Maria R. Palacios is a poet, author, spoken word performer, motivational speaker, social change advocate, disability rights activist, and workshop facilitator.
I met Maria and saw her perform at the Breaking silences Sex and Disability Conference. IN person, Maria is very much like her poetry – warm, funny, honest, and sassy.
Maria graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
1. I know you’ve been performing with Sins Invalid for a long time. How did you get started with the group? Was working with Sins Invalid the first time you’d performed publicly about sex, intimate relationships, and disability?
Sins Invalid’s Leroy Moore found me through myspace and asked me to audition. He had come across some of my poetry and thought I’d be perfect for their show. As the natural procrastinator I tend to be, I, of course, did not respond right away, but Leroy can be persistent so I took my camera and recorded a few pieces for consideration, never in a million years imagining I would be chosen. But I was. I guess the rest is history. Although Sins was my first time performing in a big theater, I had been writing about sex and disability and love and relationships for a while. Sins Invalid is one of my most treasured experiences as a performer and as an advocate/activist on positive crip sexuality.
2. When did you first start calling yourself the Goddess ON Wheels? What does the name mean to you? Can you talk a little about how your art and activism connect?
My definition of a goddess refers to a woman who focuses on self-love, believes in herself and her personal power and is willing to share it with others. I truly do believe there is a Goddess within every woman, but we only realize it upon discovering our own beauty and our own strength.
My Goddess persona evolved in my early twenties when while working in the domestic violence field, I got to see firsthand just how strong and powerful women really are. Embracing my own Goddess persona helped me to help other women to also see their own Goddess reflection.
I am always both artist and activist. I feel the two are very interconnected and feed off of each other. I think the combined energy of both, art and activism, is what fuels the passion I bring on stage. I love to perform.
When I’m on stage, I feel like I’m in my element….I feel like I’m home.
3. What would you most like disabled people to know about sex, sexuality, and intimate relationships?
I want people with disabilities to know:
1) Our bodies belong to us.
2) We are worthy of being loved, and we have everything we need to give and receive love
And 3) like one of my poems points out: confidence is sexier than the body.
4. What would you most like nondisable people to know about disabled people’s experiences of sex, sexuality, or intimate relationships?
I want nondisabled people to realize that people with disabilities are simply people and that our needs for sexual affection are no different. I want them to know we are as hot and hungry as everybody else as it relates to sensuality. This is, perhaps, a continued message throughout my poetry. I feel that we must constantly force our crip truths on the nondisabled world otherwise we will buried by their ignorance and discarded as unsexy and asexual.
5. Whose work (artistic, activist, or otherwise) do you turn to over and over again for education or inspiration?
I am a huge Frida Kahlo fan and consider myself to be her poetic reincarnation. Although she seemed to have lived an unhappy life, the gutsy honesty of her paintings speak my truths and inspire me. Few even realize Frida was a disabled woman of color whose outspoken sexuality was scandalous during her time. I seem to be as shameless as Frida was as it relates to love and sex and the expressions of my muse. Last July, I released a beautiful poetry collection dedicated to my relationship with Frida – Dressing Skeletons: A Poetic Tribute To Frida Kahlo.
6. What are you working on right now? What’s coming up for you in the next year? Where can people see you perform or read your work?
The year ahead promises great opportunity to share my various projects.
Volume II is being edited as we speak.
I am very excited about these and hope to bring empowerment and sexy energy to those who read this work. One of my goals for this year also involves producing a recorded version of these collections. More information on other projects and to see some of my performances, people can visit my website www.goddessonwheels.com.