Category Archives: Identity

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.

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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.

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

The Lazy Spic

10400503_18166125619_9115_nYesterday I worked a twelve-hour workday. The day before I had worked for thirteen hours straight. The day before was nine hours. I had taken exactly two days off in four months since I started my new job. I have worked on weekends and even when I have given my staff a day off, I have gone to the office or worked from home to finish a project or start a new one. My staff is always supportive and they have, on more than one occasion, asked me to take it slow, to pace down, and even encouraged me to take a day off. The Board of Directors of my organization expects me to work hard, but they have also encouraged me to practice self-care, to take time off, and to work at a healthy pace. I can show you emails, texts, and social media messages I have gotten from staff and Board members encouraging me and reminding me of practicing self-care. Yet, I continue to work.

Why do I do this? Sure, I love what I do. I thoroughly enjoy administration, management, strategic planning, and all that comes with this. But there’s a second, equally important reason why I work so much… and it is not because I am a workaholic.

The first new world in learned when I moved to New York City in 2000 was “spic.” There was a definition attached to this term. The spic is a lazy person; they live off of government handouts, they despise work, they are irresponsible, the have moved in droves to New York City and had made the space less livable, less desirable, less safe. The spic didn’t speak English and didn’t want to assimilate to the evidently superior “American” culture.

People – especially USAmericans – have been enraged with President Trump’s comments about how Puerto Ricans have not done enough to help ourselves in light of the major natural disaster we have just experienced. For Trump, we are lazy people who do not want to work collaboratively. This is what he was taught about our community in the New York City of his early childhood. For the USAmerican public, for the most part, these are atrocious accusations. For the Puerto Rican community, these are just the same comments we’ve been hearing since our community started migrating to the mainland in the 1950s.

Although I commend and welcome the rage that Trump’s comments have sparked among my USAmerican friends, you must understand that his comments are not made in a vacuum. Trump is talking about the lazy spic that I have been told I am.

As a Puerto Rican living in exile, you are taught that you are part of a group of people who are, at once, “job stealers” and “lazy people.” How is it possible that we steal “American” jobs and don’t work enough at the same time, I have no idea.

Perhaps for many of you it was a surprise that the President of the United States depicted the people of Puerto Rico as lazy people who do not help ourselves. However, this is what we have heard as a community since the 1950s when our people started migrating in droves to the USA due to the economic realities of the Island cause, precisely, by the USA’s policies towards its colonies. It is this message the one that is still ingrained in my head, to the point that I work and work and work, lest someone accuse me of being lazy and not doing enough.

This is not something I am making up. Neither is this something that happened a while ago and certainly not in so-called “progressive” spaces. On the contrary. This thinking that Puerto Ricans, and Latino people in general, are lazy is still alive. Take, for instance, what happened to me for four years while I served a progressive congregation in one of the most so-called progressive cities in the USA. A woman who self-appointed as the leader of the church would call my office at random hours of the day, just to check that I was there, just to make sure I had come to the office that day. She wouldn’t want to talk to me. She just wanted to make sure that I was there. Her excuse was that she had heard I had not been active in the community, or doing enough home visits to the folk in the congregation. She used her self-appointed status as a leader of the church to let me know that “there were concerns” in the church that I wasn’t being effective. Of course, like any good oppressor, she couldn’t notice the flaw in her argument: I had to be in the office so I could demonstrate that I was doing my job of being in the community and visiting folk.

When you are confronted with this reality every day, you learn to navigate the system. You know that you must be perfect, perform beyond what people’s perceptions of your abilities are, and work twice as hard as anybody else. No wonder the great Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri wrote about our community:

They worked
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back
when they were insulted
They worked
They never took days off
that were not on the calendar
They never went on strike

without permission
They worked
ten days a week
and were only paid for five
They worked
They worked
They worked
and they died
They died broke
They died owing
They died never knowing
what the front entrance
of the first national city bank looks like

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow…[1]

[1] Pedro Pietri, Puerto Rican Obituary, 1969

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Filed under Culture, ethnicity, Heritage, Hispanics, Hispanos, Human Rights, Identity, justice, Puerto Rico, race, racism, resistance, Sociology, United States, USA

Después del Huracán

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Mi abuela Margot y mi abuelo Quino vivían justo frente al Río Guayo. El puente que une a la municipalidad de Adjuntas con la municipalidad de Lares está justo frente al que fuera su hogar. Era en este río en el que nos bañábamos en el verano. Cuando pasaba el huracán, era en este río donde nos hacíamos más familia y más comunidad.

