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Papi Ya No Esta

by Nairoby Sanchez

“Yo! Your dad was mad funny. Tio was a tiguere who wouldn’t let anybody cross him even if they tried! No matter what, tio venia donde sea pa venir a pasar tiempo conmigo.” My cousins had more memories with Papi than I ever did. “Dichoso tú entonces, pájaro de cuentas,” was always my sour ass reply.

They wanted me to know que he would always ask about me; I never really knew how much because papi nunca estuvo. I trauma erase like a motherfucker, but if you ask my older sister, she’d know the tea.

Papi ya no está pero la memoria de su guira todavia me toca el oido. Osea, el sonido de Pinky todavía le suena a los que escuchan los cuentos. Papi knew how to be reassuring even in his absence.

“Tu papa era un negro bello.” His black skin is still my favorite thing about him. I saw so much beauty in what the world loved to hate most. I see it in me and my features. Our wide noses and 4a hair remind me of the purpose of lineage.

Con él aprendí quien soy.

“Pinky siempre vivió en problemas, tu papá no era fácil!” me dicen las tías que lo conocían mejor que nadie. “Aja! Pero y es fácil vivir aquí?” He came to the United States when he was a teenager. He was an immigrant with a laughable accent; his six-foot-tall demeanor and black skin intimidated. It was the 90s, and the city he migrated to wasn’t used to seeing faces like his.

“Ese moreno no tenía que dar muela pa’ buscar mujeres, pero eso sí, era un mujeriego.” El machismo further baited him into hardship. The consequence of his promiscuous exploits resulted in the separation of my parents, a relatively obscure family tree, and a positive HIV diagnosis. Even though I was in 7th grade when I found out, I knew his time with me was limited. I was always so convinced he wouldn’t be there for me. Dios sabe lo que hace.

Poverty kept us apart, but the system separated us. It’s no coincidence that I decided to dedicate my career to fixing public policies that hurt families like mine. As a kid, I remember him feeling so far from me—to me, he might as well have been adonde el diablo tiro las tres voces. El dinero nunca alcanzó para ir a verlo, pero la vez que yo fui adonde él, él no me vino a ver. Mami siempre estuvo, pero todo le fue duro porque lo hizo sola—adonde el corazón se inclina, el pie camina.

Con él aprendí la ausencia.

I developed a profound disdain for men due to my wounded relationship with papi. I internalized his absence—my fear of abandonment wouldn’t allow for emotional attachments. I used to say things like, “los hombres Dominicanos no sirven!” My resentment would seep through until I learned to acknowledge my father’s life struggles.

After he passed away, I came to uncover details about him, and ahora me doy cuenta que ellos también tienen heridas. El se murió y ni bien pudo vivir sus 39 años. Papi ya no está, pero todavía vive.

To those who never really knew their dads, don’t despair—we don’t ever really know ourselves fully. Life evolves; the lessons follow us beyond the fickle fine lines of life and death.

Con él aprendí a perdonar.


Nairoby Sanchez is a writer and dedicated public servant passionate about civic engagement and community outreach. Nairoby’s writing explores lived experiences and how they shaped her policy outlook. She earned her bachelor’s in political science from UMass Lowell and graduated from Northern Essex Community College with a degree in Political Science. She recently received a Graduate Certificate in Cannabis Regulatory Affairs from Clark University.

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