Envy arrows circle me
from all directions
I can’t move
without being hurt

Evil energy surrounds me
She’s casting a spell
doing voodoo

Her needles pierce me
organ by organVoodoo

Brain, lungs, knees
neck, vagina, feet
legs, fingers, cheeks
all’s punctured

Internal organs shrink
one by one

First my stomach, liver
Then my lungs, veins
uterus, ovaries
bladder, kidneys

When my insides become
my outside starts

Eyes and nose shrink
bones brake
blood coagulates

I become powder


Except for one surviving organ

My guts
strong as fuck
remains alive
digesting needles
re-building a body
immune to witchcraft

Upstream Fest: From Skepticism to Outright Fun

The Upstream Summit and Festival started like a meeting between two estranged friends who were forced to get together.

On one side, there were the musicians, the artists, the people towards whom the summit was targeted. On the other side, were the sponsors of the event represented by companies like Vulcan and Amazon, which have little to do with the music scene in Seattle, but without which the event wouldn’t happen.

The first ever event of its kind, Upstream invited these two distinct demographics – artists and corporations – to shake hands, and discuss the very issue at the bottom of the contention: the future of the city, and to whom it belongs.

More than any time in recent history, Seattle is being transformed at a rapid pace, mostly by the heavy flow of corporate money coming from technology giants. While companies like Vulcan build shiny skyscrapers and the likes of Amazon attract highly-paid technology workers to live the city, artists see themselves forced to move out to cheaper places. With these changes, it’s easy to see why the creative community would see this convergence with skeptical eyes.

Seattle-native rapper Gabriel Teodros started his speech in one of the breakout sessions saying that it felt ironic that an event with a panel on “building healthy communities” is being sponsored by the very billionaires who are on the bottom of “destroying communities.” He went on to say that cultural hubs – like the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the Central District neighborhood – were a key part of his development as an artist, and that gentrification is threatening the existence of such places and the communities they host.

On the other side of the spectrum, keynote speaker and music living legend Quincy Jones, was sympathetic and optimistic. He called Paul Allen – the owner of Vulcan and Upstream Festival’s prime mover – a good friend, a good guitar player and a music aficionado. He was excited to be in his home town and surprised to see that some things haven’t changed much.

Most of the artists at the event were somewhere in between. They took a wait-and-see approach and were willing the give Paul Allen the benefit of the doubt.


Borrowing its format from the popular SxSW Conference and Festival, Upstream was divided into two main events – the Upstream Summit during the day, and the Upstream Festival in the evening. The Summit took place Thursday and Friday (May 11-12) at the WaMu Theater with speeches and discussions about the future of the music industry and a special focus on streaming and data harnessing.

The Festival started Thursday and didn’t end until Saturday (May 11-13). It happened at multiple venues in Pioneer Square, one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods. Almost all speakers and performing artists were from the Pacific Northwest, and most of them were from the Seattle region. Upstream was unquestionably local.

Star Anna

Local rock musician Star Anna during her set at Comedy Underground

In spite of the skepticism in the beginning of the Summit, as soon as the bands started playing, the tension started to melt away. Pioneer Square was bursting with live music from buskers (all curated by Gigs4U) to free performances, to main-stage acts that attracted people by the thousands.

During his performance on Thursday, local violinist and composer Andrew Joslyn gave a shout out to the event’s organizers. “Let’s give Paul Allen a hand! Let’s give this ‘SxSW in Seattle’ a try!” he cheered the crowd.

An element that played a role in the success of the shows was the diversity of the acts. Artists came from various social, racial and cultural backgrounds – a rare feat in an increasingly segregated city. In any single moment during the festival, one could attend to shows that ranged from hip-hop, jazz and R&B, to rock, pop and metal as well as folk, country, singer-songwriter, electronic and many other genres. Never did Seattle see so many local musicians playing at the same event.

Tai Shan, a musician friend of mine who also played at the festival through Gigs4YU, described it well on her Facebook page: “[Upstream] was kinda like Seattle threw a party and all my friends were invited to play.”

Indeed, if you were a musician in Seattle, most of your colleagues would be there – either playing or watching a fellow musician’s performance. Even for me, who don’t have many musician friends, ended up bumping into several acquaintances.

After attending the Summit and watching a few shows, my assessment of the event was positive. I feel that Seattle has a unique opportunity to foster creativity not despite its demographic and urbanistic changes, but exactly because of them. The city is full of examples of compelling partnerships between corporations and artistic communities. One initiative that is particularly close to my heart (I’ve worked on the project) is the Storefronts Seattle project, which brings together artists and corporations (including Vulcan and Amazon) to activate communities and neighborhoods through art.

