Tag Archives: casa mala

Sin Llaves

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Handing over those three metal keys, separated for the first time in five years, from a family of keys that included the keys to my mother’s apartment where I work and the key to my pareja’s house on the other side of the country, felt like a defeat. It felt like an acknowledgement of my failure as an independent adult woman. It was ad admission of my inability to keep a roof over my daughters’ heads. I walked down a street, that wasn’t particularly a beautiful street, it was crowded with garbage and people, and tears filled my eyes. I had walked down that street so many times in my life. When I was in High School, I walked down that street in the opposite direction, to the house where I lived with my father, his wife, and her daughter. Back then the Italian immigrants had (grudgingly) made room for the Dominican immigrants. Five years ago, I was 7 months pregnant, and I moved into my tiny one bedroom, with my then partner and my daughter. That street was no filled with Italians, Dominicans, and Mexican families. I knew every shop keeper and would wave and saludar a medio mundo everyday.

Three years ago, when we broke up, I was determined to keep my little apartment, with it’s leaky ceiling, loud neighbors, and occasional mice. Two days ago, I felt like I had surrendered.

My landlord and I parted ways with a chorus of apologies. They never did fix the leaks. I never seemed to be able to pay my rent on time and I bounced alot of checks.
“You’re a nice lady”, the husband of the husband and wife team told me.
And I left thinking they were a nice couple and in many ways they were. They never threatened to evict my little family, even as the rent came later and later and then in pieces.

On my ride on the 7 train to my mother’s, where I have temporarily moved my family into, I fell into deep sobbing surrounded by two big shopping bags of the last items that slept in Casa Mala : A vejigante mask, a box of chocolate cake mix, a Piri Thomas cd, among other things.

I don’t have keys to a home that is truly my own. In many ways I never did. I didn’t own the space that once was casa mala. Why do we even feel like we need to have/own space as opposed to share space? What is it about this place/country/society that makes it feel dirty to return to living with an extended version of family? Independence is praised and interdependence is looked upon as deficiency. Clearly I internalized some of these messages myself, even as I opened up casa mala to numerous friends.

There’s an overused saying about one door closing and another one opening. A donde los llaves que me quedan me llevan.

Transitioning Away from Casa Mala

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I am contracting my life.
Getting rid of things that no longer fit into the small room I will share with my daughters for the next few months.
Not just physical items – like clothes that don’t fit, redundant appliances, books I never really liked, cheap flatware
but emotions, memories too
struggle.
The last 3 years have been an enormous struggle.
Left with Casita Mala – my small ass 1 bedroom apartment in a lovely hood of Queens, after my relationship with el chileno ended, has always been a struggle.
Paycheck to bounced check
utility shutoffs
mice
roaches
a nearly empty fridge
leaking
flooding
laughter
birthday parties
christmas dinners
wine
cigarettes
amigas
one night stands
short term lovers
lovers who never arrived
parejas you never want to leave
tears.

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Mala’s Summer Appeal: Food, Rent and Netroots

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Apologies for taking so long away from my true casita, a space where I blogged for years before I was “buzzworthy” and appearing on talk shows.

As Summer kicks off, I am reminded that as radical single mami media maker being called buzzworthy doesn’t pay my bills, won’t get me to an hermana’s wedding across the country, and doesn’t always make me feel safe. With iron bars secured on the windows of Casa Mala, feeling safe doesn’t trump my burning desire to speak/write out what I live and see in my comunidad. This is what I love and I really believe, even at 33 years old that I am not too old to be somewhat of an idealist and love what I do, love that my work includes mami’ing two amazing ChileRicans, maintaining VivirLatino out of pocket, working with young people, playing with palabras and doing what I can, yes to change this mundo I was born into.

Pero I need help. It’s humbling to admit this, that I am struggling to pay rent, pay my utilities, my metrocard, feed my children and myself while engaged in this hustle called vida. Pero my requests are humble as well.

Through the graciousness of two organizations, I will be attending both the Allied Media Conference this week and Netroots Nation next month. For the Allied Media Conference, I have been reminded of the power of the grassroots and have airfare, housing, and even food taken care of. I still need help for Netroots though.

Democracy For America gave me a scholarship to attend Netroots Nations next month in Las Vegas and are covering my hotel and my conference registration. What they do not cover is airfare, food, or the money I will need to spend on childcare for the weekdays I am away. For those that don’t know, I do all I do while taking care full time of my two hijas, one who is three and is home with me 24/7 (except for when her dad takes her, for a few hours three days a week).

So that is what I am asking for help with.

A trip from NYC to Vegas for Netroots towards the end of July costs about $450

Childcare is about $50

I also would like to eat while at Netroots.

If you have airline miles to donate please let me know (I’m not even sure how that works).

Donations can be sent to my paypal account.





Mil gracias

Heart Shaped Rejas

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Earlier this week the landlord sent over a crew to put gates on my windows. They are supposed to help make me feel safer after the break in. They really don’t. Now, instead of being wide awake in my bed in the middle of the night listening for the sound of my window sliding open, I listen for the sound of hands on metal. I guess the true test will be not having Casa Mala broken into again. I know Poroto, who was traumatized a bit by the sight of her things thrown about the apartment and the many police that came later, feels safer. She doesn’t even call the gates by their name. She calls them “seatbelts”, something she hates to put on but knows she has to for her own good.

Pero, I hate them. They are ugly and obstruct my view of the morning sun as I write this. Not even the heart shapes in them can make me love them. Maybe if I put lights or flowers on them, I could tolerate them a little more.

The gates remind me of my childhood. The houses in Puerto Rico are encased in gates. Even as I child I hated them though. I didn’t understand why I had to be kept from the streets of Santurce. I would look out the gates, at the caserio de Lloren Torres and wonder why people were imprisoning themselves from each other.

