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I have to pause today to tell you about true love: love of homeland and of my origins. But first I have to tell the Puerto Rico Tourism Chamber how it really is.

Here’s a glowing article about, well, the glowing water in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques.

And here’s a reminder of the hardships residents of Vieques and Culebra have to deal with on a daily basis – in the news lately because of protests about the abandonment of ferry service.

I’m from the “big” island of Puerto Rico, where getting to and getting around are not as difficult as in Vieques. My life in the continent is infinitely easier (not even pot holes on the road). But I remember life in paradise. It’s not all that’s cut out to be. That bitter sweetness calls to me and keeps me grounded. I love my homeland, and I cherish the lessons I (still) learn there. I think about my parents and my grandmother every single day. We share joys and struggles that bring us together across the miles.

Que Dios bendiga a mi tierrita.

Arecibo, PR

I took this photo from the Arecibo lighthouse, looking past La Poza and out to Islote. RGR. June 2011.


Mini teenager, Parque de las Palomas, San Juan, PR. Photo by Raquel, 12/21/11.

I have so many good wishes for many good friends and many kind family members. But no one says it better than my friend Aura, who sent this New Year’s wish from Caracas, Venezuela:

Amigas !!! He estado pensando en que podría desearles además de las bendiciones, la salud y las alegrías… Que tengan un Año liviano, fácil, un Año con fiestas y celebraciones, con padres sanos y con hijos contentos. Les deseo tranquilidad y noches bien dormidas. Les deseo mañanas soleadas y sin ansiedad. Diarios con buenas noticias y proyectos de paz. Les deseo un Año con menos guardias de seguridad y mas tolerancia. Les deseo muchos cafecitos conversados, libros bien leídos y trabajos bien hechos. Que sus idas a la farmacia sean por cosméticos y no remedios, que las del supermercado sean por Chocolates y no por dietas… Quiero que sean queridas, adoradas, idolatradas y respetadas… Les deseo tantas cosas: les deseo buenas mamografías, que si necesitan inyecciones sean de Botox y no de antibióticos, que nadie las moleste y que canten bien fuerte cuando van en el carro solas… Que tengan un Año con vacaciones, paseos y escapadas. Que no les falte nada y que no les roben nada.. Les deseo risas y carcajadas, de esas que hacen llorar… Risas tan fuertes que tengan que doblarse y cerrar bien las piernas para no hacerse pipi. Risas diarias y semanales, risas espontáneas, risas por tonterías. Risas que ahuyentan miedos y que nos llenan de benditas arrugas…

Les deseo miel en su mesa, miel en sus decisiones y miel en sus desvelos, miel con los tragos amargos y mucha, mucha suerte, y salud durante todo el próximo 2012.. y que Diosito las acompañe siempre!

Las quiero mucho, desde Caracas,

We didn’t invent Kwanzaa in Puerto Rico, but we incorporated its principles into our way of life long before a college professor in California saw the need for an organized celebration of values. Lately, we need to remind ourselves of these principles and we need to recover them. We need to teach them to our children and grandchildren.

On Friday night, December 23, we had the privilege of being jolted out of bed by a parranda. It is a privilege because we don’t get to celebrate a genuine Puertorrican tradition every day. I was thankful that my mini-teenager decided to get out of bed at 1 a.m. and participate (clap and sing lalala, while we learn the songs). The parranderos are members of my parents ‘ church in Barrio Candelaria, Bayamón, Puerto Rico. The song I recorded is a call to preserve traditions and pass them on, before the coqui (iconic tree frog) quits singing.

It was a time of joy and Unity, the first principle of Kwanzaa.

I hope you can play my little iPhone video.
Happy Kwanzaa!

Go here to learn about Kwanzaa, which starts today:

Lares, Puerto Rico

Catholic church in Lares, Puerto Rico; this town built on a hill was the site of El Grito de Lares in 1868. My paternal grandparents were married in that same church.

