Saturday, July 09, 2016

songs for the Magdalene, NYC 7/22

Happiness! Ojos de Sofía and I will be playing Las 7 salves de La Magdalena / 7 Songs of Praise for The Magdalene at the Mary Magdalene Celebration in East Harlem, NYC, July 22, 2016.

Aside from my longtime artistic collaborator, Tanya Torres, artists from many other disciplines will be joining us to pay homage (in Tanya's gorgeous words) to "Our Lady of Lexington, Patroness of all faithful creative ones who don't believe in anything, but believe in the redeeming quality of the creative act."

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Debunking Teen Pregnancy Myths

Co-writing the policy report "Dismantling Teen Pregnancy Prevention" with Young Women United (YWU) has been one of the most satisfying writing experiences of my life.

In the course of writing the report, YWU introduced me to a new way of thinking about young parenting and adolescent pregnancy, and blew my mind by breaking down the myths upon which teen pregnancy prevention campaigns are founded.

Below, in a visual nutshell, the myths, accompanied by the facts. 

I hope this all blows your mind too.

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!