And earlier version of this poem has been published in a a joint report by Free Speech For People and United for a Fair Economy, BLACKOUT IN PUERTO RICO: How 120 Years of Corporate Dominance & Political Inequality Stifle Self-Determination Today, written by colleague and compa Jasmine Gomez. It was written in Puerto Rico, and continues to evolve as an ode to the children of Borikén. Shout-out to my Boston organizing family fighting for liberation in one of the most colonial cities in America.
May the Children of Borikén Remember Their Own Waters
Puerto Rico is a group of islands that includes Vieques and Culebra. We are not one mainland or terrain, we are many and it is this multiplicity of texture, people, and geography that makes Puerto Ricans living on the land and in relationship with the land via the diaspora, so powerful and also under great threat.
We are home to Africa, because of the transatlantic slave trade and a wind channel that brings sand from the Sahara desert to Puerto Rico. We are home to the jíbaro. We are home to the Europeans who escaped their own families. We rest, plant, harvest, love, and grieve on the home of the Taínos, who have survived the myth of extinction created by the U.S. government. We are fiercely interconnected, through love and violence, at a time where disconnection is at the center of militarized borders.
We are more than beaches or the white man’s imagined Guam or West Palm. We are more than sexualized stereotypes and two genders. So are our island siblings of the Antilles. In a not so distant past, we lived without borders, until colonizers enforced them versus integrated with the land and its children. The proof is in the plants and seeds carried between islands that may exist with different names, but come from the same mother root. The proof is in our DNA.
The opposite of colonization is integration, which requires an understanding of self and is always void in the conquest of “other.” If we resist going against our own waters, may we remember not to “other” the parts of ourselves that were in direct conflict with the ancestors or values that brings us in right relationship with the land.
America’s invastion of Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898, and United States citizenship on March 2, 1917, created an othering within ourselves, when we may have forgotten how we are connected to the word because the colonizer in the 2000’s, came for our heads, after they had taken our land, and experimented on our free bodies so they may fit as pegs in the industrial wheel of progress.
Some of us survived anyway, and the living and dead are as much a part of the rainforest El Junque, the desert, the mountains, el bosque, the shorelines, las fincas, the bays, and caves as any bird present in the joy of birth, the pain of illness, and the passing of death both natural and man-made. We are a port to the world, not just America, that often replaces gratitude from being healed by our waters and bodies with occupation and displacement.
Nuestrx Puerto Rico holds space for its children — whether or not we can afford land — because we all grew up understanding that we are stewards of this land and our traditions. If we have forgotten, our ancestors and decolonization movement siblings across the world, hold these seeds for us. Like the winds that bring the sand from the Sahara Desert to Puerto Rico, so do our seeds return, so do we need to return.
Borikén is calling us.
We must return from being out of our bodies and back to our selves, otherwise we are driven to suicide, addiction, violence, and death. This is easier said then done, and a dismembering tactic the colonizer will use to keep themselves from being held accountable, to make it look like it was our fault yet, we remember. We stay alive. We survive. We heal. We bury and honor our dead as we would our living.
We must also take the time to honor those who need to rest, and are sleeping, when woke isn’t their remedy for illness. It doesn’t matter because their life is sacred, and in some life times, we will have to face and say an early, “Goodbye,” to those who are not home in their bodies, and armor ourselves with integrity as we learn to walk the walk. We must look out of each other, especially our beloved black trans women. We must lay a prayer down to reconnect to intergenerational healing that is a dance between the living and dead at sea. We must remember there is a war against our culture and our severed heads and dismembered bodies are the prize.
In Borikén, the river belongs to no one: it flows freely to every crevice, cave, mountain, and shoreline. A developer may come to the shore to cut mangroves, making room for a casino, leaving himself no natural barrier to a Hurricane. When man intentionally destroys the land and the people who live on it, he hurts himself and also ruptures his relationship with nature. Nature expresses her grief and we must listen and adapt as our ancestors did. We are just as much a part of nature as the the changing shoreline and the palm tree cut near its roots by a developer claiming progress. The only way we will progress is to live as nature does, without borders or amnesia to our interconnectedness.
May the children of Borikén remember their own waters, and never go against them, whether on the island or at a connecting river anywhere in the world. May we remember that our liberation and ecosystems remain interdependent despite the collective trauma that suggests we are alone. Even in the darkness, we can access love. Even in darkness, our seeds can grow. But it is not in darkness that we can live for long nor sustain life. A decolonized world is possible. Our collective liberation reminds us that self-determination is our birthright. What is the offering we make to restore the borderless existence nature upholds? Our offering is to decolonize our hearts, bodies, and minds, which also begs for a conversation without words or internet. A language only our ancients hearts can speak and remember.