Leaving home, is never easy. Whichever your reasons were for relocating, you always end up feeling divided, fractured. You develop new habits and grow into newer version of yourself. Yet, while that newer version of you is perhaps richer in experience than the latter you, there’s a lingering feeling, a longing for home. However your compass rests now perpetually in a state of limbo not knowing where home really is/was/will be…It is what it is.
Visiting home, thus, results harder than leaving. A bittersweet taste. Family evolves without you. You experience your elders decaying exponentially with every visit. The little ones are now all grown up and you’ve missed who knows how many milestones. You can solely relate to family through tiny little moments. Cherished moments which your heart knows are nothing but frugal because soon you have to leave again. Subconsciously, you fight not to get attached, because you can’t afford to.
I am back from a short visit home, Puerto Rico. My paternal grandmother, the last one left standing, is fading away now. This was the main reason for my visit. To see her while she can still win a battle or two against senility. Every time I stopped by her house, she would show glimpses of lucidity and her eyes would lit up whenever she successfully recognized me. Once I told her about my recent achievements, she smiled and said “what is important is to keep working, always”…then she drifted into her mind and started talking about how her late sister had come back to life to see her.
In spite of the hardships, I have discovered a way to cope with the difficulties of visiting home. I started to revisit places full memories of my youth. Old San Juan and its piragüas (snow cones) on Sunday afternoons, buying produce with grandma at La Plaza del Mercado, having my first alcoholic drink in la Calle Loiza and the ever growing mystery of La Perla. With every visit, I have been turning these places into the backdrop for my works. These photographs carry then a weight far more important than any other place I’ve visited recently. This photos are the way I bring home back with me.
Thinking of recent events, I can’t even imagine the struggles felt recently by families threatened of having that very possibility stripped away from them due to the unmentionable “ban”. Hatred and ignorance are strong instruments of separation. Fear cannot and should not split families apart. Perhaps those in power would find a voice of reason and compassion if they were to find themselves living in a foreign land in spite of themselves.
As a Puerto Rican, I count myself lucky that I can freely visit home. I understand that as a privilege today, one sometimes taken for granted.
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