And the Greatest of All is Love

Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you (Psalm 143:8)

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Love…. That feeling of fulfillment and completeness. That freedom of being yourself around the other, the greatest topic ever written about, the source of great joy when present, and great depression when it has left us.

For years…. decades, I was looking for love outside of myself. Believing that if somebody loved me I would be enough. Only if another would say that I was worthy I might think it was true. Only if another told me I was important to them, then my spirit would glow a little. The problem was the motivation had to come from the outside for me to believe I could be welcomed as a valuable part of our society.

When I accepted Jesus as my Savior back in 2004, a whole new world opened to me spiritually and mentally. I had written poems and stories about my dreams. I also made a video about my mother being somewhat a force that helped me strife, even though she had been an extremely abusive parent, but when God put my whole life in a sphere on the palm of His hand, suddenly my eyes were opened and so was my heart.

When God began to show me how much He loved me, I was so overwhelmed I thought I had gone mad. I had written in a poem How can somebody die to save us? / How could somebody die and save… me? I hadn’t accepted that I was worthy to be loved and to know there was someone greater than anything and anyone known made me come to my knees in tears.

What kind of love was this that didn’t demand my perfection, my eloquence, nor even demanded me to love Him back? The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid, you are worthy more than many sparrows (Luke 12:7) .

The first impressions of a child mark their emotional development in ways we don’t realize until we start having all kinds of psychological disorders as adults. We can’t run away from our past, because it will inevitably catch up with us. God is light. God is love. God is truth, and the truth will set you free. When I revise my past, I realize I lived in a chrysalis with extraordinarily thick walls, and the effort and pressure I went through were necessary for my metamorphosis. Many of us experience a period in which we think we are stuck. The barriers seem so solid we feel we can’t get through. Our troubles come like heavy blocks that asphyxiate us. To be in this state may seem like death is imminent. Nevertheless, God puts angels around us who break those walls for us, who carry us through the rubble and debris, who collect our tears in beautiful crystal bottles.

Furthermore, He commands us, Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt 22:39). I am learning to leave judgement aside. To appreciate my physical attributes, my strength, the color of my skin, and my spiritual and mental power, so I can give the same appreciation to others. Lately, I learned that two people who are close to me have been suffering from anxiety for most part of their lives. We are so quick to assign a word or a description to a person without knowing their back story. Perhaps, by loving them just the way they are they will start to let go of their fears. I’m here, present for them. Love is selfless, and offering it with our words and actions creates an atmosphere of harmony and tranquility, much needed these days.

Indifference and hatred make us weak. Love makes us strong. Start today. Start by receiving God’s love and loving yourself with all your perfections and flaws. The very cells of your body will respond by loving you back immediately ❤

International Museum Week & Diversity

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For International Museum Week we shared stories and articles that showcased diversity in both our art and our mission at The Mint Museum. The final story to celebrate #InternationalMuseumWeek comes from a beloved Mint staffer who is known for her loving spirit and warm laugh. A native of Colombia, South America, Kurma Murrain joined the Mint team as community programs coordinator in 2018, where she (alongside Rubie Britt-Height, director of community relations) helps organize some of the museum’s most dynamic programming catering to the region’s international audience and anyone who wants a taste of the world outside Charlotte. Read about her journey from the Colombia of her early childhood, to how she became an award-winning local poet. Link in bio.

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Kurma Murrain, Coor. Community Programs & Rubie Britt-Height, Dir. Community Relations -Mint Museum

From war-torn Colombia to the Mint: how one staffer found her home away from home at the museum

We at the Mint were so excited about International Museum Day this Monday, May 18 that we decided to unroll a week of content for it. And how better to round out the week than to tell the story of this year’s theme—diversity—than through the story of one of the Mint’s crown jewels: Kurma Murrain.

