False Seeds Don’t Grow: Corrupted Motivation & Honest Intent

unnamed twitter user

Sometimes you don’t have time to read but don’t worry, now you have no excuse not to keep up with the heavy and wordy writing I know you love! I’ve recorded a reading of this essay but listening to my voice is it’s own punishment, so proceed at your own risk.

I am an anti-social social media user. I eagerly share my thoughts while hiding away from the actual socialization. 

I dread Twitter mentions. I just go there to talk to myself, really. Therapy’s too expensive anyway. Short thoughts transcribed and collected are attractive — it’s like a journal, but one that claps for you afterwards. And while a positive exchange is like a pat on the back, the negative is more a push to the chest. Appreciated as the former is, the latter outweighs it.

The truth is I have little faith left in the possibility of quality interactions surrounding meaningful ideas, especially online. I resent social media for many things (maliciously addictive design, one), but I especially resent the thousand banal arguments I’ve been force-fed through the feed. I can’t think of another scenario where a human would be the audience of so much uninspired spite from strangers. Yet I remain, undying optimist (fool?) that I am.

I’ve seen so many of these arguments I feel like the Jane Goodall of social media. I’ve taken my observations and tried to analyze the data — what makes this strange species act so remarkably insufferable about their ideas? The point of study. Do the motivations behind why we argue degrade the argument? The hypothesis. 

Honesty is a concept that’s been present so long in human society we don’t consider it often and we rarely reconsider it. We usually approach it the way our societies always have, making tweaks for morphing cultures and shifting moral values. It’s worth much more consideration than we give it. It’s the most fundamental aspect of any worthwhile and healthy relationship, and what is society but a giant collection of relationships?

Continue Reading…

The Gift of Burden

Sometimes you don’t have time to read but don’t worry, now you have no excuse not to keep up with the heavy and wordy writing I know you love! I’ve recorded a reading of this essay but listening to my voice is it’s own punishment, so proceed at your own risk.

Our parents are the first people to give us anything. This is not meant as a heartfelt platitude. Just as we say life can be taken, it is also given. The giving of life is our first gift from another human. Our parents are the first to give us many things — gifts, warm memories, love. They’re also the first to give us pain. They give us our fears, harsh memories, our traumas. They give us the flawed personalities we spend a lifetime working to improve.

This is not unique to our generation, our parents, or our society. It’s the human experience to be shaped in some way by the people around us and our parents are the first people around. We like to think we’re the arbiters of our lives and the origins of our selves, but spending decades with the same person as we grow through different life stages can mold us more deeply than our conscious efforts later can. 

I’ve found it hard to hold within me these contradicting gifts. How do you reconcile joy and suffering given side by side? With self-reflection I’ve been able to uncover the patterns in my own behavior that add empty weight to my burdens. Living with these hidden patterns is like listening to a new record, unaware it has a few scratches, and thinking the song itself is flawed. It’s not always your life, but from what mind you experience that life, that makes it harder. 

Finding and mending the scratch conjures questions. When did it happen? How did it happen? Bear with my psychoanalysis, but a lot of those scratches happen early — it’s of course, much easier to scratch something that’s still soft and moldable than rigid and guarded.

Continue Reading…

Cerca de la Tierra

I was so honored to have this piece as my first printed work in La Yerbera by La Liga. The printed version has now long been sold out, so I wanted to share this very special work here. I wrote this for my abuela, who is a force, a life, a personality to be reckoned with. I’m so lucky to come from a line of women who spit fire and kindness all the same. What a blessing of an existence. I hope you enjoy this ode to my roots.

Cerca de la Tierra (Close to the Earth)

Mi abuela se mudó a Miami desde Cuba, an incredible and immense story all in itself, but a common enough immigrant tale. More common still, she settled in the city of Hialeah, where she’s lived for over 15 years. That house she moved into was a barren lot whose gringuito owners lamented that nothing could be grown there. For them, the soil just wasn’t fertile. 

At the intersection of common life and quiet magic stands la casita del bosque. Today, that same piece of land is a tropical forest in miniature without having changed a thing about it but its caretaker. Every square foot is hidden under cool shade from the mango y aguacate trees towering above. Potted plants line the walkways, walkways that are delicately blanketed from the gentle snow of red Poinciana flowers in late May. 

“Corre corre que te vas a caer un mango encima!” takes the place of a greeting during summer months. As a 12 year old girl who caught lagartijas and parrots like a Latina Steve Irwin, my abuela’s house was a foreign country onto itself; a place that gifted me fond memories of being from the last generation before commercials needed to encourage kids to play outside. To this day, I know there are still parts of that semi-untouched forested land that I’ve yet to walk on. Land claimed by and for the matitas rooted there.

