Wednesday 16 June 2021

One Cause, Many Voices: A Bra For Life

What started out as a project to install an exhibit at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in 2011 in Toronto, the organizers of The Bra Project – a project to raise awareness of breach cancer started in a remote region of Canada’s Near Hope, had no idea of what was to come.

A new ad campaign to promote breast cancer self examinations features superheroes Wonder Woman, Storm from the X-Men, Cat Woman, and She-Hulk, all showing women how to examine their breasts.


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With the importance of early screening, the mission of The Bra Project was to raise funds to buy a brand new CA$650.000 digital mammography machine in the community of Parry Sound, Ontario.

As part of the fundraising effort the The Bra Project started the process of publishing a book on art-bras, believing they had an amazing finale to their fundraising. A true triumph for a small hospital foundation in Ontario’s “cottage country”.

As the book was going to press an artist from Costa Rica uploaded her art-bra on the The Bra Project website. That was October 2011.

It would be two months later when Alejandra Gutierrez responded to a request to be part of the book. Working with three other artists in San José, Alejandra had taken the months to gel over in her mind the idea, with a resounding “Yes!”.

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Breast cancer in Costa Rica is a leading cause of death among women. According to date from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) – Costa Rica’s Social Security – in the past 15 years, the incidence of breast cancer among Costa Rican women has increased 67% while the number of deaths has increased 22%.

Theses are shocking statistics for a small country of less than 5 million inhabitants.

To bring public awareness to the problem a number of organizations dedicated to breast cancer awareness programs take advantage each month to hold public events, typically a run or walk mainly concentrated in San José with thousands taking part.

The Anna Ross Foundation race took place on Sunday, October 7, 2012 with 100% of the proceeds going to help fight breast cancer in Costa Rica. The Fundación Dra. Anna Gabriela Ross was born on October 4, 2003 to provide psychosocial support for people with cancer. Dr. Ross saw first hand the importance to have a support network for cancer patients and the need for a group to provide such support.

Following the Anna Ross Foundation race a week later was “Corre Por Mi”, when on October 14, runners ran either 4km or 8km from downtown San José to the La Sabana and Pavas, ending at the National Stadium.

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While the Ross Foundation has the support of the Automercado supermarket chain, while the Perimercado supermarket chain helps Corre Por Mi with the fundraising collection.

While the Ross Foundation and Corre Por Mi are local, this Sunday, October 21, McDonalds Latin America unit is promoting 5km race that includes cities like San Pablo in Brazil, Medellin in Colombia, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Caracas in Venezuela and San José in Costa Rica. More than 60.000 women in Latin America are expected to take part in the event.

In Costa Rica the race will start at the McDonalds in Pavas, west of the U.S. Embassy to the McDonalds in La Sabana, diagonal to the Gimnacio Nacional, not to be confused to the new McD in front of the National Stadium.

Back to the The Bra Project, Costa Rican artist Alejandra Gutierrez, was able to secure the sponsorship of the upscale supermarket chain, Automercado, mounting two extraordinary installations: one a gallery and the other in the grocery aisles of Auto Mercado. The organizers also hosted a symposium on the project.

Lynn Atkinson, founder of The Bra Project, was invited to Costa Rica to take part. Here is what Lynn wrote in the local online publication, , “I was awestruck to witness our project spreading its tentacles to people in desperate need of help thousands of miles away. On a very basic level, the room in the near two-century-old hospital (the San Juan de Dios) that will benefit from money raised in the Bra Project will improve the lives of patients. Beds, reminiscent of those in filmstrips from WWI will be replaced with clean, digitally adjustable and comfortable beds. Plumbing, lighting, flooring will all be remodeled to enhance the recovery of women after surgery. Every person in Parry Sound who participated in our Support the Girls Campaign can claim a part of this victory for women in the eight-bed breast cancer surgical recovery ward of that ancient public hospital”.

What also surprised Lynn was that the project has also taken on a new life, evolving in the Costa Rican world where a machismo culture dominates. “While clearly a breast cancer project, some of the artistas used their art-bra submissions to tell of a world of inequality and violence. Their personal stories are evolving the project into a platform for human rights”, Lynn writes.

The La Nacion, Costa Rica’s leading print and online newspaper, reported on the October 5th event in Santa Ana, titled “Un sostén por la vida” (a bra for life).

At the event professional and amateur Costa Rican artists presented 51 pieces of work of a garment that holds more than two breasts, art that was inspired by stories of women who overcame obstacles and did not let adversity derail the living life.

Following the lead by Costa Rica in Latin America, The Bra Project reports that a retired Panamanian businessman is attempting to bring the project to his country. Connections have also been made in Argentina and other countries, including Germany and the United States.

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Links to breast cancer aware efforts in Costa Rica:




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