Step into your purpose.... create a 2012 you'll love

Resolutions are not one of my favorite things because after many years of listing lofty goals, I failed miserably. By day three, I was off the wagon, whether it was saving more money or finishing one of the many books I have cooking in the back of my head. After not following through on these ambitious goals, I'd hate myself for going back to my old ways and thus the never ending cycle of failure to realize my resolutions continued. But something happened last year that worked and I want to share.

Instead of resolutions, I created intentions. I did not share them with the world. I just lived them. That is, I surrendered to my intentions. I gave them attention by living them. I did as my wise elders do, let the universe take care of the details.

Know this: whatever you pay attention to will grow, whatever do don't, won't. This is an eternal truth that my mom has shown me as tends to her garden, the fruits which everyone around her gets to enjoy-- avocados, squash, plantains, passion fruits, bananas, pineapples, pigeon peas, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, soursop, panapen, lemons, and more. Mami's plot is tiny in the scheme of the planet, but it is really a lot bigger. She nurtures each of those plants with impeccable attention, each day. And wonderful things happen--the universe responds!

You are like a garden filled with delicious gifts. Your pure potential is there. Idle. Waiting for you to tend to it. Nurture your fruits with impeccable love. Realize yourself. Share yourself.

Whatever your intentions for 2012 are, I encourage you to above all, live in state that is truthful to you-- in every way. When you live in conflict with your internal truth, when what you do is opposite to who you are, your spirit will tell you and you will feel dis-ease. This spiritual malaise will turn into physical sickness. Do not think one thing and live another. It will catch up. Be mindful of this my beautiful señoritas.

Here are six ways to create a 2012 you'll love:


I came to win, to fly, to conquer, to thrive, to prosper, to rise...


Today's anthem, brought to you by the bodacious fellow Caribbean ladies, Nicki Minaj & Rihanna


Be bold. Be strong. Be gentle. Be kind. And, as my momma says, go get it, you were born to win!

Encourage the good in your life & watch magic unfold


Have you set your intentions for 2012? I have been formulating mine gently in my head, thinking deeply about what I desire to manifest in my life in the next calendar cycle. These desires are personal, and intimate and have nothing to do with anyone else. So, my advice, take a deep breath, and carefully craft your intentions for your next year with loving care.

This beautiful chant from David Simon of the Chopra Center will help put you in the right frame of mind. Click here for it. This chant is an invitation to cultivate a state of mindfulness that allows you to bring things, experiences, people into our life that nourish you putting you closer to the flow of life.

According to the yogis or yoga or Ayurveda honoring everything in the manifest world – that is, everything that has form – has a three-fold expression. In other words, all of life has a beginning, middle and an end to it. Gardeners, farmers, fishermen / women, people who are always conversing with nature, understand this cycle. The nature of life is that everything that is born must die. Every relationship that we enter into has its end already written. It’s a hard-core fact. So instead of despairing, the yogis and wise people of world say that if we ride the wave of beginnings, middles and endings in life with effortlessness, balance, enthusiasm, appreciation and grace we hit the jackpot. They say this is the key to living a conscious life. 

David Simon--who by the way is battling brain cancer– says that if we surrender to this flow of life, if we are not struggling or resisting all the time, if we are not trying to impose our individualized ideas about how things should be but have an awareness of how things are then we experience the sweet fragrance of life.

“When we are willing to accept the cycle of beginnings, middles and ends without a lot resistance, then we experience a joyfulness that we feel tangibly in our minds, bodies, hearts, & soul-- it’s a sweet fragrance that arises when our personal experience is in tune or is in alignment with nature, with the divine.” Yup, we experience divinity.

I will share that this is not just available to yogis or wise people of the world. This year, I have had moments where I tapped into simple joy -- watching dew on a leaves --  that made me well up with joy. That photo heart shaped leaves above with morning dew captured a momentary sweetness that Simon was referring to -- pure bliss, joy and timelessness.  I just stood there experiencing those leaves. I opened myself to see what was and not what I wanted to see and bam!  

So there you go, understand that life will take you through cycles, up, down, sometimes out, but get up, and accept things as they are, surrender to those cycles with effortlessness, balance, enthusiasm and appreciation and tap into the joy that is around you. 

Best of luck with your intentions. 

R.I.P Cesaria Evora


Cesaria Evora is the reason why I first wanted to learn Portuguese. After more than a decade of listening to her songs I still don't speak it, yet despite my language deficiency, I've been able to enjoy the Cape Verdean goddess' gorgeous voice and soulful songs. She's been a constant as I write, cook, read, or chill in the warm lavender baths I am fond of taking.

Today, as I replayed Afropop's live recording of her first New York City show all day, it hit me that  although I have never really fully understood or understand what she is singing on a conscious level, the universality of her music enters sweetly into my gut.  I realized that I get Cesaria because she reminds me so much of the women in my father's small lush Caribbean town filled with Africa's scattered children.

