Descolonicemos lo que nos Enseñaron

The following quotes are from a post I’ve seen floating around el facebook, shared among several pages dedicated to my hometown and Puerto Rico in general.

Cuando Puerto Rico estaba bien, los comunistas, los socialistas, los independentistas y los soberanistas gritaban “Yankee go home, we do not need you”. Ahora no se escuchan ni se ven.

Puerto Rico nunca ha estado bien, por eso es que gritamos “Yankee go home”. Porque ellos tienen mucha de la culpa por la cual Puerto Rico esta en problemas económicos.

¿Dónde está el patriota Óscar López y los macheteros con machete en mano cortando árboles y trabajando por la patria? ¿Dónde están los encapuchados de la UPR que no se ven limpiando los escombros en la universidad y las carreteras de la patria? ¿Dónde están los ambientalistos que no se ven limpiando las playas, cortando árboles y limpiando carreteras? ¿Dónde está ese grito de guerra “Yankee go home” que los identifican? 

Apuesto que están ahí, limpiando y colaborando para levantar a Puerto Rico. Y todavia le gritamos al colonizador. Ese hecho no contradice el otro.  

And what’s this:
El presidente interino de la Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR), Darrel F. Hillman Barrera, exhortó hoy, jueves, a la comunidad universitaria a unirse en trabajo voluntario para rehabilitar el Jardín Botánico, en Río Piedras.

Mira pa’lla. The President of the University of Puerto Rico is asking for student (and other) volunteers to help clean up their botanical garden in Rio Piedras. Metiste la pata bien meti’a, mijo.

But now everyone in Puerto Rico speaks English. Carmen Yulin en representación de la izquierda boricua por cámara y con lágrima en los ojos expresó: “We are American Citizens, we need help.”

Well, I mean we are citizens. Yulín is rightfully calling out the government. So what’s your point? Don’t think I don’t catch the casual sexism of pointing out that Yulín Cruz cried.

Yeah, we know, that’s why we’re here. And we will always be.

We’re American (second class) citizens because one colonizer ceded us to another. I certainly hope we aren’t always a colony. ¿Estas diciendo que porque criticamos a los gringos no podemos esperar que ellos manden la ayuda que es necesaria?

I’ve encountered this type of thinking before. The type that says that if you accept help from the government you can’t complain. So, the poor can’t demand justice because we’re on food stamps? That’s victim blaming bullshit. We didn’t ask to be colonized, but if we are going to be then the United States HAS the ethical and moral responsibility to send help.

“Yankee go home”, fuck yes. But if Yankee is going to keep us as a colony then they need to fucking do their jobs. The United States need to be held accountable. And they will be by the communists, socialists, independents, the sovereignists. Because while we’re busy trying to get our island up and moving; while we’re trying to become free; you’re too busy besandole el culo al gringo. They don’t need to fight us because they can just get us to fight amongst ourselves.

Decolonize your mind. ¡Despierta Boricua!

Descolonicemos lo que nos Enseñaron
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More than San Juan: A Plea and Some History

I had hoped my first post here would have been an introductory one, but circumstances have made it so this one is my first instead.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Puerto Rico (along with the USVI and other Caribbean islands) were devastated by Maria. Northeastern Puerto Rico was recovering from Irma which hit them two weeks prior. This time, however, all of Puerto Rico was hit.

You’ve probably never heard of Cabo Rojo. That’s because most people are only aware of our capital, San Juan, and the surrounding metro area. Which is understandable but in cases like these, Cabo Rojo and the rest of southwestern Puerto Rico gets forgotten. Joyuda and Puerto Real are coastal communities in Cabo Rojo and many homes and businesses were wiped out due to Maria. Since Cabo Rojo is more rural and isolated some places are still without power, water and food is becoming scarce. Over 50% of Cabo Rojo’s wooden houses were destroyed.

