Personal reflections on Home, Belonging, and Self
MARCH 2020: March ended very differently than it started for all of us. I have been finding comfort in the ways that I have been preparing, knowingly or not, to be home. To ground into what home means to me. I am grateful for the unexpected yet precise (thanks Tony Hernandez!) way that Covid 19 Social Distancing has asked me to feel more into home, define home, and explore how home changes. The photos here are me seeing myself as a multi-faceted yet together person. I think I have been really good at compartmentalizing myself for my different social spheres and work environments and how despite that skill being helpful at the time I am quite tired of it. I am leaning into my own integrity and wanting to smooth some of those compartments out. Transforming boundaries and figuring out how porous or not porous they should be. My bedroom feels like a sanctuary and I share it now with my soon to be husband. I am reminded that home includes both of us or all of us (see Lucia napping on the ground in the last image). I am reminded that my home can expand and grow to include those close to me AND I can now shape how my home looks. I am learning that I belong to many homes. My bones and blood claim Boriken and Quisqueya as home. And my body claims the Bronx as home and my body also claims Lancaster as home. I am home at my parents house and now able to take up a different kind of space and shape that space in my new home. It still feels new but it also feels familiar. Like visiting an old friend after many years away. I am now pivoting my project to be more virtual. Working on my first interview in April and trying out ways that I can still create something meaningful despite not being in the homes of the folks I want to hear from. I am remembering that god is change and change is god.
FEBRUARY 2020: So this is home now. I have filled it with light and color. Plants and Lucia. I am still waiting for the moment where it will feel fully like home. I am bathing in the sun that streams through my windows. Taking photos of myself looking through mirrors and glasses and curtains. I am waiting for my feet to meet the earth and my sigh to sound like home. I am not sure how soon or how long or how hard I will have to continue to settle. Settling feels foreign when I have to build my own home. I am happy and tired. I am ecstatic and want to lay still and soak all of this in. I believe homes have energy. Their own energy as containers and all the energy of the folks that came before. My home was a rental and so I can still kind of feel the energy of so many bodies passing through here. It still occasionally smells unlike me and my fiance. Though when we first saw the home it smelled so much like my grandmother. I could smell her food and her perfume. So in some ways when the old smells creep through the walls on occasion, it's still familiar. I have a difficult time with new big transitions because I am always expecting to feel something shift inside. I also have a hard time accepting imperfection and therefore often look around my new home and only see the things I need to fix. This is changing now as I practice acceptance and slow crescendos. Lucy helps too. She doesn't care about anything other than walking and playing and getting all the rubs and pets she can. I am learning to simplify and regiment from her. Her eyes are kind and look for me in crowds. I am learning that she doesn't see the trim that needs painted or the tile replaced. She just see me and Oz and our home as safe and that is enough. I am striving toward that kind of enough.
JANUARY 2020: I am still thinking a lot about transitions. These are the last photos I took in my bedroom before I moved. I am now fully moved into my home and exploring what Home looks like for me. Home here, then, for so long, was the container my parents made. I fit inside like a nesting doll or the pit of an Aguacate. With time, I felt the pull of building my own home. This is almost everything I own. My art, my books, my research, my writing, my magic, my bed, my life. All of this can now stretch and grow or shrink in my new home. It is amazing what we find when we move too. I have found, recovered, and rediscovered parts of me that I forgot. The parts of me that exist in old diaries, in old art, in photos and kept mementos. Today they are arranged delicately in my new home- my first Home. They remind me of who I was and how all the "me"s I ever was and will be are in my body-home. My home is a time-capsule. It allows me to time-travel. I can fold and flip time in my home. I can unfold and stretch who I am in my home.
DECEMBER 2019-JANUARY 2020:
DECEMBER 2019-JANUARY 2020: I believe the rythm of raspando is in our bones. It is the way we make food. The way we make art. The way we make magic. I love this clip because my Dad's hands are my favorite. He is so strong but the biggest teddy bear I know. At the end you can hear him singing along to Never Too Much by Luther Vandross. I like this as an example of what it means to be Boricua here. I grew up listening to as much Gran Combo as Mos Def and Luther Vandross and so. much. Disco.
DECEMBER 2019: I am thinking a lot about transitions. About how much weight and pressure we place on the New Year. I'm also thinking about the ways that cultures transgress transitions marked by dominant cultures. I'm thinking about how our dominant culture at this moment demands that we stop celebrating miracles- like the miracle of our existence and our resilience -after Christmas is over. And yet we choose to celebrate miracles well into January. We continue to gather with music and rich foods in our homes. I'm thinking about how much of that is slowly disappearing and reappearing wearing different clothes. How my family no longer celebrates Dia de los Reyes but we keep our decorations up. I'm also thinking about my own transitions as a Latina who stayed at home "like you're supposed to" and is transitioning out with the new year. I'm thinking about how hard this is for those closest to me and how silly that might seem to others. It's moments like this that remind me that I am a child of immigrants. That despite how much we like to distance ourselves from migrations by using phrases like "first generation" or "second generation" but the mancha is still there. I used to want to wash it away so badly, but now I wear it with pride. It's transitions like this that can also make me feel translucent. It reminds me that I am not here with my own thoughts or plans or dreams but surrounded by ancestors whose waves of movement are still emanating today. I am still reacting to and with their thoughts and plans and dreams. And how liberating that can be. I am not in this alone.
NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019: Pasteles are like Oro. They are precious. They take time. They are a cultural currency. We make them in the holiday and our kitchens fill with ancient aromas calling back to our Taino Yucayekes. The mancha the platano leaves on our skin, brown and revealing the lines etched at birth and over time, also stains our hands with a smell so close to the earth you'd think you can remember as far back as Boriken can take you. To canoes and nails caked in dirt as you harvest your yuca and calabaza and yautia. My family tries to uphold this tradition every year. As we know, with assimilation and time, with colonialism and persistent colonization of Boriken, with distance and el charco, we sometimes forget to remember how important this tradition is. This is the first day I was able to start to use my camera to document how we make home here. It has me thinking about the way that time is like paper or perhaps string. Sometimes bending so that two seemingly incongruous points can touch. Our pasteles meeting with a digital camera and then shared online. It also has me thinking about how this is a tradition rooted in colonialism too. How bloodshed, conquistadors, and violence stain our traditions in the same way the achiote stains the parchment gold. As much as I may want to rewrite this tradition as indigenous, I can't. It would be causing more harm inscribing a false history to a people still alive, still thriving, still hiding and protecting themselves from distortion. It reminds me of the multitudes I hold. How many homes I've had and are yet to come. The next phase of this work (besides adding more photos as I edit them) is to start sharing the perspectives of my family, whose hands are pictured here doing the work centuries of Almanzar's, y Santos', y Lugo's, y Montilla's, y Cruz's, y mas y mas y mas.