Incest, Endogamy, and Pedigree Collapse. Three terms simplified.

Genealogy

Incest? Endogamy? Pedigree Collapse? What even is that?! Family Tree Problems briefly explained.

(These are just some of the inevitable things genealogists uncover, and today we are going to distinguish between these three terms.)

An example of a basic three-generation family chart. 

Incest occurs when close family members have a romantic relationship. That could be brother and sister, father and daughter, mother and son, or grandparent and grandchild. Below is an example of how this can show up in some family trees.

An example of Incest in three-generation family chart. 

Endogamy is defined as the tradition of marrying only within the boundaries of a local “community, clan, or tribe”. It is also a term used to define cousins marrying cousins. This practice was used as a form of resistance against integration with “outsiders.” There was a time that this was an acceptable custom in many cultures and ethnic groups around the world. Today, we now know that such practice may lead to an increase in genetic diseases and in extreme cases possible group extinction. To determine whether your family tree is endogamous, the practice would have to be continuous throughout many generations.

An example of Endogamy in six-generation family chart. 

Pedigree Collapse, a term used by genealogists to describe one or few isolated incidents of people in family trees that share an ancestor and marry each other. Whether intentionally or not, this event causes a “collapse” on the family tree. An example would be 1st or 2nd cousins marrying each other as they would share the same grandparent or great grandparent. 

An example of a Pedigree Collapse in four-generation family chart. 

In short: Incest occurs when close family members have a romantic relationship and shows up in your family tree when they have children. Endogamy happens when cousins marry cousins repeatedly over many generations. A Pedigree Collapse occurs in your family tree when two people marry and share the same ancestor which can at times be an isolated event or occur a few times.

http://www.UnboundedLineage.com | http://www.JasminKateri.com

Side Note: There are many endogamous populations around the world. So, if you’ve taken a DNA test and believe you come from an endogamous population, it is possible to have a “false match.” I will explain all about this in my next blog post!!! 

( All ancestor chart examples were made by Jasmin Kateri using tools in the program MacFamilyTree 9. )

Researching your Dominican Ancestry

Genealogy

Like most genealogists, my interest in the field of genealogy peaked during my investigation into my Dominican Ancestry. I had started with minimal information given to me by my late grandmother, family members and a few documents my relatives shared with me. After an almost yearlong investigation, I was able to trace my family lineage back seven generations. Doing so has been one of my most significant accomplishments. This journey has allowed me to connect with some incredible people along the way, and to be able to tell my children where they come from is priceless.

Here are some helpful tips to consider when investigating and unwrapping the jewel that is your Dominican Ancestry.

If you can, talk to your relatives. 

Your relatives will have important information that can guide you in your investigation. Inform them of your intentions to research your family lineage. Make a note of important dates, names, and events. Ask for pictures and other relevant documents that you can extract information. 

Search through databases dedicated to Dominican Genealogy 

In my research, I’ve utilized data collected and maintained by Mr. Marcos Heriberto Hernandez Brea, Coordinador de la Base de Datos for Proyecto Genealogico de Raises Quisqueya. I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my findings with Mr. Hernandez Brea and collaborated with this project in the Dominican Republic. You can find more information below, along with links to other helpful resources for Dominican Ancestry. 

Take your time

Websites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org are helpful resources for searching through records from the Dominican Republic. Keep in mind the information you are looking for may not be indexed and readily available using the search engine alone. These websites make their collections accessible to the public to allow researchers to search through thousands of scanned records by locality. 

You might not find what you’re looking for, but don’t give up hope

Some records may not be published online. For researchers in the states, that can make it somewhat challenging to fill in gaps from specific time periods, but don’t lose hope. Records and other collections can still be published and shared with the public. Patience is key. It’s also important to note that the spelling of names, especially those on handwritten documents, may differ from how you spell it. It does not mean the information is not out there, so it’s worth looking up different variations of the name you’re researching. 

Persevering your Dominican Family History is a beautiful thing!

