[Photo: William Millán]
El Sol Brillante
The view of a transplanted dream from a 12th Street tenement window in Loisaida (the Island of Manhattan)
A Brief Look At
(or Los Buenos in Arawak)
(by William Millán)
The Taíno Indians of Boriquén (which means land of the brave and noble lord) were expert agriculturalists and hunters who were also recognized for their mastery in canoe making and sailing. According to Bartolome de las Casas, they were a passive group of people who received the arrival of the Spanish in a very docile manner.
The Taínos lived in villages scattered around the island which they referred to as yucayeques. Each yucayeque had its own tribal leader/chief called the cacique. At around the time of Christopher Columbus' arrival in 1493, the most powerful cacique on the island was said to be the great Agüeybaná I who was the chief of the yucayeque known as Guanía. Other caciques during that same period included Caguax of Turabo (now Caguas), Guarionex of Magua and Aymamón of Aymaco (Aguada).
The Taíno culture maintained a class system that was divided into three distinct levels: the caciques (or top officials), the nitaínos (high class) and the naborias (lower working class). The top officials were thought to be able to communicate with the supernatural deities such as Yocahu (the supreme maker) and Juracán (the god of the destructive winds) through ceremonies and the inhalation of smoke. The caciques also presided over fertility right competitions that took the form of ceremonial ballgames.
Due to the geographic location of the island, the Taínos' primary mode of transportation was the canoe (which they made out of hollowed tree trunks). They were known to commonly island hop and inevitably left cultural traces throughout the islands of Hispaniola, St. Croax, Cuba and the Middle Caicos Island. In the island of Boriquén, the Taínos lived in sparsely furnished straw huts known as bohíos. Their furnishings usually consisted of slung hammocks for bedding (made of woven cotton - hamaca) and small stool-like chairs called dujos. The dujos were constructed of either wood or stone and were usually elevated up from the ground on four short legs.
The Taíno diet mainly consisted of fish, vegetables and fruit. They cultivated crops such as yucca, pineapple, corn, sweet potato and prepared cassava bread for consumption. Eating utensils included spoons and bowls (ditas) made out of the higüera plant. Fruitful harvest periods were traditionally celebrated by the cacique who would invite neighboring yucayeque members to participate in tribal feasts called areytos which were usually held in their central plazas (or bateys). During these areytos, the participants would celebrate the season's good fortunes through the sharing of food, song and dance. The typical instruments used at such celebrations would included the güiro, maracas and hand drums (also made out of hollowed wood).
As a social group, the Taínos believed in life after death and would bury their caciques along with their treasured belongings as well as common everyday utensils (i.e., ditas, dujos, etc.). They believed that this type of burial would facilitate a comfortable after-life for the deceased. Additionally, they commemorated their lost ancestors by carving out amulets known as cemís which they believed brought the cacique's survivors spiritual protection.
I'm part Mexican - born to puro Boricua parents &
A native New Yorker by birthright.
I observe Irish and Jewish tradition
Instilled in me throughout my formal education.
I have Polish and Italian thoughts
That are mixed with bits of both African and Chinese wisdom.
I was raised on "B" movies that glorified the Mexican silver screen heroes
Who were the refined contemporaries of the Gene Autreys, Roy Rogers and the Cartwrights.
I found the path to my cultural roots
Through the glimmering sounds of electrically soulful Santana riffs...
They ushered in my discovery of TP
Who bridged the gaps to Nieves, Maso and Ladislao.
Through Earth, Wind & Fire - I stumbled upon Cortijo
And experienced Sly...transforming stone into Ramito.
It was the Lone Ranger's friend - Tonto
Who stirred an interest and cleared the path for my investigations into Geronimo...
That led me to the discovery of my birth connection to the Manhattes
And my blood ties to the Taíno.
So who am I?
"I am he, as you are he, as you are me and we are all together" - said the visionary bug.
'cause...I am thee.
Los Refranes que decía abuelita...
