Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Espinas de ceiba

Un día mi hermana me alumbró con un camino de velas blancas que serpenteaba de espina en espina por la ceiba de su patio. Otro día le pidió permiso al árbol para cortar una espina y colgármela de talismán en el cuello.

Y se hizo la luz.

Monday, May 09, 2016

In Praise of Water in the Desert

One of my favorite ritual celebrations in Planet New Mexico is coming up next Saturday, May 14: The Feast of San Ysidro and Santa María de la Cabeza!

Much of the footage in the video invitation below was taken from the 2012 celebration. Check for glimpses of my huge pregnant belly as my partner and I carry San Ysidro and his wine in a basket during the procession:

¡Que viva el Agua de la Vida!

Friday, April 15, 2016

My chapter on Mary Magdalene and Liberation Mythologies

My chapter "Mary Magdalene, Our Lady of Lexington: A Feminist Liberation Mythology" was just published in Janell Hobson's new book with SUNY Press. The book is titled Are All the Women Still White: Rethinking Race, Expanding Feminisms.


The chapter is my first attempt at integrating my academic writings on "liberation mythologies" with my work as a singer-songwriter plus some personal history.

It's scary. And it's exhilarating.

To top it off, the chapter is accompanied by two gorgeous paintings of Mary Magdalene by my magdalenic artistic-partner-in-crime Tanya Torres. This is one of them:

"Mary Magdalene of the Roses" by Tanya Torres
So this publication is one more thing we'll be celebrating at our Mary Magdalene Celebration next July 22 in El Barrio, NYC!

My chapter starts...

I was raised Evangelical in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Then I turned atheist as an adolescent. Later, I moved to New York City and, as an agnostic adult, became immersed in popular Afro-Caribbean spirituality: Puerto Rican espiritismo, Cuban santería and palo, Haitian Vodou, and Dominican vudú.

But something felt off to me. Eventually, I gave myself the freedom to meld what I enjoyed best about collective myths and worship with my most personal and individual poetic truths. That was when I identified Mary Magdalene as my favorite myth, as my guiding metaphor in connecting with The Everything—especially with myself. She became the key to making peace with all the roads I had walked. She became the protagonist of my most intimate liberation mythologies—those I have been crafting over the course of the last decade, song by song.

I welcome reactions, suggestions, thoughts... about the chapter specifically or about the topic in general. There's something about this "liberation mythologies" idea that is still calling me to it. I'm dreaming up directions where I might take it next.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Light that Saw You Being Born: towards a song

(Para la versión en español, pulsa aquí.)

Yesterday I finished reading After Birth by Elisa Albert. It touched me profoundly because it raises so many post-partum complexities... Ufff.

One thing (among many others) left me hooked. The protagonist is super strident about the very basic need of having company, support, loving witnesses, etc. before, during and after birth. I so agree. It's precisely because I was incredibly fortunate to have that (see here) that after giving birth I haven't been able to let go of the topic. So I've been timidly knocking on doors to see how I can put my skills as researcher and writer in service of efforts that aim to extend to as many mothers as possible that solid/loving point of departure to start the next phase of their lives.

So I'm happy to be conspiring towards that end with a fabulous group (New Mexico Birth Justice Coalition).

And meanwhile, I have a song wanting to flow. I still can't quite make it out. Here's a few notes so I don't forget.

I hear: "La luz que te vio nacer" (The Light that Saw You Being Born) which is the title of the photo that my sister Anabellie took of the sky on the morning I gave birth to our lovely one. (Do do do do do mib fa do). The melody is maybe a little too glum, but I'm thinking of Ana's jazziness.)

"The Light that Saw You Being Born" by Anabellie Rivera.

I also hear the melody she sang the baby every day, a few times a day, as she took him out to the New Mexican sun so that his jaundiced yellowness would subside: "El sol viene a ver a Nico. Nico viene a ver el sol." (The sun comes to see Nico. Nico comes to see the sun. Si mi sol# fa# fa# sol# mi si. Mi mi mi sol# fa# sol# mi.)

All those lines have eight syllables, so I could easily develop this song into a décima. The melody can be one of the two above. Or I can use the New Mexican décima melody.

Gracias, Yari, for asking if I'm writing songs, for reminding me that I write songs.

Gracias, Anabellie: for being.

Gracias, Fidel, porque sólo contigo esto es posible.

Gracias, Mami and Tanya for the strength, the love, the effort and the presence... during those days and always.

Gracias, Dusty, Jenn, Valerie and Diane, dear midwives.

La luz que te vio nacer: hacia una canción

(For the English version, click here.)

Ayer terminé de leer After Birth de Elisa Albert. Me tocó bien profundo. Recorre una de complejidades post-parto... Ufff.

Una cosa (entre muchas otras) me dejó enganchada. La protagonista es súper estridente sobre la basiquísima necesidad de tener compañía, apoyo, testigos amorosos, etc. antes, durante y después del parto. De acuerdísimo. Es precisamente porque lo tuve (ver aquí), es que después de parir no he podido soltar el tema y tímidamente he ido tocando puertas a ver cómo pongo mis destrezas de investigación y escritura al servicio de esfuerzos que buscan extenderle al mayor número de madres una base sólidamente amorosa para empezar el próximo tramo de sus vidas.

Estoy feliz de ser compinche de un grupo fabuloso (New Mexico Birth Justice Coalition) que conspiramos juntas hacia ese fin.