Upstream Summit’s last keynote came from global hip-hop sensation and Seattle native (and resident) Macklemore. During his speech, he highlighted how the support from fans in Seattle was fundamental for his band to make an impact on a national and global level.

Macklemore is quoted on GeekWire saying, “We sold out three shows at Showbox and booking agents in New York City heard about that. They got wind of that and wondered what was going on in Seattle. To have that support first here, and on that grassroots direct-to-fan relationship we had built with our fans, that is what enabled us to even get noticed in the first place.”

At the end of his speech, he praised the event organization and said, “this is a well-intended festival. I hope it’s here to stay.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Taking the World’s Masks Off by Removing My Own

Some days I fancy spending extra time in front of the mirror to put some makeup on. I don’t always wear makeup, but when I have the time, this feminine ritual allows me to divagate and reflect on the importance of appearances and self-worth.

When I look in the mirror and see a more beautiful me, I feel this instant boost in confidence, as if the pigments covering my imperfections had the power to erase them all. When I see less freckles, less pores, no dark circles, a more defined gaze and a colorful pout, I feel like I have more reasons to smile, pat myself on the back and say, “You go, girl! Nothing can stop you!”

Makeup does change the perception I have of myself and how others see me. Research has shown that makeup enhances women’s attractiveness, sex appeal and youthfulness as well as allows them to be seen as healthier, more confident and having greater earning potential. A social media experiment also showed that makeup makes the same woman appear more competent, likable, fun and authentic than when she is bare-faced.

I have many reasons to wear makeup, but there are some days that I just don’t have the time to do it or I simply don’t feel like it. The decision to wear makeup or not will affect how people will judge me as I go about my day. This means that, in spite the fact that makeup does not change who I am, a Renata with makeup is probably worthier than the bare-faced version of myself.


No-makeup selfie


Makeup selfie

In a world where perceptions are more valuable than truth, where people tend to believe in “alternative facts” rather than facts, where people prefer online tweet wars rather than face-to-face conversations, makeup acquires a crucial role.

And I should expand the idea of makeup not only as face paint but also as everything that hides the reality underneath. Makeup can be a complacent marriage, an over-reliance on religion as the answer for all troubles, an imprisoning relationship that prevents one from doing what they really want, the aggressions of a highly successful professional that hide the insecurities that he or she truly bears. In sum, makeup is any socially accepted mask that hides personal truths.

Like it or not, we live in a world of masked people. This blog is one of my attempts to strip myself from my own masks. I want to come here “naked,” to bear it all and be vulnerable so I can survive in a world of appearances.

I won’t take the route of Alicia Keys who decided to stop wearing makeup for good as a way feel closer to her true self. This is not my route. Sometimes I just feel good to look prettier. The way I found to remove my masks was to open myself to others, to take on a good discussion, to accept that I’m not always right, that I can change opinions sometimes.

When I take these steps and let people be whoever they want to be around me, I find that their own masks start to crumble. They just can’t stand their own lies – not because of any accusation, but when they see me vulnerable, they can’t help but confront their own vulnerability. Sometimes they open up, but sometimes they just run away to their comfort zone and hide themselves back behind their masks. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

But this does not prevent me from continuing to open myself up. I just want to be able to look at my life and see that I at least had done something to make the world more authentic, more true to itself, more makeup-free. This is what frees me.

Making the Most of My Entropy

No one, nothing will ever escape its entropic destiny. The universe is slowly moving towards its death, but despite the fate, life exists.

The earth still flourishes with order – from animal life to oceans’ currents, from forests to the weather system that sustains them, from human achievements in arts and science to the billions of microscopic events that emerge and wane unnoticeable.

There are so many mysteries to be discovered that I find it impossible to live in this planet and not be amazed. There’s beauty everywhere I look – an ant colony, the human brain, the abstractions of mathematics, the infinity of space… Life is too perplexing not to entice my curiosity!

From a cosmic perspective, human life is inordinately insignificant. But I want to make my short lifespan worth its existence. After all, nobody but myself will assess my level of happiness. It is the pleasure of searching, the thrill of discovery and the magic of awakening that drive me and will matter for me in the end.

I’ll happily fulfill my fate if I look back to my life from whatever dimension and realize that I had never taken things for granted, that I had been always driven by curiosity, wonder and search for truth.

Pope Francis’ Interview to El País – My favorite Quotes

Argentinian newspaper El País published today an interview with Pope Francis. Here are my favorite excerpts.

