The vast expanse of charco that separates you from your loved ones dissipates in the glow of parranda lights. They serpentine through las carreteras del valle del pueblo de Moca and up this hill. The sound of sadness is swallowed by sirens that guide aguinaldo asaltos blaring music and song from barrio to barrio. Your winter-born and bred body finds solace in cold christmas winds that blow past this valley, that send your mantel flying off the table and sends papaya and pana leaves spinning across the sky. Memories of Brooklyn perniles and pasteles are soothed by vecino deliveries of cocos, arroz con dulce y pasteles. Your friends came bearing finca-fresh vianda pulled from the earth, ñame y yautia lila; platanos; guineos verdes; whole wheat and walnut bread baked fresh; a brown bag over flowing with mandarinas picked off a tree; un pastelón and trinkets for your family. Your house looks like a tambor or fiesta santera happened up in here, especially after a parranda greeted our guests and santa handed your boys gifts and more bags of candy than you could hold. Candy for Eshu, coco y guineos verde for Ogun, ñame for Orunmila. You also found a cigarette left behind for your madama whose altar you adorned with oregano brujo and the pink papery petals of a trinitaria. Agradecida. Bendecida.
You forget how isolated you feel here. You forget that you are in this corner of this island far from family. Night falls y los Tres Reyes line up in sparkly formation rising to the east. Venus shines like the star of Bethlehem over the setting sun to the west. The sky is blacker, the stars more plentiful. You forget the lumps you took. You eat more than is physically necessary. If you can’t have your family close, you will at least have the food you enjoyed together. You add bolitas de plantano to your sancocho, oregano brujo del patio. The rainbows rise from the valley daily. The skies grow bluer. You simultaneously crave and forget what you left behind.
You admire the Pepiniano panorama of peaks across the southern sky of San Sebastian. Your boys roll down the hill before you, covered in grass and dusting off ants. You take it all in, setting sun and the majestic rays it shoots out all ways. You take it all in for Oscar Lopez Rivera himself, born in this very pueblo. You send a vibratory picture of light from your eyes to his mind. You don’t forget the countdown to el día de los reyes, his birthday. You don’t forget this colony at the axis of Baby Jesus, the misinterpretation of his teachings and, like him, the imprisonment and assassination of its revolutionaries. You smile and enjoy the crowds celebrating, eating, laughing and singing. You marvel in the freedom of their joy, in the temporary self-medication of our reality. You forget the pains and struggles of all your sacrifices for a moment, but you never ever forget those who sacrificed. You honor las madres, las abuelas y lxs patriotxs.
You feel bad about your awkwardness here, about your inability to conform, your incessant sensitivity to all that is unjust. You ask los reyes to follow a star that shines above Oscar’s cell, because how else would one survive 35 years in prison while keeping their spirit and convictions intact. There must be a sacred light guiding that process. You ask these white, black and brown reyes, each representing a branch of your lineage, to open the locks and free them all.
Glorious is the word that crosses your mind each time you stand on this terraza, feet firmly planted so the wind won’t knock you over. Grounded too. You watch that guaraguao floating in place, riding the breeze. You listen to the rustle of palmas. You watch 7 colors radiate from the humid earth and a rainbow unfurls before you. You listen to the old school hip hop and R&B of your childhood streaming in from a Philly station. You look out at the land, follow the hills that roll out to the sea. You take in the beauty of this place and its people because they fuel your drive and purpose. Your holiday wish is to have the necessary strength for all the liberating left to be done.