August 31, 2003

On Doing

Category: Other — Biella @ 5:38 pm

“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”
Chinese Proverb.

August 29, 2003

The pleasures of plantain

Category: Humor — Biella @ 6:42 pm

The days blur together as rain and errands seem ever present in the last few weeks. As I get closer to my departure date the errand list grows which means I sit more and more in a car, stuck in the traffic of San Juan which intensifies in the rain and on Fridays. I am no longer surprised by much although I do continue to get frustrated from time to time at the hurdles I encounter during my errand hunting. I take pleasure in the little things that make me smile while make my way from establishment to establishment.

Anyone who really knows me, knows I am a big fan of the plantain. I find it to be the food of gods and if it were not for its high starch content and the fact that it really only tastes good fried, I would eat like a god, everyday. My favorite incarnation is the twice fried plantain, tostones, made divinely all over the Caribbean especially in the Dominican Republic.

I have really only seen one type of plantain but today in the supermarket I stumbled across a much stubbier and chubbier plantain than I have ever seen. This is what they usually look look like . I know I am probably the only person to get excited about a chubby plantain but well, what can I say? I am. Sometimes fruits and vegetables that come in slighly different versions or sizes, carry different tastes and since I am so fond of the taste of the plantain, I look forward to a new plantain experience. So I will make this plantain soon and report back!

PS– A plantain though deceptively looks like a banana, is not one! You can’t eat them raw…

August 28, 2003

Reclaim the land

Category: Politics — Biella @ 6:16 pm

The US Navy recently left one of the most remarkable islands in the Caribbean, Vieques which is located off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. With stunning and varied beaches, rolling green hills adorned with flowers and horses, a constant breeze, and an almost eerie yet magical biolumenescent bay it captures the heart instantly. Unfortunately and not surprising, though the Navy is gone, they left behind their invisible yet toxic filth. And depleted uranium is just one of the many contaminants left behind.

Cleaning up Vieques is going to take even more of an grass roots, political effort than eliminating the bulky and very visible prescense of the Navy. It is much easier to point at men in uniforms, blasting bombs, land restrictions, and deaths by live ammunition than the invisible world of environmental damage that continues to cause some of the most potent harm on the island as it is the foundation that has caused daily chronic illness or the devastation of cancer for local residents. Though “science” is supposed to make clear the verdict of pollution, too often those with money and power can bend the malleable plumbing of science to fit their needs. One tube can replaced by another so long as it fits the purpose occlusion.

Recently in the NYTimes, there was an article about the future of Vieques and tourism. The most obvious omission was the story of environmental destruction and pollution, the writer instead choosing to portray Vieques as a bucolic, carefree land, the only danger being that of aesthetic/architectural destruction:

“The question now is how bucolic Vieques -
population 9,106 and known for beaches, wild horses and the
micro-organisms that make bioluminescent Mosquito Bay
sparkle and glow – can preserve its pristine landscapes
while encouraging new homes and accompanying amenities.”

The question instead should be about how to clean Vieques to make it safe for its residents and how to make those responsible for the mess (and we know who those are), financially responsible for the clean-up. effort.

This misguided and naive article unfortunately provides a sort of looking glass into the future of Vieques if action is not mobilized around the clean up effort, a clean up that provides ways not to just protect the visually pristine landscape but create a healthy environment for all residents.

August 25, 2003

Eternal Return

Category: Personal — Biella @ 6:34 pm

I have not spent this long in Puerto Rico since I was 19 years old. In a lot of ways and despite the muggy heat that leaves a constant thin film on all surfaces, it is a strange treat. I get to spend a lot of time with my mom which can be difficult at times because of her condition but it is something I really value. I may not have the luxury of finances but at least I have the gift of time to be and see and experiences those things that so used to be part of my life. Time is a strange thing of course. I not only came back home but I connected with people and activities from my past in such a way that I feel have made a small but full circle of time, a eternal return to those people and things that I value.

I have been able to travel a fair amount around the island, going to places like the Arecibo Observatory, Casa Pueblo, and one of my all time favorite spots, Culebra. It was interesting to move around the island with such ease, knowing where and how to get around despite relative absence. When asked whether I knew how to get somewhere, I would answer “I think so” not really knowing where to go but instinct always showed me the way. Place embeds.

