A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I inherited my dance moves from my abuela: Honoring our ancestors

They say ancestors live through us. They say that ancestors' resistance is present in our culture. I always understood what that meant, yet never completely. I almost took those statements for granted. Until last night.



Recently I've been letting myself become more spiritual. I grew up Catholic but decided to let go of that, first because of lack of belief and proof of the existence of God and Jesus and saints. Also because of the patriarchal ideals that are sown into the make-up of the Church. Now, I've stopped believing in Catholicism because of the history of that religion and how it was brought to the Americas. I cannot follow the Bible when it had to be beaten into my ancestors. Desmond Tutu said
When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
Well, in the fight for the land and my identity, I've decided to return that Bible.

Lately, I've been trying to learn more about the practices of my ancestors, and about other ways of pursuing spirituality. I've been following the phases of the moon and understanding the different ways in which our ancestors live through us.

And to my surprise, I've been thinking of dancing as a way in which our old selves can honored. How beautiful that one of the things that I love to do the most can also become a celebration of those who came before me! And last night, at a party, I realized that my 'talent' for dancing merengue, bachata, and other rhythms is how they live through me. And I mean this in a very literal sense. We aren't "just born" with certain talents, we inherit them. And dancing música de nuestros ancestros, like palo, merengue ripiao, sarandunga, and other beats from outside of Dominican Republic like salsa, cumbia, etc are things that we inherit. Not everyone inherits the same things, but the fact that we love these rhythms and bring them with us when we leave our native lands is resistance.

In a society where assimilation is necessary for survival, keeping our traditions is probably one of the most important forms of resistance.

Dancing brings joy into my life. Poetry brings light into my life. And to others painting, singing, making music, etc. brings joy and light into their lives. My hips just know what to do, my feet know what to do, my hands know what to do. I only have to close my eyes and follow my instincts.

As I continue battling with depression and anxiety, I realize how key it is to take moments to learn about ourselves both present and past.  Suddenly, learning to get in touch with those who came before me seems so easy. I knew how to do it all along. 

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