I was first introduced to this woman, in college. A visit to the book store, led me to one of her most precious literary treasures, America’s Dream. After reading my first novel by famed, Latina author, Esmeralda Santiago, I was hooked and captured from that day on. The way in which she wrote that character, America, and her journey, using water’s navigation for a better life, seemed to capture the very Spirit of the protagonist of this story.
Other books such as When I Was Puerto Rican, and Almost A Woman, contribute to the narratives of Puerto Rican womanhood and humanity. There is great wonder and awakening when reading Santiago’s work. Nevertheless, I can’t help, but to observe the rhythm of water in the stories, offered to us by Santiago. In order to fully understand this, let’s revert to the first story, mentioned in this article.
In the world of America’s Dream, the island nation of Puerto Rico is the normal, every day world for the lead character, America. Not only has she mastered the every day life in her country, but as a young mother, she has to grapple with the reality of observing her daughter journeying in her very own footsteps. Some of it is beautiful, but not all of it is pretty. Having her daughter at a young age, while being in a relationship with a dominant, controlling, and married man, like any mother, America hopes that her daughter would do better. After all, who wouldn’t want to see future seedlings achieve what the current generation did not master.
In leaving to the United States, water becomes the saving grace for America’s chance of freedom. That personal journey of freedom that every woman aspires for in her journey through womanhood’s complexities. Upon arriving on US soiling, America locates that safety line for the beginning of something that she has always wanted to do for herself. Not her daughter. Nor, the father of her child, who thinks America’s dreams should be halted for him. None of that really matters. This time, America has made things about her. This time she has come to be recentered. It’s her story and she gets to tell it, right!
From Puerto Rico to “America,” water has guided her away from her troubles. For her, it’s a different kind of liberation. It’s more of a personal touch, and there are many loving things about this journey. Having said it before, the humanity of Puerto Rican people has been colored. Through the life of one woman, many stories are being told. Different migration tales arise, outside of simply coming to the United States, in order to seek a better life. On the contrary, there are those from the Puerto Rican island, who venture to the United States for awareness, awakening, and discovery of, self!
Moving from one area to another, through water’s guide is a unique arena. There is something about the beat and dynamics of water, which allows people to hold onto, the people, places, and things they have left behind. Even the sensory is allowed to be sustained, through the guise of water. Water provides opportunity for memory. There is something about its flow and texture, which gives people different opportunities to treasure every person and object, they leave behind. Those who live on land, surrounded by water, are given that opportunity to carry land with them. Its as if crossing water is allowing people to spray traces of their scent, across the oceans, seas, and rivers they travel, in order to get to another place. That’s what’s amazing about the very Being of water. Furthermore, people are able to leave traces of their own existence, when they cross the patterns of water. In water, people can leave their tears, their joys, their regrets, and their prayers, for the continuation of many blessings, in their travels.
Throughout America’s journey in the United States, we see that she has not lost her connection to the island. In fact, it becomes part of her, and her understanding of this new life to another country. Though she is dependent on her employment for residential spacing, for some reason it feels as if she is experiencing another dimension to her freedom, than should she have had her “private” spacing in Puerto Rico. Life is strange that way. In the United States, there is another part of “America,” that readers are able to see. A side where she finds her, feels herself, deserving of any of the happiness, which can make its way to her, in the United States. Its a little different from Puerto Rico. Not being solely committed to, or responsible for a man and child, allows her to contemplate on her own life-her desires, her dreams!
As I reflect more upon the literary works of Esmeralda Santiago, I can’t help, but to ponder into how she brings a magical essence to Puerto Rico. Through her women, and girl, characters, the island gets to tell her own story. Forget about the politics, the stereotypes, and what you hear on the news. Literary works such as Almost A Woman, When I Was Puerto Rican, America’s Dreams, and other works produced, gives outsiders a different narrative into what it means to be different versions of a Puerto Rican woman. What does it mean to be Puerto Rican, in general? Esmeralda Santiago brings that imagery to you, and answers it very well. The genius of her work is her ability to use dominant images to capture the readers’ attention. Whatever people (especially, those not of the culture) think a character is supposed to be, are given a big surprise, when they see that images given to them, have not been the entire narrative. In fact, there is a greater array of richness, that one could not even imagine. People are forced to dig deeper, than what they initially see. In the case of “America,” she is more than a maid, working for an elite, White American family. Her journey, and story, is the living proof of that.
Esmeralda Santiago captures her characters in the rhythmic flow of water. Though it is not always vigilant, it is still present. A person may not always see it. For those not used to experiencing water in this way, it may not even be felt. Some people have to read things more than one time, in order for things to be awakened within the psyche. Yet, once an audience gets it, they leave a particular story, with a sense of awakening. They become compelled to tackle and address various questions. Often they are of a personal persuasion. The very hardness of their Spirits are melted off. Furthermore, they are also forced to delve into any prejudices, they may harbor, within the comforts of their mental psyche.
Water became a source of inspiration, in my reading of Esmeralda Santiago’s work. No matter how intense the situation, or plot, may have been, water found a way to soften the intensity. It was a comforter, through and through; providing that sense of ease, that everything would be alright, in the end. Due to the power of water, it truly was, at the end.
Dreams are the very part of the human Spirit. There are many people who have walked around, with dreams unfulfilled. Whether it be the loss of hope, fear, or other things stopping us along the way, many dreams have been halted. However, that does not mean they are forgotten, or lost. Sometimes those dreams remain hidden. Needing that special magic of watering them, in order to grow, blossom, and thrive, once again.
For more information on the work of ESMERALDA SANTIAGO, you may click on the following link: https://www.esmeraldasantiago.com/ OR you can follow her on Twitter: @Esmo