- min read

independence for all in America has historically meant independence for some

this Independence Day, i think of my island, Boriken, or as the colonizers named it, Puerto Rico. 

Taínos were the original inhabitants of the island. Boriken roughly translates to “Land of the Valiant Lords.” when Colón (Christopher Columbus) arrived, he thought the island had one of the richest ports he had ever seen, hence the name Puerto (Porto) Rico. 

Colón used the Taínos as slaves and once he killed most of them off, he stole people from West Africa—all while inviting Spaniards to come enjoy the rich port. this is the ugly past of our island and the history we carry through our skin, hair, and souls. 

my island’s persecution persists. after the Spanish-American War, it was “freed” by America… only to be put under military rule. today, PR is considered a commonwealth of the United States— granting Puerto Ricans citizenship, but also restricting certain voting access, financial assistance, benefits, trade policies, and protections. 

in addition to the citizenship restrictions, my island has had its bodily autonomy attacked. during the peak of its independence struggle, two cities in Puerto Rico were bombed. one of them, Jayuya, was erased from existence. 

from 1947-1948, it is estimated that 7% of Puerto Rican women were non-consensually sterilized and by 1956, one out of three women suffered the same fate. 

in the 1950s, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was connected with Gregory Pincus, a biologist who specialized in mammal reproduction. Pincus began working to see if increased progesterone could prevent pregnancy in people who can carry children. the research was illegal in Massachusetts at the time, so he took it to my island. the first developed birth control pill used Puerto Rican women as guinea pigs without their consent.  

each night as i take my Microgestin, i think of my elders. i say elders and not ancestors because many of them are our grandparents—still alive. i think of one of my best friends, whose Afro-Boricuan great-grandmother was part of the trials. the pennies to the dollar she was paid to participate. the false promises she was given. the fertility issues their family face to this day.

i think of the pain. the eugenics and white supremacist thinking that started the birth control trials to begin with. how our people were deemed as less than.

each night i fear what happens if i miss a pill. what happens in a country that just ruled my body is not mine to make decisions for. a country that even those who advocate for my body, still call this issue “women’s rights.” my body that has no gender but is forced into boxes it was never meant to fit. my body that has been taken from me. 

and so i write this piece to take my body back. i write this piece to talk about the generational trauma i carry each day. i write to talk about the work i have been so incredibly lucky to do here at Leda. to talk about the radical healing spaces that have helped me realize my anger is righteous. the emotional justice workshops that have taught me that while i can’t rewrite my narrative, i can create counter ones. i write this to create my own counter narrative— one of power, one of struggle, one of seeking liberation.

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¿independence pa' quién?

independence for all in America has historically meant independence for some

this Independence Day, i think of my island, Boriken, or as the colonizers named it, Puerto Rico. 

Taínos were the original inhabitants of the island. Boriken roughly translates to “Land of the Valiant Lords.” when Colón (Christopher Columbus) arrived, he thought the island had one of the richest ports he had ever seen, hence the name Puerto (Porto) Rico. 

Colón used the Taínos as slaves and once he killed most of them off, he stole people from West Africa—all while inviting Spaniards to come enjoy the rich port. this is the ugly past of our island and the history we carry through our skin, hair, and souls. 

my island’s persecution persists. after the Spanish-American War, it was “freed” by America… only to be put under military rule. today, PR is considered a commonwealth of the United States— granting Puerto Ricans citizenship, but also restricting certain voting access, financial assistance, benefits, trade policies, and protections. 

in addition to the citizenship restrictions, my island has had its bodily autonomy attacked. during the peak of its independence struggle, two cities in Puerto Rico were bombed. one of them, Jayuya, was erased from existence. 

from 1947-1948, it is estimated that 7% of Puerto Rican women were non-consensually sterilized and by 1956, one out of three women suffered the same fate. 

in the 1950s, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was connected with Gregory Pincus, a biologist who specialized in mammal reproduction. Pincus began working to see if increased progesterone could prevent pregnancy in people who can carry children. the research was illegal in Massachusetts at the time, so he took it to my island. the first developed birth control pill used Puerto Rican women as guinea pigs without their consent.  

each night as i take my Microgestin, i think of my elders. i say elders and not ancestors because many of them are our grandparents—still alive. i think of one of my best friends, whose Afro-Boricuan great-grandmother was part of the trials. the pennies to the dollar she was paid to participate. the false promises she was given. the fertility issues their family face to this day.

i think of the pain. the eugenics and white supremacist thinking that started the birth control trials to begin with. how our people were deemed as less than.

each night i fear what happens if i miss a pill. what happens in a country that just ruled my body is not mine to make decisions for. a country that even those who advocate for my body, still call this issue “women’s rights.” my body that has no gender but is forced into boxes it was never meant to fit. my body that has been taken from me. 

and so i write this piece to take my body back. i write this piece to talk about the generational trauma i carry each day. i write to talk about the work i have been so incredibly lucky to do here at Leda. to talk about the radical healing spaces that have helped me realize my anger is righteous. the emotional justice workshops that have taught me that while i can’t rewrite my narrative, i can create counter ones. i write this to create my own counter narrative— one of power, one of struggle, one of seeking liberation.

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