The weekend after the election Mami called me. I suppose it took a couple of days for the news to get there and filter through all the election chaos of the island. In not so many words she asked me if I’d been targeted and been a victim of the rising hate crimes. She asked how things were here. I hadn’t, but I couldn’t bare to tell her that I had never been more afraid in my life. She doesn’t need the extra worry.
Before me transferring we knew absolutely nothing about West Virginia. Now whenever anything West Virginia pops up on the news my parents make a note of telling me, even if it has no relation to me whatsoever. So they have an idea. That this state bleeds as red as they come.
Mami told me to not speak Spanish (not that I have anyone to speak it with apart from an instructor at work) and to keep my opinions to myself. To only give my opinion in a controlled and safe environment, if those even exist anymore.
Over Thanksgiving break back home that topic popped up again. “Calladita te ves mas bonita” my aunt said to me, with the best of intentions. A problematic phrase in and of itself, linking submissiveness with beauty, but I could feel the care behind it.
My uncle half jokingly told me tips to deal with bears so that I’m prepared to survive the wilderness between here and Canada when they open up concentration camps. We all made light of it, thinking up crazy and impossible bear scenarios to escape from.
Papi remembered that people here think I look Jewish, that there’s literal Nazi’s in power now and the jokes aren’t so funny anymore. He thinks no one notices him receding into his phone.
They just don’t want me to die. I get it, I don’t want to either. But for a long time I’ve struggled with keeping quiet and speaking out. It’s kind of why I’ve taken to blogging in different formats over the years. I learned a bit ago that keeping quiet is self-injecting poison into my veins. I can’t stand to do it unless I feel directly unsafe. I don’t think I have the stomach to do that anymore.
I can’t be quiet when there are so few like me here. I can’t be quiet when I’m the Vice-President of the LGBTQ+ Student Org on campus. I can’t be quiet while I continue to live on the land that is destroying mine. I couldn’t handle the guilt.
So I resist. Resistance via existence. Resistance via defiance. Resistance via kicking and screaming and falling into every stereotype of angry queer latina feminist. This is something I only recently learned to do. It’s still more theory than practice at the moment.
Resistance isn’t in my genes, I had to dig holes for it where passivity was planted. My mother is the type of person that sees things as black or white. She said Oscar López Rivera should stay in prison and pay for what he did (sign the White House petition to free him here). My father is the type that thinks everything should be privatized and that having the minimum to live is a privilege, not a right. They’re the type of people that complain about Puerto Rico being under Amerikkka’s thumb but frown upon protests and active resistance.
I often wonder why Puerto Rico doesn’t have a revolutionary history like most of Latin America. Our histories are so intertwined, yet we’re still a colony. Anything resembling revolution against our oppressors is labeled as terrorism towards our gracious benefactors.
In my senior year of high school, I took Latin American history. We learned about several political movements and revolutions. Yet I don’t recall even a mention of FALN or the Macheteros or even the PIP (Google these movements friends). If we were looking at different forms of government, our island would surely present an interesting subject to study. But our political history education starts the transition of power from Spain to the U.S and ends with listing governors.
Now more than ever I want to organize, I want to protest, I want to boycott, I want to tear down. But I don’t know how. In theory, I do know. But something inside me rejects it. Tells me it’s futile. I find myself at a loss, useless when trying to lead. Quiet when I have so many thoughts and ideas to contribute. I underestimated how so many years of submissive colonialism have affected me.
I’m trying to fight against that every day. First and foremost with words. They have always been my weapon of choice since my fists are so small. I’ve almost given up on it a couple of times, but I need to tell my story. People out there like me need my story.