I had so many questions I wished I could’ve asked my grandmother when she was alive. My children will surely have some of the same questions about who they are, where their family is from, and why they look the way they do. Answering these questions can instill a strong sense of self in my little ones. How ever you chose to preserve your family history, whether it be a book or elaborate family tree, it should be a piece of your heritage that can be passed down and expanded for generations to come. 

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” —Marcus Garvey

For genealogy assistance contact me at JasminKateriWrites@gmail.com. Current member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Helpful Links:

CUNY DOMINICAN STUDIES INSTITUTE
Dominican-archives

https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/dsi/dominican-archives

Archivo General de la Nacion 

http://agn.gob.do

Proyecto Genealogico de Raises Quisqueya:

https://sites.rootsweb.com/~domwgw/MHHB/Index.htm

Instituto Dominicano de Genealogia, INC. 

https://www.idg.org.do

DATOS Y FUENTES DE GENEALOGÍA DE LA REPÚBLICA DOMINICANA

https://genealogiadominicana.com

Spanish Genealogical Word List:

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Spanish_Genealogical_Word_List

Family Search:

https://www.familysearch.org

Ancestry:

https://www.ancestry.com

Good People

DominiRicanIsh, Genealogy

For years it’s been common family knowledge that my great grandmother was Taino from Puerto Rico; however, for centuries, scholars believed that the Taino people were extinct after the invasion of Christopher Columbus. How could this be a possibility? Even without the backing of science, my family stuck by this claim.

Mama Rosa. August 2nd, 1935

A few years ago, geneticist Maria Nieves-Colon led a scientific study that confirmed Taino DNA is still very much alive and flourishing through the veins of many decedents of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. Thanks to the recent advancements, my AncestryDNA results showed that I carried 15% of Indigenous DNA. Those who know me well know that I can become obsessed with research, so I decided to investigate the minute I got my results. 

Taino Symbol Collage by Remezcla.com

The word ‘Taino’ translated means “Good People” and references to the Arawakan Natives that settled in the Caribbean from South America. The land was blessed, abundant and the Taino’s’ respected it. As inhabitants of their land, they mastered agriculture and cultivated crops like yuca, corn, and sweet potato. According to historical accounts, Taino’s lived their lives as happy, gentle, and friendly people. They were skilled craftsmen and invented things like the hammock and the canoe. The communities were inclusive, self-sufficient, and thriving before Christopher Columbus’s arrival and Spanish rule. 

Columbus’s first unintentional stop in the new world was the Bahamas, where he had his first encounter with the Taino people. Columbus quickly noticed the gold the Tainos were donning and went back on his ship, the Santamaria, searching for more. The Santamaria crashed on the northern part of the island Hispaniola which today is known as the Dominican Republic. Columbus left several men on the island to set up a colony and sailed back to Spain, where the Europeans celebrated him. The Spaniards and the Taino’s relationship started out promising as Taino’s nature was generous. 

“They will give all that they do possess for anything that is given to them, exchanging things even for bits of broken crockery. They were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces…. They do not carry arms or know them…. They should be good servants.”Excerpt from the Diary of Christopher Columbus. 

After some time, the relationship between the Tainos and the Spaniards began to disintegrate. Spain was quick to claim the islands that Columbus invaded and gave him the title of governor. Columbus returned to Hispaniola with ships to fill with gold for the king and queen of Spain. Instead, he found a local chief had murdered the men left behind. The Taino chief in charge was said to own an abundance of gold on his land and war quickly broke out between the two groups. Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors overpowered the Tainos and drained the land of its gold.

Photo Credit: http://www.History.com

The Taino way of life was dying, and enslavement resulted in the inability to sustain life quality. Taino’s over the age of 14 were forced to give gold to the Spaniards, and those did not produce enough gold were brutally punished. If the Taino people were not dying at the Spaniards’ hands, they would die from the diseases they had carried over for which they had no immunity.       

