“All the eggs a woman will every carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as en egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb, and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born, and this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.”–Layne Redmond, “When The Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm”
It’s usually not surprising when I tell people I am doing some soul-searching. I think, at this point, most people who know me are very well aware that I am someone who is always seeking. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have always been someone looking for my own version of true north. Whatever that really means. I have always felt like a piece of me has been missing. As far back as I can remember I have been looking for that missing piece, unable to place exactly what it was. Some might say that it’s clinical depression rearing its ugly head around, and others say it’s lack of contentment with who I am as a person. Maybe it’s both, maybe it’s neither. This post is going to be a little different. This post is going to get really personal. This post is really for me, but I am going to invite you to read it in the hopes that you will find fruit here.
I’ve always known my story as it exists in my own life. But there is so much I did not and have not known about myself and the people in my family who come before me. This is why identity has always been a weird topic for me. I’ve been doing a lot of healing. We’re not talking going for walks and doing yoga. We’re talking healing from an ancestral standpoint. We’re talking looking at the mother wound. We’re talking reconciling with a heritage I didn’t really know I had.
When I was little, I can remember asking my mother to tell me about her life and about her side of the family. My father’s side of the family was well known to me at this point, and celebrated. I can remember feeling sad that I didn’t know much about my mother or her family. She later went on to tell me that she felt a lot of shame about some of the things that have happened on her side of the family, “especially compared to your father’s family”. I couldn’t understand that. I do remember strange instances where my mother would be faced with family members she didn’t want me to know. One time, they came to our front door, and we were totally uncertain of how they had found us. She told them to leave. Again. I couldn’t understand that. This was family, how could this be her reaction? I found myself getting frustrated and eventually I accepted that I would never know this side of my family. I think somewhere in my childbrain, my mother turning her family away was her forsaking part of her heritage. So I did the same. I closed the chapter on my Puerto Rican heritage. I began to identify as white. Afterall, I was the lightest skinned person in my family, so it wouldn’t be too hard to do. Hell, most people don’t even believe me when I say I am Puerto Rican.
I live in a community made up of mostly Irish, Italian and German people. I still hear comments all the time from people saying “You sound so white”, or “oh! You’re Puerto Rican? THAT’S where you get those curves and those lips and that thick hair!”. I would get burned by the sun and be asked “Well, if you’re Puerto Rican, why do you burn so easily?”. I grew up hearing about how my sister looks Puerto Rican and I don’t. I never really felt like there was a place for me within my own heritage. I have the privilege of having light skin. My life has not been made more difficult because of my skin. And still, my leaves do not match my roots. And this has always been confusing. I think a large portion of me has always wished that I didn’t have to try to prove my Puerto Rican-ness to people. I felt compelled to tell people right away at times, as if to try to grab at some inkling of pride around it. I found myself relying on the label because I couldn’t back it up with any real experience, because I didn’t have any. So eventually, I gave up. I gave up trying to explain my heritage to people who would just laugh it off anyway. It became something I felt shame about. What I didn’t realize is that this shame, was passed to me by mother, and to her from her mother and it was never their fault.
Our mothers do not try to pass pain to us. But when trauma is unhealed for too long, it is passed down to the next generation. We don’t only inherit the gifts and the features of our ancestors. We inherit their pain, their sadness, shame, anger. THIS is how I define the mother wound. I do not adhere fully to the definition placed in the world in terms of absent mothers. My mother was and is anything but absent. But she has pain and hurt and trauma that she carries around. Some of it was planted there far before she was ever born. Our mother wounds are never our fault. They are not the fault of our mothers. They are not the fault of our ancestors. There is no fault. Only healing.
Growing up, I was always very connected to nature. I believed that everything in nature had a spirit. I found myself, over the course of time, cutting ties with the Catholic Church I had been raised in and placing my faith into the natural world. The water was forgiveness, the air was a life giver and a healer, the earth a provider. I still feel that way. This is a spirituality I can see. Cut forward and I could feel myself connected to physical movement, finding rhythm in every day things, singing whenever I could. I remember finding meaning in symbols and totems such as the snail, and the toad. Animals became guides. When I think of it now, I think a lot of my healing has happened because of this. I have returned to this. These are the ways of my ancestors.
My heart has been feeling full and I am going to tell you why. Recently I stumbled upon an opportunity to explore my ancestral connections and ties. I felt something calling me, and I felt a true need to know where the mother wound in my family originated. So I embarked on a journey (Shamanic to be precise) and was introduced to a few of my spirit guides. On this journey I found myself on an island, spinning in circles (little did I know, it was an Orisha dance that I was doing). I was introduced to Yemaya (look her up), who told me to call to her whenever I needed her. I was introduced to my ancestors.
I had always known that being Puerto Rican, there was likely Indigenous blood within my veins. But this made it real for me. I was told that my ancestors were Taino. They were forced into Spanish families and raped. They were forced into slavery and this continued until they became indentured servants. My ancestors were also forced to denounce their heritage and deny who they were so that they could survive. They were considered non-humans. They were not free. I can empathize now with the shame passed down to me through the women who came before me. They were taught to hate parts of themselves, and they complied for survival. If you’re wondering where colorism in the Puerto Rican community comes from this, is partially why. The self-hatred is a trauma response and it runs deep.
