How the colonial dictatorship in Puerto Rico enforces an oppressive agenda by exploiting black Puerto Ricans

Since 1898, the people of Puerto Rico have not been permitted to govern themselves due to the abundant presence of United States colonialism in every sector of Puerto Rican administration. Because of this political and economic status of Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico are collectively, excessively oppressed socio-politically. However, because of the visibly, but also heavily-ignored, racist and racialized structure that has constructed Puerto Rican society, visibly black Puerto Ricans face capitalist oppression on an exceptional level when we consider the intersectionality between race and class. We use the term “visibly black”, because many white or “white passing” Puerto Ricans possibly identify themselves as being a part of the “black spectrum” due to cultural and possible ancestral ties without ever living the experience of being visibly black in a racialized society. Puerto Rico like every other Latin American country is not a country of racial harmony and unity, it is the complete opposite. The current racist and racialized system in Puerto Rico, that was created by Spanish colonialism and is reinforced by United States colonial capitalism, leaves black Puerto Ricans with even less political, social and economic access and privileges than what their white or whiter counterparts collectively have, therefore the system leaves no opportunity for black Puerto Ricans to truly be socio-politically and economically empowered enough for collective progress. This social status of the black population in Puerto Rico, creates a cloud of vulnerability over the black population making this population a target for cultural, economic and political exploitation by a system built to the interest of global white supremacy and oppression.

One of the most visible ways in which black Puerto Ricans are exploited is through the way in which black cultural traditions have been involved in political processes.  During the inauguration procession of the current governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo “Ricky” Roselló Nevares of the Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), one of the few families internationally recognized for their continuous resiliency at keeping Afro Puerto Rican traditions relevant in the present cultural fabric of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, was invited to perform for Roselló and his constituents. To a person unaware of the atrocities committed by the PNP, this performance could appear to be inclusive of “afro-puertorriqueñidad” through “honor” and “celebration” of blackness, however, we know the truth to be that the PNP has exploited Afro Puerto Ricans, through structural violence since it was founded. Under the PNP governance and explicit leadership of former PNP governor Luis G. Fortuño in 2009-2012, Villa Cañona a sector in Loiza Puerto Rico, which has the highest concentration of black Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico, was marred by police violence while represented as a “drug and crime ridden community” by the media. The police violence involved blatant discrimination, murders and caused the entire municipality of Loiza to suffer from racist media attention as described by the ACLU documentary “El Color de la justicia”. In the present day, people and institutions refuse to associate themselves with people from Loiza through school admissions and hiring processes because of how the municipality has been irresponsibly depicted. Puerto Rican tradition in the inauguration of Ricardo Roselló and other events that support the most corrupt of politicians in Puerto Rico including those from el Partido Popular Democratico (PPD), support the pattern of expecting black Puerto Ricans to entertain political processes without giving them any tools for political access. This means that outside of the purpose of entertainment in favor of the corrupt politicians and their privileged constituents, Afro Puerto Ricans have no real collective access to analyze the actions of these politicians.

Much of the Afro Puerto Rican populations are concentrated in marginalized areas, like Loiza, which leads us to our next point about economic exploitation. To properly analyze the plight of these black populations in Puerto Rico, we begin with Puerto Rico’s history of slavery and its abolishment. The common but not absolute pattern is, that visibly black Puerto Ricans live primarily in coastal municipalities and Vieques. The explanation being that these areas were rich in sugarcane production therefore were constructed by cañaverales, sugar plantations. On March 22 in 1873 slavery in Puerto Rico was abolished and the newly “freed” blacks and ‘mulatos’ were required to work for three years in the same plantations. Even after these years, black Puerto Ricans were not readily provided with economic and political access therefore they remained living in isolated and impoverished communities in often the swampiest areas of Puerto Rico Ex: El Fanguito; until many were displaced into caseríos also known as residenciales, US public housing projects created by the United States government in the 1950s.  For example, many living in the region El Fanguito were forcefully removed from their homes to the caseríos Manuel A. Perez in Rio Piedras and Luis Llorens Torres in Santurce.