When I wasn’t being carefully watched so as to prevent death by falling fruit (an innate abuelita power is being able to foresee your death coming from even the most innocuous situations), I was sneaking into the vine covered, seemingly 1000 year old rusting shed with a heavy, creaking door that sheltered the altares and food offerings to los santos. When one prospers, so, too, do their gods. 

Continue Reading…

A Country Named Mother

I finally took a trip I’d been planning for years. I knew it would be a different kind of trip, more serious and personal. In some countries more than others, maintaining contact with family is difficult. Historically, Cuba has been one of the more difficult countries, as home phones were a luxury shared between several neighbors and communications are still monitored and intercepted as seen fit. Through burgeoning access to the internet, my own family, now living in Miami, was able to make contact with family members still living in Cuba, after 30 years of silence. 

Staying in the home of family members I had only known through my mother’s stories felt like watching figures of the past come alive. In the short week I spent on this tiny island with a massive world presence, I came to know myself through knowing the many women of my family who call this country mother. 

I hope you enjoy this one, one of my most personal essays yet.

Photo from Cuba: my abuela one year younger than me

I wasn’t very conscious of my ancestry until around middle school and I wasn’t really interested until college. While some kids wanted the new Samsung Sidekick, I wanted blue eyes and a French-sounding name (and the Sidekick too, honestly). I can’t say it’s for lack of representation – no, there aren’t any Cuban Disney princesses – but I was raised in Miami where quinceñeras are a weekly event and that’s pretty damn close.

Every year I’d get the same question that only reinforced disinterest in my ancestry. Teachers asked “what makes you special?” and “where are you from?” In an age of misguided philosophies on confidence building, asking me to share my background was supposed to make me feel special; instead it felt like a popularity contest where I got front row seats to watch the interest fade from my classmates faces as I started to pronounce “Cuban.” My conflicted feelings over my ancestry created a blockade to self-acceptance. While these issues might seem trivial now, as a middle schooler, they were a memorable source of shame over identity (or lack thereof).

La calle my family lives on in La Habana

Up to that point in my life, I never felt tied to my identity in any meaningful way, Cuban culture was practically an all-encompassing part of my daily life (if scientists ever want to study the effect of daily cafecitos and pan Cubano, I’m the first volunteer). Even now, as I sit writing in a city and state I’ve never seen, the most assumed parts of my identity are pulled out for display. There’s nothing like leaving home to make you realize how much of your home is twisted up, inseparable from the person you are. Cuba was the setting for family stories told and re-told. I could imagine the small homes, barely able to contain their inhabitants; the hot sun that you were told to hide from lest you grow too dark. It was through shared memories that I spent a small part of my own childhood in my mother’s past; sharing her childhood home, joining her walks to school, briefly inhabiting a different life than my own. I had never visited her birth country, but it was simultaneously as real and imaginary as any other fairy tale. The bedtime stories I grew up on were not only of sleepy Germanic princesses, but of kids growing up on an isolated isla communista.

Cuban art with Cuban resources

There were people in my family stories that lived only in memories recalled. Family members that I knew existed, but had never seen nor spoken to. I became curious about mis raíces. Reaching a level of security within myself gave me permission to dive into my own history. I wanted to know what my own personal link to my heritage was, something that couldn’t be measured and deemed common. With my upcoming trip to Cuba, suddenly all the stories my family had told me became possibilities. Where were they now? Could I meet them?

Continue Reading…

Paying for Our Own Destruction

I was recently given the opportunity by the incredible creators at La Liga Zine to write about what I’m terming the New Genocide in Latin America. The New Genocide is colonialism raised from the dead and dressed up no longer in the clothes of conquistadors but in those of consumerism. It’s through this deeply embedded capitalist lifestyle that colonialism has risen anew and is actively exploiting Latin America’s indigenous populations all over again, through a barrage of one billion tiny cuts. 

There is a bright side to this new enemy that’s both its strength and weakness; there is no leader, only millions of individual people who must decide to help. You can see how this new form of war is both an optimist and pessimist’s playground; decide whether you’ll be one more person, or whether you’ll be only one person.  

This essay originally published by La Liga is now home here at LunaGemme. Please share your thoughts and feelings with me in the comments or on social media.

Paying for Our Own Destruction

                               A Guarani woman (Photo courtesy of Sarah Shenker/Survival)

Disclaimer: If you feel that for some reason your situation does not allow you to change any aspect of your diet, even if that is simply a vegan Monday, then use this essay for its educational value to help those who can change their diets and store this knowledge for the day you might be in a situation where you too can change your diet. This statement is not meant to erase the existence of poor vegans, those vegans living in food deserts and all the others who despite a popular narrative to the contrary, still eat with ethics in mind.

