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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

the significance of ita

my name for the past two months to everyone besides the 15 people of my dragons program has been clara.

it was a natural transition from my spanish class name and did not even think about it that much when I first introduced myself as this. I did not understand that a few letter changes could lead to a new identity.

as clara in bolivia and peru, I lived with a different family every month and meet people who had no idea where my hometown was or what I had done in high school.

I could simply be myself, or a new version as clara.

I would always know if a spanish speaker accepted me when they would add the three letter “ita” ending onto my name. for some strange reason, hearing the word clarita made me feel more accepted within homestays, with guides on treks, in my spanish classes, and in my independent project.

in bolivia and peru, along with most south american countries, “ito” and “ita” are added to make things smaller like pancito or cafecito, as well as add a certain sense of care and affection, which was the case of the name clarita.

I loved being clarita even more than I loved being clara, because it meant in some way that I was being cared for by someone in a community that was so different from the one I had known all my life in the united states.

even as a gringita in a country like bolivia where the history of the united states in bolivia is one of destruction and distrust, I have still found a way to add ita onto the back of my name. it really does not have anything to do with my spanish skills, but it does have to do with a general openness and an enthusiasm to learn and to ask questions, instead of thinking that those around you have something to learn from you.

as we settled into tiquipaya and I began my independent study with a graffiti artist named puriskiri, one of the first things I had to come up with was my tag, my signature, that I would use to sign all of my work for the next three weeks. I began messing around with spray cans, feeling a little dizzy from the fumes, and made a mental note to take the mask when it is offered to me next time.

I could not come up with anything more creative with clara or my initials clk, until my bus ride to painting the next day when I realized the perfect tag for me. the three letters that made me feel more at home in a country so unlike my own: ita.

as ita, I would be attempting to do something I could never be a perfectionist in, which annoyed the claire that still lived inside of me.

I became afraid of the black spray paint that had the possibility to ruin my hour of hard work, and dreaded using the white to create volume. my teachers made it look so much easier in their instructions and I was never satisfied with what I was painting my other teacher´s studio was a kickboxing gym that played spanish rap as I painted.

during my fourth class, rebuke, another artist mentor, challenged me to make one of my own sketches on a tablet that was taller than me. as my afternoon progressed, I was getting more and more frustrated with my work.

rebuke had to constantly remind me “tranquilo clara,” but even still as I finished up my creation all I could see were little errors.

my teacher finally pulled me 20 feet away from my work, and made me look at the piece in a completely different way. I could actually see how impressive my work was.

he told me that street art isn´t supposed to be viewed up close, but to be enjoyed from afar. this type of art is supposed to be fun and not viewed under a critical lens.

rebuke said that my creation only lacked one thing: my tag. I signed my work, stepped back and appreciated my work, and appreciated that I once again could take on a new identity as ita.