Michelle Hackney is a mother of five originally from El Paso who is promoting her new bilingual book Mama’s Leche alongside illustrator Mia Ortiz. Living on the border greatly influenced both Michelle’s and Mia’s work because it shaped their ideas of family. Michelle and Mia are cousins who grew up in a big, lively, loud Latino family, where support is unconditional. Michelle recognizes the bond with her family as something that is very common to the El Paso community. Mia explained that she greatly looks up to the women in her family who have translated a sense of power and determination into her work.
These two cousins put the book Mama’s Leche together because they were lucky to both be pregnant at the same time and this allowed them to build a strong bond. Mia shared with us that they found a way to collaborate with Michelle’s words and her ink drawings to share the “sacred bond that a mother and child create through breastfeeding,” from the baby’s perspective, to others. Their goal was to show support to other woman by trying to normalize breastfeeding and erase the negative stigmas attached to it
When it came time to illustrate the book, Michelle immediately thought of asking her cousin for help. “I gave Mia my story and asked if she’d take a crack at some drawings, she got right back to me with the most sincere images.” Michelle says that Mia’s simplicity in her drawings yet het ability to draw so much emotion caught her attention. Michelle recalls crying the first time she saw the illustrations because someone had managed to put her words to images. You can definitely see the love and respect that they have for each other, and if you talk to them, they have nothing but the kindest words for each other.
Talking about the border community and El Chuco, Michelle is quick to say that El Paso is very unique because of the local talent, in all areas. She truly believes El Paso is a mecca for art because of the many seriously talented and gifted artists.
Overall, Michelle encourages people to go out there and enjoy their city and their culture, and while you’re at it, you can go say hello and pick up a signed copy of their book at Chuco Relic on November 26 from 1 P.M. - 4 P.M.