Photo/Artwork by Joos van Winghe and Theodor de Bry

“They forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They even laid wagers on whether they could slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual’s head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow of their axes. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders, shouting, ‘Wriggle, you little perisher.'”- A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome De Las Casas. 

Within a few decades of the European invasion, more than 90% of the Taino population was exterminated. Some natives fled to the mountains to escape Spanish rule, but many fell victim to the Spaniards’ advanced weapons. Many Tainos starved and committed suicide at alarming rates, including killing their children so they would not have to be subjected to the enslavement and horrendous acts carried out by the Spaniards in the name of Christianity. 

Photo Credit: sciencephoto.com “Hatuey was a Taa no chief from the island of Hispaniola, who fled to Cuba during the Spanish conquest. According to Bartolome de las Casas Hatuey entreated the Taa no of Caobana people to join him. The Taa no chiefs in Cuba did not respond to Hatuey’s message, and few joined him to fight. Hatuey resorted to guerrilla tactics against the Spaniards, and was able to confine them for a time. Eventually, using mastiffs and torturing the Native people for information, the Spaniards succeeded in capturing him. On February 2, 1512, he was tied to a stake and burned alive. In 1552, the Dominican friar Bartolome de las Casas published A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, an account of atrocities committed by landowners and officials during the colonization of New Spain. Engravings appeared in Narratio regionum Indicarum per Hispanos quosdam deuastatarum verissima by Theodore de Bry in 1598.”.

The actions of Christopher Columbus and his men were criticized by many in his colony. Word got back to Spain about the tortuous and barbaric acts Columbus used to govern Hispaniola. He was found guilty of crimes against the Spanish and the Natives. Christopher Columbus was arrested and sent back to Spain. He was no longer permitted to visit Hispaniola. He had one last voyage in the Caribbean before dying in prison. 

Portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519

A study funded by the National Science Foundation found that 61 percent of all Puerto Ricans have American Indian mitochondrial DNA. This is believed to be a link to Taino ancestry. So traces of Taino can be found engraved on stones in mountainous reigns of the Caribbean and can be found embedded in the DNA of many descendants of the Caribbean. 

“You know what? These people didn’t disappear. In fact, they’re still here. They’re in us.”- Maria Nieves-Colón. 
https://remezcla.com/culture/tainos-present-day-puerto-ricans/

Yuiza Loiza | Painting by Puerto Rican Artist Samuel Lind

The terrorist reign of Christopher Columbus left a devastating impact on the entire population of the Taino people. However, it did not put a dent on the Taino impact or influence in our culture today, and on a day like today, it should not be overlooked. The English language has incorporated words that come from the Taino origin. Words like hurricane, canoe, tobacco, and hammock all derive from the Taino language. Inventions of the Taino’s are still used today. The generosity and giving nature of the people in Boriquén is still alive today. Christopher Columbus was not a hero. He was a terrorist. This why I will always choose to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.

Mora, The Woman I Knew

Personal Blog

February 2019

The family crowded the waiting area at the hospital. I sat silently, unsure of what to make of everything. Guilt riddled my bones as my mind was racing. A phone call once a week was all she wanted. Distance and life got in the way. That should have never happened.

Everyone around me was exchanging their favorite memory. I fidgeted with my elephant charm while picking up bits and pieces of their conversations. My curiosity got the best of me. 

“Mora?” I unexpectedly interrupted.

“Mora is the name she went by in the Dominican Republic. When she got to New York, people started calling her Nora.” One of my aunts explained.  

The somber chatter faded as I carefully walked to the doorway of her room. She was peacefully resting. Mora. That name stayed glued to the back of my mind. It felt as though I were seeing her for the first time. I saw Mora in a different light. There, I envisioned my grandmother and her life with me. 

Summer of 1991

An uninvited odor crept through the window and stealthily danced around. That day it caught her by surprise, and sadly, it was a smell too familiar. Seconds later, she was startled by an aggressive knock. 

