The Boriqua in Me
GIRLZ ~ Vinia Mojica
CHICA TO CHICA ~ Life After Incarceration
Thanks to Elaine Hernandez, Naomi Rivera, Berta Colon and Cynthia Serrano,
I grew up with an in depth understanding and appreciation for Puerto Rican
culture. Actually I more than understood it, I fully embraced it and incorporated
it into my life. When I was twelve the two biggest heartthrobs in my life
were Michael Jackson and Miguel Cancel of Menudo. I knew all of Michaels
moves to Dont Stop Till You Get Enough and could sing
all of the words to Miguels Quiero Rock. I would eat pasteles
at Cynthias house and she would have sweet potato pie at mine. Growing
up in the Bronx, somewhere between the emergence of hip hop, Adobo seasoning,
cherry flavored lip gloss and Gun Hill Road, boriquenas and nubian princesses
were homegirls running in the same crew. Not even my mom said anything to
me or thought that my love for Menudo or the telenovela, Juanma y
WeWe, was insane. She knew that me and my girls were far from having
an identity crisis. We all knew that the roots of our heritage could be
traced back to Africa. As a matter of fact, most morenas I knew looked more
like Lauryn Hill than they did Jennifer Lopez. Hopefully mainstream media
will get a clue and feature a broader representation of all Latinas. This
is why I just could not let Puerto Rican Heritage Month go by without featuring
a couple of Hot Girlz that are representing for Boriqua.
creative and groundbreaking
is a constant in a cultural form where disposability is a hallmark,
reads a line from Vinia Mojicas bio. Vinia, who has probably been
featured on more records than Wyclef and Queen Latifah combined, is just
now realizing what true staying power entails. The New York City native,
who now resides in Long Island City, Queens, has appeared on over twenty-five
albums with the likes of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock,
The Jungle Brothers, Mos Def, Common, Eagle Eye Cherry, Arto Lindsay,
Youssou NDour and most recently on Talib Kweli and Hi Teks,
The Blast from their album Reflection Eternal. Getting her
big break in 1988, Vinia, 30, emerged singing for Al B. Sure on the New
Edition Heartbreak Tour. Fast forward twelve years and Al B. has vanished
off the face of the earth and New Edition is an enigma to most girls under
21, but Vinia is still ripping mics with her gentle, almost anti-calibrated
flow. Shes endured the unraveling of her Warner Bros. Records deal
and has learned to resonate and thrive outside of the infamous Native
Tongues cipher. Taking a break from the recording of her solo album, this
olive complexioned boriqueña talks to theHotness about sustenance
How did you end-up touring around the world with Al B. Sure at the age
Vinia: I went to Brooklyn College
and made friends with a girl whose brother, Gene Lake (drummer who presently
plays with Me'Shell NdegeOcello), was playing with a band called Surface
and was about to start drumming for Al. His sister, my friend, wanted
to sing background so she asked me to go with her to the audition. I also
tried out with no expectations and ended up getting it and she didnt
which was really traumatic for me. On top of that, I had to deal with
promoters telling me to lose 15 pounds in two weeks.
tH: What was it like in NYC when you
returned from the tour?
V: Hiphop was on the verge of some
shit. I wasnt aware of it then but we were on the underground set.
We were the underground set. We hung out at Milky Way and Hotel Amazon.
I saw Latifahs performance at Hotel Amazon and that same night De
La and Tribe performed together for the first time. That was the beginnings
of what would become Native Tongues.
tH: Whats your process for writing
V: I think every song is a love song,
whether its political or not. I think I write about observations
about myself. I dont think that its fair to separate myself
from the world. Everything is a reflection.
tH: Does the business of making music
hinder your creative flow?
V: Well thats exactly why I
dont read Billboard (magazine). I dont need that stress. I
have enough stress without checking how many units Ive sold and
who is number one this week.
tH: After appearing on so many records,
have you felt pressured to record your own album?
V: Honestly I didnt even think
about it until six years ago and I think that that freaks people out.
I never even had a demo when Warner Bros. offered me my deal. I got that
on the strength of the other work I had done. Its funny because
a few people wanted to sign me, but it just didnt feel right. Heavy
(D) and Andre (Harrell) offered me a deal but everyone had their image
of what Im supposed to be. They were like you are the Ghetto
Sade. And I didnt know about all that so I passed and went
to Warner Bros. Now that Im released from Warners deal, Im
on the verge of whats for me and its comfortable for me. I
mean how many Behind The Musics do you watch and the
motherfucker is like I wish I would have known who I was.
Fuck that shit! I know who I am. I just had this revelation recently and
realized just how ungrateful Ive been. Everyone was coming at me
asking me when am I going to do my thing and get out there.
And I sat there one day at home and wrote down every song Ive recorded
and realized that I am on twenty-six records. The fact that I hadnt
kept track of my recordings and didnt realize the amount of work
I had accomplished made me so upset. I just sat there and cried because
I know how many people dream about doing one song or one record, and here
I was with twenty-six and not satisfied. Immediately it was clear that
this was my thing. And I knew then I was fulfilled. And God said to me:
Enough is enough. Twenty-six records are more than enough of an
achievement. Then I knew it was all meant to be.
