celebrating her sofrito

November 6, 2011

every day i celebrate you. Mujer Latina!

i celebrate the Latina who matches her chancletas with her belt and her bandana.

i celebrate the taste of sofrito on
your lips. the sazon on your
fingertips. the maizena in your eyes.

i celebrate the yuca
roots of your soul.  the way you make
love in the kitchen and then serve it up in plates filled with ancestral
traditions that got me sucking the marrow outta’ that pollo guisao’ like it was my first home cooked meal after coming
back from a hunger war.

i love the anger in you. the coño carajo in you. the mira,
muchacha er’ diablo no me joda
, i’m pissed as hell right now, in you.

i love the diversity of you. the trigueñita, la negrita, la blanquita, la morenita. la gorda, la flaca
the one with the hips that were made to raise 13 muchachos.  i love the intellectual
you. the nerdy you. the quiet you. the loud you.  the silly you. the serious you. the office
you. the i don’t wanna’ do shit today but lay on the couch, eat platanitos, drink malta and watch novelas in
you.

i love and celebrate your voice. the one that sings while
you clean. the one that can say the perfect words whispered softly al oido.  and just as quickly, stick her head out the
window and yell, “mira condena, you didn’t
call me last night.”

i celebrate the 2.5 hours it takes you to get ready because Mami always said, “no salgas a la calle looking like una loca you never know who might find you.”

i celebrate the nurture in you. that tenderness wrapped in strength
that has been known to tumbar gobiernos,
to heal the bruised and fix the broken.

i celebrate the “tu
belleza,”
that simple sexiness you carry on your hips like an extension of
your heart pulsating to your very walk.

i celebrate your laughter. that contagious carcajada
that can be heard in the next barrio.
that smile that brings light to the darkest of places.

i celebrate la cultura
in you. the music, the food, the lessons you pass on, the love you pass up.
the way you dance with la escoba
while you clean. the way you find ways to keep the island traditions alive on
these palm-tree-less grounds.  the way
you can paint montañas outside the
window panes of cities.

i celebrate the guerrera
in you. the i ain’t giving up ‘cause my abuelita’s
abuela
didn’t and that blood runs through me. the i will not back down. i
will stand my ground. go ‘head and try and push me lest’ you be a pendeja and want to see the wrath of a
thousand generations unleashed on you like the female version of Tito Trinidad.

i celebrate you. the perfect balance of love, anger, and
tenderness.

Usted Mujer Latina… my strength and weakness within.  every thing i am and want.

cooking lesson

August 21, 2011

“jamas le niegues a alguien tres cosas:
un vaso de agua, un plato de comida,
el uso de un baño.”
-Doña Juana Rivera

in 1985.

my abuela juana was a Mother. to her eleven children, forty-six grandchildren and a little six-story tenement building that sat in the middle of a spanish harlem, new york city block in the 12 o’clock shadow of the taino towers.

218 e. 122nd street.

on sundays my abuela cooked. and when i say she cooked, i mean she had the cucharones banging on calderos, el horno encendio’ making music in that kitchen to the rythmn of my aunts chatter and chismes. while the men played domino talking pelota y lo’ yankis o los mets… and the kids ran up and down las escaleras.

sunday was another way of saying family. if we weren’t at randall’s island, we were at abuela’s or at Titi Isabel’s. but cooking was happening. and so was eating. and Love.

when it was time to eat… my grandma would lead us in prayer and she would always say something along the “… y que aquellos que no tienen de comer, encuentren el camino a mi cocina.” (…and may those who do not have a meal, find their way to my kitchen).

cooking lesson 101: we are responsible for each other (blood related or not).

this is something that has always stayed with us… as the cousins have all grown older, we always tell each other, “stop by there’s always a plate for one more.” and we remember abuela. it was never a lesson that we were taught in the sense of sitting us down to tell us… it was just a natural way of nurturing.

between the pernil, el pollo, arroz con gandules, ensalada de papa, y escabeche de mollejitas we realized we had enough to fill our bellies and our hearts and those around us.

…you’d always see a few of us bringing somebody else. “this is my amiga from school…” you didn’t even have to finish saying her name, who she was related to, how she got here… when she was already being handed a plate. and then someone shouting, “quien falta de comer?”

abuela fed more than just our bellies. she fed our hearts with a sense of responsibility that lives in each of us eighteen years after her physical body left us. but her presence is still present in our meals.

feeding the collective familia is not just culture… it’s a commandment. food is just food if it has no nourishment that goes beyond the one it provides the physical body.  if you cannot feed the soul, don’t even bother to cook.

on sundays and every day… may i always feed souls.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

writer’s note: a special thanks to Marvin Bings and Antonio Robles for inspiring my sunday muse.