I was doing some Spring cleaning which involved putting some things away in storage. One of the things I was putting away was some photo albums that I had. Yes there are things as pictures like real photos from a camera roll. I started flipping through the album and I came across this photo. I was a cute kid of only 8 years of age. I look at his smile and it’s way to surreal. I can’t understand how I had so much resilience. How at that age I just smiled for that camera when I was living in so much fear. This face in the picture was beaten all the time. I walked on eggshells and already knew how to look at body language and the music mommy was hearing. It was from there that I knew whether it was going to be a great day or a day where I had to stay far away from her as possible. At this age I was so scared to speak or move for mommy ruled with a strict iron fist and a painful backhand.
At this time in my life I was molested multiple times. I was deathly scared of him and he was persistent and made sure he got his 3 visits in weekly. He also silenced me with bodily harm and threats of death. He was the one that instilled the fear I had of being alone, of being around multiple men at the same time. He was the reason I was a bedwetter. The beatings I received because of it. He gave me anxiety every time which was constant because he was always around my family and lived on the same block. He tainted my belief of what love was. It was him that made me believe for a very long time in my life that love hurts, love is non-existent. That all I was to offer was sex because who the hell wanted to love a faggot! He became the blue print to the men I would love- unavailable, not mine, secretive and 2nd best.
That little boy in the picture already knew how to fight mentally. I already knew that life was not going to be easy. That the world was cruel and I had to maneuver around it. I had no voice at all let alone an understanding so all I had was my mind. All I had was music and make believe places I’d transport to in books. There was no safety at all and I wouldn’t have any till my teens. I was broken in so many ways that I can’t believe I am here. Though sad to see this pic I salute that little boy who hid all this in that smile if for just one second. Te amo negrito porque viviste una tragedia y saliste campeón. I love you little brown boy because you survived huge tragedies and came out a champion.
I believe in magic! There I said it. Now I don’t mean the fairy, elves kind of magic! I am talking about the ancestral, birthright, genetic magic. The type of magic that you are given and born with because it runs in your family, passed down with no permission to the one that is born with it. They call us witches at best but there is levels to this. There are healers, curanderas, montaneras, mediums and psychics. There are ones that speak to the dead, expel bad spirits and even get mounted with spirit guides so that there are words of wisdom given to those present. This is gift and how you practice it is called La Obra or The Craft. It is an amazing experience to witness and be a part of. Your body starts to tingle and your senses become acute. Your gut tells you that something is going to happen and the air around you becomes electric. It’s like the air is stretch it like a tight wire and at any moment something is going to give. then you witness the most beautiful thing- spirit. A moment of something absolutely not from this plane. If your lucky you will be spoken to and given a confirmation or a message that shows proof that what you are told no one ever knows, it is something that you have whispered to yourself and GOD at a specific moment and time and it is being told to you verbatim. That there is no way on earth that it is false to what you are experiencing. This is the magic I am talking about.
The magic that gives you an edge. That if you are born with this gift it gives you a sense at looking at death differently. You know that there is something more than just the physical body. That there is a place we go to when we leave. That there is a spirit and a soul and they are very tangible and fully operable without the flesh. It is an inheritance of the everlasting kind. You never walk alone and depending on your gift you find that this world we walk in is a whole lot more than just lights and sidewalks. You overhear conversations that have no source, as if someone is sitting next to you and talking to you. You feel more. You sense things before they happen and at times you see what others can’t see. This gift comes with a responsibility. It is going to guarantee you that you gain some level of discipline whether you want to or not. this gift can be very rude and it has no respect for timing of there is something you need to do or get done. It is a blessing, a kiss from GOD and a sign from your ancestors that you are a part of a tribe, a lineage that has suffering, history and warrior written all over it. There is no denying it either. Sooner or later you will have to pay attention to it. Sooner or later you will have to embrace it for what it is.
I sat to watch the documentary “Life With Boy George”. In the 80’s he was international. He broke gender norms from the gate. At a time when that was a death certificate he showed the world the true him.