Her homeland, Cape Verde, a string of islands off the coast of Africa colonized by Portugal, is in many ways just like the string of islands of the Caribbean colonized by Europeans of all sorts. Many people on these islands share one thing: a unique African expression that transcends language, time and generations. My three aunts, two of them, Himilice and Minerva, who are R.I.P., and Aida, who still blesses my world with her joie de vivre, are black women who love to sing and sing with love. They could be Cesaria. Cesaria was them.

It was today, as I remembered Cesaria, I was able to fully appreciate the connection. Thank you barefoot goddess. Je t'aime beaucoup. Here's one of my favorite Cesaria songs Petit Pays. Enjoy...


Cheers to today



Animals and laughing babies, good prescriptions for a lovely start of the weekend. 

Self love and other tricky feelings...

My definition of self-love-- the knowing that you are a worthy human being-- continues to expand on a daily basis. It's an endless and most important conversation to have with myself, and with others which is why I explore the topic in my book. Self love, acting on it, self care, is ground zero for life. It's where I believe every act and choice we make begins...

Yesterday, I added another level to my awareness of self-love after reading Sara Benincasa's exploration to her addiction to apologizing. The humorously titled post I am Not Sorry About My Vagina and Other Apologies We Should Retract, is worth reading . 

Benincasa is a recovering apology addict. She writes insightfully about the many boneheaded apologies she has made over the years. Some apologies are so tragic that they are funny. She asked women to share their apology stories. Illuminating.

This is the thing: women are conditioned to say sorry for things we have no business being sorry for! By the way, this is not to be confused with not having the humility of accepting when you are wrong and recognizing when your actions hurt others. 
The female apology addiction is bigger and different than that and one worth exploring. An anecdote of  one woman is telling: she apologized to a hospital staff for being unable to stop crying after having an abortion! 

Yes, we apologize for feelings, we apologize to those who hurt us or for desiring things that perhaps we don't feel we deserve...  The list is long.  But, its worth asking yourself today: what are you apologizing for? And should you be saying you are sorry? Because sometimes love is not having to say that you are sorry!




We are the universe and the universe lives in us...

The view my my childhood home
I am back from the Caribbean after a long weekend visiting my large extended beautiful tribe. The visit was to celebrate the wedding of a cousin. It was a country wedding without all the highly curated and superficial trappings often found in a big city or upper class nuptial, where people mortgage their homes to throw the biggest party simply to impress. You know these events, the shoes, handbag, title and bank account define you as someone worth talking to or knowing. None of this happened at this sweet nuptial. It was unedited humanity, raw, kind of intense, but pure. Love all around. Here, everyone was worth dancing with, talking to and laughing with. Kids and the elders were invited and found on the the dance floor with the young, the beautiful and the bold. The bride, my cousin, told me that she invited 230 people but ordered food and drinks for 280 (the entire town!) "People who I may not have invited will show up and I want to make sure there is enough for all," she said. At this party, everyone ate at the main table.

There are many lessons from my visit besides a gentle reminder of the generous spirit of many members of my family. But, I want to share one precious moment:

In this small lush town I noticed that all the children walk around knowing that they own the earth. They  own it not in a mortgage-owning kind-a way, more like intuitively understanding that they are part of the universe and the universe resides inside of them. Think of an eagle gracefully soaring across the sky knowing that the sky is his highway.

My sister and I were crossing a creek with a 10 year old cousin and he was barefoot because my big sis had borrowed his flip flops. It was dark out and the stars up above were huge and sparkly. As he ran across the small path along the corridor of the creek, he shouted, "I am God, watch me fly!" I shouted back to him. "Yes, indeed, you are God." And he said to me: "I am glad that you can see it!"

I pray that he never forgets. That I never forget. That you, reading this post, never forget: that you are God, that you can fly!

I think that my little man cousin understood that he is sacred in great part because of where he lives,  surrounded by lush trees, water, sun and water, both sweet and salty. Honestly, not having that much money allows him to be closer to nature and to himself in a way that all the modern day accoutrement's keep other city kids from connecting within.

Life is beautiful...beach day with my sisters.


Where ever you are and whomever you're with, may you have the space in your heart (and mind) to be fully present. Happy weekend.

World AIDS Day...

It's time to talk / think about AIDS in America. Latinas and African American women are disproportionately affected by AIDS. The disease is the leading cause of death among Black women. Latinas are right behind. Protect yourself with the facts.

I will be exploring the essence of a woman...

Fernando Botero's Reclining Woman @ the Cohen Estate
I'll be speaking at the annual Mind, Body & Spirit day conference sponsored by 100 Hispanic Women and Bronx Lebanon Hospital tomorrow. This is the 9th year that the great women of the organization will host a day of tuning out and tuning in.