A native of Colombia, South America, Murrain joined the Mint team as community programs coordinator in 2018, where she (alongside Rubie Britt-Height, director of community relations) helps organize some of the museum’s most dynamic programming catering to the region’s international audience and anyone who wants a taste of the world outside Charlotte. Murrain is also an award-winning poet, a talented performer (she was part of The Vagina Monologues at Queens University of Charlotte in 2016), and always ready with an easy laugh.

Here’s Murrain’s story, as told to Caroline Portillo. Lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

I grew up in Bogota, Colombia, in the mountains. I was always writing something — I started with little poems for my mom about how much I loved her. Then in my early teen years at school, I always wanted to share what I was writing with my friends. The teachers noticed and started calling on me to read my poems: in the classroom, on Mother’s Day, on Teacher’s Day. When I was taking physics in high school, I was so bad at it. Failing miserably, and there was no way I was going to pass that class. Then one day my physics teacher came in the classroom, after having read a poem I’d posted on the bulletin board at school. He said, “You don’t need to study physics. You have a talent. I’ll give you a passing grade.” 

Escobar, narcos and ‘a good place to be’ 

We watch a lot of American TV and movies in Colombia. I grew up poor, and to watch those TV shows, I thought everybody in the United States lived an abundant life, and had beautiful houses. Plus, in my country, there was a lot of racism. My brother and I were usually the only black students in the school,  and we were bullied because we were black. I didn’t see that on the TV shows in the United States, so I thought, “that’s a good place to be.” 

I was also living in Colombia during the time of Pablo Escobar, the narco war, and the guerrilla. I experienced so many horrendous things. They were killing everybody—journalists, artists, important people from the government. They were kidnapping and putting car bombs everywhere. So, yes, I was dreaming about the United States, but I also had another motivation to get out of there.

[NOTE: I am happy to report that Colombia’s former president Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring the nation’s more than 50-year civil war to an end. Colombia is now a safer, more beautiful place.]

The Warmth of Other Suns program at The Mint Museum

In 1998, a coworker told me the YMCA was recruiting summer camp counselors from other countries. I was hired to work at a special needs camp in New Jersey for three months. I had my first experience in the United States and wanted to come back. I came back in 2000 to work at another special needs camp in the Catskills in New York. 

Afterward, I kept thinking “I want to go back, but I want to work in my field, education.” In Colombia, I was teaching English at several universities and teaching private classes at a bank, so my friend told me about a program called Visiting International Faculty, that hires teachers to come to the U.S. for three to five years. 

I called them and told them about my experience, and they said I was the perfect candidate except for one little thing: I needed to have had a drivers’ license for at least two years. I didn’t drive. So I started taking classes, got my license. This was the thing I’d been dreaming of my whole life, so I was like, “OK, it’s only two years.” 

I was 32 when I could finally apply to be a teacher in the US. I marked on my application that I wanted to work in California. That’s what I’d seen in the movies. But it was a school in Charlotte that wanted me, South Meck High School. And they wanted me to be there in two weeks. I had a mini panic attack, heart attack, and stroke at the same time. And when I saw the email, I said “Charlotte?” 

I even considered not going because I’d fallen in love. And this man was gorgeous. But when I told him, “Hey I got this email and I may go to Charlotte in two weeks,” he started laughing. I said, “What the heck?” 

And he said, “I’m laughing because my best friends live in Charlotte.”

‘Like Disneyland’ 

It was amazing. The guy I was dating made introductions on email, and his friends said I could stay with them at their home off Carmel Road while I settled down. I didn’t even have a car, so they took me to school and picked me up in the afternoon. I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at South Meck for three years. 

In 2005, one of the Spanish teachers, Mr. Lopez, told me there was a poetry contest at the Mint Museum. You didn’t have to sign up for anything. Just show up and read your poem. 

We went straight to the auditorium at Mint Museum Randolph. I didn’t win, but there were more contests at the Mint—four a year—and I won three consecutive times between 2005 and 2006.

