Come in, let me tell you a story . . .
by Y.L. Reyes on September 13th, 2017

I am an Afro-Caribbean woman born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Europe is my home for the past 15 years. Aside from boringly blatant racist comments, endured at times, the wonder of casual racism and how easily this moments are ignored is what saddens me the most. Those occasions when strangers who reach out and touch my “special” hair without permission (because apparently I’m part of a petting Zoo) to a taxi driver who asked me to translate the first song in the Lion King… because it's in some African language… and I, a black girl, must be from the ‘country’ of Africa. There has been, of course, plenty of less amusing micro offences in between. On most occasions, I simply brush it off as random obtuseness and move on. A very recent comment, however, made me wonder if these microaggressions caused, most of the times, by 'ignorance’ can be used to actually change peoples’ minds.  

While on an night out with friends in Dublin, I made a comment on my type of man and how I am not attracted to black guys that often. This is something most people who know me already know and do not give two fucks about. It is just my preference, I am attracted to the allure of opposites. A female white friend (yes, her skin colour is relevant to this article) laughs and replies nonchalantly that 'it's strange that I am not attracted to my own kind'. I chuckled wholeheartedly at this; it was so stupid, I had to laugh whilst two other white female friends, looking extremely uncomfortable, seemed to be waiting for the WWIII of ‘how dare you’ to begin. Of course, there was peace on all fronts; my M.O. of automatically keeping the peace by ignoring a very harsh and cretinous remark was activated; I silenced myself to avoid ruining the night.

Now, perhaps my reaction was caused by me adopting an Irish way of ‘not wanting to make a fuss’ or giving in to confrontation. Or perhaps this has been my default setting after living for so long in 'progressive' countries where the majority of the population is white and where being confronted with bigotry that still exists is quickly rejected and in general denied by most; this also applies to the Netherlands where I lived for twelve years. No matter the reason for keeping quiet that evening, I now regret letting it go. For weeks afterwards I couldn't escape the thought: 'If we encourage people, on a daily basis, to voice their beliefs (whether negative or positive) about people of colour (POC) and people with different cultural, religious or social backgrounds would casual racism continue to thrive unchallenged? How can we ever hope for real change if people aren't held to task. Yes, it might cost a friendship or force us to endure a very awkward family dinner but it could actually educate and improve people’s beliefs.  

I have experience plenty more examples that show how easy it is to brush off casual offences and normalise them: Out in a bar in Amsterdam, a Dutch waiter intercepts me on my way out and, clearly believing this to be a compliment, tells me that I am ‘very pretty for a black woman’. He was clearly never confronted about his BS ‘opinion’ and if someone was offended he would blame it on his Dutch honesty. I am detained for one hour in a Norwegian airport while the customs officials fumbles around with my ID; when I ask for the reason, he tells me in a wonderful condescending tone that ‘women like you bring drugs to men in Norway.’ He had no evidence but none of his colleagues dispute his comment and all I can do is again, brush it off.  Being in the middle of the street in Dublin, talking to a friend, a guy comes out of nowhere and starts pushing me, shouting at me something about black women and then walks away; my friend ignores it, she doesn’t want to make a fuss. She’s white, I’m black… this is the only difference. Out with friends, a guy insists that he knows me; that I am from X country. I have gotten confused by someone from that specific country plenty of times before because of my skin colour and I find the experience irritating. I tell him I am not, but he insists and claims I am lying: “you are from there, I remember you!” I snapped, I tell him that “I am not from that fucking country so fuck off” and the guy walks away. I was annoyed and I believe to be within my right to make him stop. I am not bothered at this point until the situation becomes normalised by friends. They stared at me with surprised looks, as if I just committed a terrible offence. In their eyes, and it most people’s anyone who is on the receiving end of this microaggressions needs to take it, to accept that’s how it is and never take a stand. Taking as stand is so confrontational, so don’t you dare make some uneducated person feel uncomfortable even if it’s to call out a backwards belief! In plenty of these occasions a feeling of guilt will stay with me one way or the other. I didn’t stand up for myself and for others like me; I ‘embarrassed’ my friends; I should have said something, etc. It is an awful feeling, and nobody should have to endure it for the sake of good manners.

So where am I going with this: I want to be in a society where PC culture is dead. Where we are not afraid to confront and correct those who live inside a reality full of hate. A place where we understand that racism and discrimination is not just your mate’s 'opinion' but a divisive rhetoric designed to damage. A society where we are also not forced by a sense of political correctness to say nothing and appear to be open-minded and blindly tolerant, pretending to accept diversity when in reality our xenophobia, discrimination and racism continues to boil over. If we have an issue with a specific group of people, whether due to skin colour, nationality, culture, religion or because they don’t love Tayto crisps, being PC 24/7 allows us to hide our true selves and prevents us from truly understanding and accepting others who seem different for whatever reason. Being carelessly 'PC' forces us to connect only with supposed 'equals', those who have our same views and where our opinions, no matter how inflammatory and hateful, will be accepted. How can a society like that be ever at peace? Borders are shrinking every day but different cultures continue to mix, they are destined to. When we interact with other cultures in ordinary ways, respectfully, we embrace each other’s difference and work to find similarities. We stop the rise of men like Geert Wilders or Donald Trump. 

