They say you should never take your mother for granted.

I discovered too late that this applies to mother nature, and my mother land from whom I can only sputter my mother tongue.

I’ve only lived in Puerto Rico in two ways. In pictures, and my parents; from the bandera brandished mugs, plates and porcelain bells behind the glass of the chinita my mother inherited from my grandmother, America.

My entire childhood, my father described the sound a coqui makes, and always danced in his bedroom raking a guiro or tapping a cowbell. When he wasn’t listening to cassette tapes, he was drumming his fingers on the dinner table.

My mother made rice and beans for dinner almost every day, filled our railroad apartment with the smell of homemade sofrito and gave me commands twice. When she wasn’t angry, in English and in Spanish, and only in Spanish when she was.

Their stories of the island felt like hearing about heaven’s gates – climbing mango trees for a snack, being able to see your feet beneath the ocean water and the odd story of fleeing from bulls.

When they brought me there at 3 years old, they say my asthma disappeared. As if the island knew I was hers, and healed me so long as I was in her arms.

I hear her in the congas. I taste her in the pasteles we buy for holidays. I feel her in the brief New York summers that can only mimic. I feel closest during June when all her children don her colors and summon her spirit with bells, horns, and whistles.

I’ve always told myself I’d see her one day, see her again, but for the first time, so I can remember her. But now…

They say you should never take your mother for granted, and mother nature tore through my mother land to teach me a lesson.

I can only say this to her in my mother tongue –

Lo siento.


– Rachel R. Vasquez, Sept. 2017

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Puerto Rico is in trouble. The whole island is in darkness for at least a few months, and it’s agriculture is completely destroyed. Half the population is without drinking water and conditions are making it difficult to get supplies to residents. My people need your help. Consider donating anything you can!

I only wish I got to see her as an adult before Maria happened.

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