Winner of Poesía Viva at The Mint Museum, 2006 (Primera Fila)

I met Rubie Britt Height, the Mint’s director of community relations, in 2012. I was getting an award at the main library uptown and asked the audience if I could read a poem I’d written for my mother who had passed just three months earlier. After I read the poem, Rubie had her mouth open in awe. Then she started inviting me to events at the museum to read my poems, especially Mint to Move. Before everyone started dancing, I would read a poem. 

Waiting to receive an award for Latin American artists at the Main Library & the day I met Mint’s Director of Community Relations, Rubie Britt-Height

In 2016, I went to teach English in China for a year. I love adventure. But even while I was there, Rubie asked me to send a video of a poem for the Mint’s Día de las Velitas (Day of the Candles)   celebration, a Colombian tradition, that December. And a few months later, she had an event at
the museum while I was visiting a cousin in Thailand, and she asked me to read a poem I wrote while I was in China. Because of the time difference, I got up at 5 AM to get ready to connect to Charlotte via Skype. 

When I came back to the U.S. I returned to teach Spanish at a school in South Carolina, but I wasn’t fulfilled. Then Rubie gave me a call. She said there was a position open at the Mint for a community programs coordinator and that I should apply. 

When they hired me on April 30, 2018, I was ecstatic. The Mint was the best place in the world. Like Disneyland.

Photoshoot for Immersed In Light video

Called to be inspired

The Mint is the most beautiful place. It’s quiet. It calls you to meditate, to be inspired. And my coworkers are so kind. Before working at the Mint, I already had strong ties to the Latin community and the artistic community. I’d been on panels and shared poetry at places like Queens University and Johnson C. Smith University. But being at The Mint Museum now is a platform on which I can help others.

It’s exciting to plan for them, to talk to the performers, to see them and see the reaction of the people. It makes me feel accomplished, too. After each event I think, “Wow, this was great. And I was part of it.” 

What I love about the Mint’s programming is I am able to see such a variety of artists, painters, musicians, dancers, poets. It’s such a great array. Every program is so unique and brings a different public. 

The Mint is a big part of the Latin community. At Mint Música & Poesía Café—a biannual event that features talented poets, dancers and musicians from the region— we’ve had a salsa dancer who’s now dancing at an academy in New York. We’ve had a cellist from Colombia play while a PowerPoint of photos from Colombian landscapes played. We’ve had a poet from Puerto Rico share a powerful story about his father.

Mint Música & Poesía Café w/ Puerto Rican Poet Neftalí Ortiz

Before I worked at the Mint and heard about Mint to Move—our bimonthly cultural dance night that regularly draws 300 to 400 people—I was like “We can dance at the museum? And there’s a DJ and sometimes a live band playing? Oh my gosh.” So I started bringing all my friends. 

Through Mint to Move, I’ve met black people from other Latin American areas and countries, such as Puerto Rico, Cuba. They understand the struggle. For instance, I teach with the Mint’s Grier Heights Youth Art Program on Wednesdays. The children think I’m black before I speak. And then once I speak, they just open their eyes and are like, “you’re not black.”

“But, wait,” I ask them. “Why does that change?” I have to explain to them that slavery came to North America, but also to all parts of America: Central America, South America, the Carribbean. They don’t teach that at school.

Cumbia (traditional Colombian dance) performance at Mint to Move

It’s very touching to be able to see and experience artists who are from your country or any Latin American country. It’s like bringing a little bit of home to the community. And the language—to be able to listen to poetry or music in Spanish. The older people especially get so emotional when they can listen to their language and talk to people like me. It’s a great way to stay connected to their community and their country. 

Then I also work with people who just want to know more about Latin American culture. We had a group from UNC Charlotte and another at Johnson C. Smith University who started coming to Mint Música & Poesia Café and Mint to Move. They just love these events. Then there’s Bilingual Stories & Music, which draws Latin families, Asian families, African-American families, white families. And there are so many marriages with spouses from the U.S. who want to learn about their spouses’ cultures through our programs. It’s a beautiful connection they make because they have that special person next to them, and they’re experiencing the programs together. They can see through different eyes. And because of the Mint, I get to be a part of that.

