No Longer Was Our House...

Colonialism, the Puerto Rican Reality
-- Ivelissa Rodriguez

Yesterday, I stopped to think about what colonialism means to me. My mind raced back and forth, and without thought I felt tears. Tears to speak upon one hundred years of colonialism by the USA. Tears that reflected the oppression that invades my community on a daily schedule. Tears that repression has instilled in the young and the old. Tears that in one way or another have become my companion, because they are my past, my present and my future.

As a young girl, I watched my father try to fit into a system that he knew nothing about. I watched him day in and day out regress to violence to make his point. I watched my mother be dehumanized to the point that she couldn't remember my name. I watched my oldest brother become a man at the age of seven, with beer in hand and a palm ready to form the fist of fear and power. I watched my middle brother be told that he will never be a man. I watched my body float away from me to please his internal hate. As I remember my past as a young Puerto Rican woman in Chicago, making the status quo even through violent acts meant we were in "the land of the free."

Somehow oppression, suppression and repression were valid forms of life for the Puerto Ricans in the USA.

But my mother couldn't rest. One day I came home and everything was packed. Life was different, no longer was our house our enemy.

As bell hooks would say, my mother created a homeplace, a space of resistance. It is through my mother's oral stories that I learned my Puerto Rican history in which years later I become an activist in the Puerto Rican community. In which I learn that our past does not escape us. And though childhood memories creep up without warning, it is through the struggles of our own lives in which we are able to strengthen our growth and in turn, empower all those around us. In which I learn that no matter how many times you tell me I'm American, I know I'm Puerto Rican. It is where I validate my existence, and continue forward to struggle for the self-determination of Puerto Rico as well as the freeing of the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War.

Yesterday as I thought about what colonialism means to me, I realized that it means more to people like me. People of color without land to call their own, or land stolen from them. I realized that it is not a topic many Americans want to talk about. I realize that my mother died as a colonized woman. As I visit her grave, I play her songs, her dedication of poetry, and I realize that 57 years of her life was Puerto Rico and no American system could take away what was in her heart - the liberation of Puerto Rico and the end of the saga of the colonial situation.

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