West Windsor, N.J. – A solo photography exhibit by alumna Alina Marin-Bliach '06 (A.F.A., Photography) came to the MCCC Gallery in June. Entitled “A Voyage of Many,” the exhibit featured images and stories of 50 Cuban immigrants over the past half century in their new American homeland. Each environmental portrait was accompanied by a printed excerpt from extensive interviews Bliach conducted with her subjects.
Marin-Bliach notes that many of those who came to the United States in the 1960s are now in their 70s, 80s and 90s and most of their stories remain unrecorded.
"It is because of the advancing ages of many of these people that I felt a need to photograph not only these immigrants, but also those that have come after, and retell their stories of leaving and entering a new country. The people photographed are ordinary people, photographed in their own environment. I asked them to recount their memories prior to leaving Cuba and those memories when they first arrived in the USA. Theirs are the stories of sacrifice, perseverance, and survival in their ultimate quest for freedom," she said.
Since the 1960s more than one million Cubans have immigrated to the United States.
For Marin-Bliach, the show had strong personal connections. Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1960, she emigrated to the United States in 1968. Beneath her self-portait, which she included in the show, she recalls her reaction to her arrival as an 7-year-old: "I looked at him [the man getting off the airplane in front of her], got on my knees and also kissed the ground. Like all those pictured on the walls of the gallery, I too have vivid memories of my journey to the United States, and include my own story.
A resident of West Windsor, she received a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from Long Island University in 1986. Unable to stay away from her life’s true passion, she returned to school at Mercer to study photography In 2006, Marin-Bliach is currently completing her master’s degree at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
Marin-Bliach says the project, which is counting towards the completion of her master's degree, was a labor of love that has extended over two years. "It started with a few people and then they referred me to other people. I really got to know the people I photographed as I worked with them."
According to Gallery Director Dylan Wolfe, the show was highly popular. "We had a great turnout at the Saturday night opening reception and a steady flow of visitors throughout the exhibit's run. It was a pleasure for the Gallery to host a show that breaks new ground and was so well conceived and executed by one of our own alumni," he said, adding that MCCC art students took a real interest in the show; Ivana Airo, who just completed her freshman year studying Photography at Mercer, took the photos at the reception.