How Do You Talk To Yourself?

I’ve always found it interesting that I can admire somebody and even predict the success somebody will have by talking to them for a few minutes, studying their manners, the way they dress, and exchanging a few ideas. Some of these people I have thought and said to them that they are destined for greatness, that they’ll have an amazing future, that they are great writers, that they are so attractive they could be models.

I would like to see myself the way my friends see me, the way my spiritual parents see me, the way my boyfriend sees me. I am grateful they tell me that I’m beautiful, smart, and a great writer. However, it is taking me my whole life to give me some credit.

I’m not so generous with my own words when I think about myself. I told a friend that I didn’t want to be too prideful by directing the attention to everything I’ve done. Yeah, I have done a couple of good things in my life, but why brag about it? The point is, you live with yourself 24/7 and you’re the person you receive the most feedback from. Tell yourself the truth about yourself in a positive way. Count your blessings and your talents and tell yourself how important and essential you are for this world to keep spinning. Think about the possibilities. In order for you to be here there was only one (ONE!) chance in 400,000,000,000,000. You must be extremely special to inhabit this Earth. Not everybody made it, and many are long gone. We are the chosen ones.

One thing that this pandemic has shown me is the time I spend in front of the mirror can be used to talk to me, not only as a friend, but as the most important person in my life. Someone I really care for. In actuality, there’s nobody else who could be so frail, vulnerable, and sincere with me at this time. So it goes like this:

  • Good morning Kurma
  • You are beautiful
  • You are strong
  • Your words are important
  • Your words are powerful
  • You can do whatever you want and succeed
  • You are doing great during this pandemic
  • People love you
  • I love you

I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). God loves you so much. One of the best ways to honor His love is to follow His command, Love your neighbor as you love yourself. That care, and worry, and sacrifice you make for your neighbor (a.k.a. your elderly parent, your sick friend, your co-worker, your boss), everything you do for them should come from a place of abundant love, the love you cultivate in you. You must nurture it. Breathe… Now look into the mirror. What uplifting words are you going to tell yourself today?

 

Take Care of Yourself

Depression. It might be caused by an imbalance in your brain or by temporary circumstances.

I’ve noticed that during these days of isolation I let myself wander in dark waters, waters that sometimes took me swirling to an even darker void I couldn’t escape from, and maybe I wasn’t sure I wanted to get out of it.

I spent days without taking a shower, browsing from TV shows to movies, feeling exhausted and irritable. Tears would come down easily for no reason other than feeling alone in this immense space called home, plus I started developing a preference for sad songs, and became agoraphobic and germaphobic. Going to the supermarket was torture, so I bought food for three weeks at a time, which prompted me to snack more to fill the emptiness.

At some point, I thought it would be better to have the coronavirus, that way I would spend these quarantine concentrating in healing instead of looking inside myself and not finding me.

It’s easy to fall into this spiral, and with good reasons. There is a lot of uncertainty out there. However, when I began hearing the term “new normal”, I knew I had to figure out what my new normal would be. I came up with a compilation of actions I could take to take care of myself and also be strong for my friends and family.

Come back!! Your reality is a gift! I had asked for a break for a long time, so I would have time for personal projects. I also wanted more space in my life. My favorite classes at the gym at times seemed so crowded I felt the stress of limiting my space to accommodate more people. Now, I have all the time I want, and I can use all the space of my dwelling to exercise, stretch out, and dance as wildly as I want.

