Celeste Morales

The Women

Often the men would gallop on ahead, engage the enemy in battle, and then rest. By the time the women caught up, they were ready to move again, and the soldadera would simply trudge on. Losing her special "Juan" in battle, she would wait an appropriately decent period and then take on another, to prepare his favorite meal and share his bed. -Jose E. Limon


With a blade to her ear

              a slit down the lobe

he branded her his.

                           Branded her brave.

 A child,  my grandmother,

              sitting in her mother’s lap

       would touch the soft pillow of skin

droop between the tips of fingers

              separated but still

hanging on

              to its anchor, it’s place.


              The story went

       Thomasa’s sister pulled her earring out

                                                        not the mark

       of a woman who worked

for Francisco Villa.

       Now our line is sinking

              left to search through mud        

       through memories fading,

                                   but she left us sweat, she left                        visions, she left      blood.




The Taínos thought the Spaniards were gods coming to protect them. The inhumane work conditions forced many to revolt, hide in the central mountains, or flee to other islands. Seeking to populate the island, the Spanish Crown granted permission for Spaniards to marry the natives, resulting in a quickly expanding interracial population. African slaves were introduced in 1513.

                                             -Cruz-Janzen, Marta “Out of the Closet: Racial Amnesia”


His skin, grandpa’s, has the color

of coconuts. Not coco, not


chocolate, definitely not cream

or milk. Driving the narrow


roads, through Puerto Rico’s

trees, they stop. He and my brother,


he, who showed us how to chew money

with fish oiled lips. After twisting the bills


with calloused hands. The tending

of the bills, more important than


our skin.


My brother waits in the car while

grandpa goes in for rum.

To chat with old friends, while my

brother sits. Two men, skin a

shade darker than Grandpa's come out

holding diapers and a coke.

They get in their car and drive

off. Grandpa’s hands cold, face flushed

pulls the door open, sits down.

Says I can’t believe they would

show their face here,  Liberti.




My brother frowns, watches grandpa's gaze linger on his own hands.


Skin made darker with the stain of the sun. He starts the cars.


Grandpa turns to him, places a hand on his shoulder, says


You will be successful, you have your grandmas Spanish blood. 












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