After the storm

By: Angie Galván-Rodríguez

“Mama, can we go back to Puerto Rico for our next family vacation?”, my twelve-year-old daughter asked me days before the school year began. I thought to myself, someone was already counting the days to our next vacation before school even started.  “Yes, I think we can work that out” and I grinned with content.  The conversation ended, school started and Puerto Rico was penciled in my calendar as a focused intention for a family trip in 2018.

Weeks later, on September 20th 2017, the island of Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane the island has faced since Hurricane Felipe in September 13th, 1928. There had been many more hurricanes in between but Maria came with intense magnitude and transnational trauma that gives way in these current times via social media real-time coverage of the good and the bad.  I couldn’t detach from the news casts or social media live posts of people on the island before they lost total power and communication .

I wept and my heart grew with melancholy as I watched the island that saw me bloom into late childhood, before I came to Chicago, be destroyed by a natural phenomenon.  My mind transported me back to my childhood memories playing in the hills of Colinas de Cacao in Carolina, the streets of Bayamón, Saturday afternoons flying chiringas in El Morro in Old San Juan, fun filled trips to El Yunque rainforest, and the beautiful scenery that would hypnotize my young eyes as I looked out the car window during family road trips through the island to enjoy Fiestas patronales.  Those beautiful memories began fading away and were overshadowed by reliving the terrifying memories of Hurricane Hugo I experienced as a child. I knew firsthand what people were feeling on the island. A feeling of despair and fear I don’t wish upon anyone. As the hurricane magnified through the island, I felt helpless and reacted by feeling numb and overwhelmed with sadness, a defense mechanism that I’m still trying to overcome.

After a day or two I was emotionally exhausted of watching horrific videos of floods and dangerous zinc plates dancing in category 4 winds, I contemplated fully unplugging after making a monetary donation towards hurricane relief funds. I attempted to detach to move forward with my week but my heart still felt for the island and the feeling of subtle despair remained.  I couldn’t manage to shake it off.

Among the various hurricane relief fundraising events in Chicago, I came across AfriCaribe’s Bombazo Para Puerto Rico!!!  , a fundraising event by Africaribe in collaboration with the  Puerto Rican Agenda’s  Hurricane Relief fund.   At that moment, my heart and soul new this is where I would find some relief for my emotional turmoil.

AfriCaribe was founded by Evaristo “Tito” Rodriguez back in 2000, after years of being a key community member of preserving and teaching AfroBoricua dance genres to Chicago youth.  Thanks to Tito’s community work, I myself found my re-connection and appreciation of AfroCaribbean dance at the age of twelve when I took Bomba y Plena dance classes with him. Back then, young Tito taught classes at “El Centro Cultural Ruiz 20170923_203839Belvis” when it was located on Milwaukee avenue in Wicker Park. Taking his Bomba classes and eventually attending AfriCaribe’s Bombazos as a teenager and then into adulthood, has served as a way to continue embracing that part of my identity that is grounded on Puerto Rican Heritage as a child as well as my Afro-Dominican roots. AfriCaribe has always been fully embracing and inclusive of all that embodies my multifaceted AfroLatinidad and sense of “Hija del Caribe”.

On Saturday 23rd, days after the Hurricane devastated the island, I attended the Bombazo with my two children. They too had to be part of this healing.  Along many others, we sat on the Batey-styled Casita de Don Pedro garden in Humboldt Park.

We listened to the drums “repicar” echoes of hope and the singing voices ring with strength.  We watched people step into the dance floor to dance Bomba and pay homage to the island and as well as a Puerto Rican art form that has transcended decades and has remained resilient among its people.  A bit rusty from what I once mastered in my youth, I stepped into the dance floor and I allowed the music take over.

 That night, music and dance filled the air and served as a vehicle of healing to help us embrace the love and the power of humanity.  It is what those in attendance needed, it is what I needed. It it is one of the many tools  of resilience Puerto Rico needs in this difficult journey ahead. 

