Art by Zach Gasparini. Story by Gabriel.
By Zach Gasparini
When I was four years old, I was told that home occupies physical space; material stomped into social stratification and acquired over time. You could enter it, hold it, dictate ownership over it, and discard it at will.
At four years old, the material escaped me. There were vacancies in the place I was born and the place I was meant to be. Home became hollowed uncertainty — awash between Puerto Rico and mainland. I fulfilled two spaces, owning neither. English and Spanish words pressed against my lips, carrying thoughts and constructing sentences in time. I could become caricature of identity, slip into one after the other as the situation demanded. Switch tongues and faces in different places. A cultural Houdini, my identity disappeared within seconds. I belonged to no place. I had no home.
Tierra — a Spanish word in the feminine, potentiating life and being. The kind of word that grows on its own, flickering. The more you say it, the more power it has, burgeoning with significance and transcending the way words form to the way ideas stretch, and soon enough it consumes what you know about the concept of home.
Tierra is the land beneath and around. It’s the boundary crossed by mothers and fathers who seek a great perhaps. It is unknown and vast and slathered with significance, satiated only by discovery. It’s physical space. It can be embraced but never owned.
Tierra is soil, ruptured and pressed by grandmothers and grandfathers in sugar cane fields and plantations where sweetness is sweat, and the stroke of sun simmers into Puerto Rican sunsets. Farmers, migrant workers, sowing seeds in dark brown, lush green. The firmament of development, where hands meet dirt with the expectation that in burying your passion in soil you plant yourself. It’s emotional space. It can be strewn but never changed.
Tierra is ground, broken and firm. It is the place where you fall, contact skin to suelo, flesh to scar. This is the place where you press and scrape, the place where you land with a thud after the brush of a firm push. It is mistake and hardship and consequence, where you lay and trace the outlines of the world, a perspective from below. It’s mental space. It’s the place you fall and the stead you pick yourself back up on.
Tierra es identidad. Es el origen de enseñanza- herencia. Es el espacio donde el mar besa el viento que besa el brillo del sol y da vida a algo completamente nuevo. Es el sitio donde se habla las palabras de tu familia, donde se eschucha la musica que llena la sangre y donde se come la comida que alimenta los huesos de tu pais. Es un espacio cultural. Es donde las cosas nuevas nacen y las cosas viejas crecen.
Tierra es el refugio tuyo y de todos, sin lealtad ni expectación. Es donde la sangre y las lagrimas y el valor se encuentran en un bosque y se cultiva la persona quien eres. Y la persona que eres es dinamico, lleno de historia, informado por los que cruzan fronteras y los quetrabajan en granjas. Tierra es identidad, la mescla de lo que ha vivido en el pasado y lo que vive ahora. When I was four years old, I could never imagine that home is the space where you continuously exist; where Spanish and English and history mold and craft new experiences, ways of being. Home es tu tierra, neither monolithic nor material.
You belong to every place you’ve made strong and has in turn made you strong. You have a home. •
Creative writing inquiries can be sent to July Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.