When I first saw him life wasn’t the same. I was a very young kid watching one of my favorite shows “Solid Gold”. It was a show that gave you the top ten hits with dancers and in between they had the popular acts perform. This particular episode had Boy George. I was in love with his song “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”. I never saw the artist and actually thought it was a woman who sang it. When it came time for him to
perform and I saw him I can remember feeling absolutely confused. Here was a man with long colorful braids, gorgeous makeup looking prettier than most woman strutting on stage. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It changed my whole world. I finally saw someone that spoke what I felt inside. Finally there is this androgynous man letting the world see him in all his femininity. I no longer felt strange or weird or sick or abnormal. Seeing Boy George on T.V allowed this 9 year old, definitely gay, flamboyant, super Latino boy the right to be himself. It was there that I knew that I was not the only one that felt this way. It was seeing him perform that I understood as well that it was not going to be easy but that I can live. It was such a life changer. In my room I had a wall, just one wall with cut outs from magazines of any and everything that I looked up to. Within 2 weeks I managed to fill it with Boy George. I also managed to be more proud of myself. Less fearful of being authentically me. It was in that moment of time as small as it lasted that I knew I was ok .
It happened at a very young age but I didn’t realize it till I was older. As a matter of fact it had been forgotten till I guess it was time to remember. By that time I was more than ready to come to terms with it. It was around the same time that I started to understand that it ran in my family. That if it wasn’t me it would’ve been one of my siblings. I had always seen the dead. Well at least in moments when it mattered. I can only imagine how many times I had spoken to the dead as a regular conversation not knowing that they were. Then there are plenty of moments that I know. I knew, well felt that this person was not complete, for lack of a better term. My energy would be on high alert. I’d get these butterflies in my stomach, this strong feeling of anxiety that was unexplainable. It would go away when the individual left.
The earliest recollection was from what my mother has told me. I was a little kid no more than 5. I ran out of the living room into the kitchen telling my mother that there was a man sitting in the living room on the sofa. That he came to say goodbye to me because he never met me. He told me his name and said goodbye. Mommy thought I was nuts until I said his name. She looked at me in disbelief because there was no way I knew who he was. She had left him and those memories when she left Puerto Rico promising never to return. She went to the living room and no one was there. I pointed to the chair that I saw him in. I do remember Mommy scolding me for making things up and before she could finish the phone rang. It was a call from Puerto Rico. They told her that the man I had just finished mentioning had just passed away. He was her uncle. One of the very few men in her life that loved and took care of my mother. After that my experiences didn’t happen till I’d say a year later.
Mommy took me to a Botanica. At the time they called it a Centro. The reading they gave Mommy in reference to me would be her secret till I came into my own in my late 20’s. It was then that the prophecy they told her would come to pass.
You cannot tell me that I need to lie down and just exist. That is no longer a choice. I am not nor have I ever been that person. Growing up I was persistent and never took no for an answer. Even in my darkest times in my life I knew this couldn’t be all. I always found my way. I always found a means in which to succeed. I always went into survival mode when the world said no. The world pretty much didn’t hold me or nurture me and tell me I’ll be OK. It never made itself a safe space. I had to create that. At times I had to do it with anger and fists but I made it happen. If anything the world told me why I can’t. That there was no place for me. It made sure that I saw a thousand reasons as to why I could never. For me all I needed was one reason out of 999 to create fire within me to prove the world wrong.
I am here. Present and alive, fully aware that though it is not a guarantee it is better to try and live then to just stay and accept anything that comes my way. I want my piece of the pie regardless of the size of the slice. I am no stranger to the hard work. I am not scared of the battle nor the war. No stranger to struggle. I know what it is to make a little something out of nothing. I’ve greeted many sunrises without and went to sleep with. So you see I wont settle nor sit nor lie down to your concept of what you think of me. My capabilities, my DNA, my wiring, my existence and legacy depends on that I come to the table with something. I can’t be the invited guest that just wants to eat at the table without bringing a thing. I am not that friend/relative that overstays their welcome. No! I come ready! I come willing. I come wanting. I come to learn. Remain flexible to possibilities that destiny will put after lessons learned. I will make my space and leave behind fear. I’m moving forward.
It’s been a minute since I sat and wrote. Between directing and rehearsing for my one man show I haven’t had the time. Exhaustion (a good tired though) claims me right after a shower and laying up min the bed. I don’t last long. No it’s not age.