I am not advertising some sort of war between beliefs. I am hoping people, including myself, take a stand and educate those who’s beliefs are based on fear or generalisation. For you that are open to all races and beliefs to dare to confront that slightly racist family member or friend; and for you, the slightly racist character in your group to be open to someone else’s opposing opinion that might, in time, positively change the way you see others.

This idea is not ground-breaking; I actually believe this happens to some extent around us. I’m simply writing this to share my experiences, because swallowing my words it’s beginning to leave a mark inside. I write this to make others understand how lonely it feels to love the place you live whilst at the same time becoming convinced that the ignorance you face almost daily should not be challenged. When your friends tell you to let it go, because ‘they don’t mean it, they just didn’t know’ hurts because in 2017 that should not be an excuse. I am writing this so that you, someone who barely experiences microaggressions and you who experience it regularly can take a stand. To not be afraid to stand up to your friend who can’t stop making those outrageous remarks because you are starting to realise those are his actual beliefs. I’m not asking you to exclude him from your next party because your foreign friend will be there and things might get awkward but to actually debunk his or her ideas and do your best to educate and to understand why they have those beliefs. I promise you the fear of confrontation will subside and the pride and satisfaction of taking a stand will take its place. And who knows, you might actually make a difference in someone’s world.

Yahaira L. Reyes
February 2017

by Y.L. Reyes on December 3rd, 2016

Una agenda diferente a finales de los Noventa en República Dominicana + Mi yo de 20 años, inocente aún y con la urgencia inconsciente de grabar mis pensamientos en el papel + Una clase de Derecho Civil o de Familia que incluía todo el aburrimiento imaginable que desarrollas mientras escuchas a un profesor de leyes hablar por una hora sin pausa + Dieciocho años después, en Dublín, Irlanda mientras buceaba dentro de una caja llena de nostalgias en forma de libros, papeles y fotografías (evidencias palpables de que el pasado no esta solo en nuestra imaginación, sino que realmente existió) + La inmensa gratitud de no tener Facebook en el 1999, porque solo me imagino las pendejadas que hubiese puesto en mi muro cuando todavía me faltaba una gran cantidad de sentido común. RESULTADO: Este Poema.

Voy a creer que ya en ese entonces era una escritora a punto de despegar (creo que estoy en esa etapa todavía...). A ver si lo leen y me dicen que piensan: 


Eres el brillante sol que alumbra mi oscuridad;

Eres la soga que saca mis fuerzas del abismo del dolor; 

Eres mi inspiración cuando me encuentro en el callejón de la desesperación.

Eres el fuego que enciende la mecha de mi fé y mi vida solo es vida si oigo tu voz que me hace renacer.

Yahaira Lidia Reyes Jiménez
April 11th, 1999

PS: ​Si, le tome una foto 'artística' con filter dizque para mas inspiración y elegancia! (no soy fotógrafa, así que disfruten mi novatada).

by Y.L. Reyes on August 31st, 2015

“Tomará años, como nos ha tomado a nosotros, comprender la realidad. Su madre fue el antihéroe: trágica, valiente e imposiblemente necesaria.”[1]

Hoy tu cumples 77 años y durante los últimos dos meses he tratado de escribir un cuento, una historia para ti. Que aparatoso fracaso. Me perdí completamente tratando de una forma lógica de entender quien en esencia fue la Licenciada Ramona Jiménez Berigüete de Reyes. El intento fue una estupidez! Como me atreví a pensar que yo supe alguna vez realmente quien tú fuiste en realidad? Durante mis 36 años cuando todavía  estuviste físicamente en mi vida, nunca te conocí totalmente. Solo en los últimos años de tu vida vi, por unos minutos, pequeños rastros de quien fuiste alguna vez. Rastros cuando con rabia, ya sabiendo en tu corazón que estabas enferma, me decías con una sonrisa: “Yayi, tu aquí y yo así enferma! Pero ya yo me estoy sanando, así que cuando tu vuelvas ya yo voy a estar bien.” En tu voz se sentía la mentira blanca que me decías y que yo elegía aceptar con desesperación.