Dice el dicho que después de la tormenta, viene la calma. Esto es quizás así; pero después de la tormenta también vienen los desafíos de cómo vivir sin las necesidades básicas a las que nos hemos acostumbrado. Después de la tormenta también vienen los días sin luz, sin agua, con comida limitada… vienen los días largos sin saber cuánto tiempo será antes de que la vida vuelva a la normalidad. Después de la tormenta viene el resuelve, como le llamamos en mi pueblo.

No es secreto que cada vez que hace un viento fuerte, la frágil infraestructura de Puerto Rico sufre. En mi barrio, digo yo que cada vez que alguien destornuda duro, la luz se va. El agua potable también es un reto. Esa viene cada dos días; a veces un poco menos seguida. Prácticamente casa cuenta con sus tanques de agua para recolectarla cuando está disponible y así mantener el suministro cuando se vuelva a ir. Cuando chiquito, teníamos acceso a una quebrada de la cual sacábamos agua para tomar. El agua para uso diario la traíamos también de allí, pero por tubos y con bomba que mi papá instaló. Había conexión al sistema de la AAA , pero no dependíamos de ella para abastecernos de agua.

Recuerdo que después de los huracanes, cuando tanto la luz como el agua se iban por semanas, trasladábamos algunas de nuestras rutinas diarias al Río Guayo. Allí, debajo del puente que une a Adjuntas con Lares, un grupo de mujeres – la mayoría de mi familia – sacaba barras de jabones, paletas, cestos y tablas para lavar ropa. Sentadas en piedras o en banquitos que sus maridos le hacían, las mujeres comenzaban a lavar las ropas de sus familias. Con cada estrujada de ropa, con cada movimiento de limpieza, comenzaban los chistes, las carcajadas, las noticias del día y los chismes de barrio. Con cada pieza lavada, se enteraba uno de los planes para las comidas comunitarias de más tarde, de las posibilidades de que la luz y el agua llegaran más tarde de lo esperado, o de dónde ya estaban vendiendo pan caliente…

La niñez recorría el puente y nos tirábamos al río. Las madres nos gritaban que nos quedáramos quietos porque algo nos podía pasar. Algún niño o alguna niña, siempre, nos arruinaba el día cayéndose entre las piedras y abriéndose alguna herida. En ese momento se paraban todas las actividades para darle consuelo primero y un buen regaño después – o quizás era al revés, no recuerdo – al niño o la niña lastimada.

Los maridos, mientras las mujeres limpiaban las ropas, se iban a seguir limpiando los caminos. Vivir en el campo significa dos cosas: siempre hay mucho árbol en la carretera cuando pasa una tormenta, y los caminos no han sido construidos de la mejor manera así que siempre estarán en necesidad de reparación. Recuerdo que mi papá se llevaba la guagua pick-up, su machete, su sierra y cualquier otra herramienta que fuera útil, coordinaba con otros y se iban por caminos que sabían que los gobiernos municipales y estatales no les darían atención. Así era como comenzaban a ayudar a que los vecinos se conectaran. Después del huracán, la comunidad se juntaba para levantarse.

En algún momento del día, cuando ya las ropas estaban limpias, se reunían las mujeres para cocinar. Las ollas eran de tamaño enorme, como para alimentar a un ejército. Se cocinaba lo que hubiese: arroz, habichuelas, gandules, bruquenas del río, chopas del lago, pollos, puerco, guineos, ñames, yahutía, malanga, chayotes, plátanos, huevos… En fin, lo que hubiese por allí se hacía de comida para todos y todas. Después de la comida salían las sillas y las mesas, el juego de dominó estaba listo. Esta era la parte favorita de mi abuela paterna: el juego de dominó. No había en todo Castañer una persona más fanática del dominó que mi abuela Margot. Sus hijos e hijas le temían en la mesa. Ninguna o ninguno la querían tener como pareja de juego, porque si perdías la mano de dominó, ella te desheredaba. ¡Doña Margot no jugaba con su dominó! Abuela gritaba, se emocionaba, se vivía el juego desde el comienzo. Verla jugar dominó con una estrategia nítida, desarrollada por años de devoción a su juego favorito, era toda una experiencia.

