Podcast

The Alphabet of Enchantment Island: An Interview with author Yajaira De La Espada on decolonizing child imaginations

To listen to the episode please follow this iTunes link or you can listen on Stitcker.com here.

From the first time I heard her story and her idea of a children’s book that captures the history of colonization in Puerto Rico, I was overwhelmed with bittersweet joy. I wished I had been able to read something like that when I was a little girl.

I remember the moments in my life when I read about some of the most influential figures in Puerto Rico’s struggle to be free: Pedro Albizu Campos, Lola de Tio, Lolita Lebron, and even indigenous Caciques that fought the conquistadors. Spain and then the United States, both invaded and repressed anyone who dared mention freedom for Puerto Rico. It was hate and ignorance that led us here. Puerto Ricans have every right to govern themselves, and this is the story our children must learn.

Because while we are living in the country that promotes equality, freedom and democracy it takes little to ask ourselves what is wrong with the Puerto Rico situation. It becomes imperative to take our story to the American public and highlight the need to give a colonized people their Freedom.

So I hope you’ll join the growing Puerto Rican movement that says that no country should cede it’s sovereignty to another.

This is why the work of Yajaira De La Espada is so important. She is an afro-latina/afro-Boricua that embodies the fierce warriors that are emerging to tell the stories that have long been denied to us or hidden from us.

A children’s book that highlights the history of colonization…
She hopes that the book will be a resource to encourage children to thoroughly imagine what a free and sovereign Puerto Rico looks like.

This is the work that our people in the Diaspora and in Puerto Rico are starving for, and have been waiting so long to see. I know that Yajaira’s work is special, I know there’s a market for it… because in every face I meet through my activism, I see the spirit of a people who are ready to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

Yajaira has been working to publish her work and I wanted to bring her story to all of you so that we can support it and someday soon hold it in our hands as we share the stories of our ancestors with our kids, nieces and nephews.

“I am raising funding for a picture book I wrote entitled, The Alphabet of Enchantment Island. It is an A-Z love letter to mi isla del encanto and an ode to AfroBoricuas past, present, and future. I would love your support. Please share with your community.”

You can support Yajaira via her go fund me here:

https://www.gofundme.com/yayaalphabet

Her contact information is:

  • Instagram/Twitter: @yajairawrites

Other interesting highlights from her conversation was her work in a Texas town with a large Mexican community: “They didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them” and the children she taught inspired her to work on a culturally relevant curriculum or culturally relevant children’s stories.

It was also alarming to hear her insights into the education systems and how flawed they are, from removal of librarians and counselors, to the unwelcoming environment for students from other countries and especially those displaced from Puerto Rico.

We discussed representation of afrolatinos in film too and the work needed to bring awareness to that as well. Yajaira highlighted past examples of representation, like Sonia Manzano from Sesame street, and Christina Vidal in the show Taina. But we spoke of recent examples to represent Puerto Rico as well, like “La Borinquena” by Edgardo Miranda and Miles Morales in the Spiderverse Movie.

And representation is so important because often the gatekeepers say things like “Puerto Ricans don’t read” or there’s no “Market” for a book on Puerto Rico’s history of colonization. But this is just the same old story, the same discrimination Puerto Ricans have always faced… and it’s up to us to fight that and say that our stories DO MATTER.

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