I’ve written and shared images from Tatiana and her family before. She’s been making the trek to Lakeland the past 2 years and we have always made it a point to meet up. Last year, she went through Hurricane Maria. She sent me IG messages as the storm began to pass through until the phone towers fell. As things began to worsen with each day, she made the decision to stay in Lakeland until things got better for Amaia’s sake. She was here for months. I offered to have her stay with me for a few days before she decided it was time to go back to Puerto Rico.
I took this images of them the very last day they were with me. I asked her one simple thing:
What did it mean to you to be here during this time?
Tatiana was part of the Puerto Rican diaspora temporarily. Because I want to maintain the integrity of her words, I will not translate her answer. I asked in Spanish and she responded in Spanish. She chronicles her challenging journey to make it into the US as well as how she felt being back in the midst of chaos and loss. Feel free to hit the “translate” button or to copy paste it on a translator. Please forgive me, but this is important for me.
¿Cómo me sentí viviendo dos meses en EU?
Salir de Puerto Rico no fue nada fácil, tomamos un Ferry de 12 horas a Santo Domingo. Allí estuvimos dos días descansando y recuperándonos. Luego viajamos a Miami y de ahí 4 horas en carro a Tampa. Una aventura, de la cuál aprendí mucho. Me enseñó una vez mas a valorar la vida, lo que mas sentido tiene, no lo material. A valorar la familia, el tiempo, la comida, los frutos, todo lo que la naturaleza nos provee. Valorar el techo, la casa, la cama, cosas materiales pero tan esenciales. María me llevó a dejar mi isla, dejar mi pasión, mi trabajo, familia y amistades. Pero me brindó tanto amor desde que llegué a Florida. Tener familia, amistades que me abrazaron y me abrieron las puertas de su casa significó tanto para mi y para Amaia. Personas que amo que apenas veo por la distancia, María me permitió compartir con ellos, conocerlos mas y amarlos. Ahora puedo a amar con profundidad La Isla del Encanto, extrañaba el cantar de los coquíes, el hablar en español, nuestra comida típica, sus playas, su verdor, sus montañas, el campo, los cocos del patio y las guayabas, entre otras. María me enseñó o mas bien me recordó lo frágil que es la vida, lo hermoso y triste que puede ser vivir. Pero nada como vivir feliz y agradecida disfrutando la sencillez de la vida.
I wish I could’ve travelled home. I was aching to go back, to stand in solidarity. To find answers for my friends in the US who did not hear back from their parents until 30 days after. I wanted to do more, document more stories. God reminded me that I was here for a reason. I was able to bring back my friend Cynthia who got stuck in Chicago and needed our hospitality. My friend Viviana was here for a short time as well and we were able to get together a few times and encourage each other. My mom was with me the whole time, which was a relief in itself! I could bear worrying for one parent (my dad) but not both of them. God’s providential mercies were evident.
Photographers—we have such an important job to do: tell stories.
Don’t pursue photography for what you can gain from it.
Don’t try to be someone else or whom you admire. Be you.
Tell the stories that find you, the ones that move you.
This is how you find your voice.