A wise woman, Marta Moreno Vega once told me a sure way to kill someone without shooting a bullet is by taking away their culture. In destroying the way a person connects to their ancestry, you assassinate their soul. You rob them of anything that gives them meaning and they will walk around dead never knowing how divine they really are. I know that she was right because once I reconnected to the beauty of being Puertorriqueña and Latina, to my African and indigenous Caribbean ancestry, it was like receiving an infusion of love--I got my life back. I connected to my song.
This is the thing, no matter how much mother told and showed me that her people--my people--were an elegant and exquisite folk, I didn't listen. In school, pop culture, films and media we were invisible and when we showed up, I saw only distorted and one dimensional images of me, and by extension, all Puerto Ricans (hello, West Side Story.) And all Latinos (hello, Hollywood.) Mom was wrong in my young girl eyes, the world was right. But, then something happened... I went off to college and took history classes of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Latin America that taught me that there are stories that were not taught to me in high school and things started to make sense. Slowly, I started feel connected, and thus awakened. Traveling to the isle-land many, many times I started to connect my cultural dots. I started to see the bigger picture of me and of Borinquen. Traveling to other parts of the Caribbean such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Antigua, Anguilla, Aruba, studying in Mexico, traveling to El Salvador and Costa Rica, I finally understood my place in the world, and the larger Latin American a diaspora.
Connecting to my roots through music (hello Maelo!), food (hello arroz con gandules!), tradition, (hello roasted pigs in the backyard!), humor, (hello John Leguizamo) is like walking in a divine path that reminds me that I am strong, I am beautiful, I am exquisite and limitless in my possibilities. It fills me with confidence and joy. One of my favorite chapters in my new book, "Going Home to your Roots" explores this theme further. I hope you check it out.
I landed on Thursday in California and have been immersed in an intense conversation with profoundly inspiring men, women and children who are doing great work in education, immigration, healing, spirituality and community. They are doing this through culture and through feminine Goddess power. I heard their Nahuatl song, I am inspired.
On Wednesday, I will be touring Semillas Community Schools, an innovative multilingual charter grade and high school in the heart of El Sereno. I will conduct a journaling workshop there with young women and reading from "The New Latina's Bible," at their fabulous Xokolatl Cafe, where they serve chocolate in the ancient Aztec tradition and tamales made by a group of Mejicanas who are part of a woma's micro enterprise. The cafe's logo is tangible: we serve consciousness. I was already there on Saturday where I met children who have names like Aztec Moon, Aztec Sun, Hummingbird-- Metzlin, Maya, Huitzilin... these children, their parents and educators touched my soul. They remind me that connecting to cultura is the way to awaken the divine within.