On the Church’s disengagement with people’s problems
  • I am more afraid, rather than of those who are asleep, of those who are anesthetized… Everything is calm, everything is quiet, when everything goes right. Too much order. When you read the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Paul’s epistles, it was a mess, there were troubles, people moved. There was movement and contact with people. An anesthetized person is not in touch with people. He protects himself against reality. He is anesthetized… It is a risk that we all have. It is a danger, it is seriously tempting. Being anesthetized is easier.uneasy
  • I am always struck by the fact that Jesus Christ, in his last supper, when he prays to his Father on behalf of his disciples, he does not ask “Look, keep from breaking the fifth commandment, keep them from killing, from breaking the seventh commandment, keep them from stealing”. No, he says: “Keep them from the evils of the world, keep them from the world”.
On the transition documents he received from Benedict XVI
  • Because here, in the Curia, there are true saints. I like to say it. We talk too easily about the level of corruption in the Curia. And there are corrupt people. But there are also many saints. Men that have spent all their life serving people anonymously, behind a desk, or in conversation, or in a study, to get… Herein there are saints and sinners.
On what concerns him about the world
  • We have a World War III in little bits. Lately there is talk of a possible nuclear war as if it were a card game: they are playing cards. That is my biggest concern. I am worried about the economic inequalities in the world: the fact that a small group of humans has over 80% of the world’s wealth, with all its implications for the liquid economy, which at its center has money as a god, instead of the human being. Hence the throwaway culture.
On Trump’s presidency
  • I think that we must wait and see. I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely… Being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise… We need specifics. And from the specific we can draw consequences.
On his role in the Church
  • The history of the Church has not been driven by theologians, or priests, or nuns, or bishops… The true heroes of the Church are the saints. That is, those men and women that devoted their lives to make the Gospel a reality. Those are the ones that have saved us: the saints. We sometimes think that a saint is a nun that looks up to the heaven and rolls her eyes. The saints are the specific examples of the Gospel in daily life! And the theology that you learn from a saint’s life is immense.
On Catholics who think there’s more focus on those who left the Church than to those who remained and obey the Church’s commandments
  • I know that those who feel comfortable within a Church structure that doesn’t ask too much of them or who have attitudes that protect them from too much contact are going to feel uneasy with any change, with any proposal coming from the Gospel.
  • The eldest child syndrome is the syndrome of anyone who is too settled within the Church, the one who has everything clear, knows what must be done and doesn’t want anyone to listen to strange sermons. That is the explanation for our martyrs: they gave their lives for preaching something that was upsetting.debating
  • They have the right to think that the path is dangerous, that the outcome may be bad, they have the right. But provided they talk, that they don’t hide behind others. Nobody has the right to do that. Hiding behind others is inhumane, it is a crime. Everyone has the right to debate, and I wish we all would debate more, because it creates a smoother connection between us. Debating unites us. A debate in good faith, not with slander nor things like that.
On the refugee crisis
  • I was passing through, greeting people, and a man had [a life jacket] in his hand and started to cry, on my shoulder, and he went on and on: “I couldn’t, I didn’t get to her, I couldn’t”. And when he calmed a little he told me: “She wasn’t over four years old, the kid. And she went down. I am giving this to you”. This a symbol of the tragedy that we are living.
  • So the problem is: welcome them, yes, for a couple of months, give them accommodations. But the integration process must start at some point. When there is not integration, they get “ghettoized”, and I am not blaming anyone, but it is a fact that there are ghettos. It may be that they didn’t realize at that time. But the young guys who committed the atrocity in Zaventem [airport] were Belgian, they were born in Belgium. However, they lived in an immigrant neighborhood, a closed neighborhood. So the second phase is the key: integration.
  • The model for all the world is Sweden… You get to Sweden and they give you a healthcare program, and documents, and a residence permit… And then you have a home, and the following week you have a school to learn the language, and a little bit of work, and you are on your way.
On the Vatican’s diplomatic role
  • I ask the Lord that he give me the grace of not taking any measure for the sake of image. Honesty, service, those are the criteria. I don’t think that getting a bit of makeup is a good idea.
  • Talk. That is the advice I give to every country. Talk, please. A fraternal conversation, if you feel up to it, or at least in a civilized way. Don’t throw insults at each other. Don’t condemn before talking.
On populism, xenophobia and Trumpism
  • After [Paul von] Hindenburg, after the crisis of 1930, Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says: “I can, I can”. And all Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.hitler
  • In times of crisis, we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me. Let’s look for a savior who gives us back our identity and lets defend
    ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other peoples that may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing. That is why I always try to say: talk among yourselves, talk to one another.
  • Each country has the right to control its borders, who comes and who goes, and those countries at risk —from terrorism or such things— have even more the right to control them more, but no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbors.
On violence against women and women’s role in the Church
  • In Italy, for instance, I have visited organizations that rescue female prostitutes who are being taken advantage of by Europeans. [The abusers] tell her: you have to earn such and such today, and if you don’t bring it in, we will beat you… In the house that I visited, there was a woman that had had an ear cut off… When they don’t earn enough, they torture them. And they are trapped because they are frightened, the abusers tell them that they are going to kill their parents.
  • One very good thing this association does is that they go down the streets, approach the women and, instead of asking how much do you charge, how much do you cost, they ask: How much do you suffer? And they take them to a safe community so that they may recover.
  • My concern is that women give us their thinking, because the Church is female, is Jesus Christ’s wife, and that is the theological foundation of women. When they ask me, I say yes, but women could have more. But what was more important on Pentecost, the Virgin or the apostles? The Virgin.


