AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Pati Garcia and I am a midwife at (the registered charity NGO childbirth centre) Mamatoto.
The Mamatoto building in Belmont has been standing for 11 years!
For an NGO to last this long in the Caribbean doing what we do is unheard of! And I love being part of that anomaly.
I was born in East Los Angeles, California, in the USA, but in Trinidad, I would call myself “an East girl” – because I’m definitely not from “the West.”
Although I have the complexion for it, the West wouldn’t be my vibe at all!
I moved to Trinidad (in 2016) because I knew, deep down in my guts, Donald Trump would get elected.
It was a green light for all the racists to come out and vote.
I am half-Mexican and half-Peruvian, the child of immigrants. So I always felt, from a child, that I could live outside the US.
I saw an ad for a US midwife in Mamatoto – they get a grant from the US Embassy.
I had Trini-American friends and their vibe was sweet so I thought, “Maybe their country is great, too!”
I did my voting through the mail and left two months before the election.
I like to get people riled up and informed. So they can fight for their rights.
White supremacy is a concept. It isn’t something that exists with just the white-skinned folks. Even black folks can have some of these traits. It’s a disease.
As a first-generation American, it’s easy for me to connect with my “outside-of-the-USA-ness” – but there are people (of colour) who’ve been there for many generations who are now anti-immigrant!
I’m like, “Honey, your great-grandfather came from Mexico! Stop rounding up the immigrants!”
I provide antenatal services, take care of women during their pregnancy and when they go into labour. We have a natural, autonomous and empowered birth, and then I take care of them postpartum for the next six weeks.
The best part of the job is delivering Trini babies! That welcoming them into their country, a water birth, that peaceful vibe.
My ladies get into all kinds of positions – they’re wining down the babies, they’re moving their bodies, they have music on! They have their family, their children, whoever they want in the birth.
It’s really a family event. It’s almost like a little lime.
I heard people steups before I came to Trinidad.
In my culture, we steups in a different way. We call it “chuparlos dientes,” suck your teeth. It’s more short.
Here in Trinidad I learned to stretch my steups. Make it wet!
I’ve been to La Brea, the Pitch Lake, in south Trinidad. And we have the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles. I’m really tripped out that, in the world, there are not many of these, but there’s one in LA and there’s one here!
It’s like I was meant to be here!
One of the first things that stood out to me in Trinidad was the loud music. I grew up in an immigrant community in the US. Music until four o’clock in the morning, everyone dancing and drinking, was very normal. As my family got Americanised and moved to the suburbs, where there were more white Americans, parties were having to end at 2 am or midnight.
I didn’t realise what a loss that was for me until I came to Trinidad and heard how loud music was here and it’s normal to party until the sun comes up.
My mother is one of five sisters. My dad, I didn’t really grow up with, so I don’t know much about his family.
My mom was the first of the family in LA. So all of our family who came to America stayed with us at first. My family could be the people Trump had in mind with the chain-migration – and I was an anchor-baby for sure! And I’m happy with that!
Most of my deliveries in the US were anchor-babies. (My clients) had their babies in the US, so those babies got their US citizenship, and then went right back.
What you have to do is find your vibe and go with it.
I went to a great fete, people jammed up on top of each another (dancing) and I LOVED that. I want to feel other people’s sweat on me!
And then I played mas with a very stush band. Wh’appen? It was mas with training wheels, for sure. I had a very nice (boring) time.
I had the best time with the security people holding the rope to keep people out of the band and the women working the airconditioned bathroom. THEY had the energy I was looking for!
Everyone in the band itself was, like, in their own world. No one paid any attention to me.
I kept going back to the bathroom, to wine up on the lady there, because she was so nice.
I am up for residency in the next year or two and I would like to have children here.
I want my children to have their formative years here because there is a deliciousness in this culture.
There’s no shame here in learning Standard English and then whatever you speak at home.
And, with the influx of Venezuelans, I feel it’s going to be really important to speak Spanish, and my child is going to have the opportunity to grow up bilingual (like me).
I want my children to grow up in Trinidad to know how to dance! And how to enjoy life!
There’s a way to enjoy life here that just isn’t available in the US. Unless you come from a very wealthy background; those are the only people in the US who get days off.
Here, EVERYBODY gets days off! Trinidadians very creatively come up with so many five-day weekends over the year!
I want my children to grow up in real life. Not in the (sanitised) American version.
I LOVE the energy that exists here and I love a particular word that is used a lot here: bacchanal!
In Peru, bacan means something is huge, powerful, awesome, cool. And bacchanal is like a version of bacan!
I love scandal, loudness, rudeness and all that super-hyped energy – when it’s appropriate.
I came here for the work. And stayed for the bacchanal!
A Trini is whoever wants to be a Trini. So I’m a Trini because I want to be.
For me, even though there is a lot of backward thinking, Trinidad and Tobago means forward-thinking.
It has also meant owning my life and a giant leap in my career.
I’m working at the only birth centre in the Caribbean that offers water birth, and it’s lasted 11 years!
Read the full version of this feature on Wednesday at www.BCPires.com