does not describe me fully
it is where to start
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Mi Lamento Borincano or My Puerto Rican Lament
If you have followed the thread of my posts, you know that one of my novels is about a Puerto Rican Pentecostal family which immigrates to the U.S in the 1950s. The protagonist, Angélica, grows up to live a dual existence between her American secular life and her Puerto Rican evangelical life. Though my writing benefitted greatly from my similar background, the novel is not autobiographical. Instead it is a tale told in the spirit of Gabriel García Márquez [“Macondo is not so much as place as it is a state of mind.”].
This is not to say that writing this novel was not an emotional journey for me, particularly so when doing research about 1940s rural Puerto Rico, the staging ground for both my family and Angélica’s. When I write, I often play background music appropriate to the time period or setting. For 1940s rural Puerto Rico, there was no question which song I would choose to inspire me. No matter how often I hear the classic "Lamento Borincano" by the famous Puerto Rican composer of popular songs Rafael Hernández Marín, its opening chords carry me back to a way of life I often heard about as a child, but never knew first hand. It captures the longing I saw in my parents’ eyes for the homeland they left behind. Here is Marc Anthony singing background for images of Puerto Rico in the 1940s.
When I wanted a change, I would shift over to "Preciosa," another famous song by Rafael Hernández Marín; here, too, sung by Marc Anthony, this time at Madison Square Garden.
The longing captured in these songs makes me wonder whether it gets imbedded, even generations removed, in the DNA of those exiled from any homeland, whether it be Africa, Europe or Puerto Rico.
My writing frequently explores multicultural themes. Born in Puerto Rico, I moved at a young age to the U.S., where my parents became Pentecostal ministers. Early immersion in Latino and religious cultures preceded later experiences as a businesswoman, a White House Fellow, and life aboard a trawler cruising from Martha’s Vineyard to South America. These sometimes incompatible worlds have given me a respectful outlook toward differing points of view. My short stories, poems, and essays reflect my own inclusive, yet sharply defined, journey across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. I recently published Peace on the Journey, a poetry collection which explores the theme of renewal in the face of adversity.
The defining image of this blog is a waterfall. Its inspiration comes from a scene in one of my novels in which the infant protagonist escapes her mother’s attention and wanders off to a nearby waterfall. While there, she experiences a mysterious sense of wellbeing, which she yearns to replicate for the rest of her life.
"I have made love to my writing and am now in the afterglow."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession... Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
About his fictional town Macondo, widely acknowledged to be inspired by his real home town of Aracataca, Colombia. “Macondo is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear."
"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly... to keep the channel open."