Keep Coming Back was the theme of a memory that I found on Facebook today. Today makes nine years since we moved from New York City to Borikén. There aren’t many photos in our possession, if any, of those last days or our first here, so I looked through my memories. To my surprise I found the following posted under this photo of me.
“Taking it all in at Sombé, Vieques during the 10th anniversary of the cease bombings on Vieques. As I just explained to my dear Samuel Sanchez Colón: “It was a transformative experience. 7 is the magic number, 7 trips to Vieques in 7 years and suddenly everything finally made sense. We think we can experience something in a hit-and-run-mentality but life and spirit requires that, like my brother used to say, you gotta “keep coming back.” Solo en ese proceso de un entrego completo, humbling yourself, stripping yourself down and opening yourself up can you receive what the universe decides you are to receive. That was that trip for me. I am humbled and blessed. I will keep coming back.”
This post was dated May 15, 2013, exactly ten years ago today. What I was interpreting at the time as keep coming back, would, exactly one year later, become a “coming back” for good. One year to the day after having posted this photo, this reflection, we boarded a plane, nervous and sleep-deprived from having packed all our belongings, or left some behind, to do the do and make this move. Within days of posting this photo, I was scheming on ways to “come back.” Even suggested we get a place on Vieques that would allow us to travel there several times a year. We had no means to do that. That was me dreaming, but I did know I was to keep returning. Perhaps I was still keeping my secret of having already made a pact with the sea, that walking up that same shore of Sombé I vowed to only return with a one-way ticket. Within weeks and certainly within months, New York City began to close in on us, squeezing us out till the move became inevitable.
Today, I am learning to call the move, the move. Today, I know that my rematriation began long before that one-way plane ride nine years ago today. It began long before that fateful day on Sombé or Sun Bay. I had long been returning, not even on a plane, but in my own body, my spirit, my day-to-day practice. I have been here nine years, but I have been Rematriating my whole life. From my Brooklyn birth to my move to Borikén. From my conflict with all things, my inability to fit anywhere over there. Hell, even for my inability to fit here. I have always been working to align to some ancestral dimension of another time. A dimension I knew myself to have previously inhabited sitting in a kayak at the mouth of Vieques’ bioluminescent bay, gazing into a cave the sea had carved into some rocks, staring at the open waters of the Caribbean to one side, mangroves to another. I knew I had been there before even though this body was there for the first time. But to remember that our people are archipelagic, I was brought to the opposite corner of this archipelago, never allowed to speak of singular islands.
If seven is a magic number, so is nine. So many things have opened, aligned on this day, like mercury stationing direct from a retrograde, like all falling into place around my Rematriation project. There is so much more to come. Nine is the number of the stillness in this womb. I used to think I would land here reborn, but my nine months gestation in the womb of Borikén became nine whole years. I have cried long years, llantos mine and not mine, cries of generational traumas dragged up from the depths of the abyss. Brought up to the surface by my need to look back, come back, revise. I’m never satisfied until things can be resurrected, transformed, healed, liberated. But this nine is a whole new hurricane of change. I have a feeling I’m about to take my first real breath on this archipelago.
Brooklyn-born and raised, Yasmín Hernández is a visual artist, writer, activist based in el oeste de Borikén in the archipelago known as Puerto Rico. Her work is rooted in rematriation and liberation practices. Rematriating Borikén is her project lifting the conceptual and physical return to her ancestral homeland. CucubaNación in Mayagüez is Yasmin’s art and community space inspired by Boricua bioluminescence. She shares her art at yasminhernandezart.com and chronicles the journey home at rematriatingboriken.com .
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