"A Puerto Rican Decolonial Theology: Prophecy Freedom" by Dr. Teresa Delgado
Two years ago at the Hispanic Summer Program I took Dr. Teresa Delgado's course on social movements and I was captivated by her approach to learning. As a professor she centered story, experience, and community as the place from which we do critical academic inquiry. How you felt was just as important and valid as what you thought. And Dr. Delgado always pushed us to see our learning as a privilege that *had* to propel us to action en conjunto. As a first year Master’s student, Dr. Delgado’s class was pivotal for me because it encouraged me to drink from the well of my community.
And I did.
In her class I presented on the struggle to free the [then] incarcerated Oscar Lopez Rivera. I contextualized his arrest within the broader colonial reality of Puerto Rico and the ways it spilled into the diaspora. After class, Dr. Delgado told me about a book project she was working on, a revamping of her dissertation. She shared about pursuing a Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary out of a deep conviction that she *had* to write a Puerto Rican Liberation Theology. And although she waited some time to revisit the project for publication, she felt a strong and spiritual conviction that *now* was the time to publish this book. (That the book was published *now*—two years after that conversation—at a time when Oscar Lopez Rivera is free, the debt crisis and neocolonial PROMESA is crushing the island, and nuestra gente recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria while Donald Trump is President shows, to me at least, how much Dr. Delgado’s conviction was a calling placed on her by our ancestors and the Divine).
Knowing my experience as a Diasporican and interests in Puerto Rican history Dr. Delgado asked me if I’d be willing to help with the project—and I humbly agreed. For months Dr. Delgado and I met every Wednesday at her house over cafecito (and sometimes arroz y habichuelas) to go over the project—chapter by chapter, footnote by footnote. In the process I learned practical skills like how to publish a book and work with an editor, but more than that I learned about a “labor of love,” as Dr. Delgado called it. For her this book wasn’t about a CV line or merely advancing an argument, this was a love letter for her people. She critically wrestled with the history of Puerto Rico and the anthropology, soteriology, and eschatology that stemmed from our people’s stories in order to declare that FREEDOM IS OUR OWN. No matter what colonizers say, no matter what intersectional oppressions say, no matter what powers and principalities say, we Puerto Ricans can and will and have and must declare our own freedom. And that freedom stems from the deep love of and for our community. (What a message for a time like this…)
About half-way through our time together—when the manuscript looked almost ready for publication—Dr. Delgado asked me if I could reach out to Dr. Cornel West to write the preface for the text (after all, the title “Prophesy Freedom” was inspired by West’s “Prophesy Deliverance”). I put it in my agenda as a “to-do,” knowing I would eventually run into Dr. West at Union. In one of our following meetings, however—as we discussed the love the Young Lords had for their Puerto Rican people—Dr. Delgado told me she didn’t feel right asking Dr. West to write the preface of the book. I asked her if I should reach out to someone else, Dr. James Cone perhaps? But Dr. Delgado had something else in mind. She looked at me and said, “No Jorge, I want you to write the preface. And I want your name to appear on the cover when this comes out. You have taken part in this labor of love, you understand this project, and I want to honor that in this way.”
Needless to say I cried, and then Dr. Delgado cried, and then we cried together. (It’s possible Dr. Delgado cried first, tissues were certainly involved though).
What made me so emotional in that moment was not the ask to write a preface, but how that ask was an extension of her labor of love. To bring me alongside her in a project like this, teach and learn with me, and share this work en conjunto—that was an extension of the book’s purpose.
Thank you Dr. Delgado for this labor of love. Thank you for your conviction. Thank you for hearing *and answering* the call of the ancestors and the Divine. And thank you for bringing me alongside you in this work.
Freedom is our own. On the island and in the diaspora, freedom is our own. We declare that because of our love for our people.
Publisher's website: https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783319660677#aboutAuthors