I’ve been too busy building a new business to write a weekly blog. (More on the new business later.) But the equinox and the change of season make me pause and reflect on where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. Some things should always be remembered.

Today, 23rd of September, I fly back to 1868 and a call for freedom and independence that was deferred. It was deferred, but it was not forgotten.

I take my hat off to the people who still gather in Lares, Puerto Rico, to remember el Grito de Lares, a call for independence from Spain. An independence that never came. Nevertheless, that call and that dream has transformed our identity as Puerto Ricans and endured for the last 143 years.

See article in El Nuevo Dia:

President Barack Obama eats a "medianoche" sandwich during a surprise visit to Kasalta Bakery while in Puerto Rico, June 14, 2011. (Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.)

He came and went.

The one we anticipated nervously and painted lines on the road for. He ate a medianoche, had his photo taken with supporters and hosted a fundraiser at $35k per person. The entire day, down here on the island where I’m lucky to find myself on the day President Obama came back for a visit, has been filled with over-analyzing political commentators dissecting every word President Obama said and every step he took during his brief visit. It’s the classic neglected-child syndrome. Any attention is better than no attention. It doesn’t matter what he said, we would still hang by his every word, and we still spent (and will continue to spend) an inordinate amount of energy reacting to every little thing the President did and said.

Two significant things that are still being debated: 1)the President’s detour to a popular eatery to meet with the opposition candidate and 2)his intimation that the U.S. would stand by the people of Puerto Rico only after a clear majority of islanders arrive at a clear decision concerning the political status of the colony. We’re not sure what clear means.

The day could have been better. Imagine the uproar if the “c” word (colony) had come straight from the President’s mouth, instead of the political commentators’. But the President and his speechwriters are too smart for that. He could have made a statement about the remaining political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera, jailed in the U.S. for 30 years. Again, better not go there when 2012 is around the corner. And I suppose it would have been exciting to have Marc Anthony break into song and for JLo to have made a surprise appearance…

Personally, I think the President’s visit went as good as it could have. We showed him our good and courteous side, and carefully avoided his seeing the protestors who burned an American flag, or hearing difficult questions from any “radical” leaders. Too bad there are so many things that are just unfit for the President’s eyes and ears. Then again, how would you explain in only a couple of hours that the Puerto Rican economy needs more than a stimulus package to recover from 500 years of colonialism? How would you explain the oppresive monopoly we face trying to supply our basic needs for food and fuel? How would you explain soaring unemployment, drug use and domestic violence? How would you explain police brutality against college students, a gasoducto being shoved down our throats and a political referendum stacked in favor of the ruling party (do you want blue or blue)?

It would take a few years, not a few hours for Mr. President to get the full and atrocious picture of all things unfit. Then again, his subtle nod to the opposition makes one think that not all is medianoche for Mr. President. Maybe he can see in the dark. Now, in the dark, with the coquies singing their ancestral song, I have to say we might be unfit and he might not have collected as much campaign money here as elsewhere, but he still came and he still broke medianoche with us. That’s more than other presidents have been willing to do.

“They have their bloggers, we have our bloggers…

Let’s see who’s stronger…”

Those are the alleged words of a Cuban official in a report circulated by the Global Post and re-published in Repeating Islands. The official was talking about the possibility of opening Internet access to the people of Cuba, and the consequences of that possible opening.  The discussion was recorded in the context of the case of Alan Gross, a U.S. national imprisoned in Cuba for posing as a tourist and trying to set up portable satellites to deliver public Internet access in Cuba.

I think Che Guevara must have heard me take his name in vain (see previous post) and is sending a Tweet from Revolution Heaven. There’s no denying that Internet access and mobile technology are the postmodern revolution tools of choice. Even in places dominated by old regimes like Cuba,  people in power are noticing what’s happening from Cairo to Iran. The Cuban official reportedly likened Alan Gross’ reputed actions to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, noting that “this guy [Gross] came with different arms.”