Y mientras, tengo una canción loca por fluir. Aunque todavía no la oigo bien. Aquí par de notas para no olvidarla.

Oigo: "La luz que te vio nacer" que es el título de la foto que mi hermana Anabellie le tomó al cielo la mañana que parí. (Do do do do do mib fa do). La melodía está quizás un poco lúgubre, pero es que pienso en el swing jazzero de mi Ana.)

"La luz que te vio nacer" de Anabellie Rivera.
También oigo la melodía que ella le cantaba al bebo todos los días, varias veces al día, mientras lo sacaba al sol nuevo mexicano para que perdiera lo amarillito: "El sol viene a ver a Nico. Nico viene a ver el sol." (Si mi sol# fa# fa# sol# mi si. Mi mi mi sol# fa# sol# mi.)

Me doy cuenta que todas esas líneas son octosílabas, así que fácil la canción fácilmente se puede desarrollar como una décima. La melodía puede ser alguna de las anteriores. O puedo usar esta melodía de décimas nuevo mexicanas.

Gracias, Yari, por preguntarme si sigo escribiendo canciones, es decir, gracias por recordarme que escribo canciones. Gracias por recordarme.

Gracias, Anabellie: por ser.

Gracias, Fidel, porque sólo contigo esto es posible.

Gracias, Mami y Tanya por la fuerza, el amor, el esfuerzo y la presencia... durante esos días y siempre.

Gracias, Dusty, Jenn, Valerie y Diane, queridas parteras.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

¡Día de Reyes! * Celebrating the Wise Men

Today, on the even of the "Epiphany," I'm celebrating the Three Wise Men... and most specially celebrating my dad, Papi El Gato, Papi the Cat, the Wise Cat (in the photos below, he's the impossibly handsome being with the white beard).

Papi El Gato—la guapura de barba blanca—en 2007 cuando viajó a Boston para el Día de Reyes con el Teatro Coribantes. (Fotos de Mariel Mejía Ortiz / El Nuevo Día)

¡Celebrando a Los Reyes! ¡Celebrando al Gato Rey!

Monday, December 07, 2015

My article in the Latin American Music Review's new issue

I'm very happy to share that my first article on New Mexico-based music themes is out in the new issue of Latin American Music Review/Revista de Música Latino Americana!

Tiny abstract: "This article is an exercise in 'archival ethnography': my aim is to explore and contextualize music collector and UNM professor John Donald Robb as one individual involved in a wider academic culture of musical and cultural preservation through archival collections." Click here for the full abstract.

 I'm grateful to the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute's Greenleaf Visiting Scholar program that got me started down this path... plus the enthusiastic support I later received from the Center for Southwest Research and the John D. Robb Trust.

 Below, I'm also sharing the lecture I gave at UNM in 2011, after only a month of research at UNM's Robb archives, while in the midst of trying to figure out where my research was heading:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Recapping... our 2015 Puerto Rico music tour

Our band Raquel Z. Rivera & Ojos de Sofía just spent an intense two weeks in Puerto Rico sharing our musical and educational project titled "Las Décimas del Amargue & Other Songs of Love" or, in Spanish, "Las décimas del amargue y otras canciones de amor."

The project is rooted in our love for exploring the connections and parallels between Puerto Rican and Dominican "folk" music genres such as música jíbara, bomba, bachata, boleros, palos, salves and gagá. It is also rooted in our desire to question and re-imagine those musical traditions. And it is also rooted in our commitment to strengthening Puerto Rican / Dominican solidarities in particular and Caribbean solidarities in general.

Our events were a huge success. Some of my favorite moments captured in photos:

Talk at Casa de Cultura Ruth Hernández (Rio Piedras) focused on Afro-Dominican folk genres, led by our band's Dominican contingent: Yasser Tejeda and Jonathan Troncoso. Photo by Carlos González.
Concert at La Respuesta (Santurce). Photo by Yannis Ruel.
More images from the concert at La Respuesta. Photos by Barbara Abadía-Rexach.
Dominican palos percussion workshop at the Centro de Fomento y Desarrollo de Arte Capoeira (Santurce). Photo by Luis Omar Pérez.
Talk at Museo Fuerte Conde de Mirasol (Vieques).
We owe a great part of our events' success to our local collaborators Proyecto Unión, Comuna Caribe, Centro de la Mujer Dominicana, Movimiento de Integración Dominicana y Caribeña, Casa de Cultura Ruth Hernández Torres, Centro de Fomento y Desarrollo de Arte Capoeira, Museo Fuerte Conde de Mirasol and La Respuesta. And to the financial support of the National Association of  Latino Arts and Cultures, the Ford Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation through a grant from the NALAC Fund for the Arts Grant Program.

We are pleased by the media coverage we received, particularly the articles published by Fundación Nacional Para la Cultura Popular and Diálogo, and the radio opportunities in Radio Vieques' "Tributo" and Radio Universidad's "Voz y Cultura".

On a personal note, I am particularly grateful to the editors of 80 Grados who invited me to write a manifesto of sorts that would contextualize the music and the educational events that we presented in Puerto Rico. The result is two articles that I am very happy about: "De un pájaro las dos patas: Borinquen y Quisqueya en el Caribe nuyorquino musical" and "De un pájaro las dos patas 2: las décimas del amargue y otras canciones de amor". If you are so inspired, read, comment, and enjoy.

Now we're off to record these "Décimas del Amargue & Other Songs of Love." Stay tuned!