I’m writing this today to ask for your help. My grandma and older brother live in Cabo Rojo. After Maria hit, I didn’t hear from my family for almost a week. After what seemed like the longest 6 days of my life, I finally got through to my brother. During the storm, grandma fell and broke her hip. She is 80 and in declining health. She needs surgery. My brother is my grandma’s sole caretaker and he needs help. Puerto Rico was already in a precarious situation before the storm and things for my family and many others will only get worse. I originally started the fundraiser so I’d have something to send once I knew what help was needed. However, now this money will go to medical bills as well. My mother is going to Puerto Rico to help and figure out what we’ll do. I suspect that grandma will need to come over here for her care. Our town is without power; the hospital she’s in running on a generator. More information can be found here:

https://www.youcaring.com/carmenmartinez-959547

The endangered Mariquita de Puerto Rico or Capitán makes its home at the Wildlife Refuge

 

So, let me tell you a little about my hometown:
Cabo Rojo translates to Red Cape, its name derived from the reddish color of Las Salinas; the salt flats. According to local legend, our town got its name from Cristóbal Colón (you know him as Christopher Columbus). Cabo Rojo is home to  the Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge and Los Morrillos Lighthouse , known locally as El Faro, which was first lit in 1882.

El Faro

Some famous Caborrojeños include:

Ramón Emeterio Betances (April 8, 1827 – September 16, 1898)

Doctor, surgeon, abolitionist, poet and diplomat, he was called El Padre de la Patria and El Padre de los Pobres. Along with these he was also considered the Father of the Puerto Rican Independence movement, because he was one of the instigators of El Grito de Lares, the first revolution against Spanish colonial rule.

Salvador Brau y Asencio (January 11, 1842 – November 5, 1912)

Brau y Asencio was a journalist, novelist and sociologist. He was named Commissioner for the Provincial Deputation so moved to Spain to investigate more about Puerto Rico’s history. It was there he uncovered several writings concerning the Taíno people, their way of life and how harshly they were treated by Spanish settlers. Eventually he would be named Puerto Rico’s official historian by American-appointed governor William Henry Hunt.

 

Rebekah Colberg (December 25, 1918 – July 8, 1995)


One of my favorite historical women, Dr. Colberg broke barriers and won gold in discus and javelin throwing at the 1938 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the games celebrated in 1946 she won gold in softball. While attending Columbia University, she was part of the school’s field hockey and lacrosse championship teams. For her contribution to sports she would eventually be considered the Mother of Women’s Sports in Puerto Rico.

 

Boqueron, 2014

Cabo Rojo boasts many beaches, including El Combate (The Battle) so named for a fight between Caborrojeños and the people from the neighboring town of Lajas. It was in that fight that Caborrojeños earned the nickname “mata con hacha” (kills with axes) because they wielded axes as weapons. Along with El Combate beach, there’s Buye, La Playuela and my favorite Boquerón.

To end this, I ask you to please continue putting pressure on your representatives to ask the federal government to do more for Puerto Rico, now and in the weeks and months to come. The United States has a moral and ethical duty to Puerto Rico. Donate time and money if able to reputable charities. Check on your Puerto Rican friends.

Please help me help my grandma. I love her dearly and haven’t seen her in 3 years and all I want is for her to be taken care of. I can make sure that happens but I need your help. Thank you.

View from my grandma’s house, 2014

~Sunflower Punk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than San Juan: A Plea and Some History

EMERGENCY HELP NEEDED

A good friend of mine has family in Puerto Rico, specifically a brother and her grandmother. For days now she has been trying to get in contact with them to find out if they made it through the terrible hurricane that hit them just recently. For over a week she hasn’t been able to reach them, but finally she managed to get through.

Her family survived the hurricane, but her grandmother was injured in a fall. She broke her hip. Usually such news isn’t terrifying. The surgery needed to fix it is pretty routine HOWEVER because of the hurricane, the surrounding area has no power, intermittent running water, and many areas are running out of food. The hospital doesn’t have enough power in the generator to complete the surgery and they are trying desperately to have her moved to a larger metropolitan hospital a few hours away.