Para mí, de niño, el tiempo después del huracán era más como una película de acción y de aventura. Era el tiempo en que la familia y la comunidad se unían. Era el tiempo de jugar debajo del puente del Río Guayo y comer en familia. Era el tiempo de ver las estrellas en el cielo al final del día, cuando se abría el firmamento y se iluminaba el cielo raso con un millón de estrellitas que nos recordaban tanto la fuerza de la naturaleza como el tesón de un pueblo que se levanta su dolor para alcanzarlas.

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Filed under familia, Heritage, Hispanics, Hispanos, Huricaine, Identidad, Identity, Latino, Puerto Rico, Recuerdos, tradiciones

While Waiting for News of My Family After Hurricane Maria

69735502People have asked me how I’ve been able to function these past few days. It has not been easy. My parents, sister, and I had been estranged for years. When I was diagnosed with cancer, they reached out. My husband and I visited with them for the first time on December 25th for their Christmas party. We’ve been in communication ever since.

As the hurricane approached, we stayed in communication through text. Then I called a few days before to check up on them. My mom was calmed and not too worried. Cellphone signal had came back just the day before I called. They still had no power in the neighborhood, but the water was back. They were prepared; they had water, food, fuel, and an electric plant. My sister – who works for the Department of the Family of the Commonwealth – had visited a shelter and checked up on her clients. They were ready to face the hurricane. The last I heard from my mom was a reply to my text saying: “yes, I am calmed.”

Those are the last few words I have from my family. I have not heard from them yet.

I have read news reports that tell me my neighborhood is fine and that there are no registered deaths in my hometown as of today. I read about the efforts to clear the roads and make sure that people have access to larger towns to get supplies. But there are no ways to get in touch with the outside world. How does the word go out about what’s happening? People from the metro area in San Juan who have family in Adjuntas go down to check up on them and then share what they had seen and heard on social media as the limited access to cellphone coverage allows them to.

But now going back to the question: How have I been able to function?

I have compartmentalized my self. Having to communicate in English helps. It is not my language. It is not my soul. It is not what connects me emotionally to the world. I focused on the tasks. I focused on the routine (of not having a routine), and pay attention only to the work in front of me. I have the news in the background and read the texts and news that I get constantly. But those are in español, those do not belong to the workplace. Those belong to mí.

I have compartmentalized my life in the past few days. Sure, I have shared news with coworkers and friends who ask. I have even shed a tear or two while doing so. I have tried to perform what is asked of me by the US society: calmness, be collected, show little emotion when talking about such things, etc. Like always, I have learned how to perform according to the social rules of the social mores of the society I live in. I have completely disconnected myself from all, creating walls that separate the mí from the me.

When I am home, or when I am speaking with a close friend, or when I am alone in my office and listening to the news, I cry. I let it all go and finally feel mí.

I know that my family is fine. Something within me tells me so. I also know that it will be probably weeks before I hear from them. I, too, am from those areas in the world where nobody cares about you; where the government has nothing to gain but votes every so often, where “charities” have no good faces or locations for photo-ops. I am from the place where the only thing that helps us is ourselves: the community who stands up, puts on their boots, picks up their machetes, brave the remainder rain and winds, and goes out to join one by one as they clear paths and help restore their comunidad. That resiliency is what helps me function. I am a jíbaro, and jíbaros don’t give up.

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Filed under Español, ethnicity, familia, Heritage, Hispanics, Hispanos, Huricaine, Identidad, Identity, Latino, Puerto Rico

The Church Is Not A Safe Space

The last time I was in church was for the installation service of a close friend. I attended because she invited me to preach and that was a huge honor. The last time I attended church before that was the Sunday after election in the USA. Having been raised in the Church, I often relied on this community to be the safe space where I could bring my fears into with the hopes of being healed.