“Nora! Hay Fuego! Saliense!” The neighbor shouted. 

Without skipping a beat, Nora scooped her months old granddaughter, into her arms. She held her firmly while others nearby were staggering down the stairs toward the exit. 

Across the street, she digested the scene. Orange flames tore through the top floor of her building, hurling clouds of black smoke towards the sky. The spread was inevitable. The fire was hot, hostile, and it showed no mercy. 

Nora exhaled, relieved everyone left unharmed. Her granddaughter buried her face into her neck. She placed her palm on the back of her head to shield her from the scene. The adrenaline coursing through her veins didn’t allow her to focus on anything other than getting to safety. Nora did just that. She marched for blocks cradling her chunky grandbaby until she reached the nearest relatives house.

Spring 2015

Nora’s granddaughter buzzed her apartment to no avail, leaving her no choice but to look for her elsewhere. She made her way around the side of the building. Peeking through the window, she found Nora playing bingo with her friends. 

Nora’s face beamed with excitement when she looked up. Her granddaughter waved and motioned toward the door. In the middle of her game, Nora got up and shuffled her way towards the entrance. 

“Hi Grandma, Bendicion!” her granddaughter said, surprising her.  

“Dios te Bendiga Mija! Es mi nieta!” Nora declared.

Everyone there greeted Nora’s granddaughter as if they’ve known her their entire life. 

“She talks about you and all of her grandkids.” One older woman would explain. 

“I knew you when you were just a baby.” Another would say. 

A long period of time had gone by since they last saw each other. Together they boosted with love. Nora, a bingo champion, left the game unfinished. She left everyone hanging with her departure without notice as she grabbed her nieta’s hand and walked out of the community hall. 

The ride in the elevator was short. Nora was walking much slower than her granddaughter remembered. She will be reaching 90 soon, she thought to herself. Together they entered her apartment. Everything was just as it was before I left New York. This included the elephant décor that anyone walking through the door couldn’t help but notice. 

“Por que tu no me llamaste?” Nora interrogated.

“I’m sorry, Grandma. I will call you more.” Her granddaughter said as she pursed her lips, knowing she would have a hard time meeting this expectation. 

“Uh, huh, okay,” Nora responded with one eyebrow raised slowly, pacing herself to her spot on the couch. 

After catching up, they decided to watch TV. Nora’s granddaughter rested her head on her shoulder. Together they took a short nap. 

February 2019

The silence in the room was deafening. All I could hear was my heart thumping uncontrollably in my chest while cautiously approaching. Grandma laid in the hospital bed, seemingly content.

“Bendicion Grandma, it’s me, Jasmin.” I grasped her hand. 

Her eyes narrowed while she smiled in a state of medically induced bliss. My nerves prompted me to glance at my aunt for guidance. 

“Tell her.” My aunt nodded. 

“Grandma, I’m pregnant.” I said, gently placing her hand on my baby bump, “Estoy embarazada.”

“Uh, huh, okay. Que?!” Her eyes opened, “Estas embarazada?!”, she asked as happiness began to pour out of her. 

“Si!” 

Grandma Nora was overjoyed. Her happiness filled everyone, and her love brightened the room. The knot in the back of my throat was telling me to let it out, but for this beautiful moment, I knew better.  

“Te voy a dar un puño porque ya tienes dos.”

Her laugh was contagious. No matter the situation, Grandma was sure to pack her sense of humor. I realized that it was her way of showing love and concern. I smiled and nodded my head to reassure her that I would be okay. However, what I didn’t know, that would be the last words she spoke to me. 

Late February 2019

“This was everyone’s home.” My older sister said.

I smiled at her before my eyes could water. I was flooded with emotions that I tried hard to suppress. Memories were made here. Life happened here. Life was growing inside me, a baby she would never have the chance to meet. Separately, we toured her apartment one last time. 

