"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities" --Maya Angelou, Poems

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


I’m sure you are all trying to fathom the incomprehensible and violent act in Orlando.  With tears and a heavy heart, I read this article from Latina.com published on June 13 with profiles of some of the victims. I can’t imagine how their loved ones around the world are coping, and this especially hits me heard as the majority of victims were Latino and 23 were Puerto Rican.

In April, my family and I traveled to Orlando and Ocala for my daughter’s Spring break. In Orlando, we enjoyed a wonderful evening with my cousin, Carlos and his son, Carlos Jr. Our time at one of the best Puerto Rican restaurants in Orlando, Pal Campo, flew by as we became reacquainted after several decades! Every year at Christmas throughout my childhood, my parents, sisters and I visited Maunabo, Puerto Rico to celebrate my Abuela (grandmother) Chepa’s birthday on Christmas Eve. We had many fiestas at the home of my Tía (Aunt) Lila, Carlos’s mom. My memories are precious of Three Kings Day and parties that lasted until the wee hours of the morning with the heavenly scents of paella and the sounds of maracas and güiros.

That evening in Orlando, Carlos and I told the stories of these family celebrations in Puerto Rico to my husband, Brad, and our respective children, my Elena, 14, and Carlos Junior, who is 36. We spoke with special reverence of our Abuela Chepa, the matriarch of the family and healer, or curandera.

We then traveled 80 miles north to Ocala, to visit my parents. Mom is 80 and Dad is becoming frailer at 90, so they can no longer travel and our visit was long overdue. I also scheduled two book signings at the Ocala Barnes and Noble and the Barnes and Noble at the Villages, the largest retirement community in Florida. The morning of my first signing, an article about the book was published in the Ocala Star Banner and I had a radio interview at WOCA, Ocala Talk radio. When I arrived at the bookstore a few hours later, a small crowd gathered, mainly Puerto Ricans. They read the article and like the movie, Field of Dreams, they came. They showed their support and welcomed me with open arms, and for the few hours I was there, I felt embraced by their community. I know they, like I, are crying.

My heartfelt gratitude also goes out to the brave responders, police, health care workers who treated the victims, and to the countless people and companies who are mobilizing to help: funeral homes, Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando, Jet Blue offering flights to victims’ families. There are countless others and my deepest apologies to those I have not mentioned. This article from the NY Times gives them credit.

I will complete these thoughts with a request. Contact your local representative and demand change; www.contactingthecongress.org can get you started and www.everytown.org shares ways to help end gun violence. The same gun, an illegally modified AR-15, was used in Orlando and San Bernardino. In spite of what you think about gun control, no one should have the right to own a high caliber assault weapon that wiped out the lived of so many people in seconds, young beautiful people on the cusp of their lives at a place they felt safe to be themselves.

New friends in Florida. I'm with Mom to my left and Dad (seated) with Lillian and Joe Piersante. Lillian is from Caugas, not far from Maunabo, where Dad grew up