Paradiso We stand together beneath the muffled rays of light A group of bare kneed students with wrinkled shirts and crumbled pamphlets Looking ‘round the Kingdom of Limestone Sweat runs down our backs, the humid air stagnant as we breathe collectively The smell of salt and ocean mist clinging to our skin We are the architects of this room, our future A plethora of decisions yet to come We hold the collective steps and potential pathways That will carve our Vizcaya in the coarse sands of time
Purgatorio The rallying cry of change calls for us An echo pounding against the white walls The chiseled figures sculpted by our ancestors Works of art Smooth marble Breaking apart by the sound of our pleas, the stomping of our feet Shake their foundation ‘Till they break
Inferno But the marble hid the steel inside Its structure, the decrepit beams which woke The ardent stares of those who came before us Their eyes digging a hole at the back of our necks. Their cry for change was good enough for them And everything that we do That I do Poses a threat to their lifestyle To their evening luncheons and art excursions To their carnival cruise ships and holiday trips to the north. The old men and women of yesteryear, Whose chant echoes how our future is in our shoulders but in turn slap our hands away When we ask for help. Their backs face us, draped with the cloths of their experiences. They wash their hands with our sweat.
Strokes of wet paint glides on a canvas Pigments from bone Colored hues whose origins were Dug from the roots of mangroves and wildlife They whisper Through layers of sediment and artifacts An identity which lies buried in the ground
The foundation of skeletal remains That braved to touch this land Mixed tongues and dialects communicate Through each twist of the wrist and flick of the hand Of the artist whose job is to mix Blood and oil To form a village of dreams
I have questioned my heritage before. As a child, I have held cardboard packaged lunches at a higher standard than my parent’s cooking. I have pretended my thick accent was an evil placed upon me by the universe. I have acted as if I didn’t know Spanish. I felt that I had to erase my heritage in order to fit the image that I saw everyday. In the television, movies. Everyday, an image that was not mine. So I tried to fit in. And everyone around me tried to do the same. Some were successful. They erased their roots.
But I did not succeed.
As I grew older, I started to appreciate my skin. My voice. The way my tongue can’t wrap itself around certain words. My sound. A memory of my past. Anything that connected me to the country that I can no longer relate to but that I still call home. Too many nights spent under a foreign sky that does not fully accept the color of my skin nor the sound of my voice but still takes my accomplishments and calls it their own. Because at the end, who do I belong to? To the country that I was born in or the one in which I was raised. If the years are now tipping towards the land that does not accept me, does that make me an outsider? If the years back in my land are dwindling, will I ever be able to go back? In both countries, I am considered a foreigner, an outsider. If I belong to none, who am I? And then it unfolds.
A blast of yellow, of red, of light. Jean-Michel Basquiat, who wrote in three languages to remind you he mastered more than one. Who painted black men to remind you he was one. Who rose above it all despite the odds. I see his art and I see hope. He painted his heritage onto a blank canvas. A theme that we are the same even though we are not treated as such. That this country belongs to us as much as the next person. And I could be over-analyzing into his work. But the fact remains. He was a black man who knew he was black and never pretended to be otherwise. In my eyes that is courage. In my eyes that is love.