Creative SubmissionsCulture and Identity

“Voy pa’lla…”

Sancocho. Photo by Sydney Valerio

Written By: Sydney Valerio 

“Sancocho” la palabra that grants access to
your heart’s ancestry and when it is made it involves
the gathering of ingredients:
y u c c a, y a u t í a, p l á t a n o…
víveres whispering ‘campesina’
to your soul, tenderized in a brown stock,
víveres reminding you to v i v i r…

cooked in a boiling salt water
whose rumblings transport you
to the sancochos cooked on tia’s fogón
after a day at El Morro
a day spent having the crashing waves
pulling you into the unpolluted waters,
sea water placed in lots to create salt
that is brought to the States
so that during those harsh NYC winters
when sanitation spreads salt rocks
you know what they looked like in rock form
at El Morro, you know the purity they come from
to help warm your city’s icy streets,

that’s what salt does to you,
reminds you of its origins, of your origins,
of the soil those víveres are grown in
soil your feet don’t get to step onto
instead they’re shipped to this
cosmopolitan concrete food desert
where even the big apple dreams grown here
come with a hefty price tag
just because of its first world soil…
this place I call home that takes my breath away
instead of cleansing it, oppresses my sense of smell
but not my sense of taste…

for when it is made, my brown eyes
crave it more than cake
it is a savory soup whose color
reflects the colors of my family’s skin
showing me what culture looks like
when centuries of roots come together
passed down in recipe form from
Mamá’s dark roasted hands
that could not write letters
but could author love through her food,
teaching the recipe to my tías, tíos and mami.

Sancocho is a word some gringos cannot spell
let alone try to pronounce because privilege
has blinded their tongue-
sancocho- the dish that is never brought
to a pot luck party because it brings a party to it…
reminds you of what it feels like to have family come together
-all víveres grown on different soil…

it provides the remedy to depression
a pharmacist cannot package into a pill-
and once you have mastered how to make it
you’ve graduated into another level in the family,
you’ve earned your badge of authenticity,
you get to keep your Dominican card…
your proof of still knowing the taste of el campo
though you were not born there,
though your mom was raised here…
and in my family it is tía Amalfis’s hands
doing the cooking that all love the most…
hers is the best though she may be a widow-
the one who bore no children
but nursed me in my early weeks of life
the way she’d do with other sobrinos y sobrinas…

the one who likes to murmur jokingly:
“Dios no me dió hijos pero el diablo me dió sobrinos…”
as she fills your bowl and gives you a taste of her soul…
so next time you hear someone say “sancocho”
know that it is a whispering that says
‘ven pa’ca…you belong’…


Photos by Sydney Valerio



Sydney Valerio joined the spoken word scene last year as part of the Full Circle Ensemble’s ‘Sunday Writing Circle’ in the Bronx. She enjoys focusing on the socio-cultural aspects of life that shape our perspective. She dedicates her gift to uplift to youth development and the preservation of cultural literacy. She performed in ‘Misconceptions Too’ at the National Black Theater. She has featured for the EL KAT Productions Smokin’ Word, LatinosNYC at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the Bronx Museum’s ‘Bronx Stories’. Her poetry has been published by the Dominican Writers Association and La Galeria Magazine. She has a one-woman show “Matters” that won the Full Circle Ensemble one person show contest “Standing in Your Truth” show in September 2016. “Matters” will be performed in full length in November 2016 at the Nuyorican Poets Café.



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