It takes courage to make space for grief, to allow yourself to feel that loss, to talk about the difficulties it brings and to make it part of the creative process. Emphasizing the catholic experience of a Novena, Edrimael Delgado Reyes shares with us nine ways in which to process loss. In this article we accompany Edrimael in the process of grieving. Grieving the loss of a loved one, grieving for the circumstances of a country and mourning for the lack of safe spaces in which to embody diverse identities. Is a personal reflection that opens a space to think and feel our own losses and our own griefs.
—Nicole Soto Rodríguez, CC Co-editor
I don’t quite remember the age at which I internalized that Puerto Rico wasn’t an independent country. Ever since I had the notion of recognizing flags, during political caravans I questioned why the Puerto Rican flag was next to the United States flag. Back then I didn’t know what the word “colony” meant. But that gesture of pairing up the flags made me understand, from a young age, that my country was being accompanied; or should I say miss accompanied.
Photo provided by artist
[ID: The Puerto Rican flag flies next to the United States flag, against a gray background.]
Uncle Carli was a policeman; he’s also been the only policeman I’ve ever hugged in my life. He had altars on his bedroom walls of trophies and medals that my cousin would win at volleyball tournaments. Uncle Carli was the one who showed me how to play PlayStation when I would visit grandma in Cataño and was also the first person from whom I saw a regulation weapon. Uncle Carli was a man very much loved by everyone: by his family, by his coworkers, by his neighborhood friends. That’s why when he died in October of 2004, in that fatal accident while he was fulfilling his duties, my grandma cried with a fatal anguish.
That has been the only time I’ve seen my grandma cry like that. Since his death, an altar lives in her living room with a huge picture of my uncle in uniform that receives you into the house with a profound and intense stare. The same stare that my mother has. The same one that every Reyes Rivera has. After years of mourning, where my grandparents extended the nine-day period of mourning as an excuse to keep on praying on the date of his death, in May of 2018; the now ex-mayor of Cataño, Félix Delgado Montalvo designated the municipality’s police station with my uncle’s name, Sargent Carlos Reyes Rivera, and with that, they finished ascending him into the sky.
Photo provided by artist
[ID: A man with a buzzcut looks directly into the camera. Just his head and shoulders are visible.]
LaBoriVogue is a project that has the intention of promoting the homosexual agenda and the homosexual agenda consists of liberating Puerto Rico. The only way to liberate Puerto Rico is through the homosexual agenda. The first order of business in the agenda will be to kill all the gringo investors and atop of their bodies build a catwalk where Estefanía Rivera will strut dressed up as Lolita Lebrón.
That will be the new republic’s opening performance.
Photo by SUPAKID
[ID: Wearing a pink skirt, a performer holds up a handwritten sign, that reads: ‘VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE’]
My approaches towards dance from a young age, except for the Puerto Rican nights and the times where I imitated Michael Jackson, were full of much embarrassment. The girls in my class laughed at the way I moved, the rest of the boys didn’t even participate, my dad would constantly tell me not to move a certain way. I remember the times where I actively tried to hide from my movements that I was the gay boy in the group. I never found out if it worked.
The day we did the Navidá Kiki Ball (at Cataño’s Bay View abandoned court) the neighbors, alarmed at seeing the rainbow flag on the fence, called the police station that bore my uncle’s name on multiple occasions claiming that the music was too loud. More people than we expected arrived, much jayaera was felt in the air and there were people that had never visited Cataño in their lives.
We had barely started when, during the FACE category, I saw the police car lights approaching. I knew that I would have to face the agent that told me, while he held the regulation weapon as if it were his balls; “… you need a permit from the Municipal Police for the use of the court”. I asked if the boys would ask for the permit of use on a daily basis every time they wanted to play basketball.
LaBoriVogue is a place in Puerto Rico’s cuir people’s imaginary collective. It takes life when the LGBTQ+ community joins to celebrate in jayaera and love, acquires power when the same community turns it into ritual and repeats it time and time again. Responds to the lack of artistic space where people can feel free to create, experiment and have fun. With a lack of spaces where alcohol and drugs aren’t privileged, and all toxic forms of passing the time that make us think are normal and freeing, but in the end drain us, disconnect us, and destroy us,
Responds to the desire to dance in community.
Responds to the desire to educate to liberate.
Responds to the call of the institution of creativity.
LaBoriVogue is a trans-faggot manifesto against colonialism.
Reclaims human dignity through movement.
Reclaims the beauty to those of us whose beauty has been denied.
Reclaims the power to those of us whose power has been denied.
Reclaims the sense of belonging to the world, and to those who have been destined to die,
Photo by Sebastián Ortíz Menchaca
[ID: Two people wearing neon orange, white, and colorful makeup hug warmly. The background is black.]
¡Oh, my Jesus, forgive us our sins.
Save us from the fires of Hell.
And lead all souls to Heaven,
especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.
Now every time I walk into my grandma’s house after what happened at the court, I stare at the altar and look at my uncle with skepticism. As Audre Lorde says, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. But which have been the master’s tools? To annihilate us?
Now I understand the reason why God made me voguer instead of police.
Photo provided by artist
[ID: A screenshot of a news article in Spanish, displayed on a phone screen. The title reads 'Cuartel municipal de Cataño lleva nombre de policía fallecido en cumplimiento del deber']
I don’t like the word resistance
To resist is like to keep on insisting on weariness.
It is to resign before circumstances.
To free, for the opposite,
It is to send it all to Hell,
To break away,
To get rid of,
To burn the sky if needed,
That’s why I prefer freedom.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
And I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your soul
For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
-Come to me, Notes from Christ
When I was 19, mom took me to a catholic retreat at a mountain in Toa Alta, where I voluntarily decided to give up my homosexuality to the Lord. A week after I gave it up, I was already dressed in drag for a commercial, asking myself where I had gotten myself into, conflicting with the Lord, thinking about how hard it would be to leave behind my way of being. That being said, the years have taught me the importance of giving up to Christ all that embarrassment that didn’t belong to me anymore. Giving it up was the best thing that happened to my walk. I tell you, strutting down the catwalk with lightness and fullness is all in the spirit of walking. To further prove the mysterious paths of the Lord, having stopped hiding from myself and deciding to give in, let go, leave be, is what led me to find my own ministry; and what beautiful ministry is LaBoriVogue!
Photo by Melanie Escobar
[ID: Two performers gaze pensively downward. They move within the graffitied frame of a building.]