Rastros cuando mientras limpiaba tu inmensa colección de libros y documentos, encontré una carta que escribiste estando en tu adorado convento. Narrabas tus inocentes aventuras con tus amigas con una inmensa felicidad. Cuando viste la carta, tu cara se ilumino, llena de claridad por un instante. Recordaste quien eras y tu corazón se terminó de por desmoronar al ver como habías perdido tanto. Entendiste por un segundo, como el peso de tu responsabilidad social y cultural no te permitió cumplir los sueños de tu juventud. Querías ser pianista y actriz, la vena artística fresca y viva bajo tu piel. Pero las mujeres dominicanas “estudian para un profesión clásica, cuidan a sus madres y tienen hijos”; no existe lugar para nada más. Ese fue tu destino escrito por tu familia antes de nacer y con obediencia lo aceptaste y hasta lograste creer en el firmemente hasta el final.

Leyendo esa carta, tuve un pequeño destello de lo que fue el pasado para ti. Una imagen fugaz de aquella joven que nunca pude conocer. Yo solo te conocí a ti, la mujer seria, llena de moral y recato, con temor al llamado “Dios” y “Padre santo”. La mujer llena de un amor inmenso y sonrisas para todos pero, gracias también a ese gran adoctrinamiento religioso, una mujer estricta, difícil.

Te recuerdo como mi fuente de besos, abrazos, canciones de cuna, caramelos de sorpresa y frustraciones ocasionales durante mis momentos de ‘niña malcriada.’ Yo lloraba a diario y tu pobre cuerpo, ya entrado en edad a veces no podía soportar mi llanto. Me castigabas, y luego con remordimiento limpiabas mis lágrimas, me dejabas la marca roja de tus besos en mi mejilla y la vida volvía a su curso.

Te recuerdo como mi enemiga mortal de mi adolescencia. Mi ‘guachimán’ designado. Tu vigilancia constante. El antiguo temor al infame Trujillo y sus enfermas preferencias sexuales todavía acosándote décadas luego de su ajusticiamiento. Las muchachas no pueden andar sueltas por ahí, quien sabe que desgraciado se les aparece. Los hombres en la calle, las niñas en su casa. Nuestras batallas fueron legendarias: tu frustrada y yo rehusándome a cerrar la boca, siempre queriendo tener la última palabra. Lengua Viperina me llamabas cuando ya se te acaban las palabras mientras yo tenía todavía millones más que expresar. Me pedías que me callara, que ya no aguantabas y tenías que escapar de mi incesante hablar para poder respirar. Me castigabas de una forma u otra, y luego de unos días de silencio, todo volvía a la normalidad. Te conocí durante esos años como una mujer humanitaria, con una gran necesidad de ayudar a los demás. Como siempre te rehusabas a tirar comida a la basura, y preferías preparar un plato y llevárselo al que lo necesitase. Como ayudaste a tantos a arreglar sus vidas, sin esperar nada a cambio. Eras una amalgama de colores y mi tonta adolescencia perdió la oportunidad de ver cada uno de tus tonos con claridad.

Te recuerdo como una fuerza invencible al iniciar mi adultez. Primero siendo una mas de tus alumnas; viendo las ganas de enseñar que siempre llevabas a flor de piel. Luego la benefactora que acepto la necesidad que yo tenía de volar, y fabricó las alas sin pensarlo dos veces. Como sonrío cuando recuerdo aquella conversación con uno de tus familiares más aterrorizado por los cambios que trae la vida. Un simple Ella es mi hija y yo la mando para donde yo quiera! Seguido por un “colgón” de teléfono épico! Reías con tanta emoción, como si al defender mis intereses estuvieses haciéndole justicia a la versión joven tuya, cerrando una vieja herida con el hilo de mi destino. Me diste la oportunidad de elegir mi propio camino sabiendo aun que me iría lejos.

Te recuerdo ahora en mis treintas solo como mi mamita. La que al pasar los años se fue empequeñeciendo con dolorosa rapidez, perdiendo el brillo de sus ojos, la sonrisa poco a poco más forzada en cada encuentro. Te recuerdo con la desesperación que acompaña el no aceptar una enfermedad incurable; las medicinas y remedios intentados. Te recuerdo en los brazos de papi, toda tu historia cubierta por una nube desgraciada a excepción de él. Siempre lo reconociste, el fue lo único que quedo siendo real en tu vida. Te recuerdo como la mujer frágil, con las uñas hermosas aun cuando yacías en tu cama eterna. Te recuerdo a diario, te recuerdo mamá.