Llorens Torres is a mostly if not completely black populated housing project located in Santurce. Santurce was the first free black established community in Puerto Rico originally known as San Mateo de Cangrejos. In 2010 and 2011, the private police organization, Capitol Security Police recruited men from the Llorens Torres to work for $10 an hour to violently attack students who were on strike at the University of Puerto Rico in protest of a $100 million budget cut from the government fiscal plan as anonymous leaders from the student movement have shared with me. The news did not shock me. This past April 19, professors and students associated with the University of Puerto Rico, alike protested in front of the Capitol building calling for the government to audit the debt instead of going through with extravagant budget cuts from all of the education and other public sectors. I immediately noticed that the majority of the Puerto Rican state policemen and policewomen that stood in front of the Capitol building and denied us access to enter the public space, and beat and pepper sprayed protesting students and professors for no apparent reason, were mostly black and some verbally admitted that they were from some of the most marginalized black neighborhoods in Puerto Rico. Keep in mind that the Puerto Rico police force is trained by the NYPD, a very racist and terroristic organization in the United States. The student movement that organized the protest in front of the Capitol building actively calls for the administration of the University of Puerto Rico to create a university that is economically accessible via tuition and socially accessible via admissions processes to people from the same and similar neighborhoods as Llorens Torres and the neighborhoods where some of these police officers were raised. A lack of educational opportunity and political access can cause groups of people to be subjected to being used by the system like robots to carry out and defend the same violence that in turn, further oppresses them.

Every way in which black Puerto Ricans are exploited by the colonial dictatorship, is political but an explicit example of political exploitation of black Puerto Ricans would be the fraudulent voter processes that have happened throughout every election. In discussing the political make up of Puerto Rico a common question is “why do Puerto Ricans constantly put the same corrupt politicians from the PNP and the PPD in power?” This can be analyzed with a countless number of perspectives that all of course lead back to the psychological effects of United States colonialism, but one of the most harrowing reasons is that politicians have obtained political support in exchange for items such as home appliances and jobs that don’t pay well but pay enough for a synthetic survival. Some of the latest cases of the practice was documented this past November in Santa Isabel and in Maunabo, coastal, so therefore municipalities with higher concentrations of black people. In a community organized discussion in February of 2016 in Piñones, Loiza, residents of Loiza and the municipality of Canovanas, another “black town”, mentioned how employees of both the PNP and the PPD gained support in their respective neighborhoods in exchange for items such as washing machines and refrigerators. The political exploitation doesn’t end there.

The majority of politicians working for the government of Puerto Rico are “blanquitos”. This means that they are elite, privileged white people who often come from families that have built their wealth from primarily being invited to Puerto Rico and given land post 1815. Because of Puerto Rico’s political status as a colony, it is imperative to pay attention to every detail that surrounds the people: “photo journalism” is one of those important details. In the picture below the current secretary of education, Julia Keleher who has decided to close 184 public schools in Puerto Rico is pictured with mostly black students. These children are completely unaware of the corruption and terrorism and colonialism that Keleher brings to Puerto Rico however they are being used as mascots for Keleher to appeal to the public as a servant, a white savior who comes from the United States, “land of opportunity” with no Puerto Rican heritage whatsoever to “save” Puerto Ricans. This picture was posted to her twitter account and was included with the words “why I took the job”. Closing 184 schools to pay off an illegal debt could be interpreted as she took the job to maliciously and intentionally hinder children and therefore the future of the country. We may never know.

keleher

This photo was taken directly from Julia Keleher’s twitter profile

Similar photo ops have been used for politicians to gain support around election time and once again, the people pictured in the photos are typically very marginalized and do not have the tools to recognize the oppression that they are being subjected to. Then of course there are the times that the Puerto Rican media displays black Puerto Ricans in a way to manipulate public opinion. After the protest in the Capitol building in April, Metro Puerto Rico published a photo of my face as the cover for an article in a way in which people could easily accuse me of being violent towards the government and especially the police officers who “have to do their job”. The article highlighted that professors denounced the violent tactics that the police officers used against the students. There were hundreds of people there but the only photograph that they published was of me. As Metro Puerto Rico has clearly proven to be against the strikes at the various University of Puerto Rico campuses, the picture was used intentionally for public reaction. People publicly accused me of being a part of ISIS and asked for the government to jail me. Throughout the course of that day not once did I ever hurt anyone or threaten anyone with violence.