I am a storyteller through and through. I respond well to stories. I learn from them and find meaning in each one. Part of why that is, is because I am able to see how a character or person evolves from the beginning until the end. I believe that part of why I have had so much difficulty in my life with my identity and self-love was because I didn’t know where my story began. Without that knowledge, I could never know myself wholly. It is very difficult to place together a puzzle when the pieces are missing. I needed to know this so i can begin healing myself and the ancestors who came before me.
Here are somethings that have started to change since beginning the journey:
1. I feel closer to my mother.
2. My heart hurts way less, and I feel lighter.
3. I do not feel like I am missing something as often.
4. I feel like my depression has begun to lift.
5. I feel a quiet sense of deep deep contentment and gratitude.
6. I have begun exploring my own spirituality again, especially in relation to Yemaya and other Orishas.
7. I have slowly. I mean snail’s pace here. But very slowly started to make peace with some of the things about my body that I have always hated and considered not to be feminine.
8. I feel called to the water in big ways.
9. The heat is very slowly becoming more tolerable.
10. I have expanded my self-care practice to include doing research on the Taino people.
11. I have narrowed down my niche and stopped calling myself a life coach. I am a healer and guide. And I focus on the motherwound, and generational trauma within the Indigenous Latina community.
12. The shame is lifting.
13. I have been having dreams about my spirit guides.
After my journey I promptly began research. I spoke to my mother. I asked her about her life. This was the first time she was able to tell me things in as much detail as she could. I also began doing research on the Taino people as well as Afro-Caribbean religions, deities, orishas, zemis and culture. In all of this, here some things I have learned.
1. The Taino were very peaceful people. Taino literally translated to mean “good people”. They did not create armor. They would utilize bow and arrow to defend themselves from a nearby group of people called the Caribs, who were in fact cannibals.
2. Taino leaders were called caiques, and both men and women held the title.
3. Taino men and women lived separate. Women valued their independence very greatly.
4. Taino people ate mostly fish, and yuca. They relied on yuca so heavily that they had a zemi (modern world’s gods) named for the Yuca and he was on control of many of the crops and crop season.
5. Taino people were the first people Columbus came into contact with. It is believed that due to the disease and genocide brought on by the Spaniards and Portugese, that the Taino people were almost completely eradicated. In fact, many believed that the Taino were completely gone, and only recently a study completed revealed that many Puerto Rican folk still have indigenous Taino blood within their veins today.
6. Documentation of the Taino by the Spaniards was scarce. This is why it is so difficult to know much about the language they spoke, though it is known that they spoke Arawaken.
7. The Taino are Amerindians who originated in the Venezuelan Orinoco Valley.
8. The Taino were agriculturally advanced.
9. It was believed that at the time of Columbus’ introduction to the Taino, there were over 60,000 people spread across the tribes. By 1548, it is believed there were only 500 Taino left.
10. Music played a massive role in Taino culture and was used for celebrations, and ceremonies, cure illnesses, as well as to initiate growth of crops and rain. The Taino were a seafaring people, who built circular houses and slept on banana leaves.
11. They had zemis, and had three types of religious practice: thye would workship the zemi for protection/health/safety/abundant crop; dancing in the village during festivals; and medicine men consulting the zemi for advice and healing. Shells, paint and feather were utilized as part of the dress for such practices. They would eat sacred bread at these cermonies. Zemi were often symbolized by snakes, toads, snails, turtles, alligators and various other animals. They believed in an afterlife.
I have learned a lot more, but I will plop it in another post in the future.
This is likely not going to be the only post I write about this. But this is the first installment of me publicly claiming my heritage. I know where my seeds were planted now. My name is Gina. Short for Georgina. It means “earth worker”. The name of my great grandmother, the woman I was named after. She is starting to feel like less of a mystery to me, and I am grateful. (If you’re wondering, she is one of my spirit guides). I am many things. Strong, powerful, loving, fierce, fiery, peaceful, generous, ambitious, ready. My ancestors have carried me, and they empower me in ways I have never expected. I am an Indigenous Latina and the holes in my heart are finally starting to fill. I am headed in the direction of north and I will break the cycle of pain. I will become my “ancestors’ wildest dreams”. *
I will leave you with this today.
What do you need to know about your ancestors and the folks who have come before you so you can begin healing? What do you not know? How can you go about learning it ? What wounds have been passed down to you? How would you like to see this change?
Warmth and be well,
** I am not sure where the quote originated, but I believe it was Brandan Odums who said “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams”.
*** Please note: All of the above is the information as I have it now. This does not mean some of this isn’t subject to change over time as I learn new things.
*** Also please note: All of the above is not said in relation to the BLM movement. However, I would like to make it known, though I have not been asked, that I stand in support of and behind the BLM movement. I am currently doing research, spending time examining my own whiteness, donating and supporting black businesses. I am in the process of composing a long list of businesses to support if you are a creative, as well as podcasts and books. It is imperative that we change so generational trauma can heal and Black folk are allowed to claim space for themselves in the country they built. Please, I encourage to do your own research, examine your own whiteness and explore how the system has allowed you to be complicit in this centuries long injustice. I am by no means an expert, and I am always going to be learning. Here is an excellent resource to start: