Culture and IdentityHistory and Politics

Mangú y Mofongo: Practicing and Building Diaspora Solidarity

Photo taken by: Lawrence Haseley

Written By: Andre Lee Muñiz (Editorial Core member, La Respuesta magazine)

When I heard the staff of La Galería Magazine was hosting an open mic to formally announce the coming of their publication, I knew I had to be there. A Dominican Diaspora publication aiming to “encourage dialogue, celebrate the community and inspire action”, stands for the same things I, as a member of the Boricua Diaspora, stand for. Even more than that, the Boricua Diaspora’s own publication, La Respuesta magazine, which I proudly work for, was a direct influence on the development of La Galería. I had to be there.

Coming directly from work, I arrived at the open mic event just in time to join the tail end of an improvisational group acting exercise. It ended with us all making a pose that would represent ourselves as a statue proudly on a Caribbean beach. As perhaps the only Boricua taking part in the exercise, I interestingly became the only person to personify a statue sitting rather than standing, leaving me on the floor in the midst of posing figures. In hindsight, maybe it was time for my Dominican brothers and sisters to stand tall and rise up, as I sat alongside them in the spirit of solidarity.

Whenever a diaspora is formed, a complex process occurs whereby the culture of that diaspora begins to represent the interplay of the spirit of the people and land they left behind, and the new social conditions they find themselves in. In this respect, having a diaspora-based magazine becomes key in beginning to develop collective agency with regard to this complex process. Through such magazines, the people of a diaspora have the opportunity to dialogue about this process, determine the ways it is affecting their collective development, and begin to become more conscious of their role and actual actions within the process. Such magazines, in the best of cases, also provide opportunities to build and/or strengthen ties between diaspora and homeland.

We at La Respuesta applaud and support the staff of La Galería that have taken up such an important historical project. That we at La Respuesta would be committed to having a relationship with La Galería, and building ties between our people, became clear as soon as we learned about their emergence. And that our founding Chief Editor is also of Dominican ancestry makes it even more sensible and meaningful.

Recently, articles have been coming out indicating that the Dominican population of New York City has or will soon become larger than its Puerto Rican population. Comments to these articles shared on social media by Puerto Ricans ranged in their message from general statements on the Boricua exodus out of New York City, to xenophobic remarks about the threat of a “Dominican takeover”. Myself, and many of us at La Respuesta, appreciated a third perspective that highlighted the opportunity that the growing Dominican diaspora represents in terms of Latina/os getting to know each other better.

We should not look at the matter as a source of competition and tension among our peoples, but as a chance to further the historical projects of liberation we have been committed to as Caribbean neighbors. The self-determination of Puerto Rico is a significant one of these going back to the era of the independence struggles against imperial Spain. Even more, our historical connections go further back to the pre-Columbus era, a period spanning thousands of years inhabited by our indigenous ancestors. Not to mention our shared African heritage resulting from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

When I attended La Galería’s open mic event, such were among the beliefs I brought with me. I spoke of history, how Puerto Rican educator Eugenio María de Hostos asked to be buried in the Dominican Republic until Puerto Rico becomes independent. I spoke of solidarity, how we must practice it as people sharing the experience of living in a diaspora. I also brought a poem, with which I will end this message of support for the staff of La Galería Magazine.

On behalf of La Respuesta magazine, suerte y solidaridad!

Let Us Never Forget (Boricua-Dominican Solidarity)

Let us never forget

the games of batey we played

together on la Isla Mona

Let us never forget

that it was easier hopping islands by canoe

than traversing one by foot

Let us never forget

our shared history

There was a time in the past

when a future without borders was a reality

There was a time

when we had as much in common as we overlook today

There was a time, an era

interrupted by imperial conquest

Let us never forget

our revolutionary solidarity

Let us never forget

our shared dreams

Let us never stop

those among us conscious of our shared destiny

struggling to achieve it

Let us never forget

Andre Lee Muñiz is a member of the Boricua Diaspora by way of Brooklyn, NY. He works as an education coordinator for an after-school program, and is a member of La Respuesta magazine’s Editorial Core.



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