Home is not necessarily where you live. It’s where you feel at peace, and where you feel okay.My grandfather was born in Puerto Rico, and then moved to New York, and then later to Indiana. But we still have family on the island, and its culture has been a piece of me since the day I was born. I’ve been visiting there as long as I can remember, and have always been so mesmerized by every single thing that surrounds me when I’m there. I remember being a little kid and chasing lizards in the yard, and watching iguanas sunbathe at the cemetery. I remember stepping on fish bones at the beach, and getting the salt water in my mouth for the first time. I remember the first word I learned in Spanish, sitting on my great grandpa’s kitchen floor, where I learned that mariposa means butterfly. I remember so many things about Puerto Rico, and when I talk about them, the twinkle in my eye appears for a second, and I can feel myself there. This past week, I had the opportunity to spend time there with my family, for the first time in half a decade.
When Hurricane Maria hit this island last fall, I’ll never forget the horror I felt, and the way my heart broke.
The sentiments were not just my own, but also that of many of my family and friends.
Our family were the lucky ones – though we were without communication for a few weeks, everyone was safe. Without water, without electricity, but alive, for which I still thank God every day.
Since the hurricane, I have been pushing harder than ever to go back to the island. We were all excited and afraid, excited to see that everyone was safe, and to come back to this home across the water, but afraid to see what had changed – houses abandoned, trees decimated, and so much more.
However, this was a trip that we needed to make, for ourselves, for our family, and for our culture.
I am so thankful for the pieces of my heart that lay in Puerto Rico, and the chance that I had this past week to revisit and remember them.
It was such a relief to see the places from my childhood, and see that they are still alive and full of enchantment.
I cannot begin to express the amount of overwhelming love and peace I feel on the island, but I hope these pictures will be a start.