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Obituary (by her daughter Elizabeth Yeampierre)
Digna Sylvia García, known as Sylvia and Dee in her later life, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico on May 16, 1939. She was raised Catholic and ordained Ochun in Orisha Traditions 47 years ago.
Her mother, Julia Medina, traveled from Isabela to a place called El Fanguito to find employment in a factory. El Fanguito was known as the worse slum in Puerto Rican history--there was no running water and children played in an open sewer. Our grandmother lost half her children to hunger and disease triggered by U.S. colonial policies. My mom was one of the 7 to survive, and traveled to the U.S. with my grandmother when she was just 4 years old.
We heard ours was the first Puerto Rican family to move to the Village. Soon after we moved to the Upper West Side where racial violence and harassment was daily and became part of our early political development.
Mom was smart, resourceful, beautiful, creative, energetic, and full of love. She honored our history and ancestors in a world that was not prepared for how her magic threatened the patriarchy – she taught my brothers to cook and clean, and she encouraged her only daughter to study and fix things.
She worked as a superintendent of a 48-unit building. She drove buses, taxis, limousines and cleaned homes. When she was fired as the Superintendent of 80 Haven Avenue, she lost her home and her income, and almost lost her mind. But she enrolled at BMCC, got a certificate in early childhood education and, at the age of 50, started lovingly and joyfully working to educate children.
Dee is survived by Elizabeth Yeampierre, Joseph Yeampierre, Vincent Batista and Richard Batista. Her grandchildren are Joseph Yeampierre, Andre Yeampierre, Vivian Yeampierre, Jason Yeampierre, Javier Bautista, Vincent Batista, Julian Batista, Victoria Batista, Leila Batista, Ashley Batista and her great grandchild, Joy Batista. She was a godmother to many.
Dee was raised in NYC, went to school in NYC, raised her family in NYC, and left for Miami when NYC life became a challenge - but she always considered herself a New Yorker. She knew everyone on any block, and everyone loved her.
Dee was unapologetically Puerto Rican and ready to battle anyone who said something negative about her people. She was known for sending strongly worded emails to reporters, celebrities and anyone in power and privilege who abused our People. And she expected us to do the same.
She loved music, and our home was full of Orisha family from all over the world: Gene Goldman, Patato y Totico, Mongo Santamaria, artists from Nigeria, Brazil, Puerto Rico … the list of Orisha practitioners from the African Diaspora was long. Our great-grandmother, Incarnaciòn Medina, was Taino, and Mom immersed us in Afro-Indigenous culture and the arts. Our traditions and ancestors were celebrated.
We had no money, but Mom collected books that people threw out and filled the house with them. She took us to museums, street fairs and parties – there was nothing NYC offered for free that Mom did not take her children to enjoy. She talked about politics, spirituality, philosophy and always, always music.
She danced at the Palladium, the Cheetah, the Corso, the Cork and Bottle. She wore hotpants, overalls, peasant blouses and flowers in her hair. She was a woman before her time who endured the consequences of patriarchy throughout her entire life.
Despite all the challenges, Dee laughed, danced and loved.
We will miss her every day of our lives. She was our anchor, our inspiration, our love, our music, our North.
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