Crónica de una Llegada
by Tara Rodríguez
I have received information from the stars. The longer you look, the more you see.
A Scorpio, a Capricorn and a Sagittarius went up on deck.
New York, California and Puerto Rico.
We each saw shooting stars, then all shared the gift of seeing one together. We exchanged feelings, exchanged opinions, and got some work done in the tiny "campaign room" of the Arctic Sunrise Greenpeace ship. We left the port of Miami this morning as part of the ship's crew, who has been traveling since New York for this trip to Puerto Rico. We are a delegation of female and/or non-gender conforming individuals, activists, environmentalists, artists, organizers, justice seekers.
I was not allowed back to Puerto Rico for more than a week after the hurricane. That was almost two months ago. I feel I have gotten an education and a half since then! As I sit in the Mess Hall with three other people, each one present to themselves as well as perceptive to the others in the space, I feel at home. One is eating almond butter with honey and toast and checking their social media, slowly (little connection at sea if any). Another is prepping and taking notes for a collective training on Just Transitions from the Movement Generation project. I was given the gift of the zine translated to Spanish, it is under the notebook I am writing this crónica on, I guess as a supporter to these words I am sharing. A member of the ship's crew is at the corner table reading a book and his energy feels welcoming and happy to have us in the room. A mug of peppermint tea with a clown on it will be my nightcap. A feather falls out of my notebook, i got it in São Paulo a couple weeks ago. My nails are painted a strange dark teal/green, my first manicure in years, chipped already of course. The smell of condiments coming from the little shelf right next to where i am writing is mixing with the smell of the peppermint. When we were upstairs we saw what we can hardly ever see, stars all over. I was told the story of the Three Sisters, we found the Milky Way, stars hitting the ocean's horizon, and shared things like "Did you know we are breathing the same air as our ancestors? And dinosaurs?" "I stopped seeing them as constellations and decided to learn about the stories" "Did you know there is bioluminescence at Point Reyes?" "There are three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico".
I went up to the bridge earlier to see our course of navigation for the trip. From Florida we do a direct diagonal line down to the middle of Cuba. This will be the closest I have ever been to our sister island. "Del mismo pájaro las dos alas". We will be about 40 miles offshore all along the Northeastern coast. Two friends who are creators of the Queer Kitchen Brigade are in Cuba right now for an agroecology convening. We then arrive close to the shores of Haiti, then the Dominican Republic, where another creator of the Queer Kitchen Brigade is at. The ship will not dock here, just be skimming the surface, but we have all decided to "channel" intentionally once I arrive to Puerto Rico. Or should I say Borikén? Do i chose to the "chosen" legal name, meaning colony, rich port, extraction, slave trade, experimentation without consent, debt, tourist destination? Or do I decide to use the Taíno name for the island, a people quickly replaced by that are now mostly a fairytale within history classes when you go to a private catholic high school with mostly European descendants, like me? My new "compás" and I talk about how our people love to identify as "Boricuas", yell it out loud, dance to it, write it on their shirts and bumper stickers, yet when it comes down to it, they call their homeland "Puerto Rico", not Borikén. I think about that for a moment. What are we ashamed of? Or so proud of? What are we waiting for? Why don't we all just stop "working" for this system that has more than anything caused us to be unsustainable, uneducated, and unhealthy? Why not stop "working" and really start working, building autonomy, community, patria, matria?
Some are. I tell my two new friends that.
The ship we are on has history. It was taken over by the Russians a couple of years ago, it's crew sent to jail for a couple months before release, the ship being stripped apart, then luckily recovered. I've followed Greenpeace since I was a young girl, seen a couple documentaries, been approached by the dude/dudette in the bright green shirt on the streets of Brooklyn asking if I know about Greenpeace. I now feel I really did know about them when I boarded this boat. The crew is dedicated, inclusive, direct, diverse, half female, all badass. The kitchen is the nicest kitchen with the nicest ingredients I have ever seen on a ship. Nothing fancy, just really efficient and intentional. No junk food served here, and you can tell it's cooked with good energy. I helped to prep a bit for lunch, signed up for the "mess duty", did some chopping, washing of pots and pans, scrubbing, tasting, wiping down, and eating. I asked Willy the cook how he landed this job. He worked as a cook on a cruise ship before this, got paid more. He prefers Greenpeace. His style of plating the beets and cucumbers on the platter totally remind me of cruise ship buffets. He cooked a coconut milk and curry sauce for an hour and a half, then added some sautéed vegetables. Hmmm. I am comfortable in the kitchen and cleaning up the Mess Hall. Work. Teamwork.
I am the only Puerto Rican along with a Nuyorican on this trip. She spent all last night working on making a banner for an expressive departure. The group is asking , well more like demanding, a just recovery. A sustainable one, built on resistance, resilience, restoration, reimagining. It's called decolonization people! Yes!
One of the Greenpeace crew members gave me moringa seeds from farmers in Florida and there are a few rosemary plants on board. We started an altar space within one of the round ship windows in the room where we are meeting, sharing and organizing together for the next few days. There are big papers taped up to all the walls with ideas, stories, schedules, democratic ways of organizing, and a usb that I just taped on the wall for a presentation I am sharing about what I do within Puerto Rican, I meant to say Boricua, agroecology.
I am alone in the mess hall now. It is late, midnight. Another crew member walks in to grab some tea and leaves. It is the one who gave me the moringa seeds. We get up at 7am every morning to do the daily chores till 10am. Cleaning mostly. Showers, toilets, hallways, trash, compost. Then work for some, chill time for others. Lunch. Then work for some, chill time for others. Then a beautiful sunset, then dinner, then stars. Then writing and conspiring. Human connections, a collective expedition between the stars and the sea.
This is all very surreal for me, maybe that is why I am writing about all the details. It also makes a lot of sense, this way of getting back home. Just when I thought I was a four hour flight away from going back, a once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself: arrive by Arctic Sunrise with a group of important energies all joined towards a just recovery for Puerto Rico and all other communities that are suffering the consequences of extractive economies. I am truly honored and grateful, calm and strong, present and humble. Surrounded by air and water, no land, no fire.
PS- we got the bus.
This is a part of a series of 24 chronicles that will be published weekly in English and Spanish, as a part of www.24weeks.us.