I realized that last week I didn’t talk about what finding Caguana means, is or will evolve into — I hope. Allow me to give you an introduction; while traveling the world and temporarily borrowing the worlds’ priceless and most bewitching artistic pieces, I found myself on the shores of the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.
An island that radiates youth, light and passionately, love. The Puerto Rican nation is proud of who they are and where they came from. I met the abuelita of a friend of mine who still lives on the island, and she told me the Taino creation story.
I immediately understood the intentionality and passion of the people around me. You see, Abuelita Rosa helped me understand that people are the many leaves in a single tree, interconnected and deeply woven into each other even if we are too blind to see it and understand its power.
She also helped me understand that it is our single most important purpose to love and to be kind to each other and to our constant giver and protector of life, the Grand Mother Atabey, Earth, Nature, la Pacha Mama whatever you call this blue orb. If you take a look at history or even what I — a world renowned-reclusive-thief — do for a living, you might observe that we take more than we give.
I was inspired by how much our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and fellow people of the grand life tree give when we do give. It feels good to give. I think a scientist somewhere is studying how giving with an open hand and an open heart releases endorphins and that happy juice that makes us feel gushy and warm — but I am no scientist, so do not quote me on this or how this might be quantified into a scientific study. I am a thief in a lavish red coat darling so I do not have the slightest idea.
And as I was meditating on the sacred knowledge I was being trusted with, I asked about the daughters of the supreme Taino goddess Atabey, and I met Caguana. Caguana is the spirit of love and one of the manifestations of the supreme mother Atabey.
In my conversations with Abuela Rosa, she reminded me that the road back home to myself was not as unreachable as I had thought. One day, she grabbed my hands and grabbed my face with strength and gentleness and said, “You are not half anything. Not half woman. Not half of self. You have this immense capacity for love. You are my greatest achievement.” Which is why I give you this, my gift of love and kindness to all of you.
Artists are the greatest givers of love. Artists are the greatest givers of kindness and joy.
This is evident in the genres of movies, shows, books and visual art dedicated to illustrating and exhibiting love and warmth. The Artist is also the greatest truth-teller and the greatest storyteller.
My favorite storytellers are the parents of my friend from Puerto Rico, let us call her Loiza. They may not be world renowned storytellers or artists, but they do not create art for profit or mass consumption, and they honestly do not need to. The art they create is powerful, and it is the wisdom they share with their children.
Like the songs sung by Bomba y Plena troops, songs that are the histories of the Puerto Rican nation and Afro-Boricuas specifically, the stories of this Afro-Taino descendant family are safeguarded within the wisdom and the stories the parents, grandparents, uncles and their Abuela Rosa share with the younger members of their village.
There is power in oral traditions. There is power in sharing proverbs, legends and family stories. It shows us that we have the opportunity to live through many stories, and, yet, no single story is the same. Each story shared by Loiza’s parents is funny, deep, real and full of life.
If life could be temporarily tamed into a single story, the untamable spirit of life and love would be found within the words of these beautiful stories, proverbs and small anecdotes of wisdom.
The greatest artists are those that have been deprived of calling themselves as such because today the artist must sell, and they must profit and capitalize or be well-liked. If not, they are not an artist or a bad artist or the aesthetic artists that must please the eye of the academic and scholar to be dissected and pulled apart by academic theory and jargon.
See, my problem with this is not that the artist is compensated, financially-supported and appreciated for their work, but that they are only valuable when they produce, and those that produce are often exploited. This also means that, in order to amass wealth as an artist that produces and is exploited, they must also exploit others to amass wealth.
See that cycle we seem to be thrown into … The artist is restricted to only producing what can be marketable in a capitalistic world, where you are only as valuable as the things you have and your money. Trust me, I know — thief, remember? I make a living off of the skillful trafficking of art.
Back to my original point, the greatest gift anyone can give you is their art. To add on, I have defined art by how it is the extension of self, the embodiment of soul and the embodiment of life. I want to consider art outside the means of profits but, rather, starting with the question what does this artist contribute? and seeing where my writing takes me from there.
Essentially, what I am saying is, not only do I hope you find Caguana, but I convinced the editors of this paper to allow me to borrow it to dedicate a piece a week to exhibiting the extraordinary Black, Brown and Persons of fabulous Color in the world of all things art and glorious creativity. Who thought I would ever write anything with such depth!
Until next time,
Carmen San Diego