By “rematriation” I mean “to restore a living culture to its rightful place on Mother Earth,” or “to restore a people to a spiritual way of life, in sacred relationship with their ancestral lands, without external interference.” As a concept, rematriation acknowledges that our ancestors lived in spiritual relationship with our lands for thousands of years, and that we have a sacred duty to maintain that relationship for the benefit of our future generations.
Steven Newcomb

If repatriation is a return to the fatherland, rematriation is:
-A return to the motherland
-A return to the ancestral womb
-Keeping our ancestral traditions
-Cultivating and increasing our capacity to love and be loved, a process disrupted by conquest
-Restoring our liberation

Arriving in my ancestral homeland in 2014, I referred to my journey as repatriation, even though I had always described this land as mother. The Back-to-Africa and Rastafari Movements, the teachings of Marcus Garvey planted the seed in me. The continued US empire holding colonies across reservations, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean and Pacific islands requires re-evaluation and action of our decolonial struggle today. The term repatriation has also been co-opted by the US to describe its own colonial/ racist/ patriarchal plans. In particular, what comes to mind is Herbert Hoover’s mass deportation of a million Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Chicanxs, calling it “repatriation”.

An article published in spring 2019 by New African Magazine speaks to the Back-to-Africa movement gaining momentum.  It highlights: “The 2000 Immigration Act provides diaspora Africans with a Right of Abode status, which means they have an indefinite right to live and work in the country permanently, without facing the need for visas or any other restrictions. Additionally, the 2000 Citizenship Act allows diaspora Africans to apply for Ghanaian citizenship.”  As a continued colony of the United States, and especially with a colonial junta ruling, Puerto Rico does not control its own laws nor have its own citizenship to provide incentives for its own Diaspora. Nor does the local government demonstrate any interest in luring and incentivizing Puerto Ricans returning to Puerto Rico. Paradoxically, it does provide incentives and tax-breaks to wealthy North Americans setting up shop here. Despite the fact that the infamous “exodus” out of Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria actually began back with the fiscal crisis of 2008, there are no local government incentives to retain Puerto Rico’s population, nor are there efforts to incentivize the return of its residents who have left or returning children of the Diaspora. If you ask a Diasporican of their interest to live here, most will respond that it is not a viable option financially. Puerto Rico is a fabulous place to visit, but as a place to live it seems to be more attractive to non-Puerto Ricans than to Puerto Ricans themselves. We see the fulfilling of Pedro Albizu Campos’ prophecy of the US wanting the cage but not the bird. Many birds have flown the coop, to the colonizer oddly enough.

Rematriation is a term used among Indigenous people of Turtle Island. With repatriation also speaking to the return of Indigenous ancestral remains and sacred objects stolen by settlers and colonizer from their original homes, the term “rematriation” speaks to rejecting the continued conquest of lands and legacies, a return to mother earth and the sacred ways of the ancestors. Among various initiatives are the Rematriate Collective, Indigenous women opposed to the appropriation of their cultural identities, and Rematriation Magazine.

Rematriating Borikén is inspired by my own journey back to Borikén, a life’s journey of rejecting the continued colonization of our people and the conquest of our lands and resources. A journey to reclaim our ancestral knowledge lost to centuries of colonial miseducation and imposed religions. Rematriation ultimately is a claiming of our own spirits’ and our collective liberation journeys.

Atabex Karaya
“Atabex Karaya”, 2014, Yasmin Hernandez Art,

Rematriation also summons the water element of our ancestors as connected to life, fertility and the divine feminine. Our Indigenous ancestors were navigators of the seas and islands as well as our African ancestors, most of which were forced to cross the ocean to arrive in these conquered lands. Rematriation is seeking healing in the salt and sweet water wombs of Atabey, of Yemaya and Oshun. It is crossing water to return to the womb of the motherland and/ or returning to our own wombs, seat of our emotions, where we work our deepest healing.

Rematriation, like liberation, is spirit work mostly that we develop within, no matter where we find ourselves standing. My rematriation journey began years ago as a teenager in Brooklyn healing from self-loath by searching for and immersing myself in the suppressed histories of my people. The journey brought me all the way here to Borikén where all crystalized and still unfolds, reveals itself. Writing on this, painting on this, living this and sharing it is my purpose.  It is part of my own liberation practice to unlearn all that colonialism stamped into my body and brain since birth.  I do so at the service of my own spirit and of these (is)lands, the collective mother who reminds us of our legacy of greatness.


The return to the motherland is the return to the womb
We reenter to be re-nurtured and cleansed from the trauma of conquest
More than a political mission
What repatriation was and then some
Returning to save ourselves from the imposed invisibility of colonialism
Returning to get back pieces left behind by our parents
Our grandparents and great grandparents
Taking on the work that the colonial government has yet to do
Recruiting more of her children, retaining more of her children
Rebuilding a nation experimented, sterilized, depopulated
Reversing the migration
Journeying back with our babies
Birthing to overturn genocide
Reclaiming our ancestral connection and bloodline
To these lands that colonialism, miseducation
Imposed patriarchal, white supremacist religions severed us from
It is remembering our collective umbilical cords of the same placenta
The healing of our dismembered selves
It is honoring the motherland as sacred and wise
versus ever-violated, raped, helpless and colonized
It is recognizing that the violated, raped, colonized are our own selves
Rendered helpless so long as we fail to see the greatness of these lands
the greatness in ourselves
It is what happens when every cell in your system
Rejects the rules of the colonizer
When persisting in their spaces,
Building their institutions and playing by their rules
brings sickness to your organism
When under the weight of illness deep in your spirit
you flee as a different refugee
To the womb that birthed your ancestors
It is knowing that there in that womb
lie the mysteries and keys to survival and thrival
Because despite conquest and genocide
you still stand here bearing witness

It is the emptiness we have always felt
Disconnected from our source
Floating from one space and strategy of self-harm to another
To numb the pain of not knowing our whole selves
We courageously return to our source
Even though they told us we won’t survive here
Even though they told us we are not wanted here
Even though the systems in place are designed to kick us out, keep us out
They told us we couldn’t sustain ourselves here
But the land fed us
They told us we couldn’t work here
But the jobs we were taught to search for were set to the colonizer’s standards
They told us we were crazy
But we only feel crazy when we follow rules never meant to see us win
So we had to throw it all away and begin again

From the womb we take new lessons
Which are actually ancient, ancestral visions
We reapply them to today’s reality
Craft new rules, new definitions
Around what sustainability means for our own selves
Work and wage informed by passion and purpose
Not serving the oppressive system
Success measured not by assets and possessions
But the presence or absence of hurt in our hearts
It is what guides us
We return to the womb physically and/ or spiritually
Embodying the ways of the mother within
Even if we must exist without for the time being
We honor that as spirits we pulse to the energy of her rhythm
Radiate in her love light
No matter where the mission has called us to be
We be cosmic boricuas
Earth people, spirit people
Too expansive for colonialism to contain

-Yasmín Hernández Quirindongo
Moca, Puerto Rico
June 26, 2019 (5 years rematriated)