~ N. Moore
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books, film, tv and websites
year Sandra Lugo, 32, bought a leather bustier and immediately it was
love at first sight. She even goes so far as to admit that she would often
sleep in the brown cowhide. This may sound strange, but to the clothing
designer and former model it was just a natural attraction based on her
love of beautiful, sensual garments.
In May, Sandra took her passion for leather and suede and her several
years of design experience at major fashion houses like Romeo Gigli and
Christian Lacroix and literally hit the skins to create Ihlo. Ihlo which
is a play on the Spanish word hilo meaning thread
is a new ready-to-wear line that features backless anaconda evening dresses
and tie-dyed lamb suede skirts. Together with her long time friend and
roommate, Midgi Lee Lamboy, 27, Sandra removed the carpeting in the livingroom
and set-up shop in their Brooklyn apartment. What makes Ihlo such an interesting
venture is the evolutionist philosophy rooted in the fundamentals of the
Unlike man-made fabrics, God gave us leather. Its natural
and acts as a second skin for our bodies. Polyester and spandex do not
break down in the environment. When leather is used up, it disintegrates
back to the earth and something will (eventually) grow from it. Besides
if you came face to face with an anaconda, do you think it would not kill
you out of some consideration for your skin? Its really a matter
of survival of the fittest, explains Sandra while pouring
a glass of coquito.
Indeed her natural selection perspective is almost enough to leave the
most outspoken animal rights activist rethinking their politics. By taking
out the glitz and haughtiness often associated with leather (and those
that wear it), Sandra and Midgi have given their crocheted halters an
organic appeal that doesnt deny the value of the life of the animal,
but rather it puts it in a biological, wholistic perspective. Sandra emphasizes:
The weight of leather on the body, particularly on the female body,
is extraordinary. When you wear leather you feel it warm your skin naturally
and it feels good. Its a gift from nature and I like that connection.
Surely Sandra and Midgi, who both hail from Puerto Rico, are not the only
ones who like the connection. In the last year their collection has gone
from Park Slope to Park Avenue and can also be found in Florida and Puerto
Presently the designing duo is gearing up for their next showing. As they
continue to develop and distinguish their aesthetic by combining the Gothic
lines and shapes of old school England with the colors and textures of
Puerto Rico, Sandra and Midgi strive to keep their unique spirit of environmentally
sensual craftsmanship fresh. It seems that the one thread that binds this
operation together is their desire to reinvent how women look at sexy
clothing and in turn, how they look in sexy clothes. Midgi says: The
collection is always (going to be) about complimenting and adding to a
womans intellectual sexuality. The challenge is to revamp traditional
styles, but not alter the natural character of the fabric and still capture
the timelessness and sophistication of both the woman and the skin.
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Freedom for A Former Political Prisoner
by Dylcia Pagán
am a former Puerto Rican political prisoner who was released from prison
by a presidential pardon on September 10,1999 after having served almost
20 years for fighting for the independence of my homeland, Puerto Rico.
I must say that this has been the most incredible time in my life. My
exuberance comes from this truly historical moment for Puerto Rico. During
my incarceration I was always aware of the political developments on the
island. I spent many hours writing letters of solidarity for numerous
activities, as well as on the phone talking with organizations and community
supporters so that I could feel a part of our movement. Now I am able
to witness for myself all that is happening around the issue of Vieques.
I have met women who, prior to the creation of the campamentos in Vieques,
were housewives and teachers that were not involved. There is no question
that everyday my people are becoming more and more aware of the political
reality of colonization. The unity that has developed in all sectors of
the Puerto Rican populace is growing rapidly.
During my many years of incarceration, I never lost hope in my people
or my struggle. As I speak with so many different people, I see the love
and respect they have for my fellow comrades and myself. All of these
testimonies of love and support reinforce what I tell folks so often --
that I have no regrets. You are probably wondering what am I doing with
my life? I have spoken at many universities and have also shown the nationally
aired PBS special, The Double Life of Ernesto Gomez. This
is a one-hour documentary about the year my son, Guillermo, and I met
after 10 years of separation.
I have many projects in mind for the future: a book about my experiences
in prison, a healing center for men and women to provide a holistic approach
to empowerment, and a variety of documentaries. It may seem that I have
very ambitious goals, but the reality is that there is so much of our
history and culture that needs to be made available to our youth as well
as the Diaspora at large. A continuing process of organizing and creating
consciousness will determine what the future holds for Puerto Rico and
After almost 20 years of incarceration, today I find myself living in
freedom enjoying the sunshine, the beaches, all of the beautiful
fauna and flora of my homeland. But at times, a certain sadness enters
my being because I realize that as I am enjoying all of this freedom,
I have left behind six of my Puerto Rican comrades, several North American
political prisoners, numerous new African political prisoners and that
Mumia Abu Jamals life is still threatened.
One does not know what the future holds for us, but I have learned to
live in the moment, and in doing so I know many blessings will come. MARINA
FUERA DE VIEQUES!
Dylcia Pagán is presently working in Puerto Rico at Paradiso
Films, while trying to obtain funding for her documentary "999 LIBRE,
a video journal about her re-entry to society and her personal healing
process. You can send all comments and notes to Dylcia at the following
e-mail address: email@example.com
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