“Homecoming”

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Homecoming= Advent, Arrival, Appearance, Influx, Landing, Meeting, Return, Approach, Disembarkation, Entrance, Happening, Alighting, Dismounting, Acknowledgement, Answer, Revisitation, Recovery, Reoccurrence, Restitution, Repossession, Reinstatement, Reuniting, Recoil, Retreat, Rebound, Reconciliation.

The taxi driver rushed through the outskirts of Buenos Aires in silence. White and grey buildings, decaying paint, brick and tile terraces with grills and dried flower pots. Metallic antennas, telecommunication cables, windows in divided walls, rails in a five lane highway, and another Renault car packed with suitcases heading towards the airport, in the opposite direction. A sudden exit, cobble streets in my old San Telmo neighborhood, youth hang-outs and sexual escapades with my boyfriend, Mi Luna Hotel. A Coca Cola advertisement, Deli Markets with empanadas (meat turnovers) and milanesas (breaded beef cutlets), a graffiti of Carlos Gardel singing tango and Julia Roberts’ image featuring the latest Lancome perfume. A billboard of Shakira’s promising elixir, “Dance,” and United Colors of Benetton’s reconciling cologne, “United Dreams,” depicting Black, Asian, White and Native women next to the words, “I’m White, I’m Black, I’m Yellow, I’m Red.”

Trees decorated the world’s widest avenue, La 9 de Julio, where the obelisk, a gift from the French, stood in its center. Eva Peron’s metallic contour of her head overlooked the traffic. On corporate ad billboards, colorful graffiti from youth gangs cheered up passersby. Still lit, Corrientes Avenue to my right held various signs featuring names of theatre companies, local plays, and cinema productions. Many halls though closed down, their old Neon signs replaced by Cable Television and Netflix advertisements. MacDonald’s occupied the place of the local hamburger joint, PumperNic. Cellular phone stores, Personal and Movistar popped up everywhere. Clothing store’s names showed a mixed of languages and cultures, Legacy, Icebow, Sea Tu Voluntad, Crocs, The London Shop, Rip Curl, Devre, Vilaro Ropa, Ash, Urban Cow, Rouge, Clara, Cheeky, Mc Taylor, Mamy Blue, Yagmour, Boating, OGGI, Look Famacity, Cardon—Cosa Nuestra, Antonio Belgornio, Kill Jeans, Maldito Glam. They stood next to Universo Garden Angels Oils, Freddo Ice Cream Parlor, Karpatos Luggage, Los Robles Polo, Biblos Resto and Coffee Shop, Martinez Café, Starbucks, and The Coffee House. On the edge of transnational shopping, homeless people slept on the Avenue’s parks next to stop buses for shelter. The former city governor closed down the business area to private cars. Only pedestrians, buses and taxis could transit. Children dove into overflowed blue garbage containers looking for the day’s meal. Jugglers did their best at the stop light for some change. Old movies of Soledad Sylveria, Moria Casan, Susana Jimenez, and el Gordo Porcel starred in an old city theatre.

I stared out the window. Another Friday in the Cartesian calendar. At eight in the morning the city woke up from a nightmare. Youth and night owls were gone like my Dad. The avenue’s clock reminded me of the father of rationality, Descartes’ less famous phrase: “To arrive at the truth, one must get rid of everything we know once in a lifetime and rebuild our system of knowledge.” We were always creatures of habits. Tightness in my stomach. After a fall from a horse, my mom’s leg broke. After fifty-six years of marriage, her heart was also broken. Tingling signs from my overworked, burnt out spine. Love and Trauma. Family dynamics, forerunners of negative emotions. Resentments: Unmet expectations. Blame, Anger, Grief. Unconditional love: Words or whims of fate?

