Taina Still in Hiding - in the Bronx (English translation)

for the bilingual version with no english translations click here. 

The eclectic mix of family portraits, pictures of wolves, Indians, and Jesus Christ con el Sagrado Corazón (with The Sacred Heart) all meld together in Gramita’s (term of endearment for Grandma) home. Her deep blue couch is decorated with deep red handmade pillows and curtains to match. There is a statue of an Indio (Indian-Native American of Puerto Rico-Taino) looking proudly toward the door, as if keeping watch of anyone who enters. There is no coffee table, instead a large ottoman to put your feet up.

 Gramita loves to cook and prepares special dishes for people in the neighborhood.  La señora del beauty, le manda arroz con gandules. La señora al cruzar la calle en el laundry, le manda surullitos. (The lady from the salon, she sends her rice with pigeon peas.  The lady acrosss the street at the laundromat, she sends fritters.) Every Wednesday her granddaughter Julie comes for dinner. And her great-grandson loves her bacalao (cod fish). 

 I ask, “¿Qué sabes de Cristóbal Colón?" (What do you know about Christopher Columbus?”) She says proudly, “Pues el descubrió América en 1493…” (Well, he discovered America in 1493…”) then breaks out in a poem about Columbus sailing the ocean blue.

 “¿Y quien estaba allí cuando el llegó?” (“and who was there when he arrived?”) She didn’t hear me and instead went on naming all three of his ships. “La Niña, La Pinta y la Santa Maria…”

 “En Puerto Rico, ¿quienes estaban allí cuando el llegó?” (In Puerto Rico, who was there when he arrived?”) She thought for a while. “Los indios.” (the Indians). She sings again about how beautiful Puerto Rico was when Columbus landed.

 “¿Adonde estan los indios ahora?” (“Where are the Indians now?”) She responds, “No se. Aquí no estan. No. Aquí no.” (Don’t know. They’re not here. No. Not here.”)

 “¿Y adonde estan?” (So where are they?”) Her face frowns, wrinkling up, a little confused. “¡¿Qué se yo!? Yo estudié eso hace mucho tiempo. Cuando era niña.” (“How would I know!? I studied that a long time ago. When I was a little girl.”)

 “Trate de recordarse de los indios de Puerto Rico.” (“Try to remember about the Indians of Puerto Rico.”) She shakes her head, “Eso hace mucho tiempo. Desde los tiempos de mi mamá.” (That was a long time ago.  Since the times of my mother.”) Her wrinkled face started smoothing out some as she starts remembering. “Ellos usaban esto,” (“They used this,”) she grabbed a handmade ladle from her counter. “Y cocinaban así,” (“And cooked like this,”) she started spinning the ladle in the air as if stirring. “Antes los indios usaban higueras,” (“Way back the Indians used fig shells,”) she grabbed one with the other hand. “Y el coco. Y hacian muchas cosas con los cocos,” (“And the coconut. They made many things with the coconuts,”) she starts pretending she’s drinking from it.

 “¿Los tiempos de su mamá? No es tanto tiempo atras.” (You’re mother’s generation? That’s not so long ago.”) She throws up her arms in desperation, “¡Ay! ¡No se!” (Oh! I don’t know!) She starts putting away her Taíno cutlery. Her eyes squinted half in frustration and half in confusion, “Quizás fueron los tiempos de la mamá de ella.” (Maybe it was the generation of my mother's mother.”)

 I try to jog her memory a little. “¿No se recuerda si alguna vez tu mamá mencionando alguien en la familia que era Taíno?” (do you remember if at anytime your mother mentioned someone in the family that was Taino?”) Her eyes lit up. There was an inner glow radiating from around her as she walks out her kitchen. “No creo.” (I don’t think so.”) I follow her out the kitchen. “¡¿No se si tengo raza taína!?” (I don’t know if I’m a descendent of Tainos.”) Her glare changes to one far away, somewhere in her memory, way back, 80 years ago. “Si quieres pregúntale a mi hermano."  (If you’d like ask my brother.”) She shrugs her shoulders. “Puede ser que tenemos en la sangre raza taína.” (“Could be that we have Taino bloodline.”)

 From where I’m standing now I can see to the living room at the Indio facing me and I want to say he winked at me as I said goodbye to Gramita!

 See Part 2 : Tio Hector tells me about our Taino ancestors!