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Thursday

Venezuela: Parte Dos

Imma just pick up on this story as though you read the 1st, & if you didn’t, you can find it here. The main focus for the Venezuelan trip’s focus was our guide’s interest in the Afro-Latin connection. To break that down even further, she’s chasing the connection between Africa & Latin America. Our histories are intertwined, as many of our histories are, through slavery. For this trip, in particular, we were looking at the Festival de San Juan de Bautista (Baptist) & the Festival de San Juan de Congo (country in Africa). During the time we were there was the celebration of the patron saint, San Juan, in his two forms. Now, don’t get me to lyin’ because I don’t do religion & this particular tradition smacks of Catholicism & attempts to hang on to the Afro side of things. I’ll skip giving you the break down because even after receiving it myself I was left with far more questions than answers. After participating in it, I was left with far more than that. I will try to address some of that here & in the simplest terms possible, but again, I may be unsuccessful.

So…there’s this doll right. 1 family keeps the doll & protects the doll from year to year. During the festival, the doll is trotted out as the representation of San Juan (Saint John if you haven’t figured it out yet) & he is thanked for answering their prayers. Sounds familiar right. So the doll is dressed up for this festival & carried around through the streets of the towns where the drums are played with the accompanying songs & the dances to the saint. It’s 1 big party. & we all know how we the people coloreds love a good party. That part I get. I’m still just confused on how, in these towns that are founded by African descendants, proudly, that we still have to trot out these dolls that are…fairer skinned…& thank them for all of the good bestowed upon us.

Anywho….this is the doll.



Looks familiar too, right? So I guess I need to check myself on questioning this group of people’s desire to worship the symbols that in NO WAY reflect their own greatness. We clearly do that EVERYWHERE in the world. Colonization is a fluthmucka. Still, is it too much to wish that in a FREE town founded by African descendants that they would be able to connect with a sense of pride so deep that these kinds of symbols are not necessary? I kept being fed something about not seeing color & because they come in so many shades themselves that it doesn’t matter what the saint actually looks like. My question was always, “well, if it doesn’t matter, WHY can’t it look a little more like 1 of you instead of NONE OF YOU?” Me & my thinking again. I really should stop that shit.

Anyway, so I danced in the street with the people, had a good time & even felt…teched (read with a southern accent) a little as the drums & songs took over. See, no matter where in the world you go, when black folks get started payin homage it can catch you right in ya th’oat, long as you’re black & got that innate gene that lets you know you’re bein summoned for your participation, no matter what the nature of the ceremony. You ain’t got to understand it, but you WILL feel it.

Back to the story…or whatever this is. I followed the doll & danced with the people at noon & at midnight. I saw the doll carried through the streets. I saw people stand before him like Christ & make prayers or show gratitude. & for the life of me, I still don’t know what the deal is. Then we traveled to another town. The 1st town, La Sabana, was for Saint John the Baptist(e) & the 2nd town was for Saint John of the Congo. Now, according to what I was told, the only difference between 1 Saint John & the other is a penis. Go figure. Which 1 do you think has the penis? The Mandingo 1, of course. So 1 would assume this doll would be black, right? You would be WRONG!! In the 2nd town, Curiepe, there was also the meeting of the 2 saints. I don’t have the picture on my camera (because I was hooked up to an I.V. for this part of the trip) but 1 of my fellow travelers caught just how…creepy these saints got. In La Sabana the representation of Saint John the Baptist(e) was Jesusian in nature. In Curiepe they looked a little closer to Chucky minus the wicked sneer. They looked more like the patron saints of pedophilia & made me wonder if this whole country is just smokin’ that good good.

But who am I to judge?

I’m not knocking anyone’s hustle right to worship as they choose. I just wonder why black folks worldwide continue to worship concepts & images that were forced upon us while being completely disconnected from & even turning a nose up at traditional spiritual practices. Some of you are caught up in my color issue with these dolls. It’s not about hating anybody else so much as I wish we’d just be OK enough to accept ourselves. Some of you are caught up in the religiosity. I told you, I don’t do religion. Any of them. & some of you, at the mention of traditional spiritual practices, immediately saw someone doing animal sacrifices or dropping human beings in the mouths of volcanoes. I ain’t talkin’ about nunnadat. If that’s what you research & identify with, have at it, but I’m talking about studying & knowing the beauty in the variety, taking the best of what’s available & making it yours—if you so choose. You really may be OK with giving glory to something/someone so far removed from who you are, or so deeply embroiled in the practice that it will not now, or ever, make sense for you to question these practices. Ultimately, IMO, this connection to spirit, no matter the name or names, comes from within. It’s a part of us, if we believe so. Therefore, also IMO, it would only makes sense that everyone’s representations reflect who they are. Jesus works for white people in the form we’ve all come to know. But perhaps for the rest of the world, who we worship should reflect who we are, more than continuing to hold up these aspirations toward “white is right.”

But nobody asked me, right?

Watch me move.

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