So why does all of this actually matter? The examples of exploitation are endless. We coould possibly even involve the way the government has reportedly supported drug trafficking by way of the Dominican Republic and through Dominican immigration to Puerto Rico. In a country, so incredibly systemically violent as Puerto Rico, every action that politicians and their privileged supporters make fuels that violence. The violence here is the lack of access people in general have in the colony when it comes to representation. When black Puerto Ricans, the people who have constructed the majority of Puerto Rico’s cultural identity are denied proper access to the government etc, this creates a world of extreme institutional racism. Institutional racism fuels every ill of colonialism such as poverty. Colonialism exists much easier when the colonized are impoverished in ways in which people are impoverished here in Puerto Rico.

The reason that Puerto Rico is in a crisis is because of United States colonialism. There is a collective lack of access for everybody except the corrupt politicians that play along with the United States colonialism and the “gringo” expats taking advantage of the tax breaks and living in million dollar houses in Vieques, Culebra, Rincon and Viejo San Juan. In order to properly resist United States colonialism, the institutional racism in Puerto Rico must be eradicated. We eradicate institutional racism in any country by empowering black people outside of an aesthetic comfortable for white people. It is great to dance and sing, to recite poems about the beauty of being black, to wear our hair naturally however spaces dedicated to educating black people by black people, spaces of solidarity, brotherhood and sisterhood, spaces where critical analysis is accepted and spaces where there can be support in times of crisis must be constructed by black Puerto Ricans who have some level of access to promote necessary communal growth and therefore a national change. Con la boca es un mamey. I am available for this work.

Email: insurgentprieta@gmail.com

Sources and useful information:

The Color of Justice- full documentary:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs4trwwtwtA&t=244s

Corrupcion e inpunidad- Antonio Quiñones Calderón

Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico:

-esclavitud, Real Cedula de Gracia de 1815

https://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/slaves.html

Una carta abierta de mi alma a la Alma de Carolina

 

Alma Yadira de Carolina es el alma de resistencia afroboricua

Queridísima Alma de Carolina,

Me encanta tu nombre, Alma. Alma. Me encanta porque todo el mundo tiene alma. El alma es la parte del cuerpo que no se ve, pero que nos da la capacidad de sentir y pensar. Todo el mundo tiene alma, pero no todos tienen la valentía necesaria para expresarse desde el alma. Por eso el alma es sagrada y especial, especial igual que tú. Cuando leí tu historia no me sorprendió que tuvieras un nombre así de grande… grandote.

Mi nombre es Dorothy, pero me dicen Chachi. Soy escritora y estudiante de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. Aparte de ser estudiante y escritora, soy orgullosamente negra con pelo rizo. Soy negra puertorriqueña y sobreviviente de acoso racista, así como el racismo por el que estás pasando. Tengo 23 años y el racismo y el acoso sigue. Cuando tenía tu edad, asistía una escuela primaria bien lejos de Puerto Rico, en Ohio. En todas mis clases yo era la única negra y la única puertorriqueña. Una tarde bien calurosa, unos de los nenes de mi clase me tiraron cosas al pelo a ver si se quedaban entre mis rizos. Lo hacían todos los días como un juego. Cada vez que les respondía me decían “negrita loca” y los maestros me decían “ignorarlos”. La clase de ciencias fue mi clase favorita, pero odiaba tener que hacer proyectos con los otros nenes y nenas de la clase porque nadie me escogía. Le decían a mi maestra “no la queremos en nuestro grupo porque es mala” y me decían, “es que nuestros padres no nos permiten jugar ni trabajar con negros”. Los mismos maestros le decían a mi mama que mi pelo era una distracción porque no era lacio. No podía ver bien la pizarra, pero tuve que sentarme en espacios aislados y lejos de la pizarra porque mi pelo era una supuesta distracción. Pensaba que mis familiares me defenderían, pero en vez de defender a su sobrina, su hija, su primita, ellos también me decían “pelo malo”, “no muy hermosa” y me aseguraban siempre no coger sol.

