✦ Botánica Cimarrón ✦
It's such a pleasure to share the work of another Afro-Taino artist. Our major historical narratives are clouded by so much erasure and illusion that continue to mold our present moment. With raw creative force, your practice is healing the land while you're healing yourself. What's one of your favorite things about being a descendant of Africans and Arawaks from Ayiti that you wish more people knew about?
✦ Moréna Espiritual ✦
I love so many things about descending from Africans and Arawaks from and who made a life in Ayiti. The first is having dance introduced to me at a young age in a communal setting, where everyone had their own style and there was no such thing as dancing incorrectly. The type of bachata and merengue dancing that people outside of the island barely know about because of this gentrified institutional version that is taught abroad. This inherent spirituality which was a normal part of life in the island deeply impacted me grouping up too. Knowing other black kids in my tio’s barrio who had visions, going to funerals that were ceremonies in el campo, with 100s of people, and seeing people catch spirit. The type of funerals they don’t tell you about in the church. Even my mother’s visions and potions. In New York coming from a migrant family of displaced people, my mother helped so many people in our family come to the states and there’d always be people living in my house to the point where I didnt have my own room until I was about 16. In this environment I learned many anti-capitalist values that center interdependence, sustainability and alternative forms of care. The way my mother and I helped each other navigate our disabilities interrupted what the system tells you you’re supposed to value. The way our family shared economic responsibilities amongst each other and tried to stay in close proximity to check in reiterated the importance of consistency, solidarity and emotional care within community.
✦ BC ✦
How does your embodiement of queer and trans identity shape your spiritual life?
✦ ME ✦
Different spirits, personalities, and moods embody me and are in conversation with my being. It's a ritual/performance listening to the downloads and in the data is an embedded queerness as ancient as the earth. The multidimensional manifestation of this experience in this perceivable reality is non binary in essence. Here nudity is a blank canvas and a communal resource. You can form new ways of relating that go beyond blood but you know there are lineages in conversation in the spirit realm. It’s spiritual and trans as fuck to become with the seasons and be intentional about how and where you plant your fruit.
✦ BC ✦
Can you share a little bit about your journey of becoming a performer that activates public space online and irl? If there's a blueprint to liberation, your movement seems to me like a reflection on that process.
✦ ME ✦
I first started performing at family parties with my cousins. Growing up, my father helped organize the Puerto Plateño meet ups and baseball games at Randall's Island for Dominican migrants on Lenape land, so there would always be so many people at these parties, to the point we’d have to open our apartment door and put chairs in the hallway. As a teenager I took various performance programs and began performing on stages more formally like the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Lincoln Center Atrium and New York Live Arts (amongst others), talking about themes of my reality as a black native person, and that of others who look like me or come from similar places. These performances included choreography/dance, playwriting and poetry and touched upon topics like police brutality, the colonization of the Dominican Republic, migration, family and spirituality. By 17 I worked as a stage manager for Hi Arts NYC and Urban Word NYC’s program “Journal to Journey”. Since then I took some time to myself, to define my practice outside of institutional gazes, and my work has expanded to be heavily focused on the archival, of me in ritual, healing myself through the performance wherever I felt called to in that moment - outside in the park, on a bed, in my room, on a balcony. I share these in cyberspace, processing themes like gender, alternative temporalities and time travel, re-indigenization and blackness. What has remained the same throughout the years is that performance has been a gateway that allows me to access and imagine another world or place through the usage of symbols and intuition, and retrieve information that I want to use intentionally within my reality. It's a conversation between me and the past, or the future, or my ancestors, the audience, their ancestors and thoughts and traumas. My mental understanding of it is what has grown, and I continue to become more intentional with it as I continue to cultivate this practice.
✦ BC ✦
I know you're answering the call of the land because you feel it in your heart. If you could mail a love letter to the heart of the earth, what would it say?
✦ ME ✦
Maybe it wouldn’t even be words, I think I'd shake my ass to the heart beat of the earth. Maybe I’d jazz scat over a dembow beat hoping it understood me. I’d be in all black for the occasion. I'd wear my anger around my neck and celebrate everything that ever embarrassed me. I’d host a party for all the loves lost and would feel fire growing from the soles of my feet. I’d telepathically hug all bodies of water.