A Slip of the Tongue
A recurrent theme in my work are the unquestioned, so-called “cultural traditions” that can and often do, turn us into the accomplices of our own demise. I get the hairy eyeball from my Borikua sisters and brothers (yes, I take back the letter K – does anyone know who took it from us in the first place?) when I challenge the folkloric character of Juan Bobo, the flippant use of the word “prieto” and terms of endearment that are diminutive, heterosexist, connected to body type or melanin.
Juan Bobo is an idiot who is always rescued by the grace of God or the intervention of Fate and her synergy with circumstance, reminiscent of the adage: “God watches over drunks and fools.” We read his stories to our children from books that often depict him as a Jíbaro or as Black. The obvious question often eludes us: why is Juan Bobo usually depicted as dark skinned? If you are honest with yourself, can you tell me that you have ever imagined him as blonde and blue-eyed? Borikuas do come in all shapes, sizes, and genetically transmitted ethnicities. We have been deprived of stories, infused with revisionist history and afflicted by cultural amnesia so long, that we cling to the few scraps of stories, histories and songs that remain alive in the collective, popular mind. Most of these keep us in the place where the white dominant culture is most comfortable imagining us – docile, foolish, happy drunks who get feverishly political at the waving of a flag, the way Sunday Christians fulfill their weekly obligations to subvert the threat of Hell and guarantee a cushy afterlife in the mansions of a pearly gated community.
All I suggest is that we question ourselves, our intentions and the history of using words like “priet@” “betún” “hinch@” “flac@” “gordit@” “negrit@” (yes, I know the latter is sacred and ALWAYS meant lovingly, right?) Think again. I have one word to say: origin. Original intention is much more dangerous than “original sin.” I personally think we are born in original innocence. We are both original and innocent. It is our lack of questioning, our desire to be accepted, to make others comfortable so they will like us that renders us unoriginal and sin-full. Sin in Spanish means “without”. To transmit words, stories, legends, songs, ideas through generations without considering their original source and intention is to be in “sin”, without: without power. Take back the power of K and ask Por K, never to be confused with pork, the other white meat that clogs up our hearts as we justify fat content that will kill us as a “cultural thing.”
New songs, new stories. Research the old ones we have been denied. Dig deep, make time. Re-discover the old, create the new. Why not Luisa La Sabia?
Just kidding. Or not. More later – I want to go dig and find out what happened to K.