Write. Keeping a record of your negative feelings and a counter thought would be key to keep you centered and improve your day. I learned this by reading What Fear Is Stopping You? by Terry Hudson, the #dreammaker. My therapists always advised to write down my feelings, but the idea of writing a counter thought is very helpful, especially during these times. For instance: Negative feeling: I’m bored, and I can’t see my friends. Counter thought: I’m home, I’m healthy, and I have enough food to sustain me. In my case though, I am delving into my poetic side by writing a two-sentence diary. Here’s a small sample:

Tuesday, April 21

Open your eyes

The ceiling fan continues spinning despite everything else has come to a stop

Wednesday, April 22

The hydrangeas welcome the bees & the wind

I welcome LOVE

Thursday, April 23

Reading my favorite poetry book

While he reads my body in Braille…

Be as playful and creative as you want 😉

Read. This is a great time to catch up with all the books from your library! I just finished reading Love in the Time of Cholera (no pun intended), The Happiness Project, and I’m half way through I Am Malala, and Becoming by former First Lady Michele Obama.

Dedicate time to your projects. Whether it is cleaning, fixing something in your house, enrolling in an online class… Now is the time to do it al!

Talk to God. No matter what religion you are, talk to your higher power. He is your friend, he will not judge you for your thoughts or desires, you can open your heart to Him, you can cry, be angry… He can take it. Bring all your worries to Him. Read your sacred book too. I find reading my Bible comforting, and there is a lot of wisdom I can apply to my life right now, being confident that this shall also pass.

Exercise for the love of God!! I was very disappointed when they closed my gym. I mean, I had become so good at the elliptical, I was “running” at least 6 miles a day. Where else could I get my cardio?? Here’s when I discover parks, duh. Yeah, it sounds silly, but nature has been a great “finding” (even though they closed a few of them later). I started running and power walking, which is even harder than the elliptical so I’m actually burning more calories. Also, YouTube has been a fountain of great workouts. I’ve been doing Zumba, Barre, Pilates, Kickboxing… And I don’t even need special equipment to do all my workouts at home!

Reward yourself. When you know you’ve had a very good day, why not to celebrate you! Your reward doesn’t have to be food, though it’s my number 1 😉 Home-made facials or hair treatments are a true treat as well! Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch an uplifting movie, or order something special online, that something you have wanted for a long time but have denied yourself… Watch your budget, but still give yourself some love!wp-1589758155670388552672.jpg

Do what you love. And this is key. Doing what you love will bring back that joy and passion for life! In my case, people and writing are my passions. So I called for my poet friends to join on a couple of Zoom open mics. We all felt like family and to be able to see each other and listen to what other poets are writing left us all with a great feeling. Also, I love dancing, so I just do it every day, even if I don’t have a choreography, feel it, and your body will follow!

Look for help. If you think this pandemic has taken a toll on you and you don’t want to talk it out with a close friend, churches and places of worship usually have people on call, either the pastor or a group of volunteers, some of which might be trained counselors.

We are in this together. Even in isolation, think about your loved ones. Call them. Let them know you care. That might be the one thing they need to survive this pandemic.

With all my love to you and yours,

Kurma ❤

 

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID19

I sing to myself

Because my voice is the only company I can hold on to

I look into the mirror

Talk to this “friend” I have started to recognize

I ask her

Who are you… really

How are we going to get through this

When the rain thrashes us

And the sun burns our old scars

How old are you… really

Not the age on your birth certificate

But how old are you NOW

You feel like you are 89 years old

Because of all the limitations that restrict your movement

You are alone

As if your children and grandchildren have forgotten about you

You have your coffee by the window

And see the outside world from a social distance

Your ruminations take you back to your mother

To your first steps trying to catch her

But you never did

Even today

You never did

The coffee gets cold

The window cries

The phone snaps you back

His voice

His voice grows tentacles through space and time

You feel his embrace

Your years begin to shred

You are 40 now

You are 20 now

You are utterly his

The universe is this room

That only you and him inhabit

With him you climb the Himalayas

Swim in the Amazon

Ride on red unicorns

Have a picnic on one of Saturn’s rings

His scent billows through the cracks of the clouds

You are now 15

Time ceases until the familiar

Goodbye

Until the familiar

I can’t wait to meet you

Until the familiar

I don’t want to hang up

But he does

You walk slowly towards your window

Your “new” friend comes from the other side

Imitating your slow pace

The frown on your forehead

Your pain

Your regret

Your anger

Your passion

She can read the hope in your lips

You think she’s waving at you

You sit next to her

You tell her how much you miss him

Only she can understand this futile pounding of your heart

You look back at her

You are 89 again.