My friend HAS to get to Puerto Rico. Her brother cannot handle everything on his own, especially because of the devastation from the hurricane, while also trying to help with arranging the transfer of their grandmother from one hospital to another while so many emergency resources are currently otherwise occupied.

Areas that are not known tourist destinations are also struggling quite severely and not receiving the same attention as San Juan.  Many people are running out of food with little to no ability to purchase more either due to poverty or just it being unavailable. Any help being sent will go specifically to helping send this friend to Puerto Rico and supplying people in the area with what they need to survive.

PLEASE! If you cannot donate, share this fundraiser directly from the site as far and wide as you can. Please help make sure that the hurricane doesn’t do more damage than it already has.

EMERGENCY HELP NEEDED

Se Llevaron La Luz!: Blackout 2003 and Reflections

It’s been 13 years since I left Puerto Rico with my mom and brother. It’s also been 13 years since the Blackout of 2003.

We were out shopping when all the stores went dark. At first people thought it was just on that block. Then we found out all of Southern Boulevard had lost power. We kept walking and found the train station, that’s when we found out there was a blackout so we could not get on the train. A few people were worried it was an act of terror. After all , 9/11 had happened less than two years prior.

Honestly though, my brother and I did not understand the problem. The light was constantly being “taken away” in Puerto Rico. The blackout was sorta welcomed to us because it made us feel at home. Growing up, it was a very common thing to yell, “se llevaron la luz!” out the window to alert the other neighbors that the power had been cut off the in the neighborhood for a while. We did the same when they’d cut the water supply.”They” being the Autoridad de Energia Electrica de PR and  Acueductos y Alcantarillados.  We’d go days without both so we had no problem dealing with the blackout.

Recently I’ve been thinking how much things change. When we moved to NYC I thought I’d never get used to all the noise and people. I’d never get used to swaying of the trains or the bumpy rides on buses. Everything was bright, loud and steel.

A childhood friend is visitng. They’ve never been to NYC. The bus and train ride home was hilarious. It reminded me so much of when I get here. My friend was looking at everything with such wide-eyed amazement. And I was telling them about the City and the “rules”, how New Yorkers  are. I told them they must have a NYC pizza because we are the best at it. They were asking so many questions and I was able to answer them.

I miss the coqui’s song. I miss how starry the sky is at night in El Campo. I miss the beaches.

I’ve never really felt at home in the States. Visiting Puerto Rico is always great but then I’m reminded of all the religious motivated bigotry on the Island; all the machismo etc. So, I feel too Latina for the States and too Americana for Puerto Rico.

But I’m starting to realize I have the best of both worlds.

I get to have New York City’s big slices of pizza and my friend brought me Puerto Rican candy. So, it’s a win-win.

Se Llevaron La Luz!: Blackout 2003 and Reflections

Body Mod Revolution 

My lovely friend Alyssa recently wrote a post about body mods and how they’re helping her take control over her body. Her post inspired this one.

I grew up thinking tattoos were worn by “bad” people. These people didn’t obey the law, they cursed, they were probably atheist. Good ladies also didn’t have tattoos. Outwardly I thought those people were outrageous. Inwardly, I envied them.

I wasn’t allowed any creativity with my body or features. I had lots of curls but my mother constantly shaved my head because my “hair was too much deal with”. Once I became old enough to say I didn’t want the haircuts, she’d take me to beauty salons to have my hair relaxed. I remember crying because those creams burned my scalp. I was told to suck it up because ‘beauty is pain’.
In the past year and a half I’ve stopped straightening my hair. I realized why I hated my curls and have learned to love them. I cut my hair on my own terms and dyed it purple.

I was always fat and told I should be skinny. I wasn’t allowed, and I’m still not, to feel comfortable in my skin. I am fat but don’t I know I’m beautiful? I’m not fat, just chubby, thick, curvy, voluptuous, full-figured. Anything but fat. But, I am fat and I own that.