Me dolía tanto tener que aguantar comentarios racistas de mis maestros y los estudiantes y personas que por la mañana me decían que me amaban por compartir su sangre y su patria y por la noche “no coger sol por ponerme más prieta”, que a veces no comía, peleaba en la escuela porque fue mi manera de lidiar y canalizar la tristeza y el coraje. Entre esa tristeza y ese coraje, y el cansancio de no ser escuchada, encontré mi voz y me ponía a escribir cartas de amor a mi abuela, una negra con pelo lacio de Mayagüez y a mi bisabuela una negra con el mismo pelo que yo que solo he visto una vez en una foto porque las fotos de ella las esconden los mismos negros, coloraos, mulatos y jabaitos que salieron de su vientre. Vivimos en una sociedad muy racista, y nosotras, las negras como tú y yo, NO calladitas lo sufrimos más que cualquier otra persona.

¿Sabes el por qué lo sufrimos más, Alma? Porque tú y yo somos el futuro en el presente. No aguantamos el mismo abuso que sufrían y aguantaban hasta nuestras tatarabuelas. Lo luchamos con acciones grandísimas. En esta sociedad, en especial en Puerto Rico, no quedarte callada, no censurarte, no dejar que te abusen son formas de resistencia que van en contra de las normas culturales que han existido en Puerto Rico desde el año 1898. Eres más grande que todos esos 119 años y todos los abusos que sufrimos.

Alma, quiero que sepas que reaccionaste como deberías. Eres una nena, menor de edad y se supone que el principal de tu escuela tuviera la moral suficiente para protegerte a ti y a sus estudiantes. Pero te falló por cobarde, y el sistema judicial de Puerto Rico te está fallando, Alma. Pero en un ningún momento fallaste tú. No hiciste ninguna pataleta, lo que hiciste, mi querida, fue protegerte sin ayuda alguna. La decisión que tomaste fue decisión rabiosa y completamente apropiada para tu edad y por lo que tenías y tienes que cargar.

Mi querida Alma, yo llevo la misma rabia que tú. Soy adulta y yo soy mi responsabilidad ya, así que yo me defiendo. Tengo que escuchar comentarios racistas y lidiar con conductas racistas tanto en la calle como en las instituciones de Puerto Rico. Quiero que entiendas que amo a mi patria con toda mi alma, como si fuera mi mamá y todos los puertorriqueños como si fueran mis hermanos y es por eso que denuncio, sin pelos en la lengua, el racismo que existe y florece aquí en todo como si fuera un bosque de matas venenosas. Quizás te juzguen o te perciban como a mí me perciben, loca y grosera por simplemente ser lo suficientemente libre igual que tú, por luchar contra una violencia que tiene todo Puerto Rico sufriendo de alguna manera. Eres una nena sumamente libre, Alma. La mayoría en este mundo tiene miedo de la libertad y tratarán y tratarán de silenciarte por su propio miedo.

Mi amada Alma, hay una Orisha, una diosa africana que se llama Oyá y vive en las ráfagas del viento. Oyá es el ruido entre el silencio y el silencio entre el ruido. Ella es la Orisha de cambios. A todo el mundo le gusta cuando ella baila, hablan de su fuerza con sonrisas. Es hermosa como tú y anda con una fuerza espectacular, pero muchos la rechazan cuando trae cualquier cambio. La energía de sus cambios es como si fuera tormenta. Las tormentas destruyen, y en el caso de Oyá destruyen lo malo e innecesario para entonces fomentar lo bueno. Eso es lo que hiciste tú a tú edad tan joven. Tú defendiste tú derecho a la libertad cuando todo el mundo se escapó a sus “hogares” construidos de miedo, ignorancia, y complacencia. Que a ellos les guste o no les guste, no importa porque el cambio va. Tú no estás sola.

Alma Yadira, eres valiente. Cada lágrima que se te ha caído por esa situación es una gota de lluvia que está pariendo árboles que tienen los frutos que nuestra sociedad necesita para sanar. Alma Yadira, eres grande. Lucho por ti. No te conozco personalmente, pero quiero que sepas que aquí tienes una hermana de lucha a la orden. Yo te mando todos los abrazos y todo el cariño que no me dieron por ser negra cuando tenía tú edad. Eres valiente y eres el alma que vive en todos nosotros, alma de luchadora, guerrera, y cimarrona negra. Solo hay pocos que reconocen y se conectan con sus almas. Que los ancestros sigan protegiéndote. Mi alma y mi corazón están con la Alma de Carolina.