When Republican Party enthusiasts, emboldened by the rhetoric of President Trump and Republican leaders in the USA Congress, led a group of white supremacists, Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan sympathizers to march on the streets of a public university in Virginia, I felt the need to return to Church. I woke up on Sunday with the idea of finding a nearby congregation to attend. Somehow, I had equated church with healing and community and restoration. But then, I started to doubt it. I stopped to think about what Church had really been for me. All throughout my life, Church had not been a welcoming, healing, restoring community. On the contrary: Church was the people marching on the campus of the University of Virginia with torches, threatening many of my communities with violence and death.1374087_10152239912835620_459114692_n

Since my childhood time in Church, I had only heard hatred and violence against “sinners.” The goal was to rid the World from the sinful; to establish God’s kingdom, where the violent will reign with Christ and the Earth would be transformed into their playground. The images of fire and destruction were the ones used to exemplify this future. The King will stand to divide the crown and send some – the goats – to the pits of hell to rot for eternity, with pain and punishment unimaginable. Others – the sheep – will be lifted up to heaven to be with their Ruler.

I have been in several churches throughout my life, both as a parishioner and as a pastor. Every church has been different: my rural Baptist church in Puerto Rico, the underground Metropolitan Community Church also in Puerto Rico which I led for a few months before going to seminary, the urban, large Baptist church that sent me off to seminary, the suburban, white, moderate Baptist church that ordained me, the small, urban Hispanic Baptist church in New York City that welcomed me as their pastor, the multicultural, urban Methodist church also in NYC that provided refuge and welcomed me as a leader, the urban, liberal, white church in Seattle that made me question my call to ministry and which proved me that liberal churches are no safer than conservative ones, and the little suburban Episcopal church in Wisconsin with a worship service in Spanish that offered a few months of refuge while I served other ministries.

Here is what Church has done to me:

Church was the place where my first conversion therapy sessions happened. It was the place where I was made ashamed of my sexuality. It was the place where I learned to be secretive and embarrassed about liking men. It was the place where people gossiped about their neighbors throughout the week while coming to pray together on Sunday.

Church was the place where I had to hide my sexuality even as I was both on the ordination process and as I served as a pastor. It was the place where I was asked not to be creative with liturgy as this was not welcomed. Such experience was once again relived as I was invited to write for a white denomination’s worship resources and my work was deemed too “intimidating” because it didn’t fall within the liturgical styles of the white church. Both homophobia and white supremacy were present this weekend in Virginia. Both homophobia and white supremacy were present in this church experience for me.

Church was also the place where the white visitor who saw me walking down from my office responded to my greeting by saying “Are you the janitor?” No, I was not. I was the preacher that day, and perhaps that’s why you didn’t come back?

Church was the place where, behind closed doors and without ever telling me, the congregation had the excellent idea of paying for speech classes for me to become a better speaker of English… instead of learning how to accommodate their ears to a different accent. But that’s OK for them, because they are “liberal” and they “get it.” They too were present at the demonstrations in Virginia.

Church was the place where the fragility of the person who bullied me was most important than my safety. It was the place where I approached with caution because each time I pulled over to the parking lot, my hands started to shake and my heart started to race as the bully’s car was parked there too. It was the place where her dismissal of my leadership was encouraged; the place where they welcomed meetings with her behind my back to talk about the supposedly weak pastoral care I was providing the congregation, without ever knowing that I was often visiting, listening, calling, and praying with the elders who had asked me point blank to please keep this woman away from our household because they were afraid of her too… But I could not tell her that without facing the doubtful stares of cheering crowd. Church was the place that didn’t allow me to fall asleep from Friday night to Sunday night just because of the fear I had of coming to worship on Sundays. Even after trying different prescriptions – yes, prescriptions from my doctor – and relaxation methods, I could not do it. The bullying was that strong, and the lack of support was too much. This white fragility that didn’t allow this bully to recognize the leadership of a Latino man in church also marched in Virginia this weekend.

Church was the place where the priest addressed the violent rhetoric of the election season and the overwhelming support of white supremacists for President-elect Trump by calling the small group of Latino and Latina people by asking us… us… to come together with our oppressors and to find unity.

This was the last drop. I had tried long enough to make the Church a place of respite and community. The Church has not been such a thing for me. I need to break from this abusive relationship for good. Church, you are not safe for me as long as you march with torches and hatred.

Perhaps Church has been different for you, and for that, I am glad. Perhaps you will send a few words of “encouragement” and some apology on behalf of the Church. Don’t. I do not need them, nor do I need to explain more than I had already expressed here. Theology as a discipline and a field of study will continue to be a passion for me. The Church as a place for community, on the other hand, will not.