This year's theme is particularly intriguing: the essence of a woman. What is feminine essence exactly? Is it tangible? How do you tap into it? Nurture it? I'm curious to explore these questions and more with the participants, especially because so few of them rarely take out the time to be still and ask themselves these questions.

100 Hispanic Women carved out a day to teach women in the South Bronx and beyond something that is sadly a foreign concept to many of them: self care. And it's particularly a opportune time to be delving into nourishing the mind, body & soul given the crazy the creeps in during the holiday season. The self imposed and often dumped on expectations of the holidays will take the zen out of even the most zen monk in us.

Tomorrow promises to be replete with nourishing practices including reiki, massage therapy, makeovers, yoga, zumba classes and several workshops exploring everything from self love to sexuality.  If you are int the area, there is still time to register. Call 212-239-1430 for more information.

"Silent gratitude is of no use to anyone," GB Stern



There is beauty in silence, and yes, sometimes you are meant to keep things to yourself. But I love that quote because for me it means that you don't take anything for granted. There is beauty and power in verbalizing gratitude. And urgency. Tomorrow many of us will pause to be with family and friends -- if we are so lucky -- and taking the time to acknowledge their worth in your life will add to the grace of the day. I believe communicating is an art form that must be learned and practiced on the daily. Each day I learn a new way. Telling each of your beloveds that they matter in your life, that they are loved and appreciated is a powerful gesture.

But, the grace shouldn't be only shared at meal time or during special days - incorporating gratefulness in every part of your life, everyday, will usher in positivity because you remind yourself of all the wondrous things that surround you.

"You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert, and the opera and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, pairing, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink." GK Chesterton

To you, dear reader where ever you are, you bless me with loyal support and for that I am grateful.
I thank you for taking precious time to stop by and read my words. May you be surrounded by abundance, health, positivity, and peace of mind, body and soul.


Happy Thanksgiving. 

A very necessary discussion about the current crisis of Latino boys and men...

Statistics don't lie! Latino men and boys are in crisis, from high incarceration rates to high school drop rates, HIV infection, high homicide rates and high unemployment-- something bad is happening. Reasons for the current state are complex and multi layered. And certainly, more research is necessary to get at the root of the causes and find solutions. 

Three educators have edited a groundbreaking book, "Invisible No More: Understanding the Disenfranchisement of Latino men and boys." 

I will be moderating a panel tonight with the three scholars, Pedro Noguera, Aida Hurtado and Edward Fergus and local contributors. 

New York City folks, come out and check out a very necessary book, and a very necessary discussion. 

If you can't make tonight's event and want to understand what is happening and be inspired to be part of making things better, check out this book. It's an extraordinary work of scholarship that sheds light on a most important group in our society. 

New York University Kimmel Center
Rosenthal Pavilion
10th floor
5 - 7 pm


"Like all other people, I would like to live a long and productive life. But, it's not important how long you live. What's important is what you do with your life and how you use it." Dr. Martin Luther King days before he was assassinated.

Why I took my 9 yr. old to Occupy Wall Street

On day 47 of the Occupy Wall Street protest, a movement that started in New York City when a group of patriotic Americans took over Zuccotti Park to protest corporate greed and corruption, I took my nine-year-old to witness democracy in action. My young son went against his wishes and fought me the entire subway ride downtown from our comfortable doorman-protected apartment building.

I decided to brave the alleged assaults, rapes, chaos and crazy being reported by mainstream tabloids and join the peaceful protesters with my youngest child at the makeshift tents where hundreds have gathered from sun up to sundown because we are part of the 99 percent of Americans affected by the Great Recession. As a working class family of writers, we live in the grotesque gap between the haves and the have-nots, a gap that has grown insanely large since the 1970's. Consider that according to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 2007, the top income of the top 1 percent of Americans grew by almost 300 percent. During the same period, 60 percent of middle class incomes saw their scale grow by a paltry 40 percent. Wall Street was bailed out—and to adopt a popular phrase, main street was left holding the check.

To be clear, while my family may be part of the income 'have not' we have plenty of wealth in the area of spirit and justice and desire to live in a more equitable society.

Teaching my son history that cannot be learned in textbooks is important to me as a parent. This latest history lesson became more urgent one morning two weeks ago, when during our morning ritual of breakfast with the news, I casually mentioned to him that we'd be going downtown to show solidarity with the protesters. "We are part of the 99 percent," I told him. To my shock, my son shrieked, declaring with a firm attitude that only a pre-teen can muster, "There is no way I am going to Occupy Wall Street mom, you have gone mad!"

Finding your place in a culture that renders you invisible is no easy task...

I just finished my lectures at Cal Poly's San Luis Obispo. And what a morning it was. Filled with honest conversation around issues of race, ethnicity, gender and politics. I could not believe how many people made it to breakfast at the crack of dawn to hear my Provocative Perspectives lecture, "Self Empowerment: How to Turn Challenges into Opportunities." My book sold out, a first in the decade old lecture series!

