We have theories in the diaspora of what it would be like to come home, and there are theories in Puerto Rico of what is it like to live in the states, and a migration in between that is connected by physical and metaphysical threads. We create hubs and spaces, but it wasn’t until I was fighting a flying cockroach in Puerto Rico that the reality of an interdependent life within a ecosystem came to life. I wondered, while cleaning the floor, which can get dustier in the city and places in Puerto Rico where the sands from the Sahara Desert travel via a wind channel, why my mother would ask us to leave the house while she cleaned. I wondered if that was her time to reconnect to a home that was no longer in her backyard and if the choice to clean alone masked the isolation of migration to the states.
To clean daily in Puerto Rico is ritual, and to have ritual in connection with and in close proximity to nature, the elements, and your neighbors, is interdependence. My return to Puerto Rico as an adult, required a return to a life that I had felt through my mother’s nostalgia, yet hadn’t lived in practice. I too had a longing, for a future that hadn’t arrived yet, one where sustainability includes the people’s right to self-determination.
As an external processor, to be in practice and reimagine interdependence without domestic violence, while collectively healing from the effects of colonial violence in Puerto Rico and the diaspora, is liberating. The vision for this practice of liberation is one that I carry in my heart and is unfolding in new ways in a solidarity visit at CEPA, the Center for Embodied Pedagogy and Action currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. CEPA is founded and directed by Melissa Rosario, a Nuyorican, cultural worker, facilitator and author who moved to Puerto Rico in September 2016, “to put her body where her heart was and begin integrating the different parts of her life to work for decolonizing Puerto Rico. ” Melissa and I met in October 2016, when I booked an AirBnb at La Rosario, a Queer Feminist space in Santurce where Melissa was a resident and I was a visiting writer who stayed in the Air BnB guestroom.
If you are reading this, without knowing anyone or the resources or policy that will allow you go to the home that calls you, make room in your heart and imagine what it would feel like to be there. This has helped me create a path in the face of oppression, and space for those who would help me along the way. This month, I have been writing, sleeping, creating, and eating in Melissa’s living room, the current site for CEPA’s solidarity visits which is set to expand to a small studio in the back in 2019. Like many diasporicans, I can not afford land yet, and CEPA offers a landing pad for the diaspora in Puerto Rico where decolonization and healing is a priority.
I would not have connected to this space if I hadn’t created a landing pad for decolonization in my own body first. When we take the opposite approach, we extract vs. co-create. Even when we share mission statements, embodiment is what makes our work sustainable. In my year as a digital nomad, I have experienced interpersonal healing as a key ingredient to heal the isolation of domestic and colonial violence. It is medicine that has been stolen from us and an important aspect of interdependence. Colonial violence weaponized our very own healing practices and our relationship to the land. By close physical proximity and sharing space and food Melissa and her partner Laura, who is a filmmaker, documentarian, videographer and a co-creator at CEPA, we are exploring what mutual exchange looks for our collective Puerto Rican liberation. In our own evolving personal practices, we all share a commitment to transform “oppressive narratives.” Below are five steps to interdependent living that have been especially helpful to me during my solidarity visit.
Solidarity visits include healers, healing justice practitioners, builders, urban farmers, artists, and visionaries. The vision is create a healing vision of boricuas and close allies. Here are some tips for interdependent living that I have learned in the past year and have been especially helpful at CEPA.
RELEASE FEAR AND/OR FEED YOUR FEAR SOMETHING ELSE, like love or radical honesty or a, “Yo no puedo // I can’t even,” when you need a moment for you. Integrate that moment back in your collective experience while noting what it feels like to hold yourself in the midst of a living, breathing ecosystem that includes all terrains and people. Take naps and cold showers. The mosquitoes love sweat. Find your local herbalist and get some plantain salve in preparation. Take note of any fears as they arise. Is it a fear of expressing your needs and not having them met? Is this a reality or a reminder of where a wound is? For me, fear rose the first night I slept alone in the house. Let the fear teach you versus consume you. My fear of being alone at night came from an old wound in the context of the reality that there are no street lights at night in Puerto Rico. The narrative I fed my fear was gratitude and trust that if I was in immediate danger, I would respond accordingly.
CENTER MUTUAL EXCHANGE. In my upbringing this meant, “If I had the coffee, you bring the milk,” and the reality of building solidarity economies in the face of disaster capitalism adds layers of complexity. I have been thinking about my social life as concentric circles, which is rooted in a return to ancient circle practices and shared liberation where circles overlap and touch to create the flower of life. If we don’t touch, than how we will produce life? Roses on the walk to the Kindergarten, my study of Buddhism and attention to the lotus, and most recently folk herbalism and sacred geometry, have brought me to back to this concept that is frequent in nature. We are also a part of nature, so I am mindful that existing in this space, or being offered a space from CEPA is not enough to create solidarity. Mutual exchange must be at the root, which always why an understanding of both our capacity and limitations is a key ingredient.
