By Jonathan Cintrón-Rodz
“Fiesta as an act of Resistance” (Rev. Lydia Munoz, MARCHA 2019)
How can we sing the songs of God while in a foreign land? -Psalm 137:4
These past few weeks we have opened our newspapers and social media accounts only to see the appalling reality of domestic terrorism, the results of the Manifest Destiny, White Nationalism and White Supremacy that are without any doubt, the false god of this country. Immediately, I found myself turning to the cries in the book of Psalms. A entire community living in exile from their mother land, living in the margins, in the midst of a colonizing and oppressive culture cried to God:
“How can we sing the songs of God while in a foreign land?”
Many commentaries state that this Psalm was not only written during the exile in Babylon, but even more, that the oppressors were asking the artists, the song writers, the creative class of Israel, to use their own culture to entertain those in power.
But how can they sing the songs of freedom and resistance in a foreign land?
A few weeks ago I saw my people, Puerto Ricans, in the Island taking over the streets and doing what was unthinkable of a country with a long-time history of colonization. Since Christopher Columbus invaded the shores of Boriken (Taino name for Puerto Rico), the Island has being living in a reality of colonization, almost six centuries of living under a foreign power. Our culture has being used by the oppressors to entertain themselves for many years - a culture that was built as resistance to the norm. Bomba and Plena (roots for reggaeton, salsa and Merengue), our music, our fiesta music was born from the experience of slaves trying to keep their West-African culture and religion. But it was while dancing to the bit of reggaeton, plena and bomba that my people - a few weeks ago - got the most corrupted government to pack their luggage and resign, reclaiming the power of the people.
In the queer community, our singers, artists, and ballroom culture is now on TV. Today, our songs of freedom are part of the mainstream. They are used to entertain our oppressors.
How can we sing the song of freedom in a foreign land?
What we have learned from our own experience is that here in the exile, in the margins, there is always music, there is always dancing and through the Fiesta we have found a way to keep our heads up, our people smiling, our people dancing. Through the stomping of our feet, we keep making the structures of evil shake and the corrupted governments tremble. Our people can sing even when our hearts are broken, because our hope for freedom never ends. Hope is an imperative for those that keep existing in a reality where our voices only count during Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month or Pride Month. Our colors are visible only when we need something “jazzy”, soulful, happy, with sabor, to be played. Our colors are only visible when we need some token at the table to be like exotic pieces of art. Our “r” are asked to be rolled only when the oppressor cannot pronounce the names of those who their own people keep killing.
However, there is something they cannot get when they try to dance to our rhythm, the experience of LA LUCHA, the hope that there is in LA LUCHA. We sing in la lucha, we dance in la lucha, we still smile in la lucha, because EN LA LUCHA HAY ESPERANZA (there is hope in the struggle). Our song as children of the Spirit is one of hope and freedom, so how can we still sing it in the midst of our sorrows and exile? Because, how can we stop singing? How can we stop worshiping the source of our freedom? That is the way we resist evil, like the Puerto Ricans resisted their government, like Black Americans resisted in the midst of slavery, like queer people resisted queerphobia and persecution. Our song of freedom and hope is the only thing the oppressors cant take away from us, so we resist every time we vogue, every time we dance some bomba, every time we move our hips to the rhythm of our joyful music.
This is not a hope that speaks about “everything is going to be alright.” It is a song that speaks more to the fact that even when things go wrong, we come from a long history of joy in the midst of dark times, we are resilient, our spirit is unbreakable, our freedom is coming and it will happen through the persistence of those that keep celebrating life in the midst of death as we create a new reality with our feet. If anything remember SOMOS MAS Y NO TENEMOS MIEDO (we are more and we are not afraid).
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Jonathan Cintrón-Rodz is a Marica Pastor and Theologian. He, an openly gay man from Puerto Rico and member of NYAC, served as Pastor at East Saugus UMC, where he also was very involved advocating for gender Equality, race, immigration and interreligious dialogue. He also served as pastor in Principe de Paz Colombian Methodist Church, the first openly affirming Methodist congregation in Latin America. On a connectional level Jonathan has been involved in MARCHA UMC, NPHLM, UMQCC, Love Prevails, RMN, MFSA, QUEEN and other justice-seeking spaces. Jonathan is finishing his Master in Divinity at BU. He also possesses a Bachelor of Sociology from Sacred Heart University of Puerto Rico. Since the moment Jonathan started his MDiv he expressed how called he felt to write about Queer Theology in Spanish and make that writing to be accessible to every Marica person in Latin America. That is how Jonathan has started a project called Teología Marica, being “marica” his proposal to contextualize the word Queer in Latin America. Today, Pastor Jonathan teach middle schoolers in NYC History, where he strives every day to facilitate experiences where students are invited to question the ancient systems put in place to marginalize and oppress people. Along with a core team from all over Latin America, today Jonathan is connecting queer faith groups from all over Latin America. Next year this group will launch a Queer convocation to work on the basis of what Jonathan believe will be a new Queer Theology for Latin America. Jonathan is a justice seeker, a passioned, loud and unapologetic Puerto Rican that also looks every day to find God´s revelation in today´s society and so he goes to the social diaspora where God Themself lives to bring God prophetic word to a world that is ignoring Their voice.