I’ve always been that gal. The one that craves community and family.
In high school I ran for the position of Upper Representative of Af-Lat-Am, a club on the Phillips Academy Andover campus that promotes discussion about African American and Latin American culture. (FYI: Upper means Junior.) I won that race. I beat Janel, my high school nemesis, and gloated as adolescents do. Aside from beating her ass, I was also really proud to represent my Upper class and aid Af-Lat-Am in planning their annual cultural events.
My need for community continued when I attended college. I immersed myself in CASA Dominicana, an organization on the UMASS Amherst campus that celebrates Dominican culture. I ran for Secretary and won (no nemesis in sight) and held that position for two years.
Now…I’m not a part of anything. That gal that craves community is dormant. I can blame #momlife, #relationshipproblems, #adulting, #LongIslandLiving and #TheLIRR for the disconnect but I know the truth: I decided to step away from my Dominican community.
I grew tired of Washington Heights.
The blaring music. The tigeres standing in front of the bodega. The littering and loitering.
I complained about it often and forgot about the beauty that lives within the chaos.
The merengue and bachata. The scent of Dominican oregano and rotisserie chicken. The constant laughter of children. The open mic nights, fried fish spots, and Dominican South Beach. The Dominican jokes that never get old. The “‘’more,” “pero ven aca,” and “platano maduro no viene a verme.”
I wanted to escape it all. I thought I was too smart, too creative, too educated, too Americana (hasta con este acento que tengo) to live in my neighborhood among my Dominican community. Where would I run to? Los Angeles. To live the sunny, good life. I saved my coins. Packed my shit and shipped said shit via Amtrak. That’s how little shit I had. That’s how much I wanted to run away.
A month after crashing at an Hondurenas place that I only met once, I found a dope ass apartment, renting it at the same price that I would an apartment in Washington Heights, but with double the amenities.
Pool in the building. Laundry on site. A parking spot. A brief walk away from Ventura Blvd and it’s trendy bars and boutiques. Palm trees, palm trees, palm trees.
I was happy for 2.5 seconds. The shine of my new pad wore off. The excitement of exploring a new city dimmed. I felt just as disconnected and alone as I did when living among my Dominican community. Worse, even. I could see myself in the people from my neighborhood. I talked liked them, danced like them, laughed like them. I missed mi gente. I missed them because they are an extension of me, and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I craved my community.
The merengue and bachata. The scent of Dominican oregano and rotisserie chicken. The constant laughter of children. The open mic nights, fried fish spots, and Dominican South Beach. The Dominican jokes that never get old. The “‘more,” “pero ven aca” and “platano maduro no viene a verme.”
It didn’t matter where I was or where I lived; if I didn’t unpack my shit and ship said shit via three UHaul trucks (that’s how much shit I actually had) I would remain lost.
And after just one year as a fake Angelina, I packed my shit up and landed right where I needed to be – among a community that rather dance through noise pollution, laugh through the pain and chaos, and eat and drink to their heart’s content. Home.