As we exited the Bombazo, with heart full of hope that strength in solidarity will help those affected by the storm, I no longer felt numb with sadness.  And although I may not be able to keep my promise to Leilani that we will visit Puerto Rico in the months to come, we will make it there when the time is right. In the meantime, I will share with 20170923_205216Leilani stories of resilience from the island and the process of overcoming life-changing circumstances so that she can see it as an example of the strength among people she shares a common heritage with.  Most importantly, I will share with her the acts of kindness and humanity that shine through in catastrophes such as Hurricane Maria, so she sees the value of giving, unity, love and faith.

 

 

 

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What do we tell our Afro-Latino children now?

 

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What do we tell our Afro-Latino children now?

As we enter a new era in USA after the 2016 presidential election, many Afro-Latino parents may feel a sense uncertainty about what is to come and how it may affect their children. The reality is, we do not have control of what our children may or may not face in the future.  However, we do have control on what we can do for them as parents so that they are better prepared for any circumstance that may make them feel uncomfortable about their ethnic background and identity in the next four years and beyond.

As we begin or continue conversations with our children, we must remind them that…

They are loved by many.

They are valued.

We will do everything in your power to make sure they are safe. 

To never be afraid to tell you if they see, feel or hear prejudice towards themselves or others. 

To stand up  and speak up against unfairness. 

To treat others with respect regardless of their skin color and ethnic background.

They are part of what makes the United States of America great.

This is their America even if someone says otherwise.

Love will always overcome hate. 

Finally, inform them that before the right to vote, our ancestors fought and died so that today people of color can read. We must not take this for granted and read to educate ourselves about the past and present to prepare for a better future. Ultimately, we want what all parents want for their children…a better tomorrow.

Hair product review: Moroccan Oil hair mask

Tried out Moroccan Oil Restorative Hair Mask after Blow dried style. Heat damage is real so I always restore my strands with a food hair mask deep conditioner. It’s a little over my usual budget for hair masks but it is worth it. To make it last I dried my hair with a t-shirt as much as I could before applying it. This maximizes the product without diluting it which happens when you leave hair super wet. Leave for 20 mins or 10 mins under heat. End result: Curls and coils back to normal.😍💜

A mural to remember

I am no art critic but the new mural in Chicago’s Paseo Boricua in the Humboldt Park neighborhood is beyond captivating to the eye.  While driving on Division street with my friend Raquel from boriquachicks.com, we could not help to notice the colossal image of a black woman Bomba dancing to the beat of an African drum taking center stage of the wall.

Loving all things Afro-Latino, we parked and began to take pictures of such impressive mural. And although there are many amazing murals in Paseo Boricua, there was something very special about having an image representing the African descendants of Puerto Rico take the leading space of the piece because it is often times shadowed by the other ethnicities that make up the Puerto Rican community.  It was beyond impressive.

While admiring the mural, a young man comes over to ask us if we would be interested in volunteering painting to finalize the mural. After chats and laughs we realize that he is in fact Puerto Rican muralist Cristián Roldán and Program Director of the Conuco Urban Agriculture Program at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Very humbly, Cristián gave us a detailed description of the mural. If we were amazed before he walked over, now we were in complete awe. He shared how the mural expressed a timeline of key historical moments in the history of Puerto Ricans. It is a mural to remember.

This mural is a striking way of using an array of colorful images that express oppression and resistance faced by the Puerto Rican community from the moment the Spanish conquistadors stepped foot on the island to the Division street Riots in 1966.The mural on the corner of Division street and Washtenaw is a must see and maybe one of THE reasons to attend this year’s Fiesta Boricua.

Check out the video of Cristián J. Roldán sharing about the mural on my facebook page AfroLatina Natural

For information on tickets go to http://www.chicagoevents.com/event.cfm?eid=279

 

 

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A mural to remember