In reading about the Spanish colonization of the West Indies the last few months, a golden tint overcasts the cones of my retinas. Specifically, I’ve been reading Bartolomé de Las Casas’ Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and the narratives surrounding Hatuey, Taíno chief from the island of Hispaniola; it is supposed to be a main source for you, poem/book/text/whatever. A few months after reading Casas’ account, the US embargo in Cuba was lifted. How am I to meet these two histories with true earnestness and understanding? How am I to keep my chest hairs above the water? Poem/book/text/whatever, how do you want to live? Through the US and Cuba? Through Hatuey? Hatuey, who left Hispaniola in 1511 to warn the Taínos in Cuba about the destruction had by the Spanish in Hispaniola for their god—gold? I almost wanted you, poem/book/text/whatever, to be somewhat of a warning—or rather, something to consider—for Cuban people.
In reading about the US embargo being lifted, the two bills making up the lift were troubling through their language. In regards to trade, the bill is written as the “Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2015,” and for travel, the “Export Freedom to Cuba Act of 2015.” Since when is the visitation of US citizens the same as ‘exporting freedom?’ Why is the word import nowhere to be seen? Poem/book/text/whatever, do I cite higher literacy rates and the recent mother-to-child HIV transmission elimination as deserving imports? Should I even talk about Cuba when my ancestral motherland is continuing down the path of racist tendencies in its expulsion of Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans and Dominican-Haitians? What can I say when Pope Francis speaks of solidarity to a predominantly Catholic country and this doesn’t matter? How do I say sorry and still love my motherland?
Poem/book/text/whatever, I don’t know how to even begin anymore. I’m working within all of these different histories and I can’t sleep now thinking I may just be trying to work through my own identity. Am I becoming hysterical? Am I assuming my home, America, is riddled with contempt and could only be infecting these smaller, third-world countries like when it invaded the Dominican Republic a century ago, supported Trujillo, sent border patrol to teach Dominicans how to take this deportation thing seriously? Is America right in assuming the smaller countries could only benefit from importing American goods, guests, and values? Poem/book/text/whatever, will you be born to tell me if I’m speaking out of turn? I really am only seeking solace in all of this.
Bio: Steven Perez is a poet and musician living in Philadelphia. He is also an editor at Tagvverk and makes music under the name allscum