I picked up an elephant trinket. A mother elephant and its baby snuggled by her side. The elephant is a symbol of unobtrusive strength, and it is just one of the qualities my grandmother exemplified. In every direction, an elephant trinket would remind you of just that. The sala was where she would stir up her pot of wisdom. Her advice always came at the right moment (even though she knew the chances I would probably do the opposite). I placed my hand on my baby bump and sat on her spot on the couch. Her imprint was everywhere.  

Mora, the woman I knew, at times struggled but never settled. She taught me the importance of knowing self-worth and never giving up.

Mora, the woman I knew, was stronger than I could have ever comprehended, and braver than most people I’ve ever known.

Mora, the woman who held a love for her family that was so great. Whose heart was complete when she saw all of her children in one room, “Esto me da alegria,” she said. Her love knew nothing of conditions.  

Nora, the woman I miss. The woman I wish I could have with me just a little longer to tell her how much I love her. How much she still inspires me to this day.

Grandma Nora, gracias por todo que has hecho por mi. From taking me out of a burning building to always welcoming me with love and open arms even when my efforts to maintain contact were weak and inexcusable. 

I prepared myself to leave for the last time. I Love You, Grandma, Bendicion.

I felt her love wrap around me. Grandma’s voice was loud and clear.

“Dios te Bendiga. Llamame!” 

Bad Hair Doesn’t Exist.

DominiRicanIsh

At the age of seven, my roots decided to take on its pure form, and my strands grew out thick and curly. For my mother this was unfamiliar territory and became hard to maintain. She cared for my hair the best way she knew how which included a strict hair regime of routine relaxer treatments and blowouts. As a little girl, I thought nothing of it. It was the norm, and I, like many others at the time, equated straight hair with beauty. 

As the years went on, relaxer treatments became less glamourous and increasingly torturous. Everything about it began to feel like a punishment. The length of my hair slowly faded, and the presence of spilt ends took over my life. I hated it! At the age of 18, out of frustration, I did away with relaxers forever, and I unintentionally transitioned. The day I cut my relaxed ends off, I watched as my hair spiraled up. My jaw dropped instantaneously as I had lived most of my life without knowing what my hair looked like without processing. I was both amazed and worried. My curls were there, but I lacked in length.

I continued to straighten my hair faithfully and made frequent trips to the Dominican Hair Salon, a place where God had blessed the styling tools, and the hairdressers could effortlessly turn a fierce pajon into a silky-maned paradise. There were days where I would march my way to the salon, determined to leave with my neck snapping side to side so that those on the block could bear witness to the fabulousness of my fresh blowout. 

This day was no different. I was on a mission to tame my tresses. Upon entering the salon, the smoke from the blowers floated in the air, and the hairdressers darted their eyes towards me. To my disappointment, my preferred stylist Milagros was nowhere to found.   

“Hi… Wash and Set, please?” I timidly pleaded. Without Milagros, I would have a tough time communicating.

“Espera 20 minutos. Siéntese por favor”. One of the hairdressers responded while the rest continued their work.

The comradeship surrounding the women in the salon was magnetizing. The absence of men allowed the freedom of fierce feminine expression. They shared incredible stories, participated in perpetual debates, and engaged in endless laughter; all things I wish I could have been a part of. Undoubtedly my broken Spanish played a role in my inability to do so. They were so proud, so confident, and so happy right where they were. It was typical that I would sit quietly, and people watch or get lost in a novel while waiting for my turn. 

“Ven.”  The shampoo girl called me over.

I cautiously gave her a fair warning, “I’m sorry. My Spanish is not that good. I can understand, though.” I admitted.

“That’s okay.” She politely smiled as she turned the water on.

Her technique was firm but gentle. I expected her nails to be like talons scraping across my sensitive scalp; however, my experience with her was the complete opposite. This shampoo girl was a breath of fresh air, and when she massaged my scalp, I felt all of life’s given tension flee my body. 

“Your rizos are very pretty.” She said. 

“Really?” I was stunned.

“Si, claro.” She said while lathering my strands. 

