How many memories do you have that are so clear, you can practically feel and smell everything that was happening around you at that moment?
The day I saw and heard the music video for “Ironic,” by Alanis Morrisette, is one of those for me. I can feel the couch where I was sitting, the heat of the almost-noon sun coming through the window, the smell of the food my mom was preparing in the kitchen for lunch. Although my English back then was less than basic, I can swear I understood every word—not with my brain, but with my gut. With my emotions.
Weeks later, thanks to dictionaries—yes, at that time there was no internet in the palm of your hand—and the help of friends who did speak English, I understood very well what the song was about, and I knew clearly that its message would apply forever.
I have many memories like that in my consciousness, but I have a hard time remembering when exactly many of them occurred. For example, I have no idea what time of year it was when I first heard about and saw Alanis. But when a moment like that, one of those that’s tattooed on my memory, took place in September, I always remember that very clearly. September has that power over me.
Why? Well, maybe because it is the origin of everything. I was born on September 22nd. For this reason, each of my almost 42 celebrations of that September, my birthday, is one of those vivid memories.
One that calls out to me as I write this is the birthday I celebrated as a foreign student in a country that had only known me for 15 days. That memory also has a smell: it smells of Belgian chocolate and beer, and an incomparable dinner made by my dear friend, Monique Dubois.
But from 2015 to 2020, my memories of September were covered in fog and filled with ambivalence.
You, our valued community of El Colectivo 506, know that my husband and I lost our firstborn son, Martin, on the day he was born. One thing not many know is that the day was September 15th, 2015.
It’s no secret that September 15th is also the birthday of another important presence in my life, and I’m not talking about my country—although it’s Costa Rica’s birthday, too. I am referring to our magazine, El Colectivo 506.
To be honest, it is the life of something more than a magazine. It is the life of a sisterhood and a solidarity that is stronger than time, stronger than therapy, stronger than pain.
Or maybe, to be honest, our sisterhood might not be stronger than pain—but it respects and finds value in pain.
September 15th, 2020—when I was driving back to San José from Bijagua, where Katherine, Pippa and I had locked ourselves up for three days to officially launch El Colectivo 506—was the last day that I cried bitterly and inconsolably for my son Martín. It was a therapeutic act. I surrendered to the pain one last time, and told my son’s memory that it was time to honor him in a new way. This September will be the second year that I keep my word.
My dear friends, colleagues and accomplices had no idea what it would mean for me to start something so big on September 15th.
But in the words of Alanis Morissette, life has a funny way sneaking up on us.
September will continue to concentrate tangible and powerful memories for me. However, thanks to El Colectivo 506 and everything it has brought me, it is no longer a month that I want to skip. Now, getting on this collective bus that we invented amidst the energizing songs of toucans and lulling rains, hot coffees and cold lunches, between grounded conversations and crazy dreams, I can no longer resist adding to September another memory of light and color, solutions, hopes.
What I hope today, as I share this very personal reflection with you, is that you help us to make September an even more powerful month—beyond the Costa Rican flags, the patriotic songs and the national anthem.
I dream that at the end of September 2022, I will be able to say: now, September is the month in which our community of El Colectivo 506 not only has more readers and more listeners, but also has more people who invest their time and money in us, in our magazine, and in our Directory 506. Because they know that although life sneaks up and surprises us, it can only do so positively when our energies and intentions drive it towards that result. We are a media organization that does solutions journalism: in the words of another great musician and woman I admire, María Pretiz, we are a media organization “that sees gardens to be created on dry and dusty land.”
Dear reader: become part of El Colectivo 506 with your annual membership. Give your life one more reason to take what seems dark and scary, and fill it with color.