Sonia Erika (all pronouns) is a multidisciplinary artist, musician, and activist. They are the daughter of formerly undocumented laborers. After 21 years as an “illegal alien,” Sonia was finally able to return to Mexico.
During this time they initiated “Papaya,” a visual soundscape that explores the notion of what it means to be “Human.”
Sonia’s art is a powerful tool that connects individuals and communities to their stories of familial migration, experiences of rebirth, and their quest for belonging. Her subject matters are diverse, ranging from demystifying capitalism, legalizing weed, to humanizing sex workers and amplifying the voices of "illegal aliens."
Before graduating from Harvard University, Sonia co-founded 3 weed organizations: The Cannabis Cultural Association, The Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, and EatMe.Land. All her companies are collaborative artistic statements.
Currently, Sonia spends her time touring and recording music in various countries with Death is a Business, a music project that enables them to share stories of indigenous cultures and lands that still thrive today.
Sonia also offers coaching to teams and individuals, helping cooperatives develop their business strategies and brands.
As a formerly undocumented person, Sonia is a firm believer in the potential for creating a more equitable world. To learn more about Sonia's work and stay updated on their latest projects, you can follow them on social media at @deathisabusiness and @fruits.of.revolt.
I firmly believe in the power of rebirth, the concept that we experience multiple deaths and must allow our spirit to die and come back stronger through rebirth.
The first time I experienced rebirth I was around 16 or 17 years old. I applied for a position at a fast food chain, but when I reached the section where it asked for my Social Security number, I was bemused:
“We have numbers? That’s weird. We’re humans.”
I had no idea that everyone had a unique number. So I go home and I ask my dad, “Papi, what’s my Social Security number?” And he stays silent before telling me that I didn't have one. I was stunned and confused, and when I went back to the restaurant to explain my situation, the manager told me there was nothing he could do.
I kept a straight face in front of the manager, but as soon as I left the restaurant, tears streamed down my face. This experience catapulted me into a new reality where I realized that I was part of a group of people who were undocumented in the US. I became aware of the harsh realities that came with not having papers, including living in constant fear of not being paid fairly, being reported to immigration, and potentially being deported.
I experienced a state of mania because I simply couldn't comprehend the idea of people having numbers and what they meant. It was painful, but ultimately once I accepted the death of this reality I was able to give birth to a new reality. I applied to Harvard because I learned they accepted undocumented students, and I was accepted.
This experience was just the first of many deaths and rebirths that I have encountered in my life. Through each experience, I have learned the importance of adaptation and survival. We must be willing to let go of what no longer serves us and be open to change if we want to come back stronger from each death we experience. Maybe I’ll make different blog posts about each of my different deaths and rebirths, but for now embrace your rebirth.
What deaths and rebirths have you experienced in your lifetime?