La Negra

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Afrolatinidad has only recently gained some acknowledgement, so imagine growing up both Puerto Rican and Black. With your mother living in a White body and you living in a Black body in a world that cannot pronounce Afroboricua, your very existence translates to confusion. 

You nor society can understand how you speak Spanish and can make sofrito, while speaking English, having thick hair, and passing as one of the Black kids on your street. La Negra can be Black and Puerto Rican at the same time because Afrolatinidad is very real.

“You’re Scary Spice,”
Says the golden-haired girl.
The one labeled Scary
Stays silent.
A third little girl
Strings her words
To win the role
Of Baby Spice
And the golden girl
Becomes Ginger.
The three play
Singing and dancing
Just to repeat it all
The next day.

 

20 years pass,
The one labeled Scary
Stares back at me.
Her honey-toned coils
Highlight her face
And complement
Her sand-freckled
Hands & feet.
Her light brown eyes
Scream
I’m surviving the struggle.
The struggle of
Raising my badass brother,
Working for a fucked up
Education system,
And trying to love myself,
All while learning
How to bend my knee & walk again.

 

The one labeled Scary
Is now a free mermaid,
Swimming
In a ten-feet deep ocean
With the golden-haired girl,
Who is quickly called away
By her golden-haired father.
“My father said I can’t play with niggas”
Is all she says.
Salty tears
Disappear
Into chlorine-fused waves
As the one labeled Scary
Sinks deeper
Drowning her body.
Echoes of Papa saying
“You are not a nigga”
Rip through each ripple.

 

A scar squats
On her chin’s right side,
Downward turned lips
Carry the weight of loss,
And a Deathly Hallows tattoo
Attempts to protect her
From the curse of being a nigga.

 

The Bronx,
The Boogie Down
Full of boogeymen
Is the one labeled Scary’s
Home again,
Where the Nuyorican,
Street culture
Shapes her,
But the images of
Mami and Abuela
Challenge her.
They are light
Like the color of coquito.
Their hair doesn’t need any heat.
If they are Puerto Rican,
Then she is the negra of the block.

 

The moonlight pours down.
She oozes with magic
As her hair defies gravity.
Cheeks are soft.
No hard edges.
Her gaze tender
And present.
The one labeled Scary
Is not Scary.
The one labeled Scary
Is not a nigga.

 

Negra,
You are Puerto Rican.

Images and Words
by Tatiana Figueroa-Ramirez

This piece was First PUBLISHED ON THE ACENTOS REVIEW

 


   Tatiana Figueroa-Ramirez     was born on the sofrito-infused island of Puerto Rico to a military family and as an Afroboricua names Julia de Burgos as her greatest inspiration. Tatiana graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in American Studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She is a VONA/Voices Alumna having studied under award-winning poet Willie Perdomo. Tatiana has been published in  Pool Poetry ,  Spillwords ,  The Acentos Review ,  A Gypsy's Library , and  Here Comes Everyone: East & West Issue . She mainly performs in the greater Washington D.C. area, but has also shared her work throughout the continental United States and the Dominican Republic. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry  Coconut Curls y Café con Leche .  Follow her on Instagram   @m  sauciana   Read more about her and her work on her website   www.sincerelytatiana.com

Tatiana Figueroa-Ramirez was born on the sofrito-infused island of Puerto Rico to a military family and as an Afroboricua names Julia de Burgos as her greatest inspiration. Tatiana graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in American Studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She is a VONA/Voices Alumna having studied under award-winning poet Willie Perdomo. Tatiana has been published in Pool PoetrySpillwordsThe Acentos ReviewA Gypsy's Library, and Here Comes Everyone: East & West Issue. She mainly performs in the greater Washington D.C. area, but has also shared her work throughout the continental United States and the Dominican Republic. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry Coconut Curls y Café con Leche.

Follow her on Instagram @msauciana
Read more about her and her work on her website www.sincerelytatiana.com