“Thank you!” I beamed. “Growing up, all I heard was Pelo Malo. It’s surprising to hear you say that.” 

Pelo Malo no existe.” She began laughing, “Si tu te alisas demasiado, your hair can break.”

And there it was. The divine intervention I most desperately needed. It wasn’t found in the “sacred” hands of hairdressers but rather in the laughter of the shampoo girl. She gave me confirmation of what I was feeling deep down all along; my hair was just fine the way it was. I left the salon feeling a different type of confidence. 

At home, I got lost in the Natural Hair abyss on YouTube. I learned where these self-inflicting beauty standards originated and how deeply rooted these ideals continued through generations. It took years for me to shed off the stigma of “unruly” hair and step out in my natural glory. My hair is full of life and I no longer seek to have it straightened every few weeks. 

Pelo malo no exsite…

Who knew one statement could have such an impact? #DominiRicanIsh

Comment below and share your thoughts!


Check out my sisters hair Curl Smith product review!

Link: https://gajanutrition.com/blog/Curlsmithreview

Her IG post on natural hair!

View this post on Instagram

Let’s get real for a second. I am a Puerto Rican and Dominican woman. My pride in my heritage runs deep. 🇵🇷 🇩🇴 • • • Growing up my hair was difficult to tame because of how curly it was. I would relax my hair every six months. This chemical process is extremely damaging. Having “Pelo muerto” Or “dead hair” was something that many women I knew with curly hair sought after. • • • People would use words like “nappy” and “kinky” when they would talk about curly hair. I still hear people using these terms. Over the years I guess I internalized this and felt that my curly hair wasn’t beautiful. I fully own that I am personally responsible for my own perceptions and feelings, but we cannot ignore society’s contribution to the message being sent to women of color and curly or natural hair. Just type the word “beauty” into your google search bar and have a scroll. • • • There is nothing wrong with straight hair. In fact, I like to straighten my hair from time to time. However, this comes from a different space. I don’t straighten my hair because I’m self conscious about my curls. I straighten my hair because I like to change my look up sometimes. • • • I say this to acknowledge all of my sisters who struggle with loving their curly hair! Be wild. Be bold. Be beautiful. Embrace your mane. Embrace the lioness. You were not created to be tamed! You are a GODDESS! • • • #naturalhairjourney #naturalhair #hair #naturalhaircommunity #curlyhair #teamnatural #naturalhairstyles #curls #naturalhairdaily #natural #hairgoals #healthyhair #hairgrowth #naturalista #afro #naturallyshesdope #healthyhairjourney #naturalhaircare #type #bighair #coils #healthy #latina #veganlatina #beauty #hairgoals #lionness #dominican #puertorican

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Aa, Bb, Cc, Ch, …¿Qué?

DominiRicanIsh

It was the year 2003, and boredom dominated my 8th grade Spanish Class. The room was dull, uninviting, and rather than pay attention, my mind engaged with all of life’s possible scenarios induced by pubescent angst.  I spotted the kid next to me brushing white-out on his teeth, and to my surprise, I wasn’t surprised at all. The class was that boring. And then it happened, the scenario I feared most of all.

“Okay, tell you what! The entire class will walk out of here with an A if one of you can say the Spanish alphabet from beginning to end without looking at your notes.”, said the Spanish Teacher while folding his arms in frustration by the lack of attentiveness.  

Every student shifted their attention in my direction. I stopped scribbling to look up from my desk. The eyes of my peers were beaming towards me in desperation. There was an expectation for me to accomplish this impossible task and be their hero. 

“Jasmin, if one person in the class can say the entire alphabet in Spanish, everyone will walk out of here with an A. ” The Teacher looked at me with all of the enthusiasm in the world. Hopefulness glazed over his face. In his mind, indeed, the only Hispanic student in his class surely had the knowledge to do so. 

“Come on, Jasmin! You can do this!” One classmate bravely cheered me on.

Suddenly the entire class began to chant my name.

“Jasmin! Jasmin! Jasmin!”

