Song: Hasta la Miel Amarga by Sarah La Morena

Edwin Martinez.  One of the distinguished marks listed on his IDOC profile is a tattoo that reads "PRIETA" on his abdomen.  A prieta is a black or otherwise dark skinned woman.  I always took it for granted that he got it for his grandmother.  Never asked him about its significance or for any of his tatts.  To be honest, it was as far removed from my mind as we were from each other.  After nearly four years of friendship, he decided to tell me the story behind the tatt.

Before we go there, let's dip to the side and talk about where I stand as a prieta.  I am the product of an African American man and an Afro Latina from Guyana.  So I grew up knowing that the human trafficking of African slaves wasn't limited to the U.S. and that Latin America includes non-Spanish speaking territories.  My blackness is a mélange of flavors, accents, languages and cultural likenesses/differences that I've thoroughly enjoyed.

When Edwin was a teen, he had a crush on a black girl.  The feeling was mutual, but their timing was always off.  One time, they ran into each other and she was like, "Hey!  I haven't seen you in a while!  Where you been?!"  His response was, "Jail."  He said the last time he saw her was in a grocery store.  She was pregnant, holding a baby and pushing one in the cart.  The guy she was with didn't lift a finger to help her.  Edwin said that it bothered him because she was worth so much more than that. 

Edwin said that he prayed for a wife in 2010.  At that time, I was on my way to being T-boned by a very public and humiliating breakup.  While God was building him up to be the man he is today, life was tearing me down.  Clown ass dudes, two miscarriages, culinary school, losing my sister, bullshit jobs, advocating for my son to be assessed for wasn't no punk.  Then here comes the pandemic and second miscarriage.  My spirit was at its lowest when the Exoneration Project offered the opportunity to write letters of support to its clients for the annual Wrongful Conviction Day observance.  Little did I know that I would be supported in return.  Nah.  Correction:  I would be loved back to life.

In the transformative experience where he gave his life to Christ during his wrongful incarceration, he had some of his tatts redesigned.  He considered changing "PRIETA" to something else, but Holy Spirit told him not to.  Then I came into his life.  Edwin prefers to say that I am the answer to his prayer.  In one of our first conversations, I told him that I want mehndi--a henna paste body art--on my hands for my wedding where the groom's name is hidden in the design so that he can spend that first night searching for it.  The thought of hiding "EDWIN" in mehndi is crazy now when I've been in his skin all these years.



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