EXPRESS YOUR NEEDS. The oppressor, which takes many forms in the external and internal environment, or abuser in the context of domestic violence, will often use your own vulnerability against you. This history does not have to be our future, but it is important to acknowledge that gender based violence and systemic violence, often makes the process of expressing and fulfilling needs inaccessible. It was created that way, but with the same intention, we can begin to open up space for our needs to be shared. To create spaces where it is safe to share needs is critical. To create spaces where you mourn when your needs weren’t meant in the past or present is critical. Below is the acronym PEARLY from a training with the Boston Digital Street Medic Collective. While arrestability relates to direct action of resistance, perhaps in this case we can replace arrestability with ability. What are we are capable and not capable of doing? For example, I can help in CEPA’s garden when my rheumatoid arthritis isn’t flaring up. I can share space, but I need time alone to recharge too.
SPEAK TO THE SPACES THAT HAVEN’T GOTTEN MUCH SUN OR AIRTIME. This is both a metaphor and a physical invitation. I’ve returned to my morning pages, which in the fall of 2017, were my IG captions and FB statuses. This has created a space for me to write to my shadow and fears without projecting them onto others. It’s a sacred space, and from that space, I can better digest the experiences I am feeling. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. It is a practice popularized by Julie Cameron, author of the writer’s ways and it helps me dialogue with the parts of myself that haven’t gotten the chance to full express themselves. A combination of practice, trusted friends, and herbs have helped me deeply. The spaces that haven’t gotten much sun or airtime, can be our shadow selves or the inner folds of our body, such as the intestines that digest and process waste. Your small intestine is about 23 feet long. The road is long, and our bodies have a lot of wisdom of what to let go of and when there is a block. Herbs and ingesting food as fuel in a hot climate help. The same goes for colder. I am not suggesting a diet, but rather a moment to thank the hands that prepared your food and check in with your digestion. Digestion also related to our emotions, and our capacity to take in experience. Release what you don’t need, and keep what nourishes you. Our colonized diet and disconnection form the land has displaced us from this natural medicine. Take notice.
CLEAN UP YOUR OWN SHIT. In the time I drafted this piece and completed this post, I had to scoop my own poop out of the toilet that took several hours unclog. Between the root vegetables, beans, and flax seeds in smoothies, I’ve been releasing a lot of shit in a physical and metaphysical capacity. It is critical not only to the sweep the floors with a broom, but to also cleanse the space and close rituals. There are a variety of smudging herbs besides white sage, which is being harvested at a greater rate than planted and cared for, that can be used. Essential oils are a personal favorite. Water is also medicine. When I sweep, Melissa helps mop. When Laura cooks, I help with the dishes. When thing in my own body feel heavy, I take a trip to the beach, to float in the salt water. We take turns and hold space and close space in the ways our medicine works for ourselves and the collective (not always the same thing) and while I still appreciate a good poop joke, I’m 100% serious about the critical importance of a clean up.
The practice of restorative interdependence has been a joy and a challenge with the parts of myself that feel estranged from Puerto Rico and by the violence that colonialism perpetuates in Puerto Rico and in the United States of America. I confess, as a transforming survivalist who is still soft yet powerful in my exploration of vulnerability, I often skip the important practice of letting the fruits of my labor soak in. I must also give thanks and apologize to myself for misusing my own resources when I was internalized appeasing and codependence was the way to gain traction in America. I would not have been prepared to experiment at CEPA, if I had not given myself permission to outgrow the very tools that helped me to survive.
I did not feel comfortable calling myself a healer, until I saved myself, and stopped acting like the world, my family, or even the land owed me anything. When this transition occurred, so did conversations with Melissa about arriving at CEPA. I see what an interconnected vision can look like and I do not minimize how critical this work is, not only to our cultural survival, but to our collective liberation at a time where the oppressor wants us dead inside, as we witness man-made death in Puerto Rico, in the Middle East, at detention centers, and in black, brown, indigenous, queer // trans, and Muslim neighborhoods. I also recognize the work it took for all of us get here and the commitment to healing that brings us together and at times, apart.
To be in Puerto Rico is to feel all the joy and grief at once, and work. To be awake, is not always the remedy for illness. Some of my family members and peers are in deep rest and/or asleep. When they wake up, I hope we will still be here, as proof that another future is possible, ready to receive the children who are dreaming, as I once did in isolation. I am deeply appreciative of my ancestors who lives and wisdom keep bearing fruit from another plane, my family of origin, chosen and spirit, to the land of Borikén and teachers who have guided me.
If you are interested in my services and medicine, here is a list:
- Communications Strategy Consulting
- Connecting communications to organizational and personal development
- Strategic Planning
- Website Creation
- Content Mangement
- Coaching for writing, televisions interviews, and creative process
- Grief Circle and Process
- WOC Survivors of Sexual Assault and Herbalism
- #METOO Storytelling
- CSA Peer Survivor Healing Circle and Process
- Femme Jam Creative Circle for Teenagers and Adults
- Community Dialogue and Healing Through Bomba with Raíces Borikén Collective
- Multi-genre Writing and Editing
- 2018 Displaced Artist Fund, Vermont Studio Center Resident
- Puerto Rican Syllabus
- T.A., Art of Public Speaking at Harvard Extension Summer School
- Café con Cass Press
- Public Speaking
- Freelance Journalism
- Intuitive Counseling
- Oracle Cards Reading
- 1:1 Consultation incorporating herbs and communications practice above
- Tea Ceremonies
- Restoring pleasure after sexual assault
If you would like to contribute to my work can you via PayPal.
Thank you, thank you, thank you and DECOLONIZE!
*Banner Image Credit @descolonizarpr