Tatiana M. Colon



Tatiana M. Colon is a Puerto Rican writer based in Rochester, New York. Her writing focuses on giving a voice to those in the Puerto Rican community. Recently graduated from St. John Fisher College, she has spent three issues working on ANGLES Literary Magazine. (Issue 6, Issue 8, and Issue 9). Her non-fiction piece "Ciales" gives a deeper look into her family's hometown in Puerto Rico.

Instagram: @tatiana_m_colon

This is my home. I sit here all day and watch nature thriving, coexisting with human life. I sit here and enjoy the fresh air. Every morning starts with the blazing hot sun, the air makes my skin drip with sweat — making me feel sticky and grounded. For this view, it’s worth it. The hot coffee that Titi Annie makes me drink doesn’t help ease the heat. She firmly believes everyone should start their day with a cup of coffee and refuses to let anyone around her break that belief.

A coffee bean is grown here, but it is sown deep within culture making it so expensive. It was first introduced to Puerto Rico and the town of  Ciales by the Spaniards in 1736. They found our mountains perfect for harvesting coffee plants. Its huge green leaves take up space in our mountains with its red beans until they’re ready to be picked and sold. The U.S. tariffs make it twice as expensive than the mainland, but the people don’t care as it is part of the culture and history. In every sip they’re reminded of the Jibaros trabajadores who would spend all day climbing the green wild mountain and picking the beans. Every purchase of the expensive coffee is proof that they would do anything to keep their culture alive.

I remain here throughout the day, even during the brief midday showers. The air cools down but it’s still slightly muggy. I can smell the fresh rain rejuvenating the plants. The mountain is ours. Our backyard is a tropical forest. We plant fruits and vegetables there. We even keep the chickens, roosters, pigs, and horses close by. Throughout the day, you can hear the papa pig oink out of annoyance. Taking a look at the town from the top of the mountain during the day you can see the mountains and rainforest easily. Each mountain has its own little village. Comay Maria’s orange house with chicken coups in the backyard is one of the few houses easily visible in the daylight.

But everything changes at night. From the top of the hill, you can see the town’s lights and the dark mountains all around. Each peak holding a small village of its own, and each village has its personal stories and customs.  At night, you can listen to the Coquis, making their soothing sounds. Once you get used to it, you can’t fall asleep without them. The Coquis singing alongside the cool air makes for a peaceful night of rest.

When I come home from the mainland, I can’t sleep without hearing the Coquis. Native to the island, these frogs are the only ones that can be found in my home. They’re only located on the island; they do not live anywhere else. It’s something unique to the island, to my town, to my village, to my home. Coqui, Coqui, Coqui is all you hear at night, letting you know that no matter how this island changes, they will always remain.

Coquis live deep in the tropical forest, in my backyard. The same backyard where many Tainos hung themselves. The  natives of the island no longer wanted to be alive without their freedom. They drowned their children in the ocean, letting their remains rest there so the Spanish Conquistadors could not reach them. Then they marched together holding hands until they entered the tropical forest. They climbed the trees together. One by one, bodies dropped down. One after another, they hung themselves. At night you could still hear Coqui, Coqui, Coqui. They believed it was better to die with their culture and beliefs intact rather than watch their island change and experience the abuse of the conquistadors. However, some stayed alive to fight. Pass the battle noise, you could still hear Coqui, Coqui, Coqui. But in the end, we still lost, and we are still suffering. Our culture remains strong, but we are expected to follow the rules of the same men who take advantage of us. Despite all the oppression we have suffered, at night I am still brought to peace when I hear Coqui, Coqui, Coqui. My ancestors who chose to die and the ones who chose to fight were able to sleep under the same stars hearing the same comforting sound of the Coquis for one last night. It is a calming reminder that no matter how far I go, I need to keep pushing forward, for the family who was not able to see today.

When Maria ravaged the island in 2017, neither the orange man nor his government helped us. He came and threw paper towels at us and claimed that there was federal help on the way. When they finally showed up nothing happened. They stayed only for a few moments, staying still for the photos for media coverage, acting as if they were our saviors. Once their photo-op was done, they left only seconds later. They call us American, but they don’t treat us like Americans. If the disaster struck in Florida, then they would not have left us to fend for ourselves. But it’s not surprising that the big white house has never cared for us. They just use us as a strategic foothold in war. An island that has never wanted anything but to live a peaceful life is a pawn in a dangerous game. We rise above on our own, lending helping hands to our neighbors. When one rises, we all rise. We’re family, and family sticks together. That’s how we survived on our own without the orange man. We stuck together like the family we are the same way we survived since the first day that the Conquistadors had landed and disrupted our peaceful lives.

We take care of our land, we love our land, we nurture, and we protect it. We try to preserve the land. We try not to disrupt the nature around us, but we coexist with it. All around the island you see people riding horses into town. Dogs, cats, chickens, roosters, and pigs roam free in peace. Not one animal feels fear. We coexist in harmony. Animals know their place on the island just as humans do. Each one of us serves our purpose and plays an important role.

Ciales is a combination of natural and human life. We leave the tropical forest in our backyard untouched, left to live in its natural form. But our front yard has been filled with our home at the top of the mountain. A safe place to survive each hurricane. A place where we can plant. A place where we can take care of our animals. A place where we can all live near each other as a family. We try to preserve our backyard. It’s the gift that we’ve received from nature. Modern human life ruins everything and we don’t want to damage it more than necessary. Our village is wild. Animals roam freely without fear in their heart, coexisting with us and letting us know when they need help. This little town of peace, love, and support, is my home.

This is Ciales.


© The Acentos Review 2021