I will see about getting the podcast from the university and post later, but in a nutshell, this was my message:


What are obvious disadvantages in modernist societies -- because let's face it, we live in a world where whiteness, maleness and wealth opens a lot of doors -- are only but bumps along the road. When you look at the bigger picture of your life, you can see it and hopefully not let those bumps keep you from expressing and living to your fullest potential. 

When you feel like the other all the time in a culture that does not celebrate your intelligence, beauty, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation as equal, finding your space and being comfortable with who you are is a complex, painful, and nuanced issue. But you must claim that space for yourself. Tune out the xenophobes and the ignorants who refuse to acknowledge you as whole human being. Stand up to those who refuse to accept that no human being is illegal. Tune out the haters and the bigots who are filled with rage and fear. Embrace the fact that you are: Sacred. Intelligent. And frankly, walking perfection, even if you are filled with imperfections. 


We are here to transcend the package that we were born in! Class, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, title, status, the car we drive, the house or hood we live in, these things do not necessarily define us. They are parts of who we are but not the whole. Getting stuck and getting power in only these things will get you in trouble -- eventually, you realize that the stuff that really makes you you is more ethereal, less tangible to define.

When you acknowledge that the more you know, the more you need to learn and that underneath the superficial layers of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, i.e titles, we are one, then you are more capable of fully singing your song and dissing the dis, in disadvantage.

Is having the option to press numero dos para español good for Latinos? The short answer is no!

Why doing business en español is great for business but horrible for Latino power


It's about time that Latinos start having an honest conversation about a new trend in business that offers services in Spanish


After delivering a lecture celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at a central New Jersey community college recently, I opened the floor to questions. One member of the audience, an older student who described himself as the son of Italian immigrants, asked for my thoughts on many a company's efforts to offer services in Spanish. He was referring to the ubiquitous practice that offers callers the option to access information in their preferred language. You know, the choice to press one for English or dos para español. The student’s annoyance was palpable.



Have your friended yourself today?


The concept of friending the self is something that is often explored during meditation. Rather than fight whatever thoughts are popping up as your try to enter the quiet space, you are encouraged to embrace and accept whatever is happening. In other words, to be a friend to your thoughts. Meditating is not about crushing the thoughts that are coming up... they are clues to your state of mind and as such, they all are important. You welcome them for a moment, acknowledge them and then let go, focusing on your breath as it goes in and out. This is gentle talk.

A friendship with self is something that is worth exploring outside of meditation. Rather than fighting your self, the idea is to embrace you as your very own good and loyal best friend. Ask yourself this: are you a friend to yourself? It is not a silly question or proposition. A good friend is loyal, supportive and loving. A good friend encourages you to achieve your dreams. A good friend does not judge. A good friend is real and honest about your virtues and your flaws! A good friend always shows up. A good friend is kind.

Have your friended yourself today? And, if not, will you show up for you? And will you show up with the best intention ever?

Love bravely, love boldly, love without fear or suffer the consequences...

Jeff Koons "Sacred Heart" at Alex & Steven Cohen's estate

"Cowardly love is for men and not for lovers. Wimpy love affairs never grow, they don't make history, they languish.  Not even memories or the best orator can save them." Silvio Rodriguez 

Provocative Perspectives...

I am following in the giant steps of Arianna Huffington, Leon Panetta, and Nikki Giovanni who have spoken in Cal Poly's Provocative Perspective Lecture Series. Hoping to fill some mammoth shoes on Thursday in my early morning breakfast lecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

"Self Empowerment: Make Challenges Become Opportunities" 

When: Thursday, November 10

Vista Grande Café

Time: 7:30 am (yikes!)

Discussion following at 10 am in Room 220 in the University Union
RSVP: Liz Cofer 805-756-0327 or at lcofer@calpoly.edu

Congratulations to me! I'm a recipient of the Borimix Award...

This is super cool.  On November 15th, I will receive a BORIMIX Award given by the Society of Educational Arts (SEA). With this award, the New York City based theater arts organization recognizes my outstanding contributions to Puerto Rican arts and culture. Sweet!

The awards ceremony is November 15th and it is is open to the public. It coincides with month long festival with exhibits and plays celebrating Puerto Rican culture. This year BORIMIX is dedicated to legendary baseball player, Roberto Clemente.

I get to spread the word about the celebratory night and invite people to the awards ceremony. Oh, there's  a one hour open bar sponsored by the real rum diaries rum, Puerto Rican rum company Don Q! Whoo hoo.

I'll be talking, reading & signing books in San Luis Obispo, California next Thursday, will you join me?

Can you stop by? Will you tell all your Cali friends to join me? Help me spread the good word.