The poem below is by a friend who was too shy to reveal their identity, but were happy to know that their poem could reach other human beings through this blog. I hope you enjoy it as I did!


It moves in a zig-zag form,
Defying all the science of the norm.
It grows up from defeat,
A flower in the wretched heat.
It’s fertilized and prized among the swarm.

It’s promised in the shiny distant light,
Teased from the disease of left and right.
A silent beacon in our heart,
That can pull the world apart,
It’s the oscillating curve of day and night.

We like to see a comeback,
So we cast ourselves behind.
A vote against our interests,
A grievance in our mind.
We’re inching up to heaven,
Where the wicked come to play.
Progress is the purpose,
It’s the way.

It copulates in spaces found between,
The knowing glowing faces on our screen.
Its circuit is complete,
With every status, every tweet.
A million tiny deaths in the machine.

It scares the squares beneath their broken sphere,
It engages all the changes that they fear.
They’ve fought it for so long,
But the resistance makes it strong.
It helps the blind to see, the deaf to hear.

We like to be heard,
So we raise our voices loud,
In the friendly echo chamber,
Of a complimentary crowd.
We try to fight the impulse,
But protests ricochet.
Progress is the purpose,
It’s the way.

My Life’s Mission

  1. Discover and make others discover
  2. Wonder and be wondered
  3. Find beauty and create beauty
  4. Excel in what I do, be proficient. Reject mediocrity
  5. Be passionate for what I do
  6. Work collectively, never alone. Find lasting partnerships
  7. Be open to new friendships
  8. Be grounded on values, family and faith
  9. Accept vulnerability; be open to fail
  10. Learn from others, always be open to learn, learn with wonder


The horizon line is no longer flat
It’s rippled
By forces underneath

I slide through water
As mold grows on my skin

I have no shelter.
Currents thrust me
To where they see fit

I live in the home of whales
And breathe
The oxygen of fish

My food, salt water
Sunlight, seaweed

I’m one with my mother
The Ocean

Rough, powerful
Loving, deadly
Mother of all life

Womb from which I came
And to which I return

As my soul finds its place
Somewhere above or below
My body remains
Is shared among creatures
Becomes soil, food, water
Gives back
Becomes mother

Snorkeling in Beqa and my choice to face harsh weather

The day started stormy. Not a single patch of blue could be seen in the sky, and visibility both on land and under water was poor. It was a miserable day, and the forecast was not promising – four more days of heavy rain on the island of Beqa, a tiny piece of tropical rain forest south of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.

Eduardo and I had two options – succumb to the weather and stay in the hotel reading books and magazines, or face the storm and go snorkeling in the ocean. The choice was clear to us. We packed our snorkeling gear and jumped on the boat under the rain. As the boat sped, the rain drops became sharper and stingier. The two of us plus three other hotel guests did what we could to protect ourselves from the cold water and heavy winds. Most of us were shivering.

After ten minutes that felt like half an hour, we arrived in our destination – a coral reef not too far from the island. On a sunny day, we would be able to see the hills of Beqa or even identify some tree specimens. Today, we could only see a gray silhouette beyond the watery haze.

I removed my soaked rain coat, put my mask and fins on, and jumped in the water. As the water enveloped my body, the shivering from the cold vanished immediately. The tropical currents that surround the Fiji archipelago are body-temperature. Strangely, the ocean felt homier and cozier than land.

As I snorkeled around the reef, everything below the surface seemed peaceful. I could no longer hear the rain or feel the wind. The sounds underwater are of a different nature. Corals clicking, crabs pinching, fins splashing, bubbles and my own breathing were the only noticeable sounds. The wind underwater was also imperceptible. Instead, the waves and currents were the forces moving all matter below me. The only reminder of the storm above was the rain drops hitting my back.