The Cuban Battle of Ideas might have just entered a decisive round in a 40+year match. Read the whole story:

All afternoon the Twitter feed had nothing but good news from the island. Thousands of people showed up (some reports say 20k) for a peaceful march nicknamed Yo Amo La UPR (I love UPR). The main goal was to bring people together to ask for the removal of state police from the University of Puerto Rico main campus. A day after the University president resigned, supposedly over disagreement regarding police presence, no one shouted insults at the outgoing leader. The message was positively a peaceful one.

Here’s a sample of Tweets (translated):

Luchaupr: Thousands join against the fee and the police presence at UPR at the march #YoAmoLaUPR.

Raulitoyeah: Back home after an excellent day at the march #YoAmoLaUPR.

Hijomio: We have to support our alma mater #YoAmoLaUPR.

MigueL_TwiTeA: Thousands march in #YoAmoLaUPR || The People in solidarity with the students’plea  that the police should leave.

And I say, encouraging, peaceful, far-reaching love. Esta revolución será Twiteada. #YoAmoLaUPR

For the full story and images (warning: there’s no blood in these pictures, just music and goodwill), go to:

Previous UPR post:

Today, I wish to yield my (cyber)space to echo a call that came from the University of Puerto Rico, loud and clear, to restore “our best collective creation.”

In 1986, I made the tough decision of leaving my family, my friends and the only home I knew.  I turned down an opportunity to attend UPR-Rio Piedras for an uncertain future in the north. It was the right decision for me. Nevertheless, my heart stayed at home, on the steps of the UPR Theatre, looking forward past the courtyard, past any distractions, to dreams and goals of varying degrees of attainability. I’ve done alright in the north, mostly propelled by that vision of my youth. Today, I respectfully say to my brothers and sisters on the island: Read (Repeating Islands’translation of) Luce López Baralt’s article, realize there are thousands of people beyond the island watching  – whether or not CNN shows up – and we know this is about much more than an $800 “stabilization” fee.

From Repeating Islands’ blog:

Luce López Baralt’s recent article in El Nuevo Día, “La UPR vive: un alto a la desesperanza” [roughly translated as “The University of Puerto Rico Lives: Let’s Put Despair on Hold”], brought tears to my eyes. In her quintessentially elegant fashion, Dr. López Baralt called for putting despair on hold and not adopting a defeatist attitude vis-à-vis the apparent attempt to dismantle the venerated University of Puerto Rico, brick by brick, and department by department. Here is her commentary in its entirety with a link to the original article (in Spanish) below:

The University of Puerto Rico is not dead. We will never let her die. I assume the privilege of being a spokesperson for hope, because new creative forces are gathering to avert the worst moment in our history. The UPR, which has been the great socio-economic leveler of the country, is simply our best collective creation. It has taken much wisdom and much consensus to establish what in a few months we could see turned to ashes.

The University administration, against the recommendations of the Middle States Association, has opted for a style of sparsely participatory governance, which could ruin the institution’s accreditation. I understand when students question the “stabilization” fee of $800, because my sister Mercedes and I, with our ailing father, would not have been able to study without the help of our public institution. However, I urge people to negotiate with maturity, so that we can all share the fiscal misfortune that has befallen us and so we can continue with our academic work. The tensions at the Río Piedras campus, which has been transformed into a lair for riot squads, have forced many students to flee to private institutions and many teachers to leave the classroom. The university administration, as if collaborating with this dismantling, has destroyed the prestigious [journal] Revista La Torre, whose last issue, edited by Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá, lies in the same limbo as books by the Editorial [the university press], which include an anthology of Ernesto Cardenal’s work and a tribute to Luis Rafael Sánchez. This destruction evokes the Spanish Civil War cry: “Death to intelligence!” 

In the midst of this ruinous feast, the Department of Hispanic Studies receives a few tables of numerical computations announcing that it has been put “on hold.” Nobody knows the meaning of this new electronic term—which does not exist in any university handbook—since the memo is unsigned. One thing is to reduce the size of an institution, another is to denigrate it.

