all-consuming nyc, consuming all of nyc from the perspective of an AfroPuerto Rican Woman by Odilia Rivera-Santos

When I started writing online in 2006, my intention was to share my thoughts — to make public the private thoughts not too private to be made public. I was extricating myself from the hole of working too much and being too little — being as in just being a person in the world. I observe the race in our beautiful vibrant city to race past its beauties and dive into hyperactivity.

What could have been the hustle of poverty or slavery or sugarcane workers had become the daily movements of the busy human  bee. Here we are, eight years later and I found myself at home, daydreaming, and baffled at how the slowed down pace seems such a rare gift — a jewel.

And the man, I thought so beautiful, fell away due to his pace. A pace that spoke of having no desire to feel, be or be present. The green apple I am eating right now is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

I landed, but softly this time. And how would this fit into the AfroPuerto Rican life?

Slavery’s seeds no longer get watered.

Odilia Rivera-S…

Odilia Rivera-Santos


I have been putting on some shows around the city for the love of art with the belief money will eventually follow. And it is a constant juggling act to manage the many obligations life requires in order to stay afloat and properly rested to continue producing something of value, even if it reaches a tiny audience. I daydream about the times in New York City in which people casually walked into theaters to watch performers on a stage instead of going to see a film. I love films. Live performance is a different shade of experience, demanding more of an emotional commitment. As a kid, I would stare into performers’ eyes and wonder what they could possibly be thinking as they said their lines with a child staring into their eyes.

The process of writing work for an audience to experience in person as opposed to silent reading requires a change in meter and language, less allusions, and a presence. Words with presence — if that makes any sense. My voice is that of a sultry dictator, not a questioning girlwoman. 

I am listening to my voice and thinking of the different disguises my voice wears in the persuasion business that is life. 

I will perform my Dear God letters written by the puta, saint, and the ever-popular martyr.


I hope to see some of my readers there on 2/11/12 at The Organization of Puerto Rican Arts at 730.


Thank you for reading

Writing, earning a living, falling in love. How do people do that?

Odilia Rivera Santos

Writing is the one place where I need nothing and no one.
There is a deep sense of calm and satisfaction when writing that is difficult to describe, even though I’ve spent thousands of hours writing about many subjects.
A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling particularly disengaged and realized I had not written anything substantial — a chapter for a novel or some other ambitious piece of work. In order for me to tune in to what others say or care about, I must spend time in my own thoughts, wandering through the mazes created by experiences both real and imagined.
It is not an easy task to allow people into my world, and I am quite guarded and not interested in situations in which I feel vulnerable. Yet, I always say cynicism is intellectual laziness, so I can’t allow myself to become cynical about anything, not even love.
The thought of vulnerability always leads to thoughts of love, because it is the place where people feel most vulnerable; we all have a ‘work face,’ but there’s no ‘love face,’ because to be too guarded in this arena is to let go of the possibility love can exist.
After having spent most of my adult life in cohabitation in a relationship, I am slow to consider cohabitation with a lover/boyfriend/man-friend or whatever he should be called.
A friend of mine once said it is best to not live with a boyfriend because it keeps the romance in the relationship. Although I think romance could be maintained while couples live together, I have also seen couples become roommates who exchange dry kisses at the beginning and at the end of the day.

At this moment, 9:21, on this day, Tuesday, on this date, November 1, 2011, I think it is important for a couple to live together only in cases where there is no financial or emotional need — otherwise, one person taking care of the other could create a third member in the relationship, namely an unwieldy power dynamic.

Work for me is second only to health as the most important thing in my life.
Even if the work in which I find myself engaged is not my dream job or dream gig, I devote myself to its tasks until the work becomes a form of meditation to lose myself, thoughts from my outside life and concerns about politics or the future.
I strive to see desirable results attributable to my actions. This is not for egotistical reasons, but to know my time was utilized in a correct manner.

Writing, earning a living, falling in love.
In my life, there are periods in which I am really too busy and times in which there is enough leisure to make me restless.
Falling in love must coalesce with work, so the beloved other may be tolerant of those times in which I am so deep in thought editing that I may put a sock in the oven and chicken in the laundry basket. And knowing when to give me a kiss, or hang on or let go or when to listen as I uncoil details to be used in a story because this would be a true sign of love or at least leaning toward the idea of love.
I still hold on to the idea of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin who were married, partners in their creative work and together for 43 years.