“I’m sorry I can’t.” I defeatedly murmured to the class. Their shouts of encouragement and pleas overpowered my soft-spoken voice. As someone who only had a handful of friends at the time, the cheers from my classmates felt uplifting. This feeling lasted only for a brief moment.

“Everyone quiet down and let Jasmin speak.” The Teacher silenced the room. 

My heart raced, and I felt droplets of sweat forming on the top of my forehead. Everyone wanted me to save them, even the Teacher. After all, who doesn’t want an easy ‘A’? I started to say the alphabet. 

“Aa, Bb, Cc, Ch, Dd….” I purposefully faded the sound of my voice as a ploy to cover up the fact I didn’t know what came after Dd. 

 “Speak up so we can hear you!” A student yelled from the other side of the class.

I sighed in defeat. My body trembled from the anxiety. “I’m sorry, Mr., I don’t know it.” 

The Teacher palmed his face in response. The truth was revealed. I didn’t know how to speak Spanish, and everyone’s heroic view of me shattered. My classmates were groaning with disappointment as the bell rang. Amid the shuffle of packing away our things, I overheard some say, “Is she even Spanish?” “Why didn’t she just say the alphabet?” “We didn’t get the ‘A’ because of Jasmin!” I sat frozen in my seat and waited quietly as the teacher left the room. The cloak of shame dressed me that afternoon, and I wore it all the way home. 

I had the nerve to wear my heritage as a badge of honor, yet I couldn’t speak the language of my ancestors who fought tooth and nail to make way for their children and their children’s children. “Is she even Spanish?” I’ve had to fight against this stigma my entire life. 

Here’s my PG-13 response to this question years later:

No, I am not “Spanish”, but rather the product of two beautiful humans who are descendants from a pool of afro, euro, and native lineages in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. I am beautifully mixed and have every right to be proud of where my heritage originated. My broken Spanish is not a disqualifier or a tool for your judgment on my worthiness. Last time I checked, we were all in the same class together. We should have all known the material by then. Why was I singled out? #DominiRican-Ish.

Comment below and share your thoughts!

JasminKateri.com©2020

Motherhood

Personal Blog

No alarm clock can compare to the sound of my three and seven-year-old jumping out of bed in the morning. Those tiny little feet pounding the hardwood floor is their trademark superhero landing after conquering another successful night’s sleep. And if that doesn’t do the trick, my rightfully demanding 7-month-old will be sure to spring me into action by using a scream taken straight out of a Jurassic Park Movie. 

Motherhood is, without a doubt,  terrifying.  It is like pulling on a door while a sign with flashing lights is screaming at me to push. It is met with frustration, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and the endless reminders to my kids to put their Legos back into their rightful place. Most of all, I am continually confronting myself with the question, “Am I doing this, right?”. 

Every day I remind myself, “there is beauty in chaos,” and children are chaotically curious with imaginations that have no bounds. I know that one day the chaos will fade. The trail of Legos will shockingly vanish, and the walls of my home will shine as if tiny little fingers never marked their territory. And that is the part of motherhood I am dreading. 

For now, I will bask in the chaos and enjoy my little ones while they are still small. Motherhood is terrifying, but the unconditional love that comes with it triumphs all. Mothers are not biological vessels with the sole purpose of raising flawlessly obedient little humans, and children don’t stay children forever. Motherhood is a complex, spiritual, and emotional journey. In it, I’ve discovered a strength I never knew existed, all thanks to my wonderful little boys. In the future I’m sure the question will remain, “Am I doing this, right?”  

JasminKateri.com©2020

Rosa

Personal Blog

There I was, 14 years old, relentlessly trying to blow dry my unruly hair amid the most dramatic tropical climate I’d ever experienced. My grandmother and I were attending a party that night, and I desperately wanted my hair to be straight. One minute the sun was glaring and the next? Torrential downpour, accompanied by thunder and lighting. Mother nature did what she wanted when she wanted. Halfway through my mission, I heard my grandmother calling for me.