The car took a turn on Marcelo T. de Alvear Street, leading to the same bedroom on 1065 Libertad Street. It hit me then I lived  on a city street called Freedom since I was a teenager. It never worked. I anticipated jasmine scent from my mom’s perfume, the smell of steak and salad, baked chicken with potatoes, meat bread with homemade ricotta ravioli, ham and cheese empanadas. Her aloe plants hung from the balcony security bars. Intimacy spaces defined the outside in a postmodern world. A fifty-year old refrigerator with magnets from around the world. The same velvet sofa from their wedding gift list. Two hundred-year-old handmade Oriental rugs. The same red kitchen clock I gave my parents for their twentieth-fifth anniversary. No image of an in-between space lacking edges or borders. How many doors did I open to take a look outside? How many doors did I close to take a look inside? Crumbling structures that no longer served me. World contact led me to renovation, invention, and new habits.  Maybe Descartes was right but no one listened and lived instead by “to think is to be.” Jorge Luis Borges’ memory of a memory. Was it as real or the same?

The taxi stopped and the driver rushed to put my luggage on the sidewalk. I tipped him a $5 dollar bill. He smiled and didn’t say a word. Pedestrians walked around them. A line of youth in school uniforms stood at the 39 bus stop on Libertad Street and Santa Fe Avenue. My finger held the buzzer. Two crystal doors, two floors, two balconies, two parallel soap-operas between my mother and myself. The lavender oils in my purse soothed my hyperactive, anxious brain. I lowered my sunglasses holding my hair straight. I shook my head and adjusted my eyes to the morning sunlight. I covered my right ear. The sound of the breaks in the orange school bus penetrated my eardrum. Kids yelling in their blue and white uniforms from public schools. It used to be one of the best, free educational systems in Latin America.

The doorman held the doors as I pushed my luggage. I welcomed his greetings and update on my mother.He had a concerned look. “She was always coming and going. She must be in a lot of pain.” I nodded. “Yes, she is pretty active.” I held my mouth tight, thinking what was ahead of me. “We’ll see how she takes it.” I took my sunglasses off and rolled my eyes. “Two months of bed rest.” He chuckled, “Good luck with that.” I closed the metallic door of a tight elevator in the back and pushed the second floor button. The front entrance was always locked.

Going up, I already missed my corner of the world: grounded, neutral territory, walking on my own two feet, unlocked doors, the quiet of the country-side, orange and mint bubble baths, C.I.A agent Carrie Mathison’s bipolar fantasies with a U.S. Marine  turned terrorist on Homeland–a popular T.V. show on Netflix, two million unaccounted presidential votes, Sheryl Crow’s song “Soak up the Sun” playing on Spotify between car commercials, the barking of dogs, the grace walk of wild cats and a neighborhood fox, the smell of horse sweat, the crunch of their teeth, the bright orange of calendulas and poppies, the fresh scent of earth, the salty ocean breeze, lavender and pink sunsets, the smell of rotten apples on the ground, the pinch of black berry thorns, poignant horse and cow manure after the morning fog, a $12 New York sirloin steak from Safeway Supermarket, the rattle of raccoons at night, the stormy, cranky wind of California winters, women’s sacred circle, the fog when it touched the warm sand from a Mediterranean-like sun, soothing tea herbs from my garden, fresh lettuce and walnut salad, steamed kale and Swiss chard, the touch of my sweet lover, sunflowers in the rain, freedom beyond a street name, my embodied heart awaken in a hybrid world– my one and only true home.

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[Disclaimer: The stories and pictures in this Blog do not coincide with the women and people depicted in the photographs. Names have been changed to protect their identity. I am solely responsible for the facts gathered and on which the stories and images are based. Nonfiction narrative asserts descriptions understood to be factual and may incorporate fictional elements to clarify and enhance them.]

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“Being Afraid Was not An Option”

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“Being poor and a mom poses a double challenge when raising children and making the decision to migrate. Women face the courage to do something unimaginable. This is the story of Altagracia—an excerpt from the manuscript, Uncoiling the Serpent Goddess: From Myth to Spiritual Freedom by Joy Karin Weyland.”

