Peruvian Behind ‘Soy Andina II: The Return’ on the Power of Women

Photo: Soy Andina II

Photo: Soy Andina II

(This story originally appeared in Vivala)

Nélida Silva didn’t intend to return to her Peruvian hometown of Llamellín several years ago to run for political office. It just kind of happened. But the folk dancer left New York City, her home of two decades, for Llamellín to help rural women start businesses.

In 2014, Silva was suddenly invited to run for mayor of the Antonio Raimondi Province, a bold move in a place where men dominate the local political scene.

“I thought it could be a good opportunity for the government to provide better tools for economic development,” the 52-year-old says via email.

Silva’s story, both personal and public, is captured in Mitchell Teplitsky’s new film Soy Andina II: The Return. The film, a follow up to Teplitsky’s 2007 award-winning documentary film Soy Andina, follows Silva as she tries to push forward her campaign and create hope and change in her beloved birthplace — a town that’s been crippled by corruption and stagnation.

“Nobody wants back to come to Llamellín, not even my siblings,” Silva says in a film clip. “They’re always asking me, ‘Why are you coming to Llamellín?’”

A Beacon Reader campaign for Soy Andina II: The Return has raised over $52,000 so far, with the support of more than 530 backers. The money raised for the film shot in 2014 will help complete the editing process.

To Silva, Llamellín means home, identity, roots, family, and nostalgia. The town, however, isn’t without its issues.

“Everyone in town is disappointed with their authorities,” Silva says. “People just complain, but when elections come, they vote for the one who always lie to them.”

If elected, Silva says she had hoped to provide education and health alternatives for the people of Llamellín, as well as work on building bridges with organizations willing to help the town.

“For me it’s important to help,” Silva says. “It makes me feel happy when others are happy.”

After returning to her hometown, Silva created an association of women knitters in Llamellín who create unique pieces that she then helps to sell. A film clip shows the group of women in a room, piecing together colorful knit goods by hand. One older woman proudly shows off a bright green blanket to the camera, her arms outstretched to show its detail.

For Teplitsky, Soy Andina II: The Return touches on several themes.

“One bigger theme is about an immigrant to the U.S. who returns to her home country,” the director says, adding that it’s a growing trend in countries like Peru where the economy has improved. “This theme of returning to the place you came from is very interesting and probably underreported.”

Often what happens, the director says, is that people want to return to do good and make a difference.

“They have good aspirations and often it’s really hard,” Teplitsky says. “The reality clashes with the intention.”

Those who followed the election in real time know that Silva didn’t end up winning the mayoral seat. However, there’s one takeaway she hopes viewers will grasp from the film once it’s completed.

“Hopefully, young girls can see that it’s possible for them to run for any seat in government, and it is okay to have a voice to express ideas, and so on,” Silva says. “Also, people can see that when women get together they can build so much more than when they are alone.”

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