Daughters of 1898
By Elizabeth Marino
Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, Guam: determined,
we lived in the spaces between names. From Spanish navy backwash
to the hairy back of the United States Protectorate of 1917, we took a step back,
as a nation non-republica, self-determined, living in the spaces between, calling ourselves Borinquen.
We journeyed under no country’s passport, named ourselves without permission, we lived
in the spaces between. Mestizo people do not fit easy anthropological categories — we went
unnamed – confused when choosing for our selves a “race” on US forms. A sun people,
the light ones stayed out of the sun, as if born an Anglo Daughter of the Revolution.
We gave the world a test group for the first Pill. We knew the power of our own fertility. Does
the medical professions insure our unborn children proper care? Does our created knowledge shine like
beacons throughout the Academy, or are our studies the background work for others’ achievements?
Step out, daughters, step out. Endurance can be the knife under the skirt.
Kamaria Muntu sat down and asked Elizabeth two questions (albeit via the internet), in between rain in Chicago and hail storms in London after reading the poem Daughters of 1898.
1. Elizabeth, in the now iconic Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde spoke with heart-breaking urgency about the tremendous gulfs between Black women in terms of love, supportive acknowledgement of one another and solidarity. What in your view are the barriers to creating Sisterhood amongst women artists?
It is easy to believe the myth of your own wonderfulness. Being an exception is interesting, but can lead away from the larger struggle. In academia, where you would think the thinking was more evolved, she is likely to be the only Black or Latino/a hire in a given department. Are any of us so exceptional that no other sisters are worth being hired? Are we so quick to share the enthusiasm of the administration on avoiding an EEOC issue, that we miss what is being celebrated alongside a real work achievement? It is essential for that solidarity for all circumstances of work itself concern us, as feminists, not just the role model
I also liked Audre Lorde’s address to the Women’s Studies Association in about 1985. It also challenged feminist solidarity, questioning everything from the price of a ticket to the conference to silencing words and behaviors, and the efforts needed to work across color and class lines.
2. What was the impetus for writing Daughters of 1898?
A lot of different ideas came together one night: the ethnicity and race language of the last U.S. Census; the very different sets of self-determination of the four nations, and how the separate histories played out; the recent Puerto Rican call for another plebiscite about the commonwealth status; realizing how the struggle for self-determination has passed on to the young. Once into writing, the visual element of an island shape, repeated, was a whimsical element. I asked a friend for a word to represent the former navy bombing target, Vieques, but didn’t use that.
Elizabeth Marino is a Latina American poet. Her critically acclaimed Debris: Poems & Memoir, published under Puddin’head Press, released a Special Limited Edition in 2011.