~Recordar es vivir~
~Ni pa'lla voy a mirar~
~La música es cultura~
~Lo facil se pierde ligero~
~Por el oro baila el mono~
~Cualquiera resbala y cae~
~Un mal con bien se paga~
~La práctica hace milagros~
~El que bien vive-bien cria~
~Perro que ladra no muerde~
~Hierro con maña se rompe~
~Gallina vieja da buen caldo~
~Son como pitcher y catcher~
~Donde pone el ojo va la bala~
~Todo lo prieto no es morcilla~
~Mujer preparada vale por dos~
~Hablando la gente se entiende~
~El tiempo que se va no vuelve~
~Se lavan las manos como Pilato~
~Ojo por ojo y diente por diente~
~Huevo puesto, gallina cantando~
~Esos son gustos que merecen palos~
~El que no tiene dinga tiene mandinga~
~Esta buscando lo que no se le perdio~
~El que no aprende es porque no quire~
~Está pasando las duras y las maduras~
~Está que se ahoga en un vaso de agua~
~Le sacan punta hasta una bola de billar~
~Aunque se vista de seda mona se queda~
~Ojos que no veen-corazón que no siente~
~Quiere estar en la misa y en la procesión~
~Se vuelven todo nariz y no encuentran por donde respirar~
(by Ivonne Figueroa)
"Pues mire usté, don Pepé, ¡bálgame
la bisne!, si le juera a contal me taldaría de aquí a jurutungu.
Imagínesi; que pa la rehabilitación - ¿se arrecuelda
usté? - jue después del temporal San Felipe, que las cosas
estaban tan malas, - oi día no es na comparás con aqueyu -imagínesi que mucha genti tenía que jasel alambiquis pa podel
Spaniards arrived to colonize the island in 1509. However most did not stay long. There was a gold-rush in Perú and the only ones that stayed on the island were those too poor to travel. The first Puerto Rican settlers were Spaniards who came to become hacendados - landowners - destined to become the privileged upper class. They remained on the island, hired tutors for their children and sent their daughters to finishing school and their sons to universities in Spain. Many of their children remained in Spain, many of the sons brought their new European spouses to Puerto Rico. The Spanish upper class continued to grow calling themselves Españoles - but by European standards considered criollos themselves.
1509 - The Taínos that remained were few. Many Taíno women bore illegitimate children of Spanish soldiers. Their children spoke a mixture of Taíno and Spanish.
1521 - Slaves were soon introduced to the island. The slaves that arrived in Puerto Rico were from West Africa. They already spoke Bozal Spanish - a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish which they picked up from pirates, sailors, and merchants. Before long many slave women bore illegitimate children of Spanish men. Their children spoke Congo and Bozal Spanish.
For the next two hundred years the hancendados lived in their own world full of wealth. They did not mix with the lower classes - the first Puerto Ricans or criollos - descendants of Spaniards, Taínos and Africans.
There was intermarriage between the Taíno and African descendants. The prevalent tongue was Spanish - but they did not speak it fluently - theirs was a Spanish mixed with Taíno and African and even Portuguese. It was almost a completely different language - it was criollo. A barely recognizable dialect.
This very same scenario was also happening in Cuba and in la República Dominicana.
During these first two hundred years music, song, and dance, and other traditions and customs developed that were strictly Puerto Rican but would later be modified by influx of Spaniards from the Canary Islands and other Europeans such as the Dutch, and the French.
1695 - A new wave of migration began from the Spanish Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean west of Morocco in the African continent. The Canarios brought their very own vernacular influenced by Moors and Africans. They also brought their own culture and traditions - their own food, music, song and dance. This very large number of Canarios increased the European population in Puerto Rico and it became the island with the largest number of European whites in the Caribbean.
With los Canarios came the peculiar Puerto Rican pronunciation (early Puerto Rico) of words such as casaise, poique, moide. The (oi) sounds are typical of seafarer nations.
Some credit Canarios with our peculiar pronunciation of the letter (r) as an (l) - and the pronunciation of the (s) at the end of a word as an (h). It is also important to note here that some linguists also credit the Bozal slaves with bringing this same linguistic note into Puerto Rico. West African languages lacked the sounds of (r) and (s) in their vocabulary.
The Puerto Rican vernacular is heavily sprinkled with Portuguese, African, and Taíno. Our words of Portuguese origin include matojo, aguaviva, chola, botar, fañoso, gago, gamba, maguarse, jiribilla, desinquieto, frangollo, mojo and mojito, furnia and others. We are already familiar with Taíno words that include batey, canoa, hamaca, huracán and many others. African words include fufú, gandinga, bomba, plena, grifería, malanga and many others.
Until very recently in the history of Puerto Rico these two groups - the criollos, and the Spaniards kept a distance from each other.