Veganism calls to mind white people with dreadlocks who spend their trust fund at Whole Foods and thousands on a trip to India to discover the virtues of poverty. These people do exist, but just as white women are unfairly often the face of feminism, just as white men have become synonymous with rock music, we know that a lack of representation does not mean a lack of contribution.

 The idea that something is not “for” your race or ethnicity is a tool of limitation. One that, once broken down, allows for the creation of a beautiful and unique interpretation of something that previously was lacking, something that was smaller before you took a piece of it, molded it and added your own vision.

Reasons such as environmental destruction, health, and animal welfare are relevant to and can be sympathized with by all identities. To say otherwise is to grossly underestimate a human’s capacity for care. There exists an extensive list of the ways in which animal agriculture exploits not only animals but humans as well, however, I will focus on only one of these ills now: the violation of indigenous rights.

To fill the demand for meat, Latin America is being forced to exploit its own resources once again. While the destruction of one of Latin America’s most precious resources is tragic in and of itself in addition to the loss of animal habitat that leads to extinct species as well as the loss of an important environmental balancing mechanism that mitigates climate change, there is yet another loss in this situation, that of human life.

            Vegan Cuban-inspired sweet potato and platanos maduros bowl

Screaming into the void of consumer demand, many distinct indigenous groups have already organized and continue to speak out against the destruction of their homes for pastureland. Consumer demand has placed the value of meat and milk before that of indigenous peoples lives. Both the Yukpa in Venezuela and the Guarani in Brazil have detailed the violence they’ve experienced at the hands of cattle ranchers, who have gone so far as to murder indigenous people on contested land. Murders that go largely uninvestigated and unpunished. Damiana, the wife of the Chief of a tribe of the Guarani people, lost her husband as well as her three sons all to what has been dismissed as “roadside collisions” with the same cattle ranchers encroaching on their ancestral lands.

Activists have called for companies like Starbucks and universities like Harvard to divest, that is, to end their monetary relationship with harmful practices. We cannot hold these businesses to a higher ethical standard than we hold ourselves as individuals in everyday life. For the same reasons we sought divestment from these companies, we must divest our own money from companies and practices that are not in line with our own beliefs.

The act of protest has the power to influence, but only in so much as it controls the flow of money. A protest is effective only when it presents a possible loss of income; this is the point at which negotiation begins. In a capitalist society, money often weighs more than words and acts faster than law. Why then, would we ignore our most constant and accessible form of protest? The mundane act of grocery shopping is the single most politically powerful tool available to the working class, as with every purchase, support is either extended or rescinded. We already utilize this power in responding to new flavors, distasteful advertising, and bigoted CEOs; now is a more crucial time than ever to divest our support for products that are born out of exploitation and cruelty.

As activists and ethically minded people, we cannot ignore our role as consumers whose purchasing choices have consequences. Animal agriculture is a decrepit means of feeding ourselves, propped up by all the ancient methods of unconscious consumerism and violence that we have no choice but to move away from or face the consequences of a world prioritizing cheap perks built on a chain of absolute cruelty. We need to do better; if that means just one meat-free day a week, then repurpose the old business adage and remember, every dollar counts.

Eating vegetarian in staying with family in Cuba

Do you have any tips for cutting down on our consumption of animal products? What do you think is the best way to fight against the usurping of indigenous lands from afar? If you’re in a rough position of your own and unable to make any ethically minded changes, help share this article with others who can!


*If you like my work centered around Latin America, you’ll enjoy my photos and essay from my trip to find family in Cuba.*

In Memory of My Boy

Writing this is hard. Writing has a way of making things real; even things that are pure fiction, like magic and Middle-earth, can be made so familiar through skillful writing we can find ourselves subtly jaded upon returning to reality after closing a book.

This is one case where I wish writing had no such quality, where I wish my writing would be so horrible there’s no way anyone, especially myself, could believe it. As things are, it wouldn’t matter how many misspellings and cliches I make, this reality remains.

My dog of 18 years left me behind for the first and last time. He died on March 24, 2019, in his beloved little bed, with the hands and love of his family surrounding him. I wasn’t there; I was out of the state, completely convinced he would be right there in his little bed like he’s always been for almost 2 decades upon my return.

I hate myself for not being by his side for the loneliest journey of every animal’s life. By his side the way he’s been by my side for his entire life. He wasn’t alone when he died, but I was alone when he died and that’s my burden to carry. A burden of my choice, of course, as dogs wouldn’t be dogs if they held grudges the way we do.

