Puerto Rican resident María Benedetti shared with us her recent experience with Grandfather Fire at our Fire Speaks event in Mexico.

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Learn more about Fire Speaks: An Audience with Grandfather Fire

I don’t usually stray from my beloved Borikén, Puerto Rico’s main island. But just after Hurricane María, in September 2017, while contemplating my school with no roof and my medicinal herbs buried under fallen trees, my cell phone rang for the first time since the storm. It was my good friend Erin and her husband Adam calling from the United States, checking on me. They also invited me to join them in Tepoztlán, Mexico to participate in their Nahua Weather Work spring ceremonies to pray for and welcome beneficial rains. Thanks to the hurricane, 2018 looked entirely unpredictable; my plans for the next few months had already gone up in smoke. So I closed my eyes, asked my heart, and . . . said yes!

Once gathered in Mexico, our group was gifted an evening of wisdom teachings by Grandfather Fire. I dared to ask for advice: “I need perspective about a crisis we are living in Puerto Rico. Since the hurricane, we are seeing an exodus of thousands of families, as well as an economic siege. Our political leaders are taking advantage of the crisis to cut pensions, close schools and dismantle our unions, cultural organizations and even our public university. They are using repression, violence and other methods of extreme capitalism.” I started to cry. OMG. Had I gone too far with my words? Was this an appropriate place to ask a sociological question?

Grandfather Fire didn’t wait long to respond. He described how hurricanes clean the environment . . . eliminating the weak trees, leaving only the strongest, while creating conditions ripe for new life. He compared the people who have decided to stay on our island to the “strong trees.” He compassionately reminded us that the role of our governors is to implant order and stability, and that they are desperate because the system they represent is disintegrating. He closed by suggesting that for us strong trees, this could be the best moment for creating – from our deep, underground roots – the new Puerto Rico that we visualize for all, and then those who have left will come home.

I was thankful to receive that answer because the future of my adopted country looks painfully hopeless. Grandfather’s words helped me to see I must nourish my vision that another Puerto Rico is possible, and that now, as an educator and as a leader, it’s clearly my job to keep on co-creating – without being distracted by the bad news – the transformed Borikén we will thrive in.

María Benedetti is an ethnobotanical author and educator living since 1989 in her mother’s family’s homeland, Puerto Rico. She can be contacted through her website, www.botanicultura.com.

— María Benedetti
Puerto Rico
July 12, 2018