Next week I will lecture on the power of tapping into your personal power. It has the potential to transform your life. It's pure gold and it resides inside each of us. No need to borrow or be envious of those who have it because we were all born with it. Nourish it! Use it! Above all, don't waste it!

"Self Empowerment: Make Challenges Become Opportunities."

When: Thursday, November 10

Where: Cal Poly Arts San Luis Obispo

Vista Grande Café

Time: 7:30 am (yikes!)
Discussion following at 10 am in Room 220 in the University Union
RSVP: Liz Cofer 805-756-0327 or at lcofer@calpoly.edu

Try not to judge yourself too harshly, today...

Salvador Dalí's Pink Elephant on Stilts

Mistakes happen. Perfection is so boring and unnecessary. We are like precious works of art that take time and patience to develop. It is in this process of creating and recreating our lives where we will find the most important lessons. So, if today you fall, pick yourself up, dust the dirt off your blouse and keep it moving. Maybe you fell down so that you could learn how to get up with more grace? Or perhaps you needed to understand that sh*t happens and that ultimately, it's gonna be ok. Most of all, don't ever ignore the teachable moment. Try to learn why you fell and whatever you do, above all, do not judge the moment or yourself.

So many times we are so harsh on ourselves that we paralyze our growth. So, try not to curse the sun, the moon y los cuatro vientos, (the four winds, as the folk in my father's small town would say) when things don't go your way and you suffer setbacks. Instead, step into the mystery of your life without fear. Your greatest gift will be in appreciating that the madness is only temporary and it too shall pass. Whatever you do, keep in mind the bigger picture: you are precious and it's in the journey to your greatness where will find the most joy.

Oh no, I've become my mother...

There comes a moment in a mother's life when all of a sudden she realizes, "oh shit, I sound just like my mother!" This, my beautiful señoritas, is not just a light observation. It has profound meaning. I was fascinated to interview Dr. Juan Carlos Dumas who illuminated me something called, regression/progression, an unconscious mental health problem that he says may be at the heart of many relationship bust ups and family dysfunction.

The gist: your childhood traumas--if left unresolved--may bubble up soon as you become a parent.  And this may cause you, your child & relationship unnecessary suffering.

This is the subject of my latest story for mamiverse.com.

Excerpt from mamiverse.com: 


Yvette, a Manhattan mother of two, recounts a day recently when her husband accused her of being a negligent mother because she took one of the boys, who at the time was running a dangerously high fever, out in the rain to visit the pediatrician. "It was crazy the way he went at me," she confessed. "And also very hurtful since negligent is far from what I am, and he knows it." Upon further exploration, the couple realized that what Yvette's husband experienced was a regression/progression moment.
"It's the feeling of an event that is absolutely exaggerated. A serious distortion of reality and an interpretation of what is going on based on the past," explains family therapist Dr. Juan Carlos Dumas. "The key here," says the mental health practitioner, "is that the parent experiencing the 'flashback' is not aware of it; only the observer sees it." In other words, it's a serious blast from the past that takes you back to a traumatic childhood experience and causes an unconscious freak-out moment—one apparent to everyone but you.

Parenting can trigger a lot of different emotional and psychological deep-seated issues for parents, particularly around the issue of discipline, says Dr. Dumas. He explains the typical regression progression scenario: the husband comes in to family therapy accusing the wife of disciplining the children too harshly and blames the mother for victimizing the kids with her aggressive punishment. The father reacts with extreme anxiety, when in fact, his wife is just normally disciplining their child.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY ON MAMIVERSE.COM  & HELP SPREAD THE WORD. YOU CAN SAVE SOMEONE FROM UNDUE SUFFERING

The Day of the Dead is also a day when life is affirmed...


Today, on the second day of El Dia de los Muertos, is a good as any day to create an altar, a special symbol of remembrance to those who are no longer living. To people around the world, altars are a away to celebrate the deities or a sacred space to pay homage to the deceased. It's a place where connection between two dimensions -- past and present - the living and the dead is made.  But it's not just about death. As I write in my book, "an altar is also a place where life is affirmed." I included a guide to creating an altar in the chapter titled: Centering your Soul: Spirituality Latina Style. If you don't have a copy of my book, here's the gist of what you'll need: fresh cut flowers, an earth element such as a seashell, rock, twig, something with personal meaning, a glass of water and a candle. Find a small space, and set it up.

And remember the words of Carolyn Myss, when you light a candle every day in the same place, as a matter of honor, heaven shows up.

May your day be filled with sweetness as you affirm death, birth and rebirth. 

American Outrage, my take on the controversy over the film "America" and the Academy's decision not to let Puerto Rico compete in the foreign language category


I think that appealing to the Academy to reconsider because Puerto Ricans make films in Spanish -- as argued by one of its producers -- is ridiculous. Moreover, this is, at the root, a political issue that will haunt the island and it is deeply rooted in the island's current political status. It's about time Puerto Ricans decide what their political destiny will be because the current political association is schizophrenic. If they don't decide, others will.

