Geanme Marin landed in a New York abandoned building not too long after having crossed the border through Mexico in one of those food-less, waterless odysseys that the movies sometimes romanticize. Having arrived in New York, to join the man she loved was her American Dream Come True.
Tired of living “far from everything” in the Bronx, she heard about the opportunity of joining a group of settlers, a community of equals in southeast Manhattan much like the place she grew up in, a new type of family she could use to replace the many brothers and sisters she terribly missed. She was hooked, and she wanted in.
Then one of her neighbors in the Bronx died and wasn’t found until someone was led to his door by the smell of rotting flesh. The whole experience was so disturbing Geanme knew she couldn’t take it anymore, she knew she wanted to share a communal life and decided to trust her gut and take her husband Juan (whom she now does not like to talk about, and who is one of her neighbors) and the daughter she was carrying to live in that strange, wonderful place.
She dealt with the hardship of living as a squatter, delivering a baby and falling out of love. Her resolve and strength helped her through her pregnancy, the winter’s cold, the learning to be a construction worker and all the way to the delivery room they all helped improvised inside the squat. With the help of a midwife but no running water, Paula, her daughter, was born thirteen years ago.
Now Paula can say she may some day own two of the umbrella house’s apartments as her parents are living separate lives two floors from each other. They both live in that same building on the Lower East Side. Geanme never really got over having left her family behind in Colombia. But that void was filled by Paula and also by the camaraderie and support from the Umbrella House community.
Geanne and Paula bring in the complexity of the family element to the dark corners of this building.