Latinx? I am a Latina, LA-TI-NA

America is a country I love so much. However, at times its “political correctness” gets to the point in which you cannot express your opinion freely without offending somebody. So they keep trying to reinvent the wheel by changing the names of races, physical conditions, and even communities. That is the case of Latinx, the “new” word to refer to us, Latinos. However, who asked us Latinos what are our pronouns or what we would like to be called? Latinx seems a term from outer space. Imagine this conversation:

-Which planet are you from?

-I’m Latinx. How about you? Are you Americanx?

The fact that so many words have been adapted into making everyone feel accepted can result in confusing terms not only for foreigners, but also for Americans. A few years ago, for example, I entered a women’s store and left frustrated because I couldn’t find anything my size even though the store was stocked with the latest fashions. When I saw the words “curvy”, and “women sizes” I got excited I was finally going to find pants and skirts to fit my very rounded behind. I later realized “women” and “curvy” are the “new” words to describe heavy set females.

Likewise, the first time I saw the word Latinx in a document, I emailed my boss to tell her there was a typo; then she revealed “the truth”. Latinx is a new term so one part of the population doesn’t feel excluded. More excluded? How? The United States is closing its borders, our president calls us all “Mexicans”, rapists, and thieves. I think that train already left the station, so calling us Latinx doesn’t make us feel any more welcomed or rejected.

We Latinos do have a way of including everybody though. In written form we use the @ symbol to refer to males and females; as in Latin@s, amig@s (friends), or compañer@s (partners), since the @ looks like an o and an a at the same time. We do this only in informal settings though. Nevertheless, in spoken form we still use the terms Latinos, Latinas, Latino, and Latina. And these are the words I have been hearing from my Latin American friends living in the United States as well.

Part of my job requires to make surveys and when I have asked a Latin@ if they identify themselves as Latinx, invariably, they have hesitated. They’ve stopped to ask, “What is Latinx?” After a brief explanation, they chuckle pointing out at the ridiculousness of that word.

My college professors always emphasized, Go to the source. So I did. La Real Academia Española, Diccionario de Americanismos. I typed Latinx. The result: La palabra latinx no está registrada en este diccionario (The word latinx is not registered in this dictionary). Same result for the Spanish Dictionary.

Then I went to the other source. Oxford Dictionary:

La·tin·x

/ˌlaˈtēˌneks/

noun

1.a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina): “The books share stories of the civil rights struggle for African Americans, Latinxs, and LGBTQ people.”

In the example above, I saw another leg of the word. It can be plural! I’m going to need to hear the pronunciation of this one soon.

In my opinion, we don’t need a gender-neutral nonbinary word to refer to us. America, first, fix the chart of races in which a Latino can’t be Black and vice versa. Also, delete the words Latino and Hispanic from race since these words refer to origin and language, and there is a variety of races in the Latin American countries.

received_574724883335399225346634.jpeg

Countries of origin from left to right: Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico. (Photo by José G. Vázquez)

Latinos come in a variety of colors. We have been colonized by the Germans, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. During the Atlantic slave trade, Latin America was the main destination of millions of African people transported from Africa to French, Portuguese, and Spanish colonies. Slavery’s legacy is the presence of large Afro-Latino populations. After the gradual emancipation of most black slaves, slavery continued along the Pacific coast of South America throughout the 19th century.

If you ask me, I will say I am a Latina, and I am also Black. One category doesn’t exclude the other, and both are correct terms to refer to my origin and my race. I am proudly part of the traveling exhibition NUEVOlution: Latinos and the New South that started at the Levine Museum in Charlotte, NC, and has traveled to Birmingham, AL, and is now in Atlanta, GA.

The word Latinx just comes to complicate the already complicated definitions and categories that have been assigned to us. Although eventually, this is a term we will have to accept since surely it will be part not only of surveys, but job and college applications, and daily conversations. However, in the meantime, and while we still can say it, WE ARE LATINOS! Period.

* This article reflects my opinion and the opinions of some people I know.

My Hair

MY HAIR

My hair makes me

I hate it

And I love it!

It is straight now

After my 13th birthday I mean

When my mother found the elixir to make it look “pretty”

I can’t reproach her or attempt to get mad at her

For introducing me to these chemicals

I see women with natural hair

And I envy them

But my hair

My hair is my other me

Silky

How it frames my face

How it makes me feel

Sophisticated

Powerful!

I resent when the roots grow

Because I have to go back to the hair “hospital”

To the foul smells

And the burn

Sometimes I get 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my scalp

But oh, how much I adore that I have bangs

And the wind frolics with it

One day I’m going to shave it off

And after that I’m going to write a poem about hats.

 

*Poem selected by national competition for ARTE LATINO NOW EXHIBITION at Queens University. ARTE LATINO NOW seeks to highlight the exciting cultural and artistic contributions of Latinos in the United States. Sponsored by The Center for Latino Studies at Queens University of Charlotte in partnership with Visual artist Edwin Gil, Queens’ Departments of Art and Foreign Languages and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and ArtSí .

*Poster design by José G. Vázquez.

God Works In Mysterious Ways…

Church was pretty interesting as the pastor described how he witnessed his grandfather’s 50th anniversary as pastor in a ceremony that took place at some building on the outskirts of town. Now, as he’d become a pastor himself, his wife found a box of pictures as she was going through their annual spring cleaning. He decided to take a look before throwing them away to realize… that the building where his grandfather used to preach was the same building where he was standing right now, twenty-three years later! I thought that was amazing, completely oblivious that God had told me that story to prepare me for what was about to happen to me.

I had gone to a routine car inspection maybe 12 years ago. I was attended to by a man who handed me his business card. I looked at it and exclaimed, “That’s my father’s second last name! Maybe we’re related!” This last name is very popular though, so this might have been just a coincidence. We promised to stay in touch, but you know how that goes. In the meantime, he told his mother, who lives in Colombia, that he had met me.

Now in 2018, I am at the first Peruvian Festival ever done in this city. I’m strolling around when somebody calls out my name! When I turn, I see an old woman who speaks to me in Spanish. She tells me about my father, my uncle, all my aunts and cousins. She remembers taking care of me when I was little, she tells me who’s sick, who died, who moved, who’s had surgeries. She talks about my grandparents, their close relatives…

0722181609a650615323.jpg“We are family?” I hug her excitedly. “But, how did you recognize me?”

I lift up my eyes. There is a man behind her that she introduces as her son. “Don’t you remember me?” he asks, flabbergasted. I can’t find a place in my memory for him. He tells me I had visited his business years ago to get my car inspected. I was astonished. There are no coincidences. This woman, whose name is Elisa, her son, and I were put in the right place at the right time. So, I was related to this man after all?

Elisa continues talking, saying she has always asked her son about me. However, if she took care of me when I was little, why didn’t I remember her? Why didn’t I have any evidence of her existence in my life? No pictures, no mention of her name, nothing! She seems to know everyone I knew when I was growing up, but where was she when my mind started creating permanent memories?

She continues talking and I am fascinated. I tell her “we” have family in NY, Washington DC, Atlanta, and that I have met all of them. “What is your last name?” I ask. “Lozano.”

-Oh, that is your father’s last name then. Your mother’s name is Murrain?

-No.

-Who are your grandparents? Sam and Ana? How are we related?

-Well, it’s not like that. What happens is…

-Are we cousins?

She is quiet and I start to become anxious.

-How are we related?

I insist.

