Speaking for Ourselves

Paulina Tamborrel - Changing Lenses

Paulina Tamborrel - Changing Lenses


 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Paulina Tamborrel - Changing Lenses

The way ahead
We come to this country with dreams, and ambitions. For so long I hoped to live here, that I didn’t realise that getting here is only but the beginning of the journey.

For so long I wated for a visa, status, papers. I forgot that permission to be here is only step one of having a life here.


paulina tamborrel  changing lenses

One thought on intimacy and one on walking away
One second I want to settle in and the next I’m finding ways to go back home. One day Peckham feels like home, but the next I remind myself I am Mexican not British.

At times I think I understand what British values are, just to realise that I cannot replace my culture with theirs.

And so I try to integrate, to belong, to adopt, to understand. But deep down, every other second I resist, I remember and I hold on to the migrant inside me. A woman whose home is in Peckham one second and Mexico City the next, who regrets when she starts thinking in English and not Spanish, who hesitates when spending money on something other than tickets home. A Mexican woman who questions what sacrifice comes when choosing to belong.


paulina tamborrel  changing lenses

At first sight the city feels cold. Busy. Imposing. Dense. Something about it makes me feel isolated. Consumed by the rush, the shifts, the opportunities, the expositions. Running for that bus, competing for that job, catching that new show, prepping for that meeting. Somehow we all coexist, bushing shoulders all the time, so closely together and yet so far apart. The more opportunities to meet people, the less bothered we are to do so.

So many walls, so many fences, so many stereotypes, so many faces.


paulina tamborrel  changing lenses

Inside these walls, beyond the stereotypes, past the fences and behind the faces we find ourselves. Deep inside the city we find warmth, stories, homes, people: people who dream, love and make room for us; not in their city, but in their lives.

It's the people that lie behind the high walls and staggering schedules that make a space for us to find a place for ourselves. A home far away from home.


paulina tamborrel  changing lenses

We come across people that remind us to be brave.

When I left home to live in a foreign country, to speak in a foreign language – and in all senses be a foreigner, I felt brave. But courage gives in as we get stuck in in life, work and the rush of keeping up with London.

Ioanna reminds me of what we are looking for, why I crossed an ocean to be here. How on top of all our initial dreams, suddenly belonging rises as a vital need I was never aware I had. And now I’m not just looking for a career, friendship and stability. Now I’m looking for something much deeper London made me realise I needed and was unable to grasp: a sense that I belong.


paulina tamborrel  changing lenses
Sometimes it takes something as primary as food to remind us that we all come from the same place. The same nature. That we are all but human. That we think, speak, cook, dance, dream, love, differently. But we don’t. We have more in common than we think, as we strip down to basics it becomes obvious. And once we realise that we are all linked together by being migrants, or women, or simply human; we don’t need to speak the same language, be the same age or have the same past to connect and coexist. Not only by surviving next to each other, but by actually living with each other.

paulina tamborrel  changing lenses

These photos and accompanying writing were made as part of the Changing Lenses; London stories of Integration project. You can listen to my podcast for the project here: https://soundcloud.com/migrant-voice/paulina-tamborrel