It was just voting time in New York and I am feeling a tad bit nostalgic. My mother’s birthday, which falls during this week, oftentimes coincided with election day. She took such great pride in voting and passed that sense of civic duty onto me. It was an odd form of optimism that she embodied. Elections, for her, were not about throwing the bums out, but seeing what could be better. The act of voting was for my mother about how things could improve. I know who she would have voted for this past week and she would have been happy at the outcome. Perhaps the Bronx, so often forgotten, will get some Gracie Mansion love.
Also, during this week, one of her other favorite events is taking place: The Ms. Universe contest. Growing up we would just watch those shows religiously with a pad and pencil making up our own scores. This is a very common occurrence in Hispanic/Latino households. And rightly so considering that Hispanic women tend to win this contest a lot. The last few years Ms. Mexico and several Ms. Venezuelas won. I even have a photo of my son when he was two years old being held by a Ms. Universe. So there is a grand sense of Hispanic pride tied in with the Ms. Universe context. Right now, the front runner appears to be Ms. Philippines with Ms. Russia and Mexico right behind. Also, mentioned in the top ten: Ms. Puerto Rico. As Nuyoricans, we are bicultural and tend to root for both Ms. United States and Ms. Puerto Rico. If they both happen to be in the top ten: watch out for the mega screams of joy permeating the Puerto Rican neighborhoods in New York. This year’s Ms. Puerto Rico Monic Marie Pérez Díaz hails from the town of Arecibo; the coastal town that fills my family an immense sense of pride. So, let’s see what happens this weekend in Russia where the contest is taking place.
Although the island of Puerto Rico is not very large, although not tiny, there is quite a huge amount of city pride that is often evident in Ms. Puerto Rico contests and basketball tournaments. Each city has a distinct flavor and meaning to it. My mother’s side of the family comes from both Arecibo and Ponce, Puerto Rico. Ponce is both a city and a municipality in the southern part of Puerto Rico. It is a city of immense pride, history and turmoil. It is after all named after Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León. On March 21, 1937, there occurred the Ponce Massacre heightening the strong sense of Ponce identity that has remained. Individuals from Ponce that make it onto the celebrity circuit get much love especially in my household while growing up. Every Sunday we would watch the Walter Mercado show. My mom would pull out her pad and pencil and take heavy duty notes. Have you heard of Walter Mercado? He is known for being a flamboyant astrologer. He is part of the collective Puerto Rican consciousness, heart and soul and also happens to be from Ponce. No week went by without us consulting his astrological reports to get a better understanding of where our lives were going. My mom just ate that show up.
When I left the South Bronx at the age of 13 and went to boarding school, I didn’t catch the Walter Mercado show anymore which meant there was one less thing for my mom and I talk to talk about during our calls. A sad occurrence but one that is also common when growing up. I started watching Monty Python and the likes. My mom just didn’t get that sense of humor. I forgot all about Walter. My mother kept watching the show and writing weekly letters to me alerting me to any major pending events per Walter’s assessment of the life of a Taurus. I actually looked forward to those letters for it reminded me of home, my family and that I was indeed Hispanic. Not many others at boarding school understood what those zany Walter Mercado horoscopes readings meant to me. How could they? What was even more awesome about flamboyant Walter was his catch phrase at the end of the program where he would wish his viewers over everything else much love [“Sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor“].
Sadly, these past few years, Walter Mercardo has been ill and he even ended up in the hospital due to complications with pneumonia. At one point he was transferred to a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio (where I spent the first 5 years of my life) to get enhanced medical care. But he is overcoming those illnesses and is still doling out life lessons and truths through his weekly columns.
In honor of my mother’s heavenly birthday, I decided to look up my Walter Mercado horoscope which is fairly spot on. He exhorts me to have fun and that it is time to have more of a work /life balance. He notes that my insecurities about my mission in life will dissipate as I now have a clearer idea of where I am going. He also notes that my joy is contagious. In a way, if I can be sentimental and cheesy, it’s as if my mom is telling me that I will be ok.
Happy birthday mom.
The city you loved has a new Mayor, Ms. Universe contest is taking place where Ms. Puerto Rico is in contention and I have consulted your favorite astrologer who tells me that life is going in the right direction.
With much love, con much amor. I miss you.