CODA XVII | A Sea of Tears and a Revolution, Part One

CODA XVII images july 2019 pr revolu tion 17.11.03.png

Dedicated to artists, asylum seekers all across the globe, and to Puerto Rico.

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Part One

I’m a New York based puertorriqueña since 1990. This here little story, in parts, is about being Puerto Rican here since then, a bit about the Bronx and Eugenio María de Hostos Community College (Hostos), another bit about the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York City, Hurricane María, the evacuees, about force, artists, the future, and love. 

I remember September 20, 2017 as the date when all of Puerto Rico shook in terror - Puerto Rico is an 8 million people nation, three million in the island and 5 million across the world. The birds eye perspective of the approaching storm ignited a harrowing anguish deep inside me because I knew it would be a defeat. 

It was a sinking feeling that things had changed forever. Because everything changed after Hurricane María, everything. 

As I write these words a revolution is happening in Puerto Rico over years and centuries of tears. A history so subjugated it almost forgot itself. And alas, a form of poetic justice came to pass. Everything we knew was not right was not right. Signs for moral compass read that all Debauchery is simple truth and proof of criminality.  

synonymous of the noun, debauchery: dissoluteness · degeneracy · corruption · vice · turpitude · depravity · loucheness · rakishness · libertinism · immodesty · indecency · perversion · shamelessness · iniquity · wickedness · sinfulness · sinning · impropriety · lack of morals · lack of principles · immorality · impurity · unchastity · lasciviousness · salaciousness · lechery · lecherousness · lewdness · bawdiness · lust · lustfulness · libidinousness · licentiousness · promiscuity · wantonness · abandonment · abandon · profligacy · decadence · immoderateness · intemperance · lack of restraint · indulgence · self-indulgence · pleasure-seeking · hedonism · sybaritism · voluptuousness · concupiscence · lubricity · salacity

Hollow is the pain of the lonely heart. 

On the afternoon of September 20, 2017, I went home from work to watch the news. After the hurricane my house became a command center for connecting people and dispatching as much information coming my way as I could. My parents were in Puerto Rico and my Dad suffered the shingles through Hurricane Irma and María. To keep it simple, it was dramatic. My mother and aunt traveled to New York City six-weeks after the storm. On their first day in the mainland, mom had to go the hospital. Thus, began a hot hospital run for my sister and I for the next year and half. Culminating with mom’s open heart surgery in March of 2019, she had her martial valve replaced and eased of an aneurysm in her aorta. That alone, knocked us out spiritually, physically, and financially.

That first month after the hurricane was critical. It was taking a lot to get help, and puertorriqueños outside watched in desperation how it quickly disintegrated and it became evident that a rescue effort seemed to be assailed. 

In my eyes, credit to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her SOS. One of the greatest gestures of courage to come at the right time for a true calamity.

From where I stood, I saw how todos los puertorriqueños up here either became champions or picked up other champions from politicians, to activists, and volunteers. I have never seen such a show of force and love for the homeland. The public denouncement from the Puerto Rican community in the mainland was instant and, it mobilized itself to help not only the island but also the displaced families from Puerto Rico, especially in places like Florida, New York City, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia. For, as the news of the aftermath rescue mission breakdown spread, (that we now know was criminally negligent), the inevitable news of puertorriqueños leaving for the United States began to unfold.

I was very cognizant that what was happening in the New York City was happening all over but, New York City is my doorstep. I know that here, it took local community leadership, elected officials, advocates, activists, foundations, volunteers, and academics to clamor for a justified way to face and manage the crisis of a new wave of Puerto Rican migrants who were destitute. Many families that I later met, came here without any knowledge of where they were coming to and what they would face. It broke my heart. And yet, they decided to stay in a city facing a serious housing crisis. Fueling gentrifying high-rent trends stressing out predominantly disenfranchised communities of color already struggling to stay afloat, are also making it an equal challenge for people with the privilege of language, education, and an honorable job.

Roughly, from October of 2017 to January of 2018 New York City had a slew of organizations and leaders mobilized in supporting and standing up for displaced families from Hurricane María: New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), Catholic Charities, New York Police Department (NYPD) New York Fire Department (NYFD), The Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, The Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Public Advocate and NY Attorney General Letitia James, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Diaspora x PuertoRico, Union Community Health Center (UCHC), Urban Health Plan (UHP), Department of the Aging, Acacia Network, and so many people came forward for the displaced families. All the leagues understood that the displaced families needed us, “la diaspora.”

What a big little phrase, la diaspora. For how long has it been a diaspora? Where does it come from? Who becomes it? How do we become it? Who decides? How does it live outside of Puerto Rico? Can it be unraveled? These are important questions. 

Immersed in news these past few weeks here are some of the voices I love:

Bonita Radio - Carmen Enid goes on early in the a.m., check website for streaming details.

Walt HD - Streams after work hours, 6ish time.

Jay Fonseca - Post various times throughout the day-usually early morning, noon, and at night.

Anibal Acevedo Vilá - everyday from 8 to 10 a.m. Radio Isla 1320.

David Begnaud - Posts throughout the day or breaking news.

 Now…I am no historian, but I have read, seen, and been told a bit. I’ll tell and share in my order. The following are some voice of la diaspora. 

Read here (SOS), listen here (Elba Cabrera part I of II), and listen here (Pete Miranda Part I of II).

Sol