Rematriate our Taino Art to our Ancestral Soil

I try to sign the petition but am distracted. The app has my location logged as Moca, USA. I refuse. Don’t want to go down on this list with that colonial location. How do I switch this to Puerto Rico, colonial name for its Taíno name of Boriké? But that too gets erased. I am reminded of times I look for this archipelago on drop-down menus on-line, trying to have something shipped, or applying to some opportunity. Trying to fill in where I live but it isn’t listed, like we don’t exist.  Like they said about the Taíno. Said about our indigenous ancestors. Those who knew the spiral forms of water and wind before the colonizers launched satellites to the skies to track juracán’s path. Those who knew the concentric circles of nighttime skies, not from scientific instruments but from spirit sight. 

Yesterday I sat with a friend to lunch here in Aguada. Behind where we sat was a jungle. Pristine stretch of flowers and palm. These undisturbed sanctuaries of land appear here and there near this coastline where they swear Columbus and his men entered. In 9 days, I swear a million horses will descend on Aguada in commemoration of their arrival.  Town that prides itself as the self-proclaimed site of the so-called discovery. Colonialism is a helluva drug inflicted on the minds of the colonized. Further up this coast, protestors, with sea turtles and whales as witnesses, brought the development of the Columbus Landing resort to a halt. Ancestral bloodlines pump sober, pump clear on whose lands these are, determined to protect their true purpose.

Today, 9 days away from this dreaded anniversary here in the shadow of a colossal Columbus statue that everyone rejected but this colony took, Christie’s plans to auction away the cemí creations of our archipelagic ancestors. For millions. I am reminded of the high school student in Aguadilla who asked lo que quiero saber es que tiene que ver lo Taíno con el arte, in protest of my Taíno art lessons. I came back the next day armed with images of ancestral pieces in colonizer museums across the US and Europe, asking that we pose the same question to them: what do the Taíno have to do with art? I let that student know that so much of our ancestral art was stolen to British collections, as were so many West African artworks. Youth with indigenous bloodlines question their validity, their ability to claim their work as art, while the colonizer steals our heritage and auctions it away for millions. Colonialism is a helluva drug.  

Visiting Santo Domingo years back as a student, El Faro de Colón stood tall for tourists with a poor barrio of tiny casitas stacked in its shadows. Their ancestral cemís sacked from their hands and soil to be sold today to make millions for a British auction house and the same French museum that displayed the genitalia of South African ancestor Sara Baartman.

Colonialism is a helluva drug on the frigid hearts of colonizers. Replaces the pumping flesh with gold coins also taken from our ancestral soil. Metal in the heart is not a thing of humans, but of robots. The robots charge our people for illegal colonial debts. Tax the youth, the schools, the teachers with punishing austerity and with repression, violence if they protest. Push us out of our homelands, buy up our homes and lands, construct on our beaches, then stamp our soil as: USA. The former colonies make their British colonizer proud. They’ve long surpassed their master.

The robots and their machines flatten the limestone mogotes throughout our lands. Collapse the caves where our behiques sat with arched backs ingesting cohoba to consult with cemís and spirits. Flatten the aquifers within, supposedly protected by colonial laws. But colonial laws never stand a chance before the colonizer, so these ancient rock structures, millions of years in the making, are deforested, flattened, collapsed to construct their shopping centers and gated communities.

And they wonder why the forests burn…  And they wonder why pandemics persists.

The other day my 9-year-old asked, “What’s a savage?”

“Where did u learn that word!?”

Savage was used by Europeans and white north Americans to describe anyone who didn’t look like them, dress or live like them, or believe like them. They dismissed them as being without civilization, but what’s more savage than pressing a knee to someone’s neck, suffocating them? What’s more savage than hanging people from trees? What’s more savage than flattening mountains for commerce?

Savage robots invade communities across the planet in a capitalist culture called colonialism.

We call for the rematriation of our ancestral artworks, and of our people’s minds, bodies, and spirits to our sacred ancestral lands!

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