I was asked to provide facilitation and a keynote address of sorts for “Violence and Trans Women of Colour: The Intersections,” an event hosted by Carleton University’s Carleton Equity Services, Graduate Students’ Association, Carleton University, and CUSA Womyn’s Centre as part of the university’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week. While my remarks during the event did not exactly match what I prepared, the original material is now here for others’ perusal.
I had a very special experience last night. I cooked for Ania’s parents for the first time, as part of her father’s birthday festivities. I made a point not to cook something elaborate and time-consuming, though, as one might expect of a holiday meal. Instead, I went with something simple that shows off Puerto Rican cooking techniques that is also very special to me: arroz con salchichas. I look forward to arroz con salchichas every time a visit to Miami is in the offing, and after long, tense absence, I missed it profoundly. As tensions with my parents continue to rise and fall like so many narcissist tides, bringing this dish to a family that accepts me with enthusiasm is an emotional coup. As I come to recognize my belated mastery of this dish, that I had tried to learn how to make intermittently since I moved to Ottawa, I am ebullient.
Images of people in my culture don’t look like me.
There’s a trivial sense in which that’s not true. My dark, angled eyes, curly hair, curvaceous figure, and diminutive stature all betray my origins. Our beauty queens and pop stars in particular look like me, conspicuously lighter in hue than even our own relatives. As distinctive as I always am in family photos, someone else who looked like me would not have seemed out of place.
But the image of us isn’t a scientist. She isn’t an atheist or a socialist. She isn’t dating outside her race. She isn’t deliberately far away from her parents. She isn’t autistic. She isn’t transgender. She isn’t gay.
Chandelure followed the sobbing. The lights of the flames on his chandelier-like body made for an obvious approach, even as his ghostly arms and flames left no marks on the wet trees. He paused, reaching the small gap where the sounds began.
The creature resembled a small tree stump with a stubby black body extending from one end. It held its tiny arms up to its wooden face, wracked with its sadness, its tears scarcely noticeable against the chilly damp. Chandelure weighed his options.
Mi familia no está aquí.
My family isn’t here.
CN sexual assault, Donald Trump.
United States, I will not forgive you for this.
After presenting a Cuban dish whose origins are primarily Spanish and another of West African extraction, it is only fitting that I present an unambiguous Taíno contribution to Antillean Hispanic cuisine: yuca.
He hoarded his Christmas gifts. We would get him cologne, ties, shirts, tchotchkes from our travels, treatments to soften his overworked hands, and they would all find their ways into drawers and cabinets, untouched for years. His clothing had to wear to nothing before he would discard it and start the next one’s slow disintegration. New, untouched things are a treasure to save for when they are needed, not an indulgence for in between. Scarcity is behind every shadow and over every hill, and a good hoard is insurance against doing without. It’s a habit my father, my grandfather, and I all share, to each other’s bemused frustration. They tangled with Communists, I grew up autistic, and we all hoard.
We return to the subject of Latin American cooking with Alyssa. This time, we visit my grandmother’s signature meal, arroz con gandules. Puerto Rican Spanish for “rice with pigeon peas,” this is a hearty meal on its own or accompanied with meat or a salad. It follows the Puerto Rican tradition of “one-pot meals,” making it relatively simple to learn and a staple when my grandmother entertains guests or contributes to holiday platters. I look forward to tasting hers again…if I am again welcome there.