Con mucho amor,

Chachi

afro art

Esta pintura no me pertenece. Artist website: etsy.com/wildwerun

El coraje y la cocina as perfect healing spaces 

Doña Maite, estaba hecha de 7 décadas de mujerota ponceña, el olorcito de café negro, piel colorá y “¡a mi NO!”, las palabras famosas que usaba para regañarme a mi cada vez que me puse malcriadita. ¿ Y yo? Negrita, pelúa, quinceañera hecha de “tu no sa’e na” las palabras famosas que usaba cuando me regañó la doña Maite. La doña Maite era la primera viejita que me dijo bravita rabiosa and I didn’t like it not one damn bit, but she continued and I always (ironically) proved her right everytime she said it via my reaction, my signature “tu no sae ná” pataleta.
Un sabado caloroso me senté en la cocina de doña Maite. La habia visto trabajando end su huerto y me señaló y me invitó a compartir con ella. El cielo se puso negrito and suddenly I remembered what cocinas meant. It was where the women, living in economic exile, I had been raised around could take a break. It was where Titi Griselda could mash plátanos con mantequilla to make mangú instead of mashing my self esteem with comments about mi pelo rizo y bueno, traumatized by the antiblack society she had been raised in under the Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina regime. It was where Juana María the sister of my Guela laughed so loudly that you couldn’t hear the chuletas that she slipped in the sartén. In the kitchen Titi Juana laughed instead of other places in the house where she cried so loudly for her murdered son you couldnt hear the telenovelas, the same telenovelas that when the watched she would make me sit still so as not to make noise with the barettes she decorated the trenzas she placed in my hair. La cocina also held secrets like the ones alcohol brought around but la cocina was where I learned my first feminist theories. Como Juana Maria, on the brink of my adolescenae, todas esas mujeres cocineras también me dijeron bravita rabiosa and I didn’t like it one bit and ironically proved them right with teeth sucking “tu no sae ná dejame quieta” pataletas. 

Cuando la doña Maite se atrevió a invitarme a pasar tiempo con ella aquel dia, I already in my fifteen year old mind knew that she had it out for me. She had been inquiring about my coraje every time I saw her that it became her saludo for me. Nevermind buenos dias, buenas tardes, hola mi negrita. Por ley me decía “¿y ese coraje prrrrieta?” as I would walk briskly past her house praying to the ancestors that I could be invisible until I had gotten out of her sight.

Coraje is a hot hot house but is it home? I watched doña Maite peel garlic that she had just removed from her huertito. I twirled my thumbs. Running water, Maelo’s Moti Agua, el pilón, deep breaths and then there was the question. Those were the sounds, sounds I’d probable never be able to.forget because that Saturday I learned a lesson that I’ll never forget. Agua, Moti Agua, respiración, y esa pregunta.

“¿y ese coraje? ¿de dónde viene eso?” me fijé en la lluvia y me fijé en mis manos. Me fijé en el viento y me fijé en los anillos de la doña Maite. I smiled, my eyes twinkled and my canela colored cachetes sparkled but my face never lied not to doña Maite or any of the other doñas I had ever been around.

“Yo no tengo coraje” I said it with a smile as if that could have convinced such a wise wise woman y ella empezó a reírse, una risa que empezó desde sus pies y de su boca llegó hasta la calle. I frowned and changed my mind about the smile and the twinkles and the sparkles.

“No empieces negrita, a mi no” me quedé calladita and thunder rolled right along with her giggles and rolled the pieces of garlic her caderas knocked off the kitchen table. Los perseguía y ella me perseguía con eso del dizque maldito bendito coraje. I figured she had changed the subject when she opted to ask a new question, once she had realized that we weren’t getting anywhere with her original question.