Thanks to a few poets and writers of yesteryear - today we have a slight vision of what this criollo vernacular was really like. Manuel A. Alonso, a "Puerto Rican Spaniard," wrote his much acclaimed book "El Gíbaro" (old Spanish). This book has since been reprinted (my copy is dated 1988). In "El Gíbaro" we find the poem El Baile de Garabato -which I have included here. As you will read - it is almost impossible to understand - (not to worry - I have included a vocabulary section at the end).
This was Español Jíbaro Puertorriqueño.-
but realize that Alonso lived from 1822 to 1889 - the Spanish that he heard
and wrote about had already been greatly influenced by more educated Europeans
- in other words - the Spanish that he wrote about was an improved version
over what had been there before.
El Baile de
Notes . .
Frases . . .
atarraya esplomaá - atarraya/malla de pescar - esplomaá/pedacitos de plomo que hacian que la malla cerrara en el fondo del mar - esplomaá - se le habían perdido los plomos.
fandanguiyo bombeao - baile español bailado "a lo Africano" - estilo bomba
Pasa Y Gasa
(Angel Luis Benitez)
Juan, sabes... Tus cuentos a domicilio Son puro teatro, Pintura rosada Del día, de la noche y del atardecer. Pregonas ser Centro de un jardín, Hogar, dulce hogar, Afecto de raza, Familia de campo, Compueblano ser - Caribe abierto Plena de bomba, Mezcla de asombra, Perico ripia'o, Dengue del merengue, Y rumba que zumba, Trago de Cuba Libre en jungla. Juan, Juan bobo... Pintas la leche, el café y el chocolate Como villa que late Sal y pimienta - forma de amarse Dices que somos Cordillera central, Conga, Bongó y Timbal - Violín, guitarra y cuatro - Condimentos de signo musical. Juan, me llamas familia - Traba lengua de tu problema, Geringosa - odioso dilema. ¿¿¿Chiqué, chitú, chiqué??? No me pintas en iglesias - O Televisión que pantalla confiesa. Juan, somos caña de una cepa, Campesinos areyto, Familia en cesta, Raza de pasa y gasa Caribe Pan y agua de una raza Niche - taíno - européo - Mazas en grasa...
Lillian Wald: The Ultimate LES Care Giver and Advocate
(by William Millán)
For many of us who grew up on the Lower East Side, the Lillian Wald Project was our childhood training ground; we laughed, cried and learned many of life's crucial lessons within the confines of that concrete and grass maze. But did you ever ask yourself - who is this Lillian Wald and were did she come from? For those of you that have asked such question, we would like to share a little bit of local history with you.
Lillian Wald was a visionary social activist and reformer who spent most of her life fighting for equality and the rights of children, the sick, the poor, and the elderly. A descendant of Jewish parentage, Wald was born on March 3, 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio and later moved to New York where she studied nursing. Upon graduating from the New York Hospital Training School for Nurses, she set out to change the course of history through her involvement in the Settlement and Suffragist movements. Wald was a pioneer who carved out paths for the advancement of the nursing, social work, and teaching professions.
From the very beginning, Lillian Wald's approach to care and advocacy was based on the concept of outreach and one-on-one care. She believed that it was of utmost importance to disseminate medical information by taking it to the needy and so she did volunteer work as a nurse on the Lower East Side providing in-home medical services to many impoverished immigrants who could not afford to pay for the care. Through her tireless efforts and perseverance, she established two of New York City's most distinguished agencies: The Henry Street Settlement (which she directed for over 40 years) and its subsequent offshoot - Visiting Nurse Services of New York (VNS).
Ms. Wald is also credited with helping institute the first Federal Children's Bureau (under President Theodore Roosevelt) which protected the rights of children and was co-founder of the New York Child Labor Committee. In the field of nurse care, she was instrumental in convincing Columbia University's administration to appoint a professor of nursing (a first for any college or university in the United States) - thereby ushering in a new era in the training of nurses. As a member of the Women's Trade Union League, she battled hard to eliminate the horrendous work conditions in sweatshops. She also took on the fight for family alimony rights on behalf of mothers and their children.
So whenever you hear mention or reminisce about the Wald project, keep in mind how fortunate we are to have been brought up in the spirit of the ultimate LES care giver and advocate, the outspoken social change catalyst Lillian Wald.
MANHATTAN'S streets I saunter'd, pondering,
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