I was raised in a world of duality on so many different fronts. For as long as I remembered, I had 2 sets of parents. Mami and Papi and then I had Mamá and Papá. It was the norm. I didn’t realize folks didn’t have 2 sets of parents. Mami lived next door to this couple and they became family. When I was born, well, I became theirs as well. They were my padres de crianza (parents that helped raised me). “It Takes a Village” was taken seriously.
I don’t recall this but I’m told that I once asked Mama who my real set of parents were. When we lost Papa, I was heartbroken. Due to financial circumstances and work schedule, I wasn’t able to fly down to D.R. to see him. But, I remember being told that he said he was sad because he wouldn’t get to lay eyes on me before he died. I couldn’t bear to think of laying eyes on him as prostate cancer ravaged his body. In a way, I’m glad I did not see him because I didn’t want to remember the tall, lanky man with a guayabera, hat and sensible shoes, his Blackness gleaming with sweat beads as he made his way up the stairs after a day out right before I jumped into his arms, any other way.
I was raised Catholic. Mamá was the neighborhood’s curandera. She kept oregano and tilo growing in the front and flowers of all kinds that would be made into tea to help babies with colic after she performed healing ceremonies with ashes, prayer and the pulling of the skin on their backs that would make all kinds of crackling noises and bring relief to both mom and baby.
I was also raised with a knowledge of something else.
I recall gatherings in NYC, music, drinks, wrapped heads in different colors, the “coming down” of spirit. The summers on the island where I made offerings and helped with ceremonies as the “next in line”. I remember them clearly. Just as I remember Mama’s devotion to the church and her going to mass a few times a week and not reading tarot on Sundays or performing any mountings as a day of observance.
The Catholic church never sat well with me. I think it was because I never felt super close to God there. I have always believed but, I opted for a non-denominational church as an adult where I could hold a bible and not feel like an idiot for not know where the letters from Matthew or the readings from Paul could be found during service. My faith grew stronger.
But I never forgot. I never forgot how I came into this world. Mami, unable to conceive after the death of my brother. I never forgot the things my eyes saw as a child. The prophecy of my place in all of it.
I’ve been so disappointed in Christianity lately. So much hate, so much divisiveness. I see the tendrils of white supremacy in each book of the bible. Hear the justification for slavery in every psalm. I think about the people killed in the name of religion. Those killed because they would not conform and I am reminded of life today. Of Charlottesville. Of this administration.
I’ve been walking this path for a very long time. Dancing with duality in such a way that it is difficult to tell where one belief ends and the other begins. It’s how we survived for so long. It’s how our beliefs survived to today. Hidden in plain sight. On the faces of white saints, behind the scents of church incense. It’s been there.
And it doesn’t seem like anything is up for being covered up any longer. Doesn’t seem like there’s any use to hiding my strengths, my ancestors or my magic.
Duality. I still operate in it. And I’m perfectly comfortable in all the spaces I occupy. But, if my face looks different to you, if I seem different somehow, this might very well explain it.