I’m going to try to explain what my Titi meant to me, because it is a particular context.
I’m the daughter of a light-skinned Puerto Rican woman. I love my mother more than anything in this universe. She is the most generous, giving and self-sacrificing person I’ve ever known. She has the Second Sight. She sees through a person to what they were meant to be and to what they really mean and she is never wrong. She is strong and will tear your heart out with her words and she gets shit done. Everything good and pure and thorough in me is from her.
My tia, however, was a beast. She was a monster. She would claw your eyes out if you looked at her crazy and say you asked for it. She was a fighter. I never caught her without her nails done and hair laid (short crop curls fade) and if I did, I knew it was a bad day. I honestly can’t remember once. She drank. She smoked. She cussed. She rained all of her emotions out over you. She put everything into cultivating family, friends, kin, her son, her lover and husband, her people. She fought for them, for us, for herself to live fully all the time. She was always PRESENT and if it was inappropriate or a bad time for you to deal with her and her emotions, then tough. She would have laid down her life for me, for any one of us.
My mother taught me how to be a good person. Titi taught me how to be a bad bitch. She was the dark-skinned Puerto Rican one. She taught me, without teaching me, about what it means to be a black Puerto Rican woman in the world, about racism and sexism, about an island that is more than just three races and put me on a path to learning about slavery in the diaspora just by her existing in the world as brown-skinned proof that Puerto Ricans are of African descent and that you can literally be Black and Puerto Rican, you can and we are both. You have to be Afrxlatinx to understand how important that is. I’ve made it my life’s work to explain how important that is.
Titi taught me how much we need people (kin, chosen and blood) around us. She always had people around her. So when I write about kinship and how black femmes do not play games when it comes to choosing kin, I am talking about lived reality, real life practice. I’m talking about work I have seen and that I am a legacy of and that I am passing down.
And she, by her and my mother’s example, taught me about what I want from a sisterhood and what I would do to fight for it. Which is everything and anything. I will do EVERYTHING and ANYTHING for the sisterhood.
I wasn’t done with her. She wasn’t done with me. And this is nothing to what her son feels, her husband, her older sister, her mother, her best friend…but if the question is whether she is worthy of being called ancestor, then the answer is YES. She is. She did that shit. And my nails might not always be done and my hair ain’t always laid, but I, too, will claw the eyes of my enemies out and crow to the sky while I do it, and I owe that particular maldita y sucia brand of bruja to her.
You hear me Titi? It’s yours.
Rest in Power Aliette “Cuqui” Nuñez Medina
(June 22, 1962 – March 1, 2017)