It is fair to insert the UPR situation in the context of the global economic crisis that has also shaken other universities. The Humanities tend to be the first to be affected; Martha C. Nussbaum (Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities)  has reacted against this short-sighted approach that sees education as dependent on mere economic productivity. In our case, any attack on the humanistic disciplines is more serious. In the space of our Department, our destiny, our culture, and our language have been pondered. Powered by topnotch figures like Juan Ramón Jiménez, Pedro Salinas, and Jorge Guillén, whose classes were attended by the Guajana poets and El Topo, author of “Verde luz,” our Department had [the honor of having] Antonio S. Pedreira, Margot Arce, and Concha Meléndez [as professors]. Luis Rafael Sánchez, Hjalmar Flax, José Luis Vega, and Rosario Ferré passed through our classrooms. Two of our [former] faculty members have received the Nobel Prize—Juan Ramón Jiménez and Mario Vargas Llosa—and the Honoris Causa doctoral degrees for [Jorge Luis] Borges and Carlos Fuentes were initiated from [this department].

But I do not contemplate the ancient ruins of Pompeii with melancholy. Our Department is still one of the most prestigious in America, as it renews itself with writers and scholars such as Mayra Santos and Juan Gelpí. Our students offer presentations abroad in forums of undisputed soundness and publish their work in scholarly journals. Jaime Alazraki, professor at Harvard, claimed that a Hispanist was put to the maximum test when lecturing in our Department.

A Department like this does not deserve an anonymous set of tables ordering its possible extinction. That is why we have joined forces to enhance and promote our curricular offerings in an affirmative mode. The University of Puerto Rico is not dead. Nor has the most prestigious of its departments died. Together we sing the hymn of life. We await our students with open arms. We are not “on hold.” We have put the “hold” on hold. We have put despair “on hold.”

For original article (in Spanish), see

Tengo un par de amigas que practican una religión alternativa llamada Eckankar (significa “colaborador con Dios”).  Uno de los principios de Eckankar es que la gente no muere, sino que se traduce. La muerte es vista como una transformación de energía tal, que se puede explicar en términos de una traducción lingüística. Es lo mismo, pero diferente, transformado.

Esta semana un pensador caribeño muy importante se tradujo. Monsieur Edouard Glissant, nacido en Martinica en 1928, murió en París el 3 de febrero a los 82 años. Pocos fuera de círculos literarios, y bien solamente en los idiomas francés e inglés, conocen  su obra.

Yo he querido traducir la obra de Glissant en el sentido lingüístico. Creo que hay muchos de habla hispana que se pueden beneficiar de sus ideas sobre un criollismo verdadero y una identidad rizomática. El Caribe hispanoparlante necesita alguien que conecte las relaciones subterráneas que existen entre las islas. Desafortunadamente el archipiélago de Glissant hasta ahora lo conocen sólo los francophones y los que leen traducciones al inglés de Betsy Wing (como yo). Estas traducciones han sido impulsadas por académicos como Michael Dash (Univ. West Indies)  y como Celia Britton (Oxford University).

Hace cinco años, al terminar mi maestría en literatura, basada en gran parte en la obra de Glissant, me interesé por encontrar trabajos y monografías basadas en la obra de Glissant en Puerto Rico. Pasé dos días en la biblioteca de la UPR en Río Piedras y un día adicional en la biblioteca del Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y en Caribe, en el Viejo San Juan. Saben que encontré? Nada. Por lo menos nada publicado en español ni en inglés. Tal vez algún estudiante de francés haya tropezado con Glissant en la UPR, pero no había nada publicado que se basara en Glissant. Creo que esta falta de interés representa la falta de conexión que sufrimos los puertorriqueños en relación al resto del Caribe. Estamos agarrados al mundo por un cable que sólo conecta a Estados Unidos, y esa relación colonial no nos permite apreciar otras relaciones.