Latinalogue, Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part I by Odilia Rivera Santos

©2011 Odilia Rivera Santos

I remember teaching an English as a Second Language class in the basement of a church in the South Bronx with gloves on and actually considering whether to don a hat as well. I was wearing a couple of pairs of socks and boots, but my feet were still freezing. I think they couldn’t afford to heat the place, and with cement floors, you can imagine the damp cold and how it creeps into your bones. The class was at night and the streets were very dark. The rolling clouds and crisp dark blue sky was reminiscent of an el Greco painting. Standing outside the building about to pull the gate closed, I wondered what the hell I was doing there.
I loved my students and felt a tremendous amount of compassion for their struggles but I did not feel safe in the neighborhood. It was always a precarious journey from there to home, but it was hard to leave the immigrants behind. I once organized a trip to a public library, which to me was a simple trip and nothing one would consider special. It was a beautiful Fall Saturday morning and because some of my students were afraid to take the subway or not yet acclimated, I met them in front of the el Greco church — that’s not the name of the church; it’s just how I decided to store it in my memory, as a painting.
I stood there and the students brought older relatives and children. It was very moving in its simplicity and to consider how education shifts foci. I almost cried as they introduced me to their relatives.
Everyone got library cards, and they marveled at how such a magnificent building with an endless supply of books and media could be utilized by poor people. One student was surprised at how everyone was at the library, rich and poor.
One student told me it was the most beautiful place they had seen in New York City. As a child, the New York Public Library was my sanctuary, my petite madeleine, my spoon to dig myself out of Sing Sing, so it was exciting to see the light in their eyes at the thought of reading a book.
I loved those students and still remember looking out to see those tired determined faces, ready to practice articulation exercises and excited to listen to their teacha’s stories about enjoying life despite poverty and the discomforts of unexpected life changes.
I left teaching to write full-time, and you know when you know. There are no regrets despite the change in income; I see this shift as an opportunity to learn a lot of new skills. Yesterday, I realized how much years of teaching helps me in doing difficult repetitive tasks. I become a deep-breathing zen being who looks through dry texts carefully sorting information — what to keep and what to delete. I learned a lot about human motivation, fear, and psychology from my many years of teaching. I also learned to do a lot of different accents. I did a lot of motivational speeches to groups of homeless people, survivors of domestic violence and sat speaking one-on-one with men recently released from prison to talk about creating goals after experiencing tremendous losses in life. I met men who lived in the homeless shelter because no one in their families would talk to them, their kids were not allowed to visit them and their wives and girlfriends had given up.
Listening to fourteen years of people’s stories reinforced the idea of how to succeed in life, one must be comfortable with exposure, risk and failure. Regardless of our background, we all begin and begin again and each time, the world receives us with open arms only if we act as though we were beginning for the first time. I would call my venture into self-publishing and being a full-time writer the beginning of the beginning, and I hope you welcome me with open arms . . . . cause I might need to sleep on your couch.

I uploaded my book Latinalogue, Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part I yesterday and will be uploading two books per month and learning how to market said work. I love to work, and publishing e-books feels like I’ve moved to another country and am busy learning customs and a new language. So far so good.

If you’d like to give back to the sanctuary of a lot of poor children in New York City,
Link New York Public Library Donations

reading in public for the first time

@2011 Odilia Rivera Santos

I began writing at six to learn English because I didn’t want to be behind in kindergarten.

I quickly graduated from writing simple letters to God to writing short poems. I used to tear them up, thinking they weren’t very good. But I kept writing.

The first time I read my work in public was in a pretty high-pressure environment — in a creative writing class at Smith College at a podium. I had trouble breathing and thought I would faint. The anxiety was unbelievable. Everyone’s eyes on me, silence and their ears taking it all in — this was a crowd ready to argue over a preposition, pause, articles.

My eyes drifted to the tiny bird at the window sill, and I thought it would be nice to be a bird and not a writer. The professor told me to look at my audience and I did.

I read

I did not pee in my pants

I did not pass out

I did take a lot of deep breaths and flubbed a word or two

Everyone forgave my imperfections, applauded, and then, provided very astute feedback.

Those writing courses took my talent and years of solitary hard work to get a spit shine.

After that first class, I began to submit my work to magazines

and my first batch of poems were all published, except for the 10-page haiku.

If you allow me, I could do the same for you.

I will be teaching a creative writing course, on July 2, 9, 16, and 23, in the West Village.

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