In the first 2 weeks of being here, during my artist residency at Patio Taller, I contracted a (mosquito-born) virus much like the dengue fever, called chikungunya. I was already beginning to feel lonely and having a hard time getting grounded and BOOM! I started getting these immense headaches, then the next day I threw up over and over and over and then the next day was a rash that started on 2 limbs and spread to all 4 and my face. I questioned the ancestors...WHY?! Already I was trying to adjust to being so far from my created family and then I get this disease with no cure. Luckily at Patio Taller there were a number of herbs and fruit trees that had anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. The chikungunya's symptoms are arthritic. So yep! I get a double dose of joint pain with having Lupus and this virus. Luckily (?) I am already taking pills for joint pain so I believe that with my pills and the copious herbs and fruit and coconut milk and mushroom tea,etc. that I've been able to have milder symptoms than some folks that have contracted it.
In reflection, having this illness brought me full circle to my love for herbalism. Well, even before the chikungunya, while being on the grounds of Patio Taller I began connecting with the plants and making teas right away thanks to Michelle (one of co-founders of the space) introducing me to local herbs. Within the first week I met a really awesome group of herbalists and healers and they invited me to table with them at a festival on Calle Loiza. I had a good time speaking with folks about Queering Herbalism and the Herbal Freedom School Zines and even sold a few.
After tabling there I decided that Queering Herbalism 2 will be bilingual. It will have both Spanish and English articles. I am excited about the themes for this one. Stay tuned for either a series or the entire guide.
I hope to meet Maria Benedetti soon! I'd love to be more involved with botanicultura and learn more about the plants here on the island. I've been studying up...TRUST. And I've even been making some of the folks in town remedies for the chikungunya and other ailments.
Other than my artist residency, the chikungunya, medicine making and ideas for a new Queering Herbalism, I have been meeting all types of artists, farmers, travelers, healers, visionaries and all around buena gente. Right now I'm staying in a town that is directly on the coast.
The house I'm living at is about 200 feet from the beach--the Atlantic is my backyard.
And from the front yard, I can see El Yunque Rainforest.
The other day I was torn about this situation. A paradise filled with poverty. So many people are struggling. Especially here. The struggle is so real. In Carolina I saw folks that some days just didn't eat. But I also saw neighbors who came together and shared their resources. Fruit from their fruit trees, fish that they'd caught themselves. It was true community and soooooo different than the so-called 'communities' I've known over the years. Though it is similar in sentiment to those of my created families.
You know...I've been thinking long and hard for months on this whole "community building" and "movement building" rhetoric. We need to reevaluate our definitions of community and get on the same page. If folks aren't breaking bread together, watching each other's kids, concerned if folks are eating and housed or employed and staying out of detention centers and prisons, then it's not a true community, in my opinion. How can we build together if we aren't helping each other to survive. We need to be invested in our neighborhoods before we try to start movements in other states and countries.True, we can think globally and support our global community, but it shouldn't come at the expense of those suffering on our blocks and in our cities...state...country.
I've also been thinking that there can be no movement without community or acknowledgement of those there before us and those working toward justice at the same time as us. I see handfuls of folks trying to create movements and maybe they'll make waves but in order to have a movement we have to realize the waves before and after us. The continuity. Our generation is bad about that. We talk of standing on shoulders when I believe we really should be walking side by side with those who have contributed to our foundation. There is no hierarchy of organizing based on a new decade and younger organizers. We are not further or of higher consciousness a generation or 2 later with only a handful of knowledge from our elders. We should be advancing together not standing with our feet on elders and ancestor's shoulders, rendering their work static and in the past. A movement moves, changes, is transformed. In Sankofa we look back to move forward but it's never static. The wisdom is in the knowing that all this is not linear. We continue to learn and grow and our past is our future is our present. Nothing is ever done. We are never 'post-' anything and it's really hard to build on a shaky foundation with just a few architects and no true community co-operation.
More on that later...
So here I am in Puerto Rico- piecing together suppressed histories. Healing myself with mango teas, papaya leaves, lemongrass, oregano brujo, and other herbs that some have lost faith in or become disconnected from. I am thankful for herbalists like Maria Benedetti and curandera historians like Aurora Levins Morales. Healing justice is something we've got to step up and own if we ever want true freedom. Western medicine...the medical industrial complex...Big Pharma....the food corporations...the 'greenwashing" of the so-called sustainability movement, they are all exploiting us and at times working in conjunction. There are a handful of companies profiting from our demise. And it's just the truth. We need to own our healing.
So...back to the struggle...and the importance of healing....
I struggled for years and years- economically, with my health, etc. And now here I am, in Puerto Rico meeting such awesome people and slowing my life down so I can heal and do what I'm here to do on this journey. I began to feel a bit of guilt as I stood knee deep in the Atlantic looking at the crystal blue, see- through waves. I wondered why everyone couldn't feel this. Just stop being on the grind...and feel this. And I became even more committed to co-creating a space where that is possible. A space where people can stop hustling and just BE and heal in all the ways they need to. Whether that be growing food, building their own home, learning about herbal medicine or birth work, or anti-oppression or their own internalized oppression. I've been talking to so many friends who want to create this type of community. I don't know how far off it is from now but I'm going to keep working toward it slowly as I heal myself from this virus and this autoimmune disorder.
Please send healing energy and good vibes as I continue to transition and walk this path. I look forward to keeping you posted about my research and writings- though I can't promise the frequency just yet!
Wishing you all healing and a sense of community and belonging,