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Filed under Church, Culture, discrimination, ethnicity, Gay, Human Rights, Identity, LGBTQ, ministry, Philosophy, Queer, race, racism, Sociology, Theology, United States, USA

I March For My Niece

My niece, Emely, is nine years old. She is bright, and funny, and loves to read, and loves math, and wants to become a singer and actress. A couple of years ago she had a list of books she wanted me to buy for her. Of course, as a bibliophile, I complied and bought all the books she asked me for and more. When I visited her again, she told me about one of the books I had given her.img_7249

I still remember when Emely started school. Since Emely grew up in a Spanish-speaking household, when she started school she didn’t speak English. She learned the language from her teachers and her classmates. On one occasion, when I asked her to speak Spanish with us and use English for other conversations in order to help her stay bilingual, she said something that shook me to my core. “Spanish is UUUUGLY!” she said. With a heavy heart, I asked her why she said that. She said that everyone in school said it. Spanish is ugly. English is beautiful.

I have talked with Emely about the importance of learning as many languages as she can. I have told her about the importance of using both English and Spanish to communicate, and to take any opportunity she might have in the future at school to learn other languages. I have told her how proud we are of her. I have continued to make sure that she is proud of her Mexican heritage and that she understands what it means to be a USAmerican too. I have shared with her my own Puerto Rican culture and heritage and have encouraged her to adopt what she might want to adopt from it. I have shared with her how wonderful it is to have a non-traditional family, and what a blessing it is that she has a wonderful, supportive, caring mother, and two dads, and so many uncles and aunts, and siblings who live in different homes, and a madrina and a padrino who care deeply for her.

img_7149Today, as a white supremacist, xenophobe, and sexual predator took the oath of office as President, I worry about Emely and her future as a Latina woman growing up in the USA. I know I cannot protect Emely or her brother all the time. I also know that her parents’ immigration status prevents them from providing all the protections that she – both of them, my niece and my nephew – deserve. But there are some things I can do. I can join the RESISTANCE and stand up for my niece.

And so, Emely, I will march tomorrow, Saturday, January 21st. Emely, I will answer the invitation from other women around the USA and the world to stand up to injustices against women. Even though you might be too young to understand, I will march because I love you, because I respect you, and because I believe in you as a woman.

There are also other reasons why I march in solidarity with my niece tomorrow. These are not the only ones, but here are some reasons to march:

I march because I believe that my niece Emely’s brown body is hers and only hers. No one, no matter what position of authority they might have, even if it’s the Presidency of the USA, has the right to touch your brown body, let alone grab it violently and without permission.

I march because I believe that you have the right to education, and that you have the right to make choices as to how far you want to take your education and what profession to pursue or not pursue. You have the right to access a job that is suitable to your abilities and your passions, and to be paid fairly and at the same rate than any male who will do the same job.img_9337

I march because, when the time comes for you to make choices about your body, it should be you, and only you, who make those decisions. Because your brown body is yours and deserves to be respected and honored. Because your brown skin is beautiful, and normal, and is neither “exotic” nor a stereotype to be paraded at the whim of those with power.

I march because I know that your parents can’t be exposed to deportation and because I want to continue being your uncle, not having to be your foster parent should something were to happen to my brother- and sister-in-law.

I march because I believe that, although you have been raised Roman Catholic, you should have the right to make the decision that makes YOU comfortable. I march because, if in the future you want to wear a hijab, you should be able to do it without fear of intimidation. I march because if in the future you choose not to believe in anything, you should not be punished for having no religion.

I march because I believe that you should feel safe in wearing whatever the hell you want to wear in public. I march because I believe that you should feel safe walking down the street and that no one should be cat-calling you, or intimidating you, or threatening your life and safety.

I march because I believe that you should be free to choose to love whomever you want to love, just as I love your uncle who gave me the blessing of being welcomed by this wonderful family that now both you and I, as outsiders, call “nuestra familia.” I march because I believe that you should love as many people as you wish to love and not being condemn for it.

I march because, if I march today, I know… I know… that by the time your Quinceañera comes, this will be a safer place for you and all your loved ones.

I could continue listing reasons to march, Emely, but I can’t. My eyes are filled with tears – you know how much I cry – and I can’t write anymore. But be sure, sobrina, I will march for you. I march for you, mi querida sobrina. I march because I know that staying home is not an option.

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