…because some thoughts are worth remembering
On Two Things is a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Project based on the premise that we are all affected by how society categorizes us, and as such, we have our own experiences to share. I have asked people I know to distill their understanding of a particular aspect of D&I into two things.
When Jesus Puerto was a client, my staff would delight in seeing my calendar item that said “Call Jesus”: “Was your day so bad that you had to schedule an appointment with God?” they would joke. I’m sure Jesus heard a variation of that line before. In fact, if I did have a tough day, a conversation with Jesus was a great idea, because somehow, he would lift my spirit. I wondered from time to time, how he can be so hopeful and loving, being treated simply as “black” by the broader US society, when he comes from a Cuban immigrant family, rich in history. How can he be so calm and warm, when he carried a name like Jesus when his spiritual practices are rooted in native beliefs around the world, and was elated when I shared Thich Nhat Hanh‘s “The Miracle of Mindfulness“, one of my go to book on Buddhism. The Two Things Project was my ticket to formally (though virtually) sit down with him to have a conversation about his optimism.
While being an outsider in every way imaginable, his lens doesn’t feel like a way to objectively view society, but acceptance of someone who has internalized all of it: Latino, Black, from a Cuban immigrant family, “with a dash of South East Asian” (he’s not sure where from), gay, foster father of a Thai boy who passed away a few years ago, Catholic-raised, yet fueled by finding common values an spiritual figures from different lands, a small business owner (of Soul de Cuba Cafe in New Haven, Connecticut), admirer of Anthony Bourdain as someone who has successfully bridged cultures from different corners of the map through food.
In some ways, Jesus is doing his own “Bourdain” thing through his restaurant and the Cuban sauces he’s perfected (available for purchase online and at his restaurant). Just take a look at this video: his restaurant wall is covered with family photos, rich in history of his ancestors whose lives were integral with the Cuban revolution. Back in the 1890s, his family in Tampa funded the mambises (freedom fighters), sending machetes, uniforms, and other resources, taking advantage of the cargo ships that arrived in Florida full of Cuban tobacco, now empty on its way back to Cuba. His family history is intertwined with the lives of heroes and heroines of the Cuban independence movement, like José Martí and Paulina Pedroso. His mojo sauces just as rich in flavor: passed down from his grandmother, carefully updated, and beautifully adorned with the artistic renditions of Ogun and other intermediaries between the humankind and the supernatural in Yoruba religion.
Everything is interconnected in Jesus’s mind, and everything happening at the same time everywhere. He celebrates the synchronicity between Moana in Polynesian mythology and Yemaya in Yoruba, Gaia and Oshun, Shinto gods, from Bodhisattva to Guanyin. There is something to similar beliefs sprouting out from different cultures: Jesus would like to believe it’s because we came from “one”. He continues to explore poems of José Martí alongside writings of Will Roscoe and Joseph Campbell, to affirm the solidarity of ourselves in the broadest sense possible.
It is no wonder that his demeanor assumes that his own identity doesn’t have to be contained within his own skin; it is no wonder that he concluded our conversation with a mere five words for his two things.
His Two Things
Two Things on Approaches to Diversity & Inclusion
1. To Love
2. To Be Loved
It seems wrong to have any discussion on the above. So, here’s a poem of peace and friendship that inspires Jesus:
CULTIVO UNA ROSA BLANCA… (Verso XXXIX)
Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni oruga cultivo:
Cultivo la rosa blanca.
I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.