Browsing Category

My Work

The Denial of Death

What if you were deceiving yourself about the reasons why you get up for work every day like time is a guarantee? Why do you spend time with friends or care for house plants or read books or buy new clothes or vote or even care about politics at all? Why do you set goals and strive and set more goals and strive more? Stir gently and bring the existential angst to a boil over medium-high heat.

To do nothing, to lay in a field of spring grass, goal-less, possessionless, without relationships or career to tangle ourselves with, it’s tempting to imagine a hippie paradise where our repressed but natural animal state floods out of us and harmonizes us with our world. This scenario is just that though — imagination. The substance that gushes out of us in stark freedom is our natural existential anxiety; we would sit in that flowered field with no callings to entwine us and remember how painfully mortal we are — the fear of death would pour into every empty space.

All of society, all commerce, all governments, all our pursuits and connections are nothing but extravagant distractions to keep us out of that empty field where we are freed to find our own death. Society is one massive coping mechanism; it is the biggest Google Doc by which we collaborate to deny the reality of impending death. This concept is argued by Ernest Becker in his book, The Denial of Death. These orchestrations of society and our individual efforts — politics, commerce, careers, even religion — are all immortality projects. These projects do exactly what it sounds like — allow us to soften the pain of mortality by wrapping ourselves in the reassurance of seemingly immortal things that will last beyond our ever-decaying bodies like art, religious belief, or a good reputation.

Continue Reading…

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

I never felt tied to my identity in any meaningful way. Cuban culture was 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 cubicle homes, barely able to contain their inhabitants as they lingered around door frames, as if waiting for news that never comes. The hot sun that you were told to hide from lest you grow too dark. The dust of a country put on hold for decades that settles on streets, feet, and sidewalks.

Through shared memories I spent 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 — 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 too common to revel in. 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.

Continue Reading…