What would Simon Bolivar think of me today?Posted on December 14, 2021
On Saturday I embarked on a journey to Spain to obtain my Spanish passport and citizenship. Back in 1492 a group of Jews was expelled from Spain and 525 years later the decedents of these Jews, including myself, want to regain the right that was taken from them. Ana Julia Arboleda was my ancestor who due to the inquisition had to leave Spain and traveled all the way to Colombia looking for a new life. She married a Latino and that’s how my family started. I can’t help to think about what Bayo Akomolaf said about DNA being a “hereditary material found in humans and works as destiny.” Was it my destiny to be born Hispanic and then become Spanish? I’ve been reflecting on what this means to me as a Latin American woman whose ancestors fought for my right to call myself Colombian rather than Spanish. Am I being unfair to my past, to the people who sacrificed themselves, to all the suffering and deaths, the Indians and Simon Bolivar by caring about my future?
The day Hernan Cortés arrived at the shores of the unexplored American continent; he ordered his men to burn the boats. “Kill the Indian to save the man”(Robin Wall Kimmerer). Such was the beauty and potential of this land and so powerful his desire to colonize it. From this day on and for the following three centuries, this inconceivably vast and rich territory stretching from the drylands of Mexico all the way to the end of the world in the mountainous Patagonia was ruled and oppressed by European empires. For three hundred years the Spanish and the Portuguese mainly and the French and English on the sidelines, exterminated the native indigenous people, shipped, and enslaved Africans for labor, and amassed the fortunes that made them the incredibly rich empires they were and are today. The effects of such a brute and greedy process, which left unimaginable collateral damage, resulted in the birth of an ethnic identity, Latinos.
After all this time of European control, Latinos decided it was our time to rule our own land and fight for our independence. As Kimmerer mentions in his book Bradding Sweetgrass “Despite exile, despite a siege four hundred years long, there is something, some heart of living stone, that will not surrender.” Starting with Haiti, which every single free country in America will always have an eternal debt to, as they were the first to fight of the French and expose the hypocrisy on which the French Revolution stood on, freedom for all men except the ones we own overseas. Impressed and heavily inspired by Haiti, Simon Bolivar otherwise known as “El Libertador’’, who had been unsuccessfully fighting for the freedom of his native country of Venezuela, heads over to Haitian territory seeking answers or instructions in how to liberate his own people. Unity of all was the underlying truth that became clear to Bolivar after his voyage. From then on, he realized that in order to liberate his country, he had to liberate the whole continent. This realization, in theory, meant that he had to sacrifice his cause, his people, and all the work he had done internally, by going for a much bigger reward which in the end will benefit a whole lot more people than his own. What started as a quest for a sense of identity and nationalism, ended up becoming the pursuit of freedom, independence, and the chance for all people to create their own lives under their own terms.
Unfortunately, in the world, we live in and in the reality my country faces, opportunities, and the chance to build something from scratch are scarce. It is very likely this is linked to the endless years of looting and oppression from Spain, or maybe it’s the fact that it was very difficult for my people to start building a country while they were too busy fighting to liberate it. Whenever I think of what I want to do with my life and what I want to accomplish in it I always try to understand how my decisions will affect the people I leave behind when I’m no longer here. The dilemma I face today has to be dealt with an open mind, similar to Bolivar. In order to give the Colombian family who surrounds me now and who I will bring into the world later, a better chance in life, I must first use the resources of a country that owes me the opportunity to be free and to create my own life under my own terms. So, whenever I doubt my loyalty to my past and to the country that made me who I am today, I just think about how I will always have a connection with Colombia, the land, and the people, and no matter where I go the strength and resilience of the people who fought for my freedom will reside in me. “A place becomes a home when it sustains you when it feeds you in the body as well as spirit” (Kimmerer) Colombia will never stop being my home, even though a booklet says otherwise.
Bayo Akomolafe. “When You Meet the Monster, Anoint Its Feet.” Emergence Magazine, October 16, 2018. https://emergencemagazine.org/essay/when-you-meet-the-monster/
Kimmerer, Robin. Braiding Sweetgrass : Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Milkweed Editions, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/newschool/detail.action?docID=1212658.