Glissant estudió en La Sorbona, París, algunos años después de que el poeta puertorriqueño Francisco Matos Paoli hubiera pasado por allí. Escribió Sol de la Conciencia mientras Matos Paoli y Pedro Albizu Campos estaban en prisión en los 1950. El propio Glissant formó un partido político separatista en Martinica y fue exiliado. Se le prohibió salir de París por varios años, y al fin pudo regresar a su patria en 1965. Cabe decir que la relación ambigua entre Martinica y Francia se parece mucho a la de Puerto Rico y Estados Unidos.  

La editorial Casa de Américas, La Habana, publicó lo siguente en una nota sobre la partida de Glissant:

“Su militancia artística dio lugar a reflexiones que apuntaban que “el Caribe es una realidad cultural” abierta “siempre a otras culturas” y que reforzaban la idea de que “un negro de Cuba, un blanco de Guadalupe y un indio de Haití participan de la misma identidad”, según escribió el propio Glissant.”

Casa de las Américas informa que ha publicado tres obras de Glissant en español: “su novela El Lagarto (Arte y Literatura, 1980) y el volumen de poesía Fastos y otros poemas (Casa de las Américas, 2002)… el pasado 30 de octubre de 2010 fue presentado en La Habana El discurso antillano (Fondo Editorial Casa, 2010), por primera vez la traducción íntegramente al español de la monumental obra de Édouard Glissant.”

Tal vez luego de su traducción fisica a otra vida veamos más traducciones de la importante obra poética y política de Edouard Glissant.

Mientras, aquí puedes ver una traducción al inglés (doblada rudimentariamente) de una entrevista reciente en Francia.

Back to the beginning

…That was the year the Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men who bring gifts on the eve of Epiphany), left a book under her bed. It was big and colorful and it had a sturdy cover. The title was Héroes en Zapatillas (a 1974 Spanish translation of Varona and Olivar’s Eroi In Pantofole, Edizione Paoline, Roma, 1971). Every European hero from Aníbal to Ulises, and with the generous inclusion of Gengis Khan, was there in caricature form. No mention of women.  Still, the book provided hours of entertainment and later she would beg her mother to keep it for her when she went to college. (The book is still around for the granddaughter. It’s yellow, not as colorful, and the pages are coming off the unstitched spine. It will be a supplement to the heroine stories they’ll read.) 

By the time she was in eleventh grade, our girl barely recalled the details of the medical kit from Christmas Past. But she remembered the feeling. Everything started to come back to her as if in a tunnel when her guidance counselor refused to give her an SAT application.

“Una niña como tú debería quedarse aquí (en la isla) con su mamá y su papá.” (“A girl like you should stay here (on the island) with her mom and dad.”) He wanted me (you already knew it was me) to concentrate on taking the College Board exam and forget about the SAT. I guess La Academia (my parochial private school) was more interested in raising overall scores than in placing their students where they wanted to be. I switched high schools my senior year and chose not to graduate with my friends over this. I did great on the College Board, got into UPR Rio Piedras, and Sagrado Corazón just in case, then turned around and left for FSU. It wasn’t easy. No one wanted me to leave. Many said I wouldn’t make it past the first semester. Too young, too sheltered, too attached to family. I went around all objections. Found a friend who went to school at Fort Buchanan to get me an SAT application, took the test at her school without any help. Then I took things one step at a time. My parents saw how determined I was and rallied behind me. My whole family sacrificed a lot to send me to college. Every semester was a small miracle. Twenty-something years later, my life is a miracle. The doors that seem to close just lead me to better things than the ones I imagined for myself. And really, I have a lot of say on which doors close.

So, listen to your children. Pay special attention to the girls and take their dreams seriously. Don’t tell anyone, boy or girl, how to play –let them teach you how to play. And for the record, I don’t want to be a boy anymore. Life’s more interesting as a girl.

Reclama tu territorio en cualquier idioma

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