Letter from the Associate Editor: Coming Into Consciousness
Welcome once again to La Galería Magazine. This project has been such an enriching, insightful, fruitful and at times painful process. I can honestly say that diving this deep into what it means to be Quisqueyana is nothing like I imagined it to be. Being a part of La Galería team has wrought a sisterhood of radical self-discovery, talking about our experiences living in the Diaspora when neither country wants us to. We have bonded over our personal journeys and out of needing support to confront the backlash that our truth has garnered.
It is out of the love that we have for ourselves, our culture, our people and for historical accuracy that we do this labor of love. I am aware that some of our work has been received as anti-Dominican, particularly for being willing to speak about Haiti and the current situation on the island which both countries share. Perhaps for other reasons as well. It was not my intention to come off as being in utter disdain of the country that birthed my parents. I have pride in my roots and heritage. Every day, more and more, my love for my homeland in the Western hemisphere grows more expansive as I untangle my understanding of it. In fact, for most of my life, I have been trying to figure out my complicated relationship with the Dominican Republic. For years, I didn’t ever feel quite “Dominican” enough because of my dark skin living in the United States. I embraced Puerto Rican culture and then later Black American culture because I found acceptance there. I remember clearly when I finally began to make peace with Quisqueya at the National Dominican Student Conference in 2010 at Cornell University.
I was at first not interested in attending, because of deep-seated feelings of rejection by the general Dominican culture. I ended up being encouraged by a friend and had such a positive experience. I spoke on a panel discussing hair with amazing Afro-Dominicanas. Not only did I enjoy myself, I was able to connect with other Quisqueyanos who were reclaiming their African roots. It was a refreshing and insightful conference that made me realize I needed to explore my culture deeper. Being in NYC allowed me to then connect with the drum and dance community, specifically with bomba y plena musicians as well as Gaga Pa’l Pueblo, taking classes on dancing palo and las salves and learning from the experienced musicians. Through that, I got to meet many well-versed individuals who had roots in the island and the Caribbean. I began to deconstruct my feelings of rejection and restore an affinity to being Dominicana. I find that the journey in knowing one’s identity is a gradual deepening.
The more I have learned about the Dominican Republic’s history, the more I understood things about my family, upbringing and culture that were affected by the past. I understand how being born American has influenced my views on race and class. I’ve come from anger to patience in my time of understanding my life and the lives of Dominicans here and on the island. I have come to fully appreciate the diligent, determined and focused spirit of Dominicans to succeed, and it’s been a true joy to meet Dominicans in the Diaspora. Being first generation Dominican is a complex mergence of both American and Dominican culture. This magazine has given me the space to process the diaspora experience with other people who are deconstructing their lives too. It is my hope that this magazine can provide that space for those who embrace and need it.