Routinely, I am asked:

“What are you?” or “Where are your parents from?”

NOT

“How do you identify?” or “What is your ethnicity?”

The latter two are better alternatives but I get it, you want to know what kind of brown I am because my lips, hips and tan skin suggest an ambiguity you cannot live with.

There is no Ancestry.com for Slavery

Puerto Rico is the island whose culture and people I am most spiritually and physically connected to. I was raised to be loud and proud about my heritage. I honestly have no idea the make-up and break-down of my ethnic bits and pieces but I do know the serious dark brown taino eyes of my grand-aunt matching her straight jet-black hair and smooth brown skin. I identify with my dad’s curly locks, big lips and swinging hips. I adore my mom’s pale skin and exceptional spanglish skills. I possess the rhythm my grandfather ruled El Borinquen salsa club with and the silent side eye my abuelita would give him. I rise with the same bushy brows of my Ortiz brothers. The Caro-Ortiz traditions consists of a culture that highlights the rearing of children, cooking for others and cleaning on Saturday mornings to the soul sizzling, heart pounding sensation of la bomba y la plena and complicated salsa moves, broom in hand.

Caribeños are the rainbow people as my friend, Frank Perez, once said. A mix of African, European and Indigenous blood. A dark and twisted history I hope we stop denying. If Columbus had not colonized the Caribbean followed by genocide, rape and slavery I would not be here. Isn’t that something? 

Realizing that was hard. Talking about it is harder.

We (Americans) are all occupiers of indigenous lands. Right now, I live in a valley that was once occupied by Native-Hawaiian settlers. This land was never intended for me.

So, I’d like to celebrate the people who came before me. The people who made it possible for me to be here by the power of strength and resilience. Let’s acknowledge how Columbus’ actions impact the present-day look and condition of our western hemisphere. Most importantly, let’s talk about indigenous communities today. Starting with but not limited to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sign the petition, donate, go there and protest or talk about it with your co-workers at lunchtime.

October 10th was National Indigenous People’s Day!

I wish you a happy belated #NIPD (pronounced nip-dee).

Comment below, like, share.

ox,

Leslie

Wrote this while soul sizzling to: Todo Tiene Su Final by Willie Colon ft. Hector Lavoe

Learning more about women in the ‘insert anywhere’ place: Podcast –StuffMomNeverToldYou

P.S. Register to vote! If it’s too late for you – encourage someone who still has time to vote in another State! Remember to vote on November 8, 2016.

 

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