August 22, 2003


Category: Politics — Biella @ 7:21 am

The PR Indymedia site is finally up thanks to the hard work of lots of folks like fredi here in pr and countless other volunteers around the world

August 11, 2003

the dance of life

Category: family — Biella @ 12:49 pm

Just a few days ago I saw a great and I mean Great with a capital G show. It
was a Rumba band which is incomplete without dancing and thankfully dancers
were there to bring completion to the performace. Physical movement brings to
life music that is already bursting with life. Rumba which has it origins in
the slave societies of the Latin Caribbean, combines fast paced drumming
with singing, while a pair of dancers erotically and evocatively flirt with
a pace and intensity that matches the drumming, in ways that just seem
humanly–> impossible. Rumba dancing captures what it means to be human: to
play, to desire an another, to connect individually. Yet it is a
social affair, the band united together through drumming, a gift of rhythms
for dancers so that they can engage in a flirtatious game of give and
take. It is an embedded and embodied cultural tradition. Out of slavery and
oppression grew forms of expression that said: “you can’t take away those
basic sentiments of human life and love.” Dance in this case is so clearly
language, a text of human passions, sex, desires, flirtatious games of
love which are brought to life through bodies that gleam with sweat. The
drummers don stoic faces of full composure so intimate with the music through
deep cultural knowledge and years of practice. The coolness of composure
contrasts with the sweat pouring through clothing. They work so hard so that
the dancers can play so hard so that the audience can sit in awe
to watch not just a dance but a dance that captures through and through what
it means to be alive.

Raw beauty, cultural exquisiteness, individual vibrancy all mixed together
and I watched with eyes wide open as if I had been blind for years before.
The nighttime dance differed so greatly from the light hours of that same day when I struggled
with the other side of the dance of life, the slower march of death and
decline. I spend most of my days with my mom who suffers from a rare form of
Alzheimers, one that primarily affects her ability to perceive. Distortions
and blurriness overtake clarity and sight. Objects come and go and hide with
no consistency. She moves through the world with great caution, using
baby-steps to navigate what has now turned into unfamiliar territory, even
her own home. She is like a small child grasping and struggling to make out
the world but in an inverse state of the sponge-like learning of babies and
young kids who are beginning to weave a web of neural connections that help
them navigate in the wondrous treachery of life. Her web of life is
unraveling. She finds her self caught in the inexplicably tragic knots of
her web as the pieces of her life-rope tangle her mind and perception as
they fall to pieces.

August 2, 2003


Category: Personal — Biella @ 9:34 pm

Just got back from the world salsa congress held in San Juan for the last week. Tonight was a bonanza farewell show with lots and I means lots of some of the finest and fastest and even strangest salsa dancers from around the world although there was a strong representation from Puerto Rico, New York, and oddly enough Italy. There was some other European groups like the Swedish one but all in all it was mostly strong, supple yet meaty latinos and latinas moving their hips with vibrant rhythm with hands, feet, and partners in synch which just seemed mind boggling to me.

The affair reminded me of any professional “con” although more on the side of hackers and sports conventions than a medical or technology conference. These were dancers that clearly all knew each other and who spent the week rehearsing, having fun, catching up with friends, learning new moves, meeting legends, and supporting each other through the performances. It was they who could really appreciate the depth of complexity and the aesthetics of those moves. The winners were a Puerto Rican male dancer and Venezuelan female dancer who were both strong as steel yet fluid as tears. The contrast of strength with softness led by intense rhythm set them apart from the rest.

But one of the more shocking elements of the evening was this older couple (maybe 40s) who danced with more triwls, liftings, and off the ground swings than any of the younger folks. But the amazing thing was that the woman was a strong though not bulky female of high stature while her partner was a short and overweight stocky man. I could not believe that he could pick up that woman over and over again. Clearly, they danced together for years and it was just like a key being inserted into its lock. Strange to see though.

Anyway, I am tired from watching all that dancing. It is hard not to envy those who can express so much with the sway of the hips…