The contrast between air and water couldn’t be sharper. While the land was hitting me with powerful winds and spitting rain with anger, the ocean embraced me with warmth. It welcomed me with abundance of life and made me briefly forget the storm. A fleeting thought went through my mind – couldn’t I stay underwater forever?


No… I cannot.

Reality hit me and reminded me that despite the weather hostility, land is my home, while water is not. I’m supposed to hop on that boat again and face the cold rain and fierce winds. In the same way, Fiji is not my home. In a few days, I’m supposed to hop on a plane, endure an 18-hour trip go back to the US and face the gray, freezing Seattle weather.

While there are things I cannot control like the weather, one thing that I can control is my choices. Today my choice was to brave the storm and the cold and jump in the water. Tomorrow, when I leave Fiji and go back to Seattle, my choice will be to defy a different kind of hostility. Just like I braved the weather and found peace underwater, in my home, I’ll face the ones who spit on my face and find my ground.


My Post-Election Commitments – The #commit2unity Challenge

Like for many Americans, these have been the most hurtful and distressing elections in my lifetime. I’m still grieving – and sometimes panicking – as I realize that many of the advances society has gained in the past decades are at risk, and if everything continues moving in the same direction, things will get a lot worse before they get better. What I’ve seen in these elections was a polarized society driven by intolerance and the surge of extremist groups from all sides of the spectrum.

I’ve taken time since the election results to reflect and listen to different points of view to understand why this happened to my country. I’ve been reading news and analyses, listening to people’s reactions and what they are planning to do now that we know that someone with unpredictable, erratic behavior has taken the most powerful job in the world.

I should say, much of the people I talk to – including myself – are pessimistic and afraid about their future. There are just too many things out of our control that can be disastrous for our safety, wellbeing or even our lives. Despite that, there are somethings within our control that we can do to bring more peace and unity to our surroundings. These small, personal actions may seem insignificant at a national (or global) scale, but if everyone of us commit to doing something in their capacity to bring unity, change is possible.

Inspired by a Facebook acquaintance who has shared her post-election commitments, I’ve decided to write below some actions I plan to carry out to bring peace and unity to my surroundings. Here they are:

  1. I’ll do everything in my capacity to be an instrument of peace and forgiveness. I’ll see any disagreement or conflict as an opportunity to love my enemy. I will always seek dialogue and understanding as opposed to judgement or name-calling. I will do my best to hear all perspectives that are different from my own and don’t evade from sharing mine in a respectful manner. I’ll be open to discovering new points of view and integrating them to my own opinions.
  2. I’ll oppose all forms of racism, bigotry, intolerance, torture etc. by speaking out and denouncing whenever I see someone doing these things. If a friend or acquaintance does any of those things, I’ll try to stop them in a respectful manner. If they prefer not to listen and continue to carry out these harmful actions, I’ll at least pray for them.
  3. I’ll strengthen my faith by praying more and seeking more personal time with God. I’ll write every day and seek daily moments of contemplation and silence. I’ll lead by example and will never, never, never force my faith onto other people or expect them to have the same actions or perspective on life as I do.
  4. I’ll fight for the planet and defend all creatures on earth and their natural habitat. I’ll condemn poaching, trophy hunting, irresponsible fishing or farming, deforestation, pollution etc. I’ll buy organic, local products as much as possible and gradually decrease the amount of meat and dairy I eat. I’ll drive less and walk or use public transportation as often as possible. I’ll encourage people to do the same.
  5. I’ll commit to making art that heals and bring about connection and understanding. I’ll try to show the world that we as humans are capable of loving, and that beauty can change the world for the better.

With those commitments in mind, and knowing that love and compassion can be passed on from person to person and reach people and places well beyond an individual’s social circle, I’ll challenge two friends of mine to share their post-election commitments and pass on the challenge to two additional people. I’ve created simple and flexible rules for this this challenge so it can be scalable to as many people as possible. Here are the rules:

  1. Once you are challenged, create your commitments to peace and unity. These commitments don’t necessarily need to be written down in a list like mine, but it should be communicated the way you feel more comfortable. You can communicate them through a video, painting, monologue, poem, photo, song or anything sharable on the internet.
  2. You can have as many or as few commitments as you wish.
  3. Don’t diverge from the theme Peace and Unity. This challenge is not for you to share your political views or generate any discussion that can bring controversy.
  4. Once you crate your commitment(s), post them to your favorite social media platform on a public way and use the hashtag #commit2unity
  5. Challenge two other social media friends to do the same.
  6. Refer to this blog for the rules.

Are you up for the challenge?