La Rosario, a Queer feminist collective for artists, activists, cultural entrepreneurs and art patrons in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico has been my home for three months, my second return to Puerto Rico post-Maria and a site for deep transformation and living in tropical cuir (queer) feminist living which has no gender. During my nomadic residency I developed my workshop, “Healing and Writing in Trauma in Writing,” in two languages (English and Spanish) and moved through the space to speak my words that have existed on the page or stuck in the violence of colonialism that extends to the diaspora. As a writer, which is often a solitary practice, I’ve grown in collective co-working and living. Residencies have been a critical part of my growth as an artist and survivor. I have practiced, in the tradition of feminism, the art of “llegando” // arriving. It is the answer to a question that as a womyn I am asked and always have asked others, “Llegaste bien?” which translates to, “Did you arrive OK?” which address the risks of moving through the world as a single queer women of color. Within La Rosario, which is is the home to
history of performance and dancer, Awilda Rodriguez Lora and musical curator and partner,
Lale Namerrow who have held me in space and invited me to co-create along side of them. It took preparation to do so in my own artistic and healing practice, but everything that happens in my life and in this space has been organic. My residency was self-led but also guided with questions from Awilda, rooted in her experience moving to Puerto Rico and creating “Sustento,” her most recent project. I came to La Rosario as a nomad transitioning to Puerto Rican resident, who released the physical confines of the American Dream (paying high-rent in Cambridge, Massachusetts) without access to the very environment that doctors would ask me to recreate to heal whenever my chronic illness flared. In the Northeast, I was prescribed a sun lamp called ‘Caribbean Sun’ to address seasonal depression, saline nose spray (salt-water) to help with chronic sinus pain, Papaya for hormonal fluctuations, and humidifiers and inhalers for my asthma often caused my environmental circumstance (NYC dwelling and artificial heat in the Winter). All things, including my ancestors, led me back to Puerto Rico. After years in the diaspora, I began to answer the call to come home to a place I only knew through my parent’s nostalgia and pain in Puerto Rico. In 2016, during my first visit to La Rosario, then as an Air BnB guest, I was queer out loud for the first time in Puerto Rico. The space is home to many in the community with a deep history that Lale, Awilda and anyone who enters tells through their creative lives and practice. While living here, I was able to move my body through many questions I had about living on the island. While the island recovers from the effects of Puerto Rico, I am still recovering from the effects of isolation and displacement. La Rosario as a space was a point of entry to living on the island and also a site to write a a book in progress, “I Write; I Heal.” After developing my most recent workshop here, which had been in progress since 2015 into a format that I shared at Mijente’s Lanzate in San, Antonio, I deepened the healing in my body which helped me transform a healing multimedia project that began in 2013 during graduate school. Tasks as simple as widening my awareness for sweeping, cleaning sand, a monthly escobillón and taking out the trash created a routine I did not always share with roommates in the my apartment back in the Northeast. Conversations replaced emails and chore lists. Llegango a Puerto Rico transformed into creating space and inviting folks into a workshop and reading for the public during my third month as resident, something I have been afraid to do in Spanglish, because as a child, the Spanish language was beaten out of me and forbidden in the house. I most appreciate the opportunity to fully
be in my body, in my healing, and in my process with housemates who are deeply committed to their own healing and practice. The transformative nature of the space allowed me to participate, witness and create. The partnership between Awilda and Lale is one that moved me deeply and is rooted in support and liberation for themselves and the greater community aqui in Puerto Rico. I felt at home, and as a nomad, was conscious of my impact while also being fully in my body, thanks to the La Rosario and the beloved ocean which I have prayed to from thousands of miles away.
If you are looking to lead your own residency over your lunch hour from work or as a full-time commitment, I’d start by reading Adrienne Marie Brown’s, Emergent Strategy and focus on what’s organic. Not the organic as promoted by corporations, but really getting to know your own cycles and observing nature. There is a deeper history of the trial and error it took to get to La Rosario and to arrive into my body to embody this work. I began Café con Cass in 2013, as a public access TV show, now multimedia healing project, and first came to La Rosario in 2016 while writing my capstone project for Journalism Studies at the Harvard Extension School. I was learning how to write, ask questions, and transform dissociation from trauma study of the self and others into embodied work. This has been a life-long progress. In December while in residence, I prepared materials for my work, “Healing and Trauma in Writing,” in two languages, something I hadn’t done before since I was forbidden to speak Spanish at home by my Puerto Rican father. To get here, I had to process the shame of a lineage disrupted by colonial and domestic violence. I also had to process survivor’s guilt having witness Hurricane Maria from the diaspora with no financial resources to send back home, the humiliation of racist and erroneous media coverage, and displacement stateside after an unexpected surgery in August 2017. I hear a lot of hijx del diaspora experiencing the call to return and mine had started with a 10 day trip, then a 3 week trip, and now a year-long exploration to see if I can sustain myself here in Puerto Rico. During the second month, I began rooting deeper in my body and attending events, mostly deejayed by Lale of La Rosario and within community during the holidays while prioritizing healing. I cried as much as I cried my first year on this Earth. I cried for what was, for what could not be, and for the joy of what is. I couldn’t root in my body until I addressed spiritual wounding and learning to express my emotions in an integrated way. Everyone is different but for me, my body was the last point of entry and now as I complete my third month here I am exploring the ways my body interacts with other bodies in Puerto Rico. What does my work look like beyond the screen? In a book? In a workshop? Awilda asked me recently, “What is the question you are most afraid to ask?” and I am working on this answers in two languages. This Wednesday, I’ll be hosting a reading and workshop at La Rosario to share my book in progress, “I Write; I Heal” and answer questions. The root of all this work in being in body and the space La Rosario offers is transformational process and queer feminist co-living. To depart from exceptionalism and the rugged individualism that so deeply defines what it means to be American and extended to Puerto Rican via an invasion, is to return to interdependence. It’s deeply humbling and at times, exquisitely challenging. We must do this work in person and in deep connection with the land. Part of my purpose as a writer, is to create media in resistance to a history that isn’t being told on the channels that informed my identity when I was living in isolation. Part of my decolonization work is as simple as living and breathing through this crucial time. Part of my life’s work is to show the world my broken heart and love anyway.