his name was marcus. we were both in the midst of surviving the government’s barbaric assault on families who were living and struggling with crack addiction. we were still trying to love our whole selves, our blackness and queerness in the fog of shame that only kids who learned to calm their mother’s paranoia after a hit.
he said, listen to this song. it was 1996 and i was too deep into pop music to give a hip-hop song a chance. marcus said, “no. you need to listen to this. trust me.” i relented and he began to play the song. he reached out to hold my hand and my initial response was “gurl, what the hell?!” and then it hit me. the lyrics moved me emotionally and back to place i had been working so hard to run from. i suddenly knew why he was holding my hand; to keep me from drowning in pent-up emotions. i cried as i let go of much shame. he cried as he held on to my hand.
20 years later, i still cannot listen to this song without crying. it still conjures up indescribable emotions. it still moves me both literally and figuratively. it still reminds me of the power and connection children of mothers who struggled with crack addiction have.i have not spoken to marcus in years. i hope he is still surviving like i am. i hope he knows that when he decided to share this song, it fortified me. marcus,
i send you love & light - wherever you are. - louie
“Yo no nací en Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico nació en mi.”
“I wasn’t born in Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico was born in me.”
dear tío rubèn blades:
what up homie? so i read your interview on variety latino. your comments about the role latinos play in the current political landscape were both insightful (i am always learning from you) and hella fucked up (i learned something new about what you think about boricuas born and raised on the mainland.)
here is an except of the interview:
Variety: What role do Latinos have in what is currently happening in politics?
Ruben: Look, I am not an American citizen, I am a legal resident and residents do not allow us to vote. Yes, they want my taxes, but I can not vote. That’s the difference between a Latin American like me who resides in the United States, and people who are sons and daughters of immigrants in the United States.
this response speaks so much truth and highlights the complexities of latino identity in america. pero tío, i gotta say that you should have just stopped there but you didn’t. you went on to say:
“When Jennifer Lopez says that she is Latina, I say, ‘No, she’s from New York’, she’s as American as Trump. …You do not walk around saying that [Robert] De Niro’s Italian … Marc Anthony also, he was born in New York. There is a difference.”
SERIOUSLY!!! surely, you could have continued to make your point about the complexities of latino identity without minimizing and chipping away at the identity of boricuas, specifically a boricua woman. THAT SHIT MAKES YOU LOOK HELLA SEXIST HOMIE. to be fair, you did the same minimizing of marc anthony (who is also boricua) but you didn’t compare his identity to trump. I DON’T EVEN HAVE THE PATIENCE TO UNWRAP THE TRUMP COMPARISON because it’s friday and i am just tryna chill and drink until i blackout. but really tío? it’s like that homie? man, if you had compared the late and great selena, who was also born and raised in america and spoke limited spanish, you would have had to delete your twitter account by 8am this morning because baby, you would have read for filth!
now let me tell you why your points are hella offensive - to me at least, as a boricua. i have been in more than enough spaces with non-boricua/non-carrieban latinos, who came at my neck about because i wasn’t “latino” enough because boricuas have it “easier” than other latinos. I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT THIS IS NOT TRUE but again, it’s friday and blah, blah, blah. i have also had non-carrieban latinos make fun of not just my ability to speak spanish but how all boricuas speak spanish. i imagine that this is not a surprise to you. i know that it doesn’t. you were just trippin’ yesterday.
because i love, honor and respect you and your legacy, i am gonna chalk this up to those moments when we all have when we speak faster than our brains can formulate, process and check our biases. we all have those moments and it is vital that friends, comrades and familia hold us with live while holding us accountable. this letter is just exactly that. but tío, let me also remind you and the other non-carribean latinos who stay minimizing the identity of boricuas…being boricua runs through my veins, it is in my heart and shows up in my warrior spirit so don’t come for us.
louie a. ortiz-fonseca
resurrections are real.
to all of the varones who once lied on hospital beds with a sinking t-cell count counting the minutes until you could hold down down your food.
to all of the varones who avoided looking into mirrors because the sunken face reflection did not reflect the beauty you behold.
to all of the varones who pieced themselves back together piece by piece after the violence of stigma left them broken and beat. to all the varones who survive life by surviving one night at a muthafuggin’ time.
we salute you.
we praise you.
because even AIDS, stigma, homophobia, racism, white supremacy, and oppression can’t keep us from rising. and when we become ancestors, we will continue rise in the voices of those who speak our names without shame.
so keep rising varones because resurrections are real.
if your skin browns
only because of the sun,
there is not a thing,
not a single one
you can tell us
about how we engage
with our blackness
or which tactics
we utilized in our fight for freedom.