Era la pregunta más rara que me había hecho. The task was to identify the most Puerto Rican thing in her kitchen. The sky cracked again, and lightening danced only miles away and a gust of wind moved all of the supermarket cupons from the kitchen table to the living room in one big swoooosh. Even the sábila that she had situated between two Rovira galleta cans that were really full of rice in one and habichuelas in the other felt the wind gust. That gust felt good that Saturday and I prayed for another one. I fixated my eyes on the gallo (which was really a clock), then I looked to my left and stared at the bag of café yaucono. Then I immediately looked to my right and as I got up to pick up the papers sprawled about I chose the Goya spices that sat neatly and organized in a canasta on the counter.

“Explica.” She continued mashing the ajo, mixing in aceite and scooping it all into a jar once the pieces she was dealing with had been ready to move on. I watched her arms shake as the pestal came down. Right on beat with Maelos Tambores Africanos. The sky cracked again, I looked for the aguacero. Aguacero, no habia, pero lluvia-llovizna si. It danced delicately, total opposite of what we all know to be a storm.

“Es que usamos todo eso para hacer nuestra comida” there was a method to muy madness but there was clearly somethung wrong.

“Ajá po’ la comida. ¿Y por qué tu no e’cogi’te la’ yelba’ que sembré aquí?” she pointed to the plants that decorated her kitchen counter, and window sills. On a diferent Saturday afternoon she had taught me the culinary and medicinal properties for each plant.

“Cuando pequeña no usamos ninguna Goyiiiiiita. Mi abuela sembraba todo como yo. Bueno, yo siembro como ella” I smiled at the way she said “goyiiiita”. Little did I know that years later I would take after her hysterical jíbaro and colorful dimunitive speaking style in my own writing and communication. Que Goyiiiita ni Goyiiiita. She sang along to El Mantequero and I giggled at the way she imitated Maelo’s style using her barefeet and her raspy voice and her shoulders.

“Negrita, no somos de ninguna Goyiiiita, vete pa Puerto Rico pa que aprendas.” I laughed completely oblivious to the fact that she had some sort of hidden agenda. At that age, I saw practically everything that wasnt clear cut abuse as a sneaky and bound to.turn out to hurt me as well. I would tell myself “doña Maite is different but not that much different” like I said about anyone, absolutely anyone.

“Y ese coraje, mija tu no eres de ningún corajeíiiito.” we both giggled at the word corajeíiiito and the absurdly constructed sentence.

“Mira soy como tu negrita, inventando palabras” she took an easy shot at the way I invented words with ease because regardless of having been raised in an English speaking country the art, of Caribbean spanish was much easier for me to comprehend and work with.

When she told me to go to Puerto Rico, I instantly recognized that she was insinuating that coraje was much like my diaspora experience. A real part of my experiences but not exactly my essence in its completely bare form. Going to Puerto Rico with a concious that what I had known to be Puerto Rican may have only been fed to me as a means of survival would open the space for me to better understand who I was and what I hadn’t known about my real home. The diaspora, where Goya products laced our kitchen like mangos posotes laced the neighborhood taken from my crianza, a lot of what we did was based on a specific survival, a cultural survival. We used what we were handed through economic exile so much so that we began to think it was who we were down to our essence. Me decían brava, me decían rabiosa so much so that I believed that coraje was the absolute core of who I was and I owned it in the most unsettling of ways.

Doña Maite was sweet even when she wasnt, evento when ver nails dug into my forearm after having seen me somewhere not for nenas de 14 15 añitos pero vamos a ponernos claros, bien claros, muchas mujeres me rechazaron por ser niña brava, y me regañaron por ser bocona y eso me destruyó. It was a constant cycle between expressing my truth with no regard to how anyone felt, being punished and ostracized for it and then getting angrier that all of those holier than thou “hay que respetar” women ignored the overly obvious cries for help because “no nos criamos así, no se lo que pasa con los milenials malcriaos! Esa nena es bien vulgar sin morales”. Hasta hoy quieren que yo ande calladita con las pienrnotas cruzadas, pero que quede claro que esas mujeres son tan enfongonás que yo, those women who to this day scold me a lo “bajale 10” are just as damn traumatized as me, many just choose silence and polite words like we have been trained to do because when you swim upstream the rivers of trauma because thats where coraje comes from, so as to avoid eventually drowning in it all, everybody calls you crazy, judges your entire life and like me you get ostracized, especially when black. They want negritas to be mamainés, happy, pourin’ errybody café so as to keep the vaivén del ambiente and everybody in it comfortable at her own emotional and physical expense. To be very clear, I don’t condone the way I have metaphorically thrown the café caliente at innocently colonized people who demanded that I behave like mamainés, a respectable negra whether it was out of their own fear for me or fear of me, but I have recentlyrealized that el coraje mio, that has even driven me to pure frustration with my own self es un maldito regalo and such coraje is a necessary part of revolution.