Once, when my sister and I were on a camping trip with my dad, and my stepmother and stepsister were in Puerto Rico, our house, just a few blocks from where Casa Mala, was broken into. The interior scene was similar to what my place looked like after the break in, except it was spread across two floors. And like now, a few days after the break in, the house was caged, gated, and locked.

There have been few instances that I have willingly put myself behind bars. They have involved civil disobedience actions. This is the first instance that falls out of that pattern. I feel like I’ve imprisoned myself in a different way, with no righteous cause to justify it.

Violacion en Casa Mala

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A few weeks ago I came home from tutoring and noticed that casa mala was a mess. At first poroto and I were shocked that we had left the apartment in such a state but as soon as I turned on the lights and walked in it became clear that someone had been in casa mala and trashed the place.

I was confused at first. I checked to see if my laptaps, half of my income source, had been stolen. They had not even been touched. I looked to see if my documents : passports and social security cards belonging to my daughters and me had been stolen/touched. They had not. I checked through the mess of my jewelry box, some of it’s contents on my bed, some of them on the table, to see if the few real gold pieces had been taken. They had not. Basically someone had been inside of casa mala and tore shit apart, they especially took the effort to go through personal things. Picture boxes I had in my closet were dumped onto my bed.
Boxes where I keep love letters sent to me were opened and thrown on my living room floor.
My underwear drawer had been emptied leaving thongs and period panties alike strewn on the floor. My “toy” box was open leaving a trail of lube, plugs and vibrators out in the open. Hot pink and electric blue fishnets made a path to a heap of sweaters and the underclothes of my preschool child.

Was this something personal? A case of mistaken identity? Was whoever was in my house looking for cash? Hell I’m looking for some too. Were they looking for drugs? Or were they just looking through parts of my life to see what they could find? Or were they just wanting to scare me?

They did, for a moment anyway.
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Y Una Luz Pequena Abre Un Nuevo Camino con Cancion de Paloma

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The last few days have been a special kind of hell. Last night, when el chileno dropped off la poroto, and I considered that I might not take care of her, he seemed a little too eager to help in that way, in taking my hija off my hands. Quizas my mother and sister were right with their gut reactions.

Pero all throughout the day, small gifts came in that allowed me to pay towards my electricity and buy food for casa mala. Someone bought me a metrocard so I wouldn’t have to walk everywhere like I have been doing for weeks (even though I actually like the walking). Y despues, ni voy a llamar lo milagro. No porque to call it a miracle doesn’t give it the place it deserves. blessing? Yes, because I feel that we are given signs and people placed in our path and opening new paths for a reason. Every single person and conversation is a lesson in love, giving and receiving it.

For the last two days I have been crying off and on. Trying to put a good face on for las nenas. La Mapu understands all of this a little better and took a break from casa mala and mamita mala stress and stayed with my mom last night, pero I wish she was here. Last night I cried out of relief, joy, gratitude and love.

Familia, yes familia is my blood family. My sister trying to help me find a more sustainable living situation in terms of work and home. My mom trying so hard not to judge and helping me with la mapu. And chosen familia, familia that you meet and instantly fall in love with because their hearts and souls are just so beautiful. So many of you here are my chosen familia. Showing me love and support in ways I was told I didn’t deserve. So thank you.

For now casa mala remains casa mala, with working electricity and a working phone and a working heart that doesn’t feel so beat the fucking down. I still need to figure out long term how I will do this survival game. I still need a more sustainable work, living, childcare situation pero I have some room to just stop and breath.

And I owe some peeps the biggest wedding gift, ever!!!!

Abrazos
M

Hard Choices at Casa Mala

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9 months. The amount of time I have survived single mami’hood 2.0. Paying rent, paying bills, doing my blogtivista cosa while hustling at a number of other gigs.

Pero it may come to an end.

The economy is suck ass for everyone, pero for a poor single mami who made choices to live in a way that centered her art, her words, and her values, for a single mami independent media maker who can’t get government help because I don’t have a “real” job to show paystubs for, because my landlord won’t give me a lease or a letter showing that I live here with my hijas, life has always been on the edge, moving $ around, asking and often receiving help from beautiful peeps and familia. Pero I think I may have just teetered over that edge.

I don’t live in a “spendy” hood in NYC. My apartment is one of the cheapest I’ve seen, pero I can’t afford it anymore. I can’t afford childcare for my toddler who is still being potty trained so I can go and get a “real” job. Child support via the state never comes on time and it comes in two pieces. My rent is officially late and I have a shut off notice on my electricity. My phone will be shut off at midnite.

So Mamita Mala is faced with some hard choices and I have spent the last 24 hours having some hard ass conversations and crying on the walk from casa mala to my tutoring gigs.

It looks like I’ll have separate my hijas. Have la mapu stay with my mom and have poroto stay with her dad. I need to hustle up what I owe on rent then bounce and rent a room and find some sort of gig, which I have been looking for pero peeps aren’t lining up to give a college dropout mami work, no matter how cute or articulate she is. My familia isn’t pleased with the idea of my sending the toddler to leave with papi. He may not have been the best partner pero he’s not a bad father. Their fear, based on our personal experiences, is that once he has her he’ll fight for full custody and won’t give her back. I fear that too. More than once in the midst of a blowup he’s threatened to take her.

I have a knot in my stomach, a lump in my heart, an achy sleepless cuerpo that wants to vomit all the time hoping it can purge all this away. I don’t know what this will mean for my blogging and my activism. I have my hands in a few things, labors of love and survival beyond this day to day shit. These sustain my spirit, pero este cuerpecito, este corazon feels like it’s dying.