Check out my column published in El Diario La Prensa. 

The English language version after the jump. Yes, I am bilingual like that!


How to deal with the haters in your life, three easy steps...

We lift as we climb is a powerful mantra that a fellow journalist Della Crews shared with me and a group of business women at a luncheon in Perth Amboy. It was told to her by two teenage sisters from Newark, New Jersey who started an anti-bullying group. "Lifting as we Climb" was also the motto of the National Association of Colored Women who fought hard against the harsh Jim Crow south.  It is my motto too!

This gem of a mantra is worth sharing in a world where it seems that everyone is just out to get a piece and forget the rest. Too many of us are stuck in the crab mentality, that is, let me climb all over you to get out of the bucket. The sad reality it that in the end, no one really gets out, including the crab who pummels hard and fast to get over and knocks the one who was just about to make it out.

How many of us have encountered that attitude over the course of our lives, over the course of our careers? The haters. The deficient thinkers. The desperate ones. This happens all too often but you can fight back. Gracefully. Eloquently. Elegantly.

This topic keeps coming up at my readings: a young woman asked me at how I've been able to create a strong circle of supporters, many of them women. She was inspired seeing and hearing Rosie Perez and Rossana Rosado, two friends who surrounded me at the launch of my book in New York City, speak so lovingly of me and the work that I do. Both Rosie and Rossana showed delight in my recent success. How do you build a circle of cheerleaders that help rather than hurt? How do you deal with the haters?

First, I have seen up and personal the crab mentality and the hurtful ways in which men and women maim to get ahead. It particular, this happens in communities where there isn't enough to go around - folk who have been disenfranchised and are spiritually bankrupt. The ones who have been kept of out the halls of power and influence and want it bad and will get it by any means necessary.

Three ways I deal with the inevitable nasty and continue building a solid circle of support:



California, here I come

I am so looking forward to visiting the beautiful state of California again.

This time I will be speaking at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. What a gorgeous campus!!! What a gorgeous city.

When: November 10
Time: 7:30 am (ouch!!!)
Place: Vista Grande Cafe

A discussion will follow in the University Union at 10 am. To go, please RSVP. Call Liz Cofer at 805-756-0327 or e-mail her  lcofer@calpoly.edu. RSVP by November 3rd.


This lecture and book signing is open to the public and free. Will you come join me?

Collaging from the inside out... a lush, vibrant, messy activity with many lessons

This past weekend I spent a day being with me. This Day of Me was organized by an amazing woman whose gift to heal is a fascinating thing to experience. The heart of the day was centered around collaging, something I had never done before and frankly, something I never really desired to do. Some people collage, some don't. I didn't.

Elena Hull, a sweet and patient creative arts therapist, led the group of women who had gathered for the day in this most interesting endeavor. She filled the space with sacred-- a beautiful circle with candles and flowers in the middle of a large room  replete with magazine cut outs, poems, ribbons, paints, water color crayons, golden glitter glue, post cards and more. Despite the fact that I found the collaging uninspiring -- I thought of a thousand things that I could be doing on a sunny Fall afternoon-- I went at it with gusto. I allowed the images to find me and found myself picking up the fierce spirit of Frida Khalo, a photo of a Modigliani girl, young women, older women, women of all ages and attitudes entered my sphere. I had red rose petals from a walk on the grounds earlier in the day and I decided to include them. I picked a white rose bud that I pasted by Frida. A rock shaped like a heart went on by the ballet dancer in a red tutu whose arms call to the sky, the center of it all. There were some crystals left and Elena offered them. I took her glittery offerings and gently glued each of the tiny jewels on the foreheads of several of the women, the third eye. A reminder to listen to my inner guidance. Our inner guidance...

My collage is lush, and very, very busy. It's a vibrant burst of feminine power and energy. With the exception of the lion, a man and a woman in a sensual horizontal embrace and an image of an ocean in sunset, it was all about feminine beauty.


"When you know better, you do better," Maya Angelou




The most brilliant part for me in Oprah's powerful lesson as taught to her by the brilliant Maya Angelou is when she talks about "no longer holding yourself hostage to who you used to be or anything you used to do." Say it loud!  

How long do we just hold on to guilt because of our mistakes, of youth, of yesterday, of our past. If today you can understand this truth: that you are not that woman who didn't know any better, you will arm yourself with the power to make better choices.   

"Intelligent women fall in love the way all women do—like complete idiots." Angeles Mastretta

My interview with the amazing super features reporter Lisa Mateo aired this morning on PIX. We talked about one of my favorite topics: Latinas.

Lisa explored the issue of domestic violence in the piece after reading my chapter, "When Love Hurts: The Dirty Secret of Dating and Domestic Violence Among Latinas."