Nunca supe quien fuiste en realidad. No creo que ninguno de nosotros lo supo con certeza. Si recuerdo tu trato y tu personalidad a mi lado y quizás eso es lo único que podemos desear luego de morir: Que recuerden nuestros hechos y el amor que dejamos sembrado en los demás. Ya no podre agradecerte en persona todo lo que hiciste por mí. Y es que hasta tu rigidez y control forman parte de quien soy hoy y su pudiese comenzar desde cero, solo cambiaría el no haberte agradecido tu amor más a menudo. Lo único que puedo hacer, hoy en el día de tu cumpleaños #77 es publicar esta carta personal para el que quiera leerla y quizás pensar que tu Internet tenga buena conexión en el cielo. Pero no te preocupes mami, porque no importa como cambie mi vida, te llevo por siempre grabada en mi piel.

Feliz cumpleaños, mami.


[1] In Praise of Betty Draper, Difficult Woman. Buzzfeed article, May 2015 (la frase en esta instancia no fue traducida literalmente).

by Y.L. Reyes on August 31st, 2015

​​“It’ll take years, as it’s taken us, to understand the truth. Her mother was an antihero: tragic, valiant, and impossibly important.”[1] 
Hola Mami,

Today is your 77th birthday and I have spent the past three months trying, unsuccessfully, to write a story for you. I kept getting lost in the mechanics of it, attempting to bring the essence of you into my narrative. How could I have been so foolish to think it was possible? In the 36 years you were around me, I barely knew who you were in reality. You existed, always, giving me your particular kind of love, that could never be denied. But, I don’t think anybody, even yourself, ever knew who or why you were on this earth.

There were a few instances during the last years when I saw a glimpse of the woman who was my mother. I saw anger when you knew what was happening to you and couldn’t do anything about it. “You’re here Yayi, and I have to go and get sick, but I will get better soon, don’t worry.” In your voice, I could hear giveaways to your kind lie. I remember tears in your eyes when, while cleaning your immense collection of documents and books, I found a letter you wrote as a young girl inside your beloved convent. A girl full of hope and innocence, having fun with her girlfriends. I showed you the letter, and within the haze and confusion of that fucking disease, you saw who you were for a split second. That girl who you lost years ago and it broke your heart. I saw you then, I saw your childhood dreams and hopes lost under the weight of your social and cultural responsibilities. A Dominican woman “must study, take care of her mother, marry and have children.” No room for anything else, it was not allowed in your life.

I read that small journal entry with excitement because I never got to know that girl in my life. I only knew the severe woman who would do anything for her family. Kind, loving but so strict, unbendable.

As a toddler, you were my cuddle source mixed with bouts of anger after going through an early menopause; not the best female phase to deal with the eternal cries of a child. I was a sad, restless girl and you would lose your patience, regretting it afterward. I know you didn’t wanted it that way, but who can control the passing of time? There was no room for apologies or talks of emotions. I was a child, I had to obey. I would get kisses and hugs later; you would wipe my tears, leave the red imprint of your lips on my cheek and life would go back to normal.

My mortal enemy during my teen years: constant fights! Lengua Viperina you would call me, fed up with my need to have the last word; to reply to everything without thinking. You would punish me, I would cry, we would get over it, and the cycle of my teenage rebellion will start again. I also learned to always thank the driver of your bus or taxi with you; to help others in any way possible. A particular story, mom: I remember a man from Iran who was duped by a fake university in our fabulous country. He was stuck in Santo Domingo and couldn’t go back to his home country without the expected Medicine degree; the first time I learn of the Ayatollah and government oppression. I remember you going out of your way to help him, to give him food and money. In those years, I was too preoccupied with one new book, a new cartoon or myself to notice much, but I learned from the bits I could gather, the kindness that was in your heart.

My benefactor in my 20’s when you gave me the wings I needed to fly and gave a polite “fuck off” to any family member who disagreed with your decision. Ella es mi hija y yo la mando para donde yo quiera! I would never forget those words; the excitement in your eyes. You gave me the chance you never got in your youth; a chance to decide for myself the life I wanted to live. Even if it meant losing me to the old continent. After that, I saw you once a year. Awkward hugs and kisses and in your eyes the constant question, “when are you coming back, yayi?” “soon, mom, soon.”

Now in my 30’s you are simply my mom, always my mom. She who got so small with the years, who only recognized me for 2 minutes the last time I saw her alive. Mi muchachita you called me then before going back into the darkness. The woman with the beautiful nails even while lying in her coffin. Always my mother.

I never really knew who you were, I don’t think any of us ever did. But I remember who you were around me, and I guess after all, only our beautiful memories is all that remains. It is sad to understand, only after your death, the strength and the immense love you had for us. I can’t thank you in person anymore, and I will carry that sorrow forever, but I can’t write this stupid letter and hope there’s Wi-Fi in your heaven. One thing I know I will do and I know it is what you always wanted for me: I will live, I’ll be happy and I will carry you with me always.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


[1] In Praise of Betty Draper, Difficult Woman. Buzzfeed article, May 2011.

by Y.L. Reyes on April 5th, 2015