Writing From El Nié- Lorgia García Peña/ Dominicanish (Video excerpt)- Josefina Báez

Historical Context

Major Events

.First U.S. military Occupation led to Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship

.Trujillo led through terror, re-inforcing white supremacy, militarization and US markets (30 years dictatorship)

.The CIA kills Trujillo

.Juan Bosch writer, intellectual and left-wing reformer wins the presidency

.Violent right-wing opposition to Bosch social-democratic governments leads to civil war

.Second U.S. military occupation led to the presidency of Joaquín Balaguer (Trujillo’s right hand)

.US offers refugee status to left-wing Dominican dissidents (migration as a safety vault)

.Migration continues through the decades because of political persecution but also due to extreme social inequalities and poverty

Bios

Lorgia García Peña

I am a first-generation Dominican Latinx Studies scholar from Trenton, NJ. I study blackness, colonialism, and diaspora with a special focus on dominicanidades. I study literary and cultural texts in conversation with historical processes and following a methodology for archiving injustice that challenges the heteronormative, Eurocentric production of knowledge that has persistently excluded and silenced the lives, histories, and epistemology of black and brown people from traditional archives, libraries, and books. My work is grounded on social justice, women of color feminism and Afro-Latinx episteme.

Josefina Báez (La Romana, Dominican Republic/New York) Storyteller, ArteSana, performer, writer, theatre director, educator, devotee. Founder and director of Latinarte/Ay Ombe Theatre (April 1986). Alchemist of artistic/creative life process, Performance Autology© (creative process based on the autobiography of the doer). Joy is the vital element present in her narrative, practice, and teachings.

Keywords

I opt for the term dominicanos ausentes to refer to diasporic Dominicans for the inclusive, even if still problematic, meanings the term emits. On the one hand, dominicanos ausentes points to the transnational nature of Dominicans who are not living on the island yet still presumed to be part of the nation—perhaps due to the political and economic power they are able to exercise precisely because they are abroad. On the other hand, the word ausente serves as a metaphor for the complex position Dominican migrants occupy within both national territories that define them. They are absent—that is, excluded—from accessing full citizenship and representation in the United States as well as in the Dominican Republic. (172)

El Nié is an uncomfortable place that hurts and makes the subject bleed, creating an open wound of historical rejection: “una herida abierta.” Yet this discomfort also offers the possibility of finding a poetics of dominicanidad ausente, from which to interject both US and Dominican histories. It is in El Nié that the contradictions of dominicanidad are embraced and redefined, allowing the Dominican subject to emerge as an agent of his or her own his- tory and identity/ies, finding hope, harmony, and even bliss within this very uncomfortable space of contradiction. (173)

Josefina Báez’s Dominicanish

Like many other immigrants, the main character, Josefina, arrives in New York with a suitcase full of hope and the determination to attain the “American Dream.” But unlike in fairy tales, the “American Dream” does not come true. Instead, a series of dislocations and disruptions are presented throughout the forty-five-minute one-woman performance, as Báez re-creates the Dominican “racexile” migrant’s difficult encounter with the binary US racial system, the English language, and the city of New York.

Upon her arrival in the United States, the character Josefina, like many other Dominicans, was forced to confront questions of political and cultural belonging and to choose ethnic alliances in order to survive on the streets of New York.

This process required that the subject deny the very historical processes that formed his or her particular experience in order to become part of the American Nation. For Dominicans such as Josefina, this process posed a contradiction, as it required US Dominicans in exile to forget the previous years of US-Dominican relations that have in great part provoked their immigration. But the very logic of US citizenship also marked Dominicans by their national origin, class, culture and, most important, race. Therefore, they are never able to fully participate as citizens of the United States, no matter how much history some manage to forget. (186-188)

-Lorgia García Peña

Writing From El Nié- L. García Peña

Presentation: Miriam Mayor

Oral Discussion

In pairs discuss the following quotes using these questions:

what do you understand? how do you connect the quote to the performance? does it make you think of other ideas/sources discussed in the class or your own experiences?

.In New York, the immigrant is confronted by the “crooked” city, the place where police brutality is the norm and marginality reigns. Yet it is also a place from which solidarity can emerge through contact with other marginalized ethnic groups, a place where the music of Johnny Pacheco and Spanglish can mix in a comfortable crookedness that the immigrant can navigate with ease. In the crooked city, the immigrant becomes a powerful subject by performing small acts of resistance in her daily activities. (193)

.Thus, New York City, or at least its underground, is converted into a home for the immigrant, the marginal, and the poor through these daily and mundane actions that resist the seductive and oppressive narrative of assimilation, which is also a narrative of erasure. Most important, New York can become a place for rewriting history and creating a new voice, a poetics, through the very body of the Dominican immigrant woman: “hips swing, creating our tale.” (193-4)

.Báez’s New York includes Dominican politics, Caribbean history, and particularly all the contradictions that had been denied in the official narration of the Dominican subject in the United States and the Dominican Republic. (195)

.The contradictions that Báez once viewed as her own individual tribulations represent, in the performance of Caribbeanness, a collective contradiction: being Caribbean already implies living in constant negotiation between races, languages, and cultures. (196)

.As black and Dominican identities are negotiated through linguistic representation, Báez’s corporeal language, as exemplified in Dominicanish, seems to contradict her speech. The apparent disjunction between body and speech is accentuated through the use of Kuchipudi, which further challenges the official discourses of national identity, race, and ethnicity. (196-7)

 

Writing Exercise # 3

Using examples from the performance Dominicanish and supporting your interpretations with quotes from Lorgia García Peña’s “Writing from el Nié” discuss how Josefina Báez embodies, defines and represents el nié?

 

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