El coraje es maldito y es regalo. Bendito maldito. Maldito because years later I struggle with it and find myself throwing myself into truly avoidable trouble but its a bendito, because las negritas boconas are a very loud, expressive and obvious warning that something is wrong– not with us rather than with how we are treated which 100% of the time reflects systemic issues at the core. Las negritas rabiosas make it clear for you that there is a need for collective healing which always roots itself in the need for personal healing. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times el corillo “bajale 10” has been in perfect agreement with what I said but scolded me for how I said it which removed focus from content to semantics and word choice. Perhaps they were offended by words like macharrán and fuck more than macharrania and whatever other oppressions I had weaved into the statement that had gotten me scolded. 

Diasporriqueños find an idea of home in their/our kitchens, often situated in drug ridden, economically marginalized neighborhoods, (or neighborhoods where the neoghbors make it clear we dont belong), just like doña Maite’s kitchen, and though we find something about home in those kitchens and use those kitchens to culturally survive the perils of economic exile, no matter how many gallos we decorate them with, and no matter how many Puerto Rican culinary traditions we force to.fit between those four walls, those kitchens aren’t home. The only way we will realize that our original selves planted and dug our hands in la madre tierra rather than purchase factory carcinogenic spices to season our foods is if we go home. My coraje was, is the same. Often used as a method to survive the personal and ancestral traumas of hypersexualization and racism, and regardless of how much attention (both good and bad) coraje brings it’s not necessarily original to my essence. Vuelvo al punto. Before the sazón en paquete, we mashed ajos in the pilón like doña Maite and we mashed achiote and we mashed cebollas. Before the habichuelas en pote, sembramos habichuelas. Before the justifiable coraje there was my “ser original” and the only way out is in all the way in.

I used to watch the viejitas cocineras boconas make pasteles in the coldest months of the year. Titi Carmen would roll out the hojas de guineo, and then to her left two viejitas that I believed to be twins would be dealing with the malanga and the yautia and at the stove, an additional no nonsense viejita would be sazonando la carne. In the midst of sisterhood they’d discuss the wars they were going through with humor, love and hope. I’d watch in the doorway knowing if I dared stepped foot onto the kitchen tiles that decorated Juana Maria’s kitchen floor I’d be immediately sent elsewhere in a way that was less than loving. From the doorway I witnessed, tears, laughter, hugs and resistance. I witnessed healing. In the case of my anger it has always been the ochunsitas and the yemayacitas who have dared stand in the doorway of my coraje and watch me in awe anyway, regardless of the way I’d mandarles pal carajo sin amor, if they stepped too close, in the midst of this coraje there has been personal, ancestral and there has been collective healing and a few have brought me to a current place of self reflection, introspection. While anger is a hot hot house and perhaps throughout its complicated fiery existence it is discomforting, it is also necessary. La negrita bocona enfogoná se respeta because she often makes it visual that there are very necessary changes to be made.

Doña Maite y yo terminamos esa noche en silencio. It wasn’t an awkward silence nor was it a stubborn silence. We watched the rest of the storm from the largest window in her house until the only light left to see were the flickering street lights and the occasional car lights. The thunder rolled in the distance, la brisa nos besaba y la lluvia nos acariciaba. In our culture cocinas are spaces for healing but perhap its time to respect coraje, as hot, fiery, algarete as it is, as potential spaces for healing as well.

El coraje is a hot hot house but at least it reminds you to dig through personal and ancestral traumas until you get home to healing. Anger is necessary for revolution. Anger should always be legitimatized and given the space to be worked through, not be erased or denied. We can heal ourselves, we can heal our ancestors but we must recognize that respectability has no room in ancestral, personal, and collective healing.