Monthly Archives: December 2017

Christmas Memories in Exile

I remember a picture the other day. It was a picture with my sister and I, in front of a Christmas tree. I couldn’t remember what we were wearing, but I do remember that it was taken in the house we grew up in. It was taken many Christmases ago.

When you move as much as I have, memories are all you have left when important dates come up. Living away from the place you consider home means that you always carry with you the memories of special dates. Christmas in particular is a difficult time for me. I grew up in the mountains of Puerto Rico, where the weather this time of the year is cold, but not freezing cold as it is where I live now. The holiday music is festive, cheerful, loud, at a fast tempo, and is everywhere. Caribbean sounds fill up the air; not the slow, often dark, and to me, sad songs with northern European origins. Christmas music for me is drums and guitars, is tambourine and maracas, is güiro and cuatro. Parrandas fill the nights with music as people gather late at night and go throughout their neighborhoods signing traditional music from house to house. All homes are always ready for parrandas. There’s always food: hot chocolate, crackers, guava paste, queso de hoja (a type of homemade white cheese), and of course, the last home that is visited must prepare an “asopao”, or soupy rice with either chicken or pigeon peas.

Our Christmas tree at home was always humble. I still remember the year when my dad decided to just take a coffee tree and wrap its branches with aluminum foil. We placed lights and ornaments and it’s still the most beautiful Christmas tree I had ever had. The tree on the picture I remember was humble as well. We had gone to my grandfather’s farm and cut a pine tree. It did not have the aroma of the fir trees or the spruce trees, but it was beautiful in its humbleness. We put garlands and ornaments and musical lights on it. The tree would not have presents. Ever. Presents were not to be placed under the tree or given on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We had to wait until Epiphany, the Feast of the Wise Men, on January 6th. The day before my sister and I would gather some grass for the camels, place it on empty shoe boxes, and place those under our beds. The Three Kings will leave present then… and we will have a week or two to play with them before going back to school.

When you live in exile, or away from home in any form, these memories are all you have. You remember the holiday, and the music, and the presents, and the food, and the family time. You remember that nothing will go back to what it was. You remember that life goes on and you must adapt.

I found the picture among my things. My sister and I are wearing pajamas. The Christmas tree looks as beautiful as I remember. It brought back all the memories of Christmas past, in the mountains of Castañer, waiting for parrandas and for the music. It is Navidad; it is home.

IMG_0002

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, Culture, ethnicity, familia, History, Identidad, Identity, Latino, Navidad, niña, niñez, niño, Puerto Rico, Recuerdos, tradiciones, Uncategorized

Seven Words of Christmas

Word ArtThe news have reported that the current White House administration instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using seven words on their budget documents. With seven days left for Christmas, I decided to take the time to write a piece each day highlighting one of the seven words.

In the Christian tradition there is the sharing of the Seven Words. These are phrases that Jesus shared while being crucified. Many Christian churches share and preach on these Seven Words during their Good Friday liturgies. The Seven Words are the climax of what Christian theology calls “the story of salvation.” The last words that Jesus shares are: “it is finished” (John 19.30) and “into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23.46.) After these words, Jesus expires.

According to the timeline of events, after Jesus expires on the cross he is placed into the tomb and on the third day he is resurrected. This is the hope of the Christian person: no matter how difficult the journey is, no matter how painful the culmination of life is, there is always the hope of resurrection. This is the message of Holy Week.

Why am I writing about Holy Week on the season of Advent leading into Christmas? Because the Seven Banned Words of the CDC are a mirror of those other Seven Words of Holy Week.

The current federal administration has been crucifying the remnants of the facsimile of democracy that the United States had. With each carefully orchestrated move, the current administration tries to diminish the people’s confidence and trust on institutions serve the country. They are intentional in the use of words to describe the institutions that keep some resemblance of democracy. The administration’s furious attack on the free press, their obsession with political rallies a year after elections, their systemic appointment of people completely unprepared and unqualified to lead the agencies they are appointed to oversee, their deliberate construction of lies disguised as truth, the unashamed use of FOX News as state propaganda television, and a myriad other big and small actions that undermine democratic processes are just the tip of the iceberg. The United States democracy is being crucified.

Diversity

Fetus

Transgender

Vulnerable

Entitlement

Science-based

Evidence-based

These words represent all that society stands for when they are on their way to progress. French philosopher and founder of Sociology, Auguste Comte, wrote about the stages of human progress. In Comte’s theory, societies move towards progress. There are three stages of society: theological, metaphysical, and positivist. A theological society looks at an unknown occurrence and places all responsibility on unseen beings that control our destinies. Any possibility of progress is thwarted by the society’s fear of angering their mythological beings. A metaphysical society is in the middle stage. Societies in this stage begin to understand that there are certain things that have an explanation. The understanding of actions and their consequences are part and parcel of this society’s natural development. Neither one of these two types of societies is inherently corrupt or ignorant. You cannot know what you do not know. However, these are not ideal societies. The ideal society is one in which members are exposed to a systemic way of understanding truth. To this Comte called a “positivist society.”

Although Auguste Comte’s positivist approach to explaining society is not ideal, it does have merit, especially taking into consideration the banning of words in certain official documents by the current administration. A positivist society understands that humanity is on a journey forward. This journey cannot be contained, no matter how much the powers that be may try to stop it. Resurrection is the conclusion to the crucifixion. Progress is the conclusion to temporary repression.

Democracies are vulnerable entities. They can suffer from the ego of leaders who place power over service. Interestingly, Christmas is the time of vulnerability. In the Christian tradition, Christmas commemorates the birth of a vulnerable child, from a vulnerable family, who was threatened, even as a fetus, with destruction by its enemies – political, economic, societal, cultural, and religious, among others. Christianity proclaims that this child that was born transcended what humanity understood at that moment about the relationship between humanity and its divine sovereign. Some theologians propose that this transcending experience of God made Sophia, the common image of God as Wisdom, take the form of Christ in the person of Jesus, thus making God a transgender reality showing humanity how close the Divinity is to all of humanity. The diversity of opinions that ages of science-based social studies and evidence-based conclusions have shown us, is evidence that societies do tend to move forward towards progress and positivism. It is our responsibility, our duty, and even out entitlement as engaged members of a functional society, to be in solidarity with the vulnerable democracy that we are so desperately trying to save. Resurrection is the conclusion of crucifixion, even during the time of Advent and Christmas.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academy, Creativity, Culture, discrimination, Human Rights, Identity, LGBTQ, Philosophy, Queer, resistance, Sociology, Theology, trans, transgender, United States, USA