She called me multiple times with eagerness. I stuck my head out of the bathroom into the hallway with my hair a frizzy mess. My eyes met hers at that moment. I can still remember her smile, and her eyes filled with excitement. She practically dragged me outside that day, in the pouring rain. My hands struggled to keep the minimal cover I had to shield my hair.

The pipes from the roof of the house were expelling heavy rain. I was confused at first. Why am I outside in the rain? I thought to myself. It wasn’t long until I got my answer. My grandmother stood underneath the pipe, letting the rain soak her hair and her clothes. All I could think was no no no! Before I could protest, my grandmother placed me under the downspout. Thoughts quickly ran through my head as the heavy rain splashed on the top of my head. My hair! I will look crazy after this, for sure. I spent an hour on this!

After taking a breather, I had the chance to look at my grandmother with her sister. She was laughing and practically dancing in the rain with childlike energy. Her happiness made me smile and filled me with an unspeakable joy. My hair didn’t matter at the moment. Nothing did. All that mattered was what was happening right then and there and rather fight it, I joined in.

Looking back on this memory, I could tell she was waiting for this exact moment. I can still remember that day like it happened yesterday. I can still hear the hard rain smacking the concrete, the smell of the tropical storm, and how happy grandma was spending time with her grandchild. She relived her most joyous moments growing up in Puerto Rico and had the chance to share that with me. That memory is one I will always carry with me.

En español

Tenía 14 años y implacablemente tratando de secar mi pelo rebelde en medio del clima tropical más dramático que jamás haya experimentado. Mi abuela y yo estábamos asistiendo a una fiesta esa noche, y quería desesperadamente que mi cabello fuera liso. Un minuto el sol estaba deslumbrante y al siguiente aguacero torrencial, acompañado de truenos e iluminación. La madre naturaleza hizo lo que quería cuando quería. A mitad de mi misión, escuché a mi abuela llamarme.

Me llamó varias veces con entusiasmo. Metí la cabeza fuera del baño en el pasillo con mi cabello un desorden encrespado. Mis ojos se encontraron con los suyos en ese momento. Todavía puedo recordar su sonrisa, y sus ojos llenos de emoción. Prácticamente me arrastró fuera ese día, bajo la lluvia. Mis manos lucharon para mantener la mínima cobertura que tenía para proteger mi cabello.

Las tuberías del techo de la casa expulsaban fuertes lluvias. Al principio estaba confundido. ¿Por qué estoy afuera bajo la lluvia? No pasó mucho tiempo hasta que obtuve mi respuesta. Mi abuela estaba debajo de la tubería, dejando que la lluvia empape su cabello y su ropa. Todo lo que podía pensar era, no no no. Antes de que pudiera protestar, mi abuela me puso bajo la caída. Los pensamientos corrieron rápidamente a través de mi cabeza como la fuerte lluvia salpicaba en la parte superior de mi cabeza.  ¡Mi pelo! Me veré loca después de esto. ¡Pasé una hora en esto!

Después de tomar un respiro, tuve la oportunidad de mirar a mi abuela con su hermana. Se reía y prácticamente bailaba bajo la lluvia con energía infantil. Su felicidad me hizo sonreír y me llenó de una alegría indescriptible. Mi cabello no importaba en este momento. Nada lo hizo. Lo que importaba era lo que estaba sucediendo en ese momento y allí y más bien luchar contra él, me uní.

Mirando hacia atrás en este recuerdo, me di cuenta de que estaba esperando este preciso momento. Todavía puedo recordar ese día como sucedió ayer. Todavía puedo oír la fuerte lluvia golpeando el concreto, el olor de la tormenta tropical, y lo feliz que mi abuela estaba pasando tiempo con su nieta. Ella revivió sus momentos más alegres creciendo en Puerto Rico y tuvo la oportunidad de compartir eso conmigo. Ese recuerdo es uno que siempre llevaré conmigo.

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