I met Altagracia in a community literacy class that met regularly on P.S. 182 in Washington Heights, the largest Dominican community in northern Manhattan. Mayra, one of my colleagues from the Women’s Collective, invited me one night. We walked together into a classroom of ten to twelve women who sat in school benches in a circle. Mayra introduced me to the group as a researcher from Argentina who was writing a book on women’s migration. That night, Altagracia’s narration stood out because of the added dangers posed by crossing the Mona Canal, one of deepest passages in the world, in a small boat.

“When I climbed on that yola all I could think about was my children. I did it for them,” Altagracia said as tears fell down her cheek. The women in the room nodded in empathy. During the seventies and eighties, it took an average of eight years for most women to reunite their families; their migratory journeys becoming a leap of faith into the underworld.

“It was about fifty of us,” Altagracia continued. “By the last day, there was little food and water. We had been at sea for four days waiting for the right moment to sneak passed the Coast Guard watches. It was so scary to be in that boat. Sharks were surrounding us and the Captain asked the women whether anyone of us had the menstrual cycle. We all said no but he was suspicious. He kept looking at me for any signs of blood.”

My eyes widened. I had heard of Captains who threw menstruating women off the board to avoid sharks.

“There was a baby in the crowd who kept crying and the Captain told the mother to nurse him and make him stop. Two men suggested that we all nursed as well because soon we would have no food or water, but the other women didn’t allow it.” Altagracia’s voice trembled.

“After four days at sea, the Captain announced we were almost at shore and we had to jump.” Altagracia fidgeted with her fingers. “So when he said jump, I did. The weight of the plastic bag with a change of clothes pulled me down and then up. When my head was above water I could see the lights ahead of us and I swam towards them, hoping I would soon reach the shore.” Her eyebrows rose as if looking for an act of faith. Then she continued.

“One of the men swimming next to me was drowning and he tried to grab my leg. I held on to my bag to stay afloat but I kept sinking with his weight. I thought that was the end of the trip, and my family would read about me in the papers. Then I saw my friend pulled out a knife and he threatened him. He let go of my leg, and I grasped for some air. I was so tired. I didn’t think I could swim all the way to the shore.” Altagracia’s hands fidgeted with her hair.

“The ocean led us into the beach shore of a condominium complex and I hid in a back yard. It was just the two of us now. Everyone else had run in different directions. I must have dozed off when the voice of a woman woke me up.”

“Wake up, wake up. You can’t stay here. I could be fined for hiding illegals,” She said in a Puerto Rican accent, rolling the r’s.

“Please help us,” I said as I lifted my hands begging. She frowned, but something made her change her mind and she took pity on us.

“Okay, you can spend the night, but you have to leave by dawn. I’ll bring out some food and blankets. There is a shed in the back.”

“My heart stopped pounding. I knew we would be safe. The next day we wandered around the streets of the town of Cabo Rojo. The idea was to blend in with the locals and pretend we were tourists. I had a few dollars and I invited my friend for breakfast. As soon as we saw a public phone, he made a call and his cousin picked us up an hour later. We both had a plane ticket to New York where our families were waiting. That night I dreamt about my children and when I woke up I knew I had done the right thing.”

“Why?” I asked while I wiped my tears.

Altagracia responded. “I couldn’t pay for my children’s books, shoes or school uniforms. My husband had migrated but he couldn’t send any money. I worked hard but it wasn’t enough to pay for rent and food. If I had stayed we would still be poor. Being afraid was not an option.”

 

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[Disclaimer: The stories in this Blog do not coincide with the women in the pictures. Names have been changed. I am solely responsible for the facts gathered and on which the stories and images are based. Nonfiction narrative asserts descriptions understood to be factual and may incorporate fictional elements to clarify and enhance them.]

“Paulina was my phantom name”

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“Being undocumented today in any country could be a traumatic experience. Having no I.D. card, no papers to prove who you are, or not being able to use your given name are some of the most meaningful experiences. This is the story of Paulina—an excerpt from the manuscript, Uncoiling the Serpent Goddess: From Myth to Spiritual Freedom by Joy Karin Weyland.”

