Nancy Lorenza Green is an Afro-Chicana bilingual teaching and performing artist from the Borderland. Nancy, who identifies as queer, is most notable as a member of the LGBTQ+ community through her work in the arts, activism in women and migrant issues, and advocating for HIV prevention.
Nancy Lorenza Green was born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Ciudad Juárez. Nancy returned to El Paso with her family in the early 60s, where she lived in El Segundo Barrio. She attended most of her schooling while in El Paso, finishing her secondary years at Bowie High School. It was during her time at Bowie that Nancy began to get more involved in the arts and the local community. She also joined UTEP’s Upward Bound Program, which provided fundamental support to high school students in their preparation for post-secondary studies. Nancy would get to work at UTEP with students from all over the city: “That’s where we learned to break barriers between schools” (Nancy Green, UTEP Arts Alive No. 3). After high school, Nancy went on to pursue college, earning a Master of Education from Cambridge College in Massachusetts.
After completing her degree, Nancy lived and worked within the Boston community for over 20 years before returning to the El Paso area. In 1997, Nancy was elected by the El Paso Arts Resources Department as their Arts-in-Education coordinator. Just two years later, Nancy was one among many women to be honored at 1999 Homenaje a la Mujer (Tribute to Women) Awards. The tribute selected Hispanic women who work in an effort to make a difference in their community. Nancy was recognized for her educational accomplishments as well as being a strong Hispanic role model. In 2001, Nancy also participated in El Paso’s 2nd Annual Walk for the Arts. The walk, which featured local musicians, raised money for the City Arts Resources Department.
Around this time, Nancy would also work with the Tumblewords Project, which is a grassroots non-profit series of weekly writing workshops. Nancy would present and participate in these workshops frequently for years to come.
In March of 2004, Nancy was one of the featured poets for The Women Writers Collective’s presentation “Howls in the Desert”, which was an event featuring emerging women writers and poets in honor of Women’s History Month. The proceeds from this event benefited Amigos de le Mujeres de Juárez, a support group for the families of Juárez serial killing victims, as well as Casa Amiga, the rape crisis center in Juárez. Nancy was also the recipient of the 2006 Art & Entertainment Hispanos Triunfadores award, which is an annual awards ceremony and luncheon sponsored by the local community and business organizations as well as local McDonalds Owners/Operators to recognize individuals who serve as outstanding role models and inspirations to the youth. For the following two years, Nancy’s writing was featured in zines published by Mujeres de Maiz, a grassroots multimedia women’s activist organization based in California. The mission of Mujeres de Maiz is to bring together and empower diverse women and girls through the creation of community spaces that provide holistic wellness through education, training, programming, and publishing. Nancy’s work was included in their 2007 zine, “Cantando al Amanecer”, as well as their 2008 zine, “Somos Medicina”.
In February of 2009, Nancy contributed to a project called “Pasa la Vos: Using Peer Driven Interventions to Increase Latinas’ Access to and Utilization of HIV Prevention and Testing Services”. Within this project, promotoras (female community health workers who acted as promoters) along with the U.S.-Mexico border in the role of animadoras (motivators) used a chain referral strategy called Pasa la Vos (Spread the Word). As result, Latinas who were at high-to-moderate risk of HIV infection became better informed about prevention, accessed prevention services, and referred other at-risk Latinas for services. In 2010, Nancy published “Crucified River”, a bilingual collection of poems written over a six-year period which reflected the high murder rate of women in Cuidad Juárez as well as the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children who have died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Within the collection, Nancy’s writing emphasized the loss, pain, and hope of those whose political and justice systems had failed them. In 2012, Nancy’s writing was also featured in the book “Our Spirit, Our Reality”, an anthology of memoir and poetry. The following year, a poetry book called Mezcla: Art & Writings from the Tumblewords Project was published featuring two of Nancy’s poems: La Torerita and Trashcan.
In 2018, digital media company mitú recognized Nancy’s poem “Queer”, within their publication, “Here Are 9 LGBTQ Poems Whom Will Speak to Your Soul”. The same year, Nancy, Dr. Gina Nunez-Mchiri Director of Women and Gender Studies at UTEP, and Art School Coordinator at EPMA Claudia Ley were interviewed by El Paso Community College(EPCC) for the EPCC video series “Their Stories”. Within this interview, the three women went on to share how they went into their field of work as leaders of the El Paso community. The following year, Nancy and Raquel Barrientos Mejia released a two-act play focused on the border and immigration called “ESCAPE FROM TORNILLO”. The play was written by the Tornillo Collective—a group of intergenerational women artists committed to social change—which was founded in 2018 by Nancy. ESCAPE FROM TORNILLO is about unaccompanied refugee minors in detention centers like those found in Tornillo, Texas. In an audio interview with Emily Guerra of KRWG News Station, Nancy went on to explain how the idea for the play came about in a writing workshop: “…it was a matter of, okay, so what can we do to educate the community about what is going on with immigration reform? We hear a lot of news, there are a lot of organizations in the community that is actively organizing, and we felt collectively that there was a need for artists to also channel our voices and begin to develop an artistic way of bringing about social change” (Nancy Green, KRWG Interview 2019).
The same year, Nancy also voiced a short film by director Julia Jansch and writer Vanessa Angelica Villarreal. The film, called “Open Your Eyes”, celebrated Pride’s natural, near-tangible presence in 2019 while calling to remembrance those who have paved the way to progress within the LGBTQ+ community and movement. In 2020, Nancy was featured in the third episode of UTEP Arts Alive, which was an interdisciplinary collaboration that showcased the diversity and vibrancy of the arts throughout the height of the pandemic. Within this collaboration, Nancy performed her music and poetry at the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens on campus at UTEP. Nancy also shared some of her thoughts on using the arts as a tool for healing: “The music for me is my way of communicating positive messages that can inspire and can uplift our spirits, especially during these hard times” (Nancy Green, UTEP Arts Alive No. 3). In 2021, The School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University hosted the virtual performance“Celebrating International Women’s Day in the Borderlands” by Nancy Green. Within this performance, Nancy played music and spoke poetry rooted in her experiences from the Borderland.
Nancy Lorenza Green’s identity as a queer Afro-Chicana has not only offered a unique perspective to her work and activism but has also created the representation that is so necessary for the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community to see. Nancy’s work as an educator, writer, performance artist, and activist, has done wonders for the community of the Borderland and its surrounding areas. By utilizing her writing and artistic skills, Nancy has brought awareness to important issues which continue to target vulnerable populations, while also showing the significance of using creative expression as a tool for healing.
List of Projects & Publications
Cantando al Amanecer (Mujeres de Maiz, 2007 Zine)
Somos Medicina (Mujerez de Maiz, 2008 Zine)
Crucified River (Mouthfeel Press, 2010)
Our Spirit, Our Reality (Wheatmark, 2012)
Mezcla (Mouthfeel Press, 2013)
Chrysalis: El Paso Community College Literary and Arts Journal
Pasa la Voz: Using Peer Driven Intervention to Increase Latinas’ Access to and Utilization of HIV Prevention and Testing Services (2009)
ESCAPE FROM TORNILLO (2019)
Aura (solo musical recording