It's too common and far too many women, men and children are caught in a cycle of physical and emotional violence and despair. We talked about the subtle signs that seem innocent at first but can spell trouble. Soon as link is up, will share.
PIX Morning show's Lisa Mateo with Sandra Guzman

R.I.P Piri Thomas: May you rest blissfully in poet heaven

Alex Haley once remarked that when an elder dies so does an encyclopedia. And so it is with the passing of poet, author, and storyteller  Piri Thomas. The Harlem born writer reminded us about the cruelty of life in his gritty and powerful coming of age autobiography, "Down These Mean Streets." This proud Puertorican also reminded the world that "every child is born a poet." 

 

Bello Belafonte

Singer, actor, activist Harry Belafonte's documentary, "Sing Your Song," is a moving look not only at the artist's storied life in entertainment, but his insatiable social activism. His involvement in every major political movement since the 1960's is inspiring-- from the marches for equality and voting rights in the South, to the Vietnam War, to advocating for Native American rights, to fighting for Nelson Mandela's freedom and against apartheid, to fighting against America's occupation in Haiti, to eradicating the famine in Ethiopia and beyond. Belafonte's continual activism is powerful and provocative.  His life as an entertainer takes backstage and the story of America, its schizophrenia around issues of equality and justice and sweet promise of a more perfect union, takes center stage. 

Throughout his life, Belafonte has shown an unflinching commitment for what is right and with grace and focus he has illustrated how fame and art can be used to inspire our better angels and achieve extraordinary social changes. At 84 years of age, the courageous activist shows no signs of slowing down. He is now shining light on what is being called modern day slavery: the imprisonment of millions of young black and Latino men. 

The film, which debuted on HBO October 17 and is on demand, is an an engaging and inspiring slice of American history as told through the prism on one man's remarkable life. "Sing your Song," is very much worth watching. If you have young ones in your life, watch it with them. 

Waiting is an art... and when you integrate it into your daily life, it becomes a gift

"I've started to realize that waiting is an art, that waiting achieves things. Waiting can be very, very powerful. Time is a valuable thing. If you can wait two years, you can sometimes achieve something that you could not achieve today, however hard you worked, however much money you threw up in the air, however many times you banged your head against the wall. . .

--The Courage to Change by Dennis Wholey



Wise woman says: Iyanla Van Zant's words to live by

"There is absolutely no reason to ever settle for less than the best. The only reason you get less is because you don't ask for exactly what you want. Sometimes you may think you don't deserve more than you have. At other times we think we want too much... Ask for what you want, the way you want it. From that moment on, believe it is yours."

These are the words of Iyanla Van Zant, one of my favorite authors, whom Susan Taylor rightly calls our national treasure. Her book, "Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations for People of Color" is a gem that I've had since it was first published nearly a decade ago. I go to it for inspiration. And this wise woman never fails me.

Today's message was so beautiful and fitting for me and for so many people that I've met along my life journey that I wanted to share part of it. 

May today you find the courage to state what you want, know that you deserve the best and have faith that it is yours.

Check out the story about me in the Huffington Post

The Huff Post's Cindy Rodriguez gave me a challenging assignment: list my favorite 10 books by Latino or Latina authors that I think every Latino should read. A most difficult task because I have a lot more than ten books on my list and harder yet because I don't just limit myself to Latina or Latino authors. I read all kinds of authors: male, female from all corners of the world. I read authors who are dead and living. I read in Spanish and English, so my possibilities are times two!

But here is the story:


As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, HuffPost LatinoVoices spoke with former Latina magazine editor-in-chief and Puerto Rican author, Sandra Guzman about the books she feels Latinos should be reading.
In addition to her top 10 recommendations, readers can pick up a copy of her second-edition guidebook for Latinas, "The New Latina's Bible: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family, and La Vida" where she updates the original edition with two new chapters on Depression and Domestic Violence.
Guzman says, "I wanted to write the book to give the reader a sense of where we were in terms of statistics. When the first edition came out, there were 40 million Latinos in the U.S., now it's 50 million. I think in many ways it's a Latina feminist manifesto."
When asked how Guzman celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month? "I celebrate my heritage everyday, all day. It's my essence," said Guzman.


The truth about Columbus

History changes depending on who wins the war and gets to tell the story. And today, when the nation celebrates a terrorist responsible for the genocide of Native Americans, it's important to remember that. Christopher Columbus was a terrorist, a grotesque brute who worshipped one God: gold.

As a child, there was a song that was taught to us, roughly translated its lyrics describes how Columbus arrived to Boriken (the Taino name for Puerto Rico which the Spaniards renamed rich port for its natural resources) lifted his leg, and shat upon us. It's a child's song that speaks to the irreverence of the inhabitants of an island that survived so much destruction and exploitation. My mother taught me that song. She was taught the song by her grandmother. Her grandmother before that passed it on. The song is part of a Puerto Rican cultural legacy, an underground of sorts that speaks to a truth that we sing privately. Today, I teach it to my kids and tell them the story of Columbus from the our grandmother's perspective.