I had just finished performing at the Ancestry show. We had to pick an elder and write about them. It was a set of questions and from there we came up with either a poem or monologue. I came up with both. This performance hit home. It brought a lot of things into full circle (no pun intended). Seeing the other elders and how active they were and how they reminisced about their homeland was beautiful.
The person I wrote about was my mother. The lady that held shit down when rubbing nickels to make it through was an everyday task. I spoke of how through all the hardship she went through on a personal level she still showed up to grow up. How she assumed responsibility for her part and never faltered. As I was saying the monologue it all came back to me. How the breaking apart of her spirit through the deaths of her daughters to the rising from the flames like a phoenix to raise her grandchild. How through the rapes and molestations and being illiterate she still found a way to provide for her family.
It made me realize that my upbringing had a lot to do with her past. That she came from a generation that you took all the abuse and just kept it moving not taking time to heal. You just put a huge band-aid on all that pain and tragedy, shoved through it, stifled it so it wouldn’t crush you. It reminded me that she never came from the school of let’s talk and hash shit out. She came from shut the fuck up’s and get over it. She came from never express for it will be your demise, your weakness. She was brought up from those that hated her because she was a burden not a joy. She came from having to watch herself from sexual attacks from the same kin that was supposed to protect her. She came from a time that regardless of the odds she couldn’t accept failure.
She came to a world that spoke the strange language of English and was not kind to what they thought Puerto Ricans at the time were savages and worth nothing. She left behind her lineage, her ancestors, a beautiful island that was supposed to bathe her in sun and left her scorched and resentful and bitter. Left her with a sense of dishonesty and the lesson that family is not always on your side and friends were a dollar in your pocket.
It was all of these things that ran through my mind that I realized the forgiveness I have to give her. It was this epiphany that made me realize she really did the best with what she had. I had to admit that she never received nor never knew how to give these things that too many is taken advantage of. I also understood that she loved the best way and the only way she knew. Shit I can even be honest and say that with her upbringing and all the betrayal and treachery she went through she was able to give us all that wasn’t given to her on some level.
I forgive her. It allowed me to shed so many things that not only made me feel an immense release of guilt and pain that I thought was my fault but rectified hope in how my relationship with mom is.
I went to Chicago for a week. The purpose was to take the play Growing Up Gonzales out there. It was part of the 1st Chicago Theater Festival. It is also the 1st time I travelled to perform. It’s the 1st time I performed for a crowd that have never heard of me. It’s also the 1st time I perform for a room of High School students. You will always hear me tell you that I ALWAYS get nervous before hitting the stage. ALWAYS!!!!!! I don’t care who I am performing for I always get nervous but when I was told that I was performing for these students it added to the mix. I got super anxious and super nervous. I was automatically brought to my years in High School. How lost I was. How loud and brash I was. How extremely impressionable I was. It was at this age knowing now as an adult that I needed the most light. That it was at this age that I needed the spark of hope to light me up and see that I wasn’t the only one that hurt that way, that I wasn’t the only one born this way, that I wasn’t the only one that searched this way and most importantly that I wasn’t the only one that needed that way.
It was in these memories that I knew that part of this visit to Chi-town was not about me. I knew that when I got to that stage I had to hit it hard. Even though I did hold myself back a bit I knew that this story, OUR story had to be said LOUD and CLEAR. That for the very first time a student was going to see someone of color tell their story, their parents story, their grandparents story. That there was going to be a kid who saw me and said I can. That they had a voice, that they could speak, that they are worth seeing and listening to.
Needless to say after the show I was super emotional. These kids understood. They received what I had just performed, leaving myself raw for them. I was beside myself. I had to hold back from crying. It wasn’t till I got to the hotel that I had quite a sobbing session.
It brought me back to Mr. Butensky, the teacher who wouldn’t let me give up on myself and pushed me to audition for a school that was for the arts. It brought me back to me the kid that never was understood at that age, that my knack for singing and dancing and acting was looked at as being hyper and uncontrollable, not having a safe space to express myself, where I was told that the arts is not really something I should pursue. All that came to me like a ton a bricks that was dropped from the 25th floor. I shook, I trembled and just let it go. Part of this little kid who knew he was different had healed a little more with them. This young kid who had no safe space cried because that part of his story was no longer having to repeat itself. There is a safe space for him now.
It was gratifying afterwards. I found the center of it all and given a recharge and another reason to continue.