Teta & Teta: We like to think of ourselves as Lorca’s La barraca
«A las olvidadas» is an initiative to collect books dedicated by people for female inmates in prisons.
We talked to the Teta&Teta Association, a non-profit association but to desexualize the teat and the environment. In 2017, they created Breastfeeding Welcome Here: an initiative to normalize breastfeeding in public. In 2018, A las olvidadas: books dedicated by people to the rescue of female prison inmates. And in 2019, Lola: a unicopa bra for uniteta women.
The slogan is: What book would you give to a woman who is in prison? How did the initiative begin?
A las olvidadas was born, curiously, in a bookstore, Tipos Infames, while I was taking out my card to pay for the books (plural) that I was taking, I complained out loud to Alfonso, the bookseller, about the number of books I have in my house, they eat me when I heard the voice of a woman say: «Well, clean up and donate them. I looked for where she was coming from and saw a wonderful lady at the bar of the bookstore, with her glass of wine, her hair with a backcomb, her lipstick, but where, I asked her, «To a library or a jail», she answered. It was Mercedes, a regular customer of the bookstore, she gave me that word, jail, that word that made everything light up. So you see, it’s all thanks to a reader. I went up to her and hugged her (I couldn’t now). On the way to the studio, the idea started to get big and when we googled «inmates Spain» here, we discovered the cake. We had never stopped to think about them. We had the cinematic stereotype in our heads, the movie or series inmate in uniform, that was it.
«We like to think that we are like Lorca’s La Barraca, he brought theater to the villages, we brought books dedicated to women deprived of their freedom».
Your initial objective fell far short of the final result. You only had Soto del Real prison in mind, what other women’s prisons receive gifts thanks to you?
Estremera, León, Córdoba, Granada, Picassent (Valencia), Alicante Cumplimiento and Alicante Villena. Two mothers’ units in men’s prisons: Aranjuez and Alicante Cumplimiento. And one women-only prison: Alcalá Meco.
What kind of public and/or private institutional support do you receive? In this case, what does it give you to improve your work?
The first to support us was the Federico García Lorca Foundation to take books to the prison in Granada, which is poetic because we like to think that we are like Lorca’s La Barraca, he took theater to the villages, we take books dedicated to women deprived of their freedom. We also see ourselves as a mixture between La Barraca and Los Chichos.
Then Fundación Gabeiras arrived and helped us get funding from the Ministry of Culture (Dirección General del Libro) and the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation. The first meeting sponsored by these institutions is Levante, 3 prisons at once, 7 modules were incredible.
«The dedication is the essence of the initiative, it is what creates the link with them, in the link in the strength».
What would the population have to do to collaborate or participate in this project?
Choose a book: it can be new or second-hand. The important thing is that it is in good condition. We do not take broken, stained, too old, etc. books. The person who wants to participate has to write a dedication on the first pages of the book. Dedication is the most important thing, it is then I believe in you, the hug, then I’ll wait for you outside; we do not take books without dedication to the meetings. Something optional is to include a note with the full name and the reason why we have chosen that book and not another. And, finally, send it to the Asociación teta y teta. C/ Hortaleza 20, 2º izda., 28004 Madrid. To participate this year, books must be sent before 12/31/21.
Do publishers support you, and do you think it is important that big publishers or those who have a lot of books in stock also help you?
We don’t need books but thoughtful and dedicated books. The dedication is what transforms inside and outside the prison. It is not an easy exercise to sit down and think about what to say to a prisoner with this information. The dedication is the essence of the initiative, it is what creates the link with them, in the link in the strength.
«A Room of One’s Own is, curiously, the first book that arrived the first time we launched the initiative. How nice, isn’t it?»
The books you take to the prisons have to be dedicated, besides this, is there any other requirement in terms of the genre of the book?
They have to be in good condition. They can be used books but in good condition, please. It is an exercise and a gift, not charity.
You must get repeat books, which ones have you seen the most in your office? What do you think is missing in all the shipments?
Many books were written by women (75% by eye). Chimamanda Ngozi (We should all be feminists) always arrives; books on feminism are arriving more and more (and of course, the data on the situation of women inmates in prison gives clues). We also have many books by Maruja Torres, Almudena Grandes, I don’t want to imagine what it will be this time, although maybe not because they are sold out; also by Elvira Lindo, Vivian Gornick, Momo also arrives a lot, El color púrpura, the books by María Dueñas, Una habitación propia has also been repeated many times…. Una habitación propia is, curiously, the first book that arrived the first time we launched the initiative. How nice, isn’t it?
As for the inmates, what kind of feedback do you get?
You just have to listen to them:
- Inmates who had never read before are starting to read
- Meeting with the inmates of Madrid V
- 1426 books for women in three Levante prisons
Can the books be exchanged or are they non-transferable? In this way, they would have more possibilities to read more books, like in a book club.
They are only for them, they stay in their modules, they do not go to the central library of the prison, they are transferable they are for everyone. Dedicated to a woman deprived of liberty, for all.
Do you have any updates or new developments in your work for 2022?
Yes, this: What if women deprived of their liberty could replace their sentences with cultural experiences? This is a cultural mediation and legal transformation project focused on an invisible group. Cultural Alternatives to Deprivation of Liberty.
A las olvidadas is also being carried out in prisons in Mexico, France, and Colombia. What do you think of the exercise there, have you maintained communication with the associations that are emerging to support this cause, or does each one go on its own?
We are talking, yes, but not as much as we would like, we don’t have a team to follow up or give support, we don’t have a team at all. We don’t have resources beyond being able to go to more prisons. We need philanthropy, sponsorships, whatever, from people or companies that fit with our philosophy, so that the Teta & Teta team can cover all the needs we have. This has become very big, it demands a lot. But we don’t need charity, we need a real commitment.