That there is a national holiday to a thief who represents vulgar and massive human destruction and who is equated to Hitler for the genocide he led of Native American communities is an atrocity.

From "Howard Zinn on History." His chapter on Columbus and his henchmen:


…of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity…yet into this sheepfold…there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening beasts…Their reason for killing and destroying…is that the Christians have an ultimate aim which is to acquire gold…


To forget is to repeat history.

Found it! Check out the NY1 News story

Best-selling author Esmeralda Santiago recently took the stage at El Museo del Barrio in Manhattan to talk about her new book "Conquistadora." Her first work, "When I was Puerto Rican," put her on the literary map in 1994.
"When I began to write about life in Puerto Rico, there were not that many books about that," says Santiago. "So it was this desire to find myself in this culture, in this society and since I couldn't find it there, I began to write about it so that I could read it."
Santiago has inspired many writers, particularly Hispanic women who live in New York City. One of those authors, Sandra Guzman, had her second-edition guidebook "The New Latina's Bible" released this year.
"The way we look at life is very unique. We look at life through the prism of what it means to be Latina," says Guzman.
She tackles everything from love and spirituality to family and life. She says this conversation is a long time coming among such a large audience.
"There are more Latinos in the United States than there are Canadians in Canada," says Guzman. "It's massive, 50 million, and 50 percent of them are women. A vast majority of these women read in English but these women are invisible in the publishing world."

Latinas & letters story on NY 1 News includes me... tune in!

The story is not up yet on the news website, only on TV, but I thought I'd share some screen shots. Check out the piece if you have Time Warner Cable, it's looped all day!  Check out these screen shots of the three authors in the meantime. I tried photographing Esmeralda Santiago, author of "Conquistadora," Michele Carlo of "Fish Out of Agua" and yours truly with our mouths closed... hard. But, while NY 1 puts up the story.... here are some visuals.




Sunday morning meditation: everyday is a miracle

Looking forward to my event in central New Jersey tonight...


Photo by Gary D. Santana

Hoping to have a royal evening with everyone who makes the event. I'll be speaking and reading from my book and discussing what is means to be Latino/na in the U.S. in the 21st Century. Hope you can join me. 


Tonight  
 6 pm to 8 pm
Information: 908-526-1200

The Latino List, it's now on demand on HBO



The power of this cinematic portrait of Latinos in the United States at the beginning of the century is that it’s not just the portrait of one individual, but rather of a sector of the United States of America that now represents the fastest growing demographic group. At 50 million plus, this community is made up of a diverse group of migratory experiences, countries of origin, race and religion. These are the faces of what America is becoming.

The doc aired on HBO on Thursday and its now on demand. Interviewing the notables, including Pitbull and Dr Marta Moreno Vega, was inspiring and fun. Working alongside the film's director, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who also directed the acclaimed The Black List, and his team, was an awesome learning experience.

This is a slice of Americana. These are two trailers that I love.


Spend a royal evening with me...

One of my favorite De La Vega pieces

Like De La Vega, I too believe that sometimes the king is a woman.  Hoping to have a royal evening with everyone who makes the event tomorrow. I will be speaking and reading from my book, "The New Latina's Bible" at Raritan Valley Community College. Hope you can join me. I will have a gift for anyone who tells me the magic password.


When: Tomorrow, Wednesday 
October 5th 
Time: 6 pm to 8 pm
Information: 908-526-1200



Morning glory, the perfect coffee ritual that starts my day... happy sunday

I slowly sip my steaming cup of coffee, taking in full lungs of this delicious elixir, gently and slowly. I do this in bed each morning. I linger in the warmth of my sheets with my morning half sleepy/half awake self. My bedroom often feels like a womb, safe and perfect. I am grateful, always, to be where I am, no matter where that "where I am" finds me.

I am being with myself during this morning exercise. It's what I call a holy moment with self. I listen to sweet music. Today, John Coltrane's beautiful tune, "Acknowledgment" kicked it off and his equally gorgeous "Psalm" completed it. Other times, it's quiet and I listen to the soft churn of the ceiling fan. Urban birds sometimes come pay me a surprise visit and sing their morning song by my window.

This daily rite is a lovely moment that I carve out selfishly and lovingly for me. It is where I fully tap into the moment.

I thank a dear friend, Sol, for sharing her ritual with me and offering a new pathway to enter each day whole and ready.

I share this with you this glorious Sunday morning so that if you find yourself without a daily ritual, you may discover one. And may you usher into your life a morning rite that quiets the chaos of your external duties and connects you to internal stillness -- where I truly believe the sweet spot of the universe is located.