-You’re not going to believe it.screenshot_2018-07-24-21-22-37431033108.png

My friends approach and I introduce her, her son, and his wife as family. A singer is singing in the background. Suddenly the first notes of a cumbia song to which Eloisa and I scream at the same time.

-This is my song!

-¡Esta es mi canción!

She starts dancing, and with gracious cadence she stands in front of the singer. I go behind her, and everyone else at this huge place follows. That is amazing!! Her son is recording video and my friends and I are delighted. Then the singer sings another favorite and our conversation is temporarily suspended. At the end of her performance the singer speaks to the audience, but looking at Elisa, says, “You have to give me the secret of that energy!” And she asks everybody to clap for Elisa.

There is much more conversation going on with Elisa’s son and daughter in law. Then someone recognizes me from a newspaper article so I talk to this person, too. When I finally settle I look back at Elisa.

-If your last name is Lozano, who is Murrain in your family?

She stares at me as if she is trying to make me read her mind because words are too hard to be uttered.

-Ay, Dios mío, are you my mother?

She laughs nervously and looks at her son.

She clears her throat, “What happens is… I dated your father 50 years ago.”

I crack up without really thinking about what she has just said. You know, it’s hard to imagine my father dating before I was even a thought. But you could see it in her eyes. For a brief moment Elisa is 20 again… When I stop laughing there are so many questions I want to ask her. I suggest we meet after I return from my vacation overseas; but she’s going back to her hometown in 3 days. I give her ALL my contact information and she says she will stay in touch… But you know how that goes.

 

America: Latinos Can Be Black Too!

On a previous blog, I meditated on my experiences and feelings about being a Black Latina in the United States. I thought I had said everything that needed to be said; nevertheless, another event made me stop in my tracks.

I have moved quite a few times since my return from China a few months ago, which has prompted me to change my driver’s license in a couple of occasions. The second change happened when I returned to North Carolina. The officer asked, “Race?” I responded, “Black” without hesitation, feeling pleased I didn’t need a lawyer to justify my skin color this time.

My new driver’s license arrived in the mail just in time for the primary elections so I went online in order to find out where my voting post was. There it was in black and white. My name. My address. My race: Black/African American -Non Hispanic/Non Latino. How could this be? I remembered the DMV officer hadn’t asked me anymore questions with regard to my origin. She merely assumed being Black excludes any other category. A simple check mark and my heart was black and blue. They have taken away part of my heritage… again.I Voted

What they don’t realize is that that simple checkmark also took numbers from the elections. All the campaigns my Latino friends put in place to raise the statistics on Latino voting went to the drain. We Latinos vote! However, how many of us have been left out of the news because we don’t look like the idea America has of what a Latino should look like? They are still saying that not enough Latinos vote because of the ignorance of the authorities and the system in general. Eleven years have passed since I first initiated the process of becoming an American citizen and they still don’t recognize me as a Black Hispanic Latina.

Latinos go to the polls. I know because I am one of them.

PAW PRINTS IN THE SAND

At times, the best thing to do is the most painful one

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To say goodbye

To let go

To hold his little head in the cup of your hands

As the spirit starts to leave

But lingers

To make sure you are fine

His life passes me by in the rapid pages of pictures drawn

His presence still licks my face

On the heavy mornings when his memory wakes me up

His innocence rubbed off onto me oh, so gently

I didn’t realize when I started seeing the world

Through his immense brown eyes

He lifted me up from the ground

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Leading me with his little paws

Through undiscovered paths

Where my tears became laughter

And his past suffering opened the doors of joy

We were siblings

We were a mother and her son

We were best friends

And in the end

We didn’t close the book

But continued filling pages with springs, pages with summers, pages with leaves, pages with snow

I love you

You were the best dog

Because you were an unconditional being

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Because one couldn’t exist without the other

Or so I thought

Since now I must exist without you

You had a way

Of quietly crawling into one’s heart

Likewise, quietly, with my eyes burning

And the little strength left in my hand

I tell you, Boomer… Thank you… Good night.