I didn’t bother doing my hair or my make up when I was younger because I didn’t believe those thing were for me. Those things were for pretty girls. “Don’t you want to have a boyfriend?”. “No”, I said lying. “Any dude who wants to be with me will have to deal with me without all the prep”. I didn’t think I’d ever have a boyfriend since I was convinced I was uglier than sin.

At 17 I got my tongue pierced. Kids in school said I didn’t look like the type to have piercings other than my ears. I got made fun of and accused of being a “poser”. I was much too meek to have a tongue ring. What they didn’t know is that under the insecure little girl who thought she was ugly was a BAMF who didn’t give a fuck what they said. I’m currently stretching my earlobes.The next piercings I’d like are a vertical labret, tragus and daith.

At 19 I got my first tattoos. They’re tiny wrist tattoos and they’re pretty cliche; one’s the peace symbol and the other the equality symbol. I do plan on covering the equality symbol. I’ve grown past wanting equality. I demand justice.

I’m currently not able to afford tattoos so in the meantime I’ve come up with ideas and designs for them. I want the ink I get to have meaning to me.

Thanks to Alyssa and another friend, I’ve started embracing my Taíno heritage. I want to get the sun petroglyph because that’s one of the things I miss most about Puerto Rico. The sun just doesn’t feel the same in the States.

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I want the Flor de Maga (Thespesia grandiflora) because it’s Puerto Rico’s official flower. I want them on the right side of my torso.
PR 2011 (262)
At right, the flor de maga in the garden of my grandma’s house.
I want sunflowers because they’re my favorite (obviously). They’re big and bright and provide edible seeds. I’m big and bright and hope my writing helps “plant” a more just world. Sappy? I’m aware. Meaningful to me? Yup. Those are going on the left side of my torso.

I want the words Paz and Justicia on each arm. I want them in Spanish. While Spanish is the conquistadors language, it is also the language I grew up speaking. It’s the one I’m handing down to my daughter. The Spanish I speak is peppered with indigenous and African influences. It’s the language el Yankí has had to learn how to speak. It’s the language that makes people upset they have to press 1 for English. Es complicado y es mio.

I want the feminist symbol either on my back or on my legs. Feminism has saved me time and again. I would not be who I am without it.

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I want my and my daughter’s birth flowers to form a heart-shaped wreath.

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Lastly, I want the lyrics “my heart is broke but I have some glue“. Nirvana is one of my favorite bands and that particular line has always spoken to me. I have different problems but I have a way to solve them or cope.

It’s taken me a while to like the body and features I was born with. My hairy body defies gender norms and conventional beauty standards.
My current and future body mods defy abusive exes, close minded family, and transmisogynistic beauty ideals.
The tattoos honoring Puerto Rico and my embracing my natural hair defy racist and Eurocentric beauty standards. My fat body is taking up space and I unashamedly call attention to it with body mods. I’m taking femininity and making it my own.
I’m slowly looking how I want to look, and that is a revelation and a revolution.

Body Mod Revolution 

Social Justice y Mi Cultura

Content note: anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican sentiments, child abuse

This list brought back a lot of childhood memories (the tub of butter being something I do now but it bothered me when grandma did it) and things I had forgotten (Panky cookies! Now I must go in search of them!). It was mostly a nice trip down memory lane and reaffirmation of “Yup, I’m so Boricua”. However, two things bothered me. They’re something I’m constantly running across on Puerto Rican pride posts. Estas cosas me tiene’ harta and so here we are:

Screenshot (3)

(Image: Picture of a tanned woman, she has long black hair, is wearing hoop earrings. She looks displeased. White texts on the picture reads: How Puerto Ricans look when someone calls them Mexican)

This is implying something is wrong with being Mexican. It also speaks to the feelings of superiority that some Puerto Ricans feel towards immigrants. A perfect example is this T-shirt:

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(image is of a black t-shirt, with the Puerto Rican flag on it. It has white text on it which reads, Relax, gringo, I’m legal)

The joke is supposed to be that white people can’t tell Hispanics apart. But it pushes undocumented people under the bus. It’s saying, “hey don’t bother me! I’m one of the “good” ones”. Not to mention that no one is “illegal”.
I’m not exactly prideful or boastful of Puerto Rico being a colonia. Do you even know the history between Los United Estates and Puerto Rico? If you did, you wouldn’t think you’re better than undocumented immigrants. Also, someone explain to me why being confused for Mexican would be bad? I mean, Thalia, the food, the novelas, Selena (I know, she was from Texas but she was also Mexican) C’mon. The list is endless for reasons Mexico and its people are wonderful.

We’re all in this together. At the end of the day, Gringo isn’t going to care if I have a piece of paper or not. Racism doesn’t work that way.

And the second point in that list:

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(image of a medicine box, it has been digitally manipulated to say Bofeta, coco-taso flavored. Red text above the box reads, Trusted by Puerto Rican mothers, red text below the box, reads all over the world)

So, some translation is in order. Bofetada (in the Puerto Rican dialect the ending “da” is dropped) means “slap”. Cocotaso refers to a knock upside the head. Coco meaning coconut but in this instance it refers to the head.

Now, la chancla (the house slipper), la escoba (the broom) and la correa (the belt) are often looked back at fondly by Puerto Ricans as tools used by their parents for discipline. See, they were malo (bad) and needed que le rompieran la cara (literally: break their face, loosely; a beating). This glorification of child abuse is not something I can abide in mi cultura. I got la chancla and the belt buckle several times. I was constantly being beaten for being “malcri’a” (malcraida). Malcriada literally means that I was raised badly, but that meaning never seemed to bother the adults in my life who justified their abuse to me. I tried telling them and all it got me was a tapa boca (slap to the mouth). The abuse I suffered as a child is largely responsible for my being in abusive relationships as an adult. I believed I deserved the abuse. It was all I ever knew.  I under no circumstances condone child abuse. I don’t care if you say it’s a simple nalgadita (a spanking). I do not care if you claim it’s part of your culture. Machismo and homophobia are part of my culture too and I do not condone those either.

I love being Puerto Rican. I was born Stateside but raised in La Isla del Encato. I love las playas y la comida. I love that my hair and facial features easily speak of my African and Indigenous roots. Borinquen will forever be my homeland. I take the coqui’s song and the blue sky in my heart. I teach my daughter about la bomba y plena. Arrastro la letra R. I can talk to you about el campo y los Vejigantes. I am an atheist and I still ask grandma for la bendición. I consider myself Puerto Rican first, American second.

Just as I love my culture, I also repudiate it’s sexism, homophobia, it’s anti Blackness which seeks to forget Africa while wanting to eat una sopa de guingombo.

Acknowledging the parts of my culture I don’t like makes the love I have for the other parts stronger. I appreciate everything else so much more.
I’m proud to be a queer non-binary Boricua. La bomba y plena with it’s clear African influence makes my heart swell with so much joy. I hate the colorism that runs rampant in Puerto Rico and its diaspora. So con más gana’ muevo mis caderas and show off my big curly hair porque esas cosas son tan odiadas.
I’m a feminist and Latino Machismo is no match for me. Soy fuerte e independiente. A mi no me ganan. My daughter knows, unlike I did at that age, that she is just as important as the boys. She knows that gender is a spectrum and not a binary.

The day when child abuse and bigotry is no longer something celebrated in my culture cannot come fast enough. Yo soy Boricua, pa’ que tú lo sepa. But I’m also a social justice warrior and I will have my culture with justicia y concienca.

Header photo taken Sunflower Punk SJW, Puerto Rico 2014- Flamboyan tree

Social Justice y Mi Cultura