Aurora Levins and how to use one's history for healing
Defined as a "curandera" historian, Levins embodied in Remedios an antidote to colonial wounds whose legacy inspires to heal the past with "homegrown herbs.
Physicists often detest the use of her theories and conjectures that cater to the unfathomable, because it is too big or too small, to make a philosophy of life. But it is inevitable that sometimes these hypotheses serve to tell us about life beyond the atoms that make us up and the numerous black holes that surround the cosmos of the everyday.
In physics and within the framework of the philosophy of science, there is a beautiful theory called "backward causation" that is dedicated to formulating questions such as whether the future can perhaps somehow affect the present, or the present the past. Its main proponents are the Dutch philosopher Jeanne Peijnenburg, who describes how an expanded imagination can even alter events that occurred long ago.
For poets and science fiction writers, it is a precious idea that the echo can come before the voice, or that we can change time backwards by thinking about it. Because remembering is a way of traveling, and at the same time, of inventing.
When writer and activist Aurora Levins wrote Remedios: Stories of Earth and Iron from the History of Puertorriquenas as part of a doctoral thesis that took her a decade, she was somehow crumpling up the laws of physics, turning over the traditional historiography that had affected what the Puerto Ricans and by extension the world knew about themselves.
A "curandera historian," that's Levins, whose book published in 1997 reconstructs Puerto Rico's memory not from official history, but from hypotheses, questions and reinterpretations that she spins with the very wisdom of the land where she was born.
Half Jewish and half Hybara, Levins was born in the Lower Indiera, Puerto Rico, in a mountain settlement where African slaves, indigenous people, and European peasants had fled to escape state control in the past.
"Children of the storm" and the mestizaje that were labeled "mulatto", "zambos" or "pardos" by the registrars because of their prejudices, but with which their inhabitants never identified themselves", Levins remembered.
"They plant their memory in red soil and although they do not need to locate the town on any map, in the mouths of their neighbors it is called Indiera," she wrote.
The historian plants an ancestral seed and lets it grow in the book, linking it to botany, especially the so-called Yerba Bruja, a weed present in the coffee plantations and invincible even with the best herbicides that Levins uses, like other plants, to talk about how Indiera resisted the colonial violence.
Turning a story about the forgotten past into an analogy with the earth and that, in the opinion of the writer and bookseller Andrea Valdés, author of the essay Distraídos Venceremos, "uses history itself for healing purposes: it invents it as medicine". And she does so from the beginning, from the very beginning of Puerto Rican prehistory with its myths about the origins and a First Mother who had children hundreds of thousands of years ago in sub-Saharan Africa, until 1954, when Levins was born.
"Writing this book required me to trust my own thinking, to look in all kinds of unexpected places for information that the official histories have not considered important, and to ask again and again what the purpose of the story is, how it can serve the urgent needs of the present and help build a better future," explained Aurora Levins.
Remedios not only refers to how the erasure of history makes us sick, but it is an antidote to colonial wounds, a history of resistance without the added victimhood of the privileged white narrative. And also the effect that precedes the cause; the way in which "walking backwards" is an advance.