“Bwak, bwak,” two hens greeted me when I walked into Paulina’s apartment in Washington Heights, a charming, old Jewish neighborhood that became the largest Dominican neighborhood in the United States in less than two decades.

“I still look for eggs every morning, as if I was back in Santo Domingo,” said Paulina, waving at the hens to go to their nest.

“Would you like some coffee?” Paulina stood in the kitchen door and finished pulling her dark hair in a pony tale.

“Yes, please.”

She tucked a red shirt into her tight pants up and we both sat on the couch. Paulina was a short immigrant woman in her late thirties, with African features and a light complexion. She spoke in a soft voice, but unlike other women I met, she switched back and forth from English to Spanish with ease. Still, she had a nostalgic expression in her eyes. I pulled out the tape-recorder and placed it next to the flowered sugar jar. There were some papers on the table and she moved them to make room for us.

“Those are the papers I need to fill out and take to city court,” her hands moved with hesitation, “Now that I’m documented I want to change my name back to Rosa. Paulina was my phantom name.” She paused and added. “Paulina was that brave woman who came to the United States, and Rosa, that young girl who stayed behind in Santo Domingo.”

“Can you tell me more about that young girl?” I didn’t want to lose that window into her past even though it was a hospital visit. We had a questionnaire to fill out but I wanted to know more about Paulina’s migratory journey.

“Oh, it was a long time ago, early seventies. I grew up with both my parents and twelve siblings in a small isolated town outside of Moca, a rural place in the Cibao region. We lived off the land and grew tobacco, cocoa, potatoes, and other vegetables. We also harvested many fruits that grew in the Caribbean like mangos, avocados, and pana or grapefruit bread. Those were the good old days. Everyone knew each other and looked after each other.”

“What motivated you to migrate to the United States?”

“I lived in the capital city with my first husband. I was working in one of those factories that exported the clothes back to the United States. I wasn’t doing well with my husband so I decided to get a divorce and I moved back with my parents. Everyone thought I was a bad wife and mother.”

I nodded in empathy. “Did that help you to make the decision to migrate?”

“I suppose. It was my father’s idea, and I went along.” Her fingers fidgeted. “I always thought it was my destiny to travel.”

“How so?”

“Well.” She leaned forward and hesitated to tell me. “When I got to the airport, I stood there without knowing what to do, as if I had arrived at another planet. My passport photo didn’t even look like me. I traveled with a machete, with someone else’s I.D. card. I think I got in because of my own ignorance, or immigration didn’t care and let me in. After you pay for the trip you don’t think about anything else except getting here.” Her face lit up. “I still save as a memento the same pillowcase I brought with me with a blouse, a skirt, and some panties.” Her hands touched mine. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. “It takes courage to leave your family behind, not knowing when you’ll see them again.” My heart contracted.

She added, “It was like telling the world, here I am.”

 

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[Disclaimer: The stories in this Blog do not coincide with the women in the pictures. Names have been changed. I am solely responsible for the facts gathered and on which the stories and images are based. Nonfiction narrative asserts descriptions understood to be factual and may incorporate fictional elements to clarify and enhance them.]

“Yoga and Healing Arts Center opens in San Juan, Puerto Rico”

by Joy Karin Weyland

 

“Stop your routine and rejuvenate yourself. StarMoonSky is opening its door for yoga, meditation, massage, theatre, doulas, and community support. Don’t miss the chance to visit and deepen your practice in kundalini, Hatha Yoga, Power Yoga, the healing arts, self-awareness of the four bodies: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical through movement, voice, botanical soaps, essential oils, divine feminine journals, therapeutic arts, goddess clothing, jewelry, and merry more.”

StarMoonSky is a non-profit organization that collaborates with other resources in Holistic Health locally and around the world, founded in 2013 by Ruth Figueroa, Jesse Rodriguez and Karin Weyland. Its mission is to bring about individual, family and social awareness and well-being.

“Book a massage, a class, or join community with us.”

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