I’ve written something for Simba and for me. It’s messy, it’s a pile of grief and gratitude and then more grief and gratitude; it’s a bunch of words to communicate my love for a dog that never needed a single word to communicate his. Simba deserved every good thing that this earth could give but there’s nothing else I can give now except my mournful, grateful words.

I look at the ground where you sleep and I have to hold myself back from digging you out, just to hold your perfect, tiny, potato-round body one more time. You were just here and now nothing — no money, no miracle — nothing can take us back to 1 week ago. In a world with so many exceptions and caveats, death feels otherworldly. A punishment from an alternate world. It’s been 1 week since you were sleeping in that little brown bed and I still thought we had 10,000 years left together. The innocuity of an empty bed is so deceiving; an empty bed is loss — loss of sleep, loss of love, and now, loss of life. I never once thought of how painful seeing your empty bed would be.

Now I too feel empty. Worse, I feel robbed. I didn’t know the last time I saw Simba would actually be the last time I saw him. I hate the world for taking someone so pure. What kind of place lets a life so gentle end? I don’t want to spend my grievous energy contemplating the circle of life and accepting our life’s limited time. I don’t want anything except my boy. My small, irreplaceable, fat-bellied, fire-bellied boy of 18 years. I want to tell him how much I appreciate him. How massive an impact this 9 pound being had on me, on my life. How sorry I am for all the times I walked past you without taking 60 seconds to give you affection, attention, even acknowledgement — how sorry I am for how human I am.

Thank you for being my friend, a tiny but fierce blockade against that penetrating sense of loneliness we humans are so sensitive to. I am no exception; without the comfort of knowing you are somewhere in this world at the same time as me, that fearsome loneliness creeps around me. I’d never felt your presence so heavily until I lost it forever. How selfish I was, to take for granted that greatest gift of companionship you gave to me, the loneliest of species. I hope you’re not alone. I’ll try to step away from my humanness just to live a little bit more in the way you taught me; I’ll try to be a better companion to the lonely humans around me, just the way you were to me.

You taught me so much. We shared the simplest, smallest joys that all mammals understand — stepping outdoors and breathing fresh air, skin warming under a mild sun; feeling safe and trusted, the only relationship I knew to have been effortless without language. I didn’t understand how valuable those daily 4 minutes we would both step barefoot onto the damp grass were. I was so impatient. I’m told I was the epitome of patience, of care, but even 1 minute of unappreciated time is too much to forgive now that all our time is gone. I can’t believe our time is gone.

Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for tolerating me. I’m a verbose person and you were of so few words. Just a few words in this world of endless talking and languages — “walk” and your name were the only words you needed. By the end you had no words left, no way to hear those words, relying solely on the bond of trust and care to communicate. I know I gave you everything because you trusted me and felt safe and cared for til the last sigh. It was so easy to give you everything because you never wanted anything more than loving care. It’s that purity, that genuine ego-less selflessness that breaks me apart now. Another lesson you taught throughout your whole life but one in which the student is destined never to surpass the master.

All I can do now is feel the acute guilt of a less than selfless existence, a bond marred by human frailty — the times I was annoyed, the times I was busy. I would apologize, but a dog has no need for this human invention; an apology isn’t love, love is love. So once again, even gone from my side you still teach me — guilt, mourning, apologies — they have no use for those without ego. The only language you understood was love. So I’ll try, though only having a fraction of the vigor your 9 pound body coursed with til the last second, to set aside my self-indulgent grief and give to others in your name the only thing you ever asked of me, compassion and a few moments of gentle, loving care.

Sleep peacefully, little man

The Introvert’s Travel Guide – for Travel Latina

I wrote about the way I’ve molded my personal travel routine to better fit my introverted personality; a major change that has improved my traveling experience immeasurably. Though, if I had to measure it, I could probably measure the reduction in stress plus the physical and emotional wearing down brought on by the typical hectic travel plans.

I also shared the new method for traveling I use that cuts down the cost of accommodations to nearly zero! Reject the cookie-cutter model of travel and learn more about tailoring your trips to fit your personality from my featured piece on Travel Latina.

Have you experienced travel burn out? In my article I argue that feeling worn down stems from planning our trips using a one-trip-fits-all mentality that ignores our personal needs. What are some ways you keep travel exhaustion from interfering with your travels? Let me know in the comments or on social media here and here!


*Looking for a travel story to read while you procrastinate? This one might almost make you feel slightly less guilty about that procrastination. Have an interest in personal growth and travel is just one tool in your self-development kit? This thought-experiment is all you