Occupation: Artista, Co-Owner of High Palms Healing
Aspiration (what do you want to be when you “grow up” ) I like to go with flow and surrender to where Spirit leads. I'd love to be established with a home and a garden and a sweet community as right now we travel so frequently.
Life story in 10 sentences or less: I was born in Brooklyn to Dominican immigrant parents. I grew up very enclosed and protected by my whole family. I really didn't live a typical American life. Throughout the years I spent long summers visiting the rest of my extended family in the Dominican Republic. My family, especially the women passed on much mystical native (Taino and African) wisdom to me. All these teachings helped build a strong foundation later on in my healing path. In High School I discovered my passion for astrology, while in college I uncovered past life memories through the dream realm. Then, in my very early twenties and throughout I went deep into energy healing (Reiki and other modalities) and practiced yoga/Tibetan Buddhism for a good 8 years. Later my path led me to the medicine traditions of native peoples and a whole new journey began, which has lead me deeper to my Taino and African roots and inspired all of my art.
You spend a lot of time in the jungle studying in the Shipibo medicine tradition. Its not an easy path to take and I wonder if you would be willing to share some of the values, beliefs, and ideas that motivate you to continue to develop yourself in this way? The Shipibo elder we study with, Maestro Sina, is very traditional in the ancestral ways of his people. He learned from his father, his father learned from his father and so on. Now he passes his wisdom on to his son Emilio and to those of us who really want to study and learn according to their ancestral doctrine. They come from a very clean, strong and long lineage of vegetalistas - doctors of plant medicine.
When it comes to healing work I have never been interested in anything superficial. I believe in going to the roots of a tradition and surrendering to total immersion in order to learn things correctly.
There are many forms of initiation in different traditions. In the Shipibo way initiation comes through dietas. A dieta consists of abstaining from indulgences such as sex, salt, sugar, spices, alcohol, drugs, and social interaction for periods of time. This is done in order to invite the plant spirit in to your body, to plant it's seed within so it may grow harmoniously inside you over the course of the diet all the while learning from its very particular teachings.
This world and its people need so much healing, cleaning, transformation and direction. I am motivated by this need and I willingly make the sacrifices of indulgence of contemporary culture in order to be of service.
What are some of your favorite personal self care rituals that enable you to have stamina and continue to be effective in your path? Plant diets are really part of my way of life now and so important for the nature of the work we do. I don't drink alcohol or smoke cannabis or anything because of the path I walk - I believe it's important to be as clean and clear as possible when holding space for others to heal. I am always improving my diet, simplifying. Being a water sign, I need hot baths and specially prepared plant baths. I pay a lot of attention to skin and hair and study as much as possible on how best to maintain health in these areas. Meditation and yoga helps move and ground energy. Silence in beading is a great practice to calm the mind.
I first started getting to know you in the drum making workshop at the joshua tree Spirit Weavers Gathering. Your teaching style was grounded, humble, helping me feel confident despite the rigors of the craft. I felt a depth and knowing that didn’t need to explain itself and invited my curiousity to learn more about the path you have walked. What’s your favorite part of participating in the Spirit Weavers Gathering? Ah, thank you. I love just spending time in the region that Spirit Weavers selects for the gathering, whether its Joshua Tree or the Redwoods. I have made so many sweet connections with women. When I have time to learn even just one new craft I am happy.
Your beadwork always stands out to us. Can you tell us about the style/ technique you are working with and what inspires your work? I'm inspired by the medicine and to me everything is medicine. The landscapes, other people's beautiful art work, the color of delicate fabrics, are all interwoven with the help and vision of The Creator. Lately, flowers have been really popping for me, roses, peonies, and now the beautiful cactus flowers of Joshua tree and its landscapes. A new collection will rise from the beauty of the desert. I work intuitively. I don't follow patterns or plan anything ahead. I just let the spirit move it all. Sometimes I receive visions in ceremonies or dreams and try to recreate them but even then it's just a framework of inspiration to draw from.
I loved hearing all the places and people who ended up being part of this collaboration. can you tell us the story of how this special collection came to be (where you traveled, who contributed in what ways?) It took me a while to envision the direction I would like to go with these pieces after you asked me to collaborate. The vision of the necklaces came through for me in the Amazonian jungle of Peru with the Shipibo people. We regularly travel to the Amazon to continue our studies and now to host retreats as well. The Shipibo colors, patterns called "kene", and feminine grace are always inspiring. The Shipibo sisters Rosa and Mikayla who spent 4 months with us the last time we visited, were part of the collaboration. They weaved their beautiful ancestral art into the necklaces, which are Ikaros - sacred healing chants given from the spirits of plant medicine. It's amazing to watch them work silently and gracefully while at the same time taking care of the whole household. The second collaboration was with my partner, who did the beadwork for one of the pieces. He learned how to bead before I did but hasn't practiced much - yet he definitely must have mastered this art in a past life or something, because he is quite advanced at it.