existential tendencies were heightened to an extreme. My guiding light has always been that I can not take any day’s gifts for granted, and I was certain the golden beads of my life could run out anytime, so I lived intensely, thus, risk was a given, not something to be avoided. Looking back on my life, I realize, I have an a-posteriori way of reacting towards risk. I am not, I must clarify, a thrill or adrenaline rush seeker, I do strategize my choices, but I do not let fear discourage me from following my heart. I am intensely present, and I live moment by moment, and sometimes look back and realize I should perhaps have been scared or anxious about a move I made, but it’s always an analysis that occurs after the fact. I want to die caught in the action of being intensely alive, with my heart fully turned on.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My life is my canvas. Of course, it hasn’t been easy, but that’s what makes it human and interesting. I was told as a child that I could not make a living as an artist, and I have made out a life of my art and it touches everything I do, the choices I make about what I eat, how I dress, who I love, my friends, my home, my words, the eyes through which I see everything around me. I have painted my whole life, starting with colored pencils as a child and using rocks, acorns, found objects, clay and lots of glue in my current life stage. I was a language teacher for 20 years, work in which my art was always an assett, used to make unique teaching materials and come up with fun ways to teach English in Colombia, Spanish in the U.S. Then I started my own publishing company to create the books I did not find for my favorite bilingual students; my own children. I blogged and helped many people to tell their own stories and as my children became adults, started to remember my own stories. I live in a house that is a playground for all ages and people come to play, create art and to be reminded to fall in love with life, all over again. I have created a labyrinth, a medicine wheel, an enchanted village, called Wise Waters, and the never-ending stories that unfold in this beloved place are writing their own books as they occur, I am merely the instrument that captures them. I am the Forest Keeper, the Rock collector, the Story Teller, of the many tales I have lived through out my life and the ones people share with me, even the native american people who lived on this land long before us, whose stone artifacts I find daily and which speak to me, boldly. We are not the owners of the Earth, she beckons us to serve, like she does. Art is my way to interact with the world, and I merely remind people that they too, can find joy and peace in creation.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Antonio is a hulking giant that pretends to be a little town, and has got most people fooled. Every single time I drive beyond the area where I feel comfortable, I find something interesting to explore. Let’s pretend you were with me yesterday, and we were zooming along the Hill Country off of Scenic Loop, around Helotes and beyond, in order to catch up on life after a week of frigid lockdown and boom; we end up in a maze of tiny picturesque streets in an area called Grey Forest. They seem to be holding on to a lifestyle that is disappearing. The houses are full of personality, some disheveled and evidently weathered, but each one so unique. We saw longhorns, people out sweeping, running, picking up the debris after the storms, and everyone waved and smiled. There is a sweetness and an open-hearted disposition in people in this town that honors a generous saint with its name, that seduced us fourteen years ago and has only grown in passion as years go by. I could give you a list of restaurants, bars, and joints to check out, but you’’ll find those in the internet all by yourself. I firmly believe that the most magical treasures of the Alamo City are its human treasures; diverse, colorful and entertaining. It is here that we met a darling plumber who decided to create his own toilet seat museum, the King of the Commode, Barney Smith. It is here that we have found unforgettable barbecue places on every road trip we have undertaken. Here that the little towns with German origin tales offer antiques, bakeries, breweries and walking down main street always promises unexpected treasures and stories. I would adapt my itinerary to each guest, such is the multiplicity of gems SA has to offer. If partying and Margaritas are your target, the Pearl, the Riverwalk and the Museum District we would explore. If history were your thing, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Gruene and New Braunfels we would get lost in. If you wanted to find peace and be healed, trails and parks surrounded by cliffs, limestone caves and rivers would whisper us back to health. If you just wanted to rest, my house would be our kingdom. If you wanted to follow the beaten path, the Japanese Sunken Gardens, the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, King William’s neighborhood and the Blue Star Art District would seduce your heart, but you see, it truly depends on what you want to achieve in this infinite city of stories and dreams. Come get lost in San Antonio with me, I’d say.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Nothing I have ever achieved has been a result of my own individual action. That is precisely what my podcast, Victoria Amazonica, is about. Here’s a summary of the text of the dedication, edited to respond to your powerfully worded question. I have so many people to thank that I had to create a podcast to tell all the stories. Yes, I am one little human, a female, a mother, a writer, a teacher, an artist, a sister, a wife, a friend, one individual, and NOTHING I have ever accomplished has ever been achieved by me alone. Every success, minor or substantial that I have enjoyed, has been the product of many interventions, known or accidental, that other people have contributed to my life’s journey. By telling you my stories, I hope you too will be reminded of this amazing fact; we are a tiny part of a collective called humanity. Today, february twenty second of the Year 2021, as our realities are being radically altered by an invisible, yet ruthless virus, we are being told to isolate, to stay away from our friends, relatives and our networks of support; all of those crucial relationships that fill our lives with meaning. I suspect the relevance of what I am trying to say about the importance of community may be easier to understand precisely because of our shared crises. We are being called to consider the well-being of the collective over our own personal wishes. In the Amazon, that is a given. No-one can survive in such a hostile environment alone. When the river floods the lower villages, people move upriver, with their friends, relatives or even strangers that offer respite spontaneously, without thinking twice about it. There is a tacit understanding that if there is a need, your neighbor will offer help, or find someone who has the supplies you might be lacking. I think I can change the world, one story at a time. And I think that you, too, can change the world by sharing your own story. It is to you, fellow human being with an open heart, open eyes and ears, that I dedicate my work.
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