Raising Kids in Love with Culture

When you ask Me or my Brother where we are from , The long answer is something like “Well I was born in California, but my Dad was in the Marine Corps so we moved around alot when I was little, North Carolina, Virgina, Puerto Rico, New York not necessarily in that order and finally we  landed in Miami for a while.” -But most likely- we will probably say something like “Im Puerto Rican”.

My Mother was born in Elmhurst, New York and My Father in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. When you ask them where they are from They will BOTH say “I am Puerto Rican”.

Living in the United States makes things different. By this, I mean when someone asks “Where are you from?” And we say “Im Puerto Rican.” The immediate response varies from person to person. Some examples are “But where you BORN there?” ”  Are you a REAL Puerto Rican? Like from the ISLAND?” ” But, where were you BOOOORN?” …

These answers make me feel a few different ways. Annoyed. Confused.  These questions  ALWAYS provoke feeling. Never REALLY happy ones. The best part is when (And by “best” I mean most annoying…) when I tell them I was born in California and It’s like I’m automatically “EXPOSED” . “Oooh. you’re not a REAL Puerto Rican, your FAMILY is from there, but you’re just American.”  Like automatically because I was born in the states… I am lesser than.

You know that emoji with straight lines vertical lines for eyes and a mouth. That’s my face everytime. Every. Single. Time.

You know that scene in Selena when her Dad says ” We aren’t Mexican enough for the Mexicans and we aren’t American enough for the Americans… its EXHAUSTING” – I feel that. Like 100%

***I feel like i need to also say that i am not ASHAMED to be born in The united States of America by any means. Just that who I am does not stem from there. ***

My family is Puerto Rican. The blood that runs through my veins is Puerto Rican.

My whole LIFE I have been taught to LOVE not only my ancestry but mi Cultura. For as long as I can remember, My parents taught us what it is to be Puerto Rican. We spent long weekends, all spring breaks, summers, winters, 95% of our time off was spent running around in Puerto Rico. My Great Grandparents lived in this cement house in Cabo Rojo. They had a pretty big space for us to run and explore. We climbed Tamarindo trees and ate until our tongues were raw or until someone shouted at us to get down. We swung in hammocks until we were dizzy. We explored every inch of the enormous ditch on the side of the house, tiptoeing through rocks and puddles putting our hands in the dirt and digging up treasures while the aromas of what was cooking in the house built our appetites. Arroz con Guandules,  Pollo Guisado, Empanadillas, Surullos, Parcha Juice, Tostones, PASTELES….. We learned to eat like Puerto Ricans, to cook, to dance, I LOVE with the passion that Puerto Ricans are known for.

My Great Grandfather would take us to his Finca covered in acerola trees and cenepa trees where he had so many chickens, rabbits and roosters. Geese, Horses, Goats… Our very own private petting zoo. They bought us chicks every easter and we got to feed them and watch them grow. I sat on my Great Grandmothers bed listening to stories about her jewelry and looking at her jewelry box as though it were a treasure chest. Listening to her pray her Our Fathers and Hail Mary, Her teaching me to recite them in spanish.

We ran up and down the beaches of El Combate, Buje, Playa Sucia, building sand castles and watching them wash away with the tide. Exploring the floor of the shoreline for seashells and hermit crabs until we got so much sun (no matter how much sunblock was applied) We were always 4 shades darker than when we arrived and we LOVED it.  My cousins and I have danced up and down the streets of Boqueron, happily drinking and enjoying Pinchos because chicken has never tasted better than on a little stick right off the grill while you laugh and joke with your first friends. Primas and Primos. The people who love you no matter what and are ready to do whatever just to make you laugh.

My Father’s family lives/lived in Cidra, Puerto Rico. We took the trip many times through the winding narrow roads up and through the dense mountain to visit. One of my favorite memories with his family is sitting with his Father’s family looking up at a wall FULL of photos. Every inch was covered in framed photos.  All so well dressed, beautiful and so dapper in their suits. Evidence of a much simpler and more beautiful time. Family, Cousins, Tias, Abuelos, Abuelas, Kids, Memories. Important people in his history and now mine and my sons.

We speak the language. We dance. We cook.  I can close my eyes and picture every corner of my great grandparents  house. The house where my grandmother and now my mother also live.  The trees that surround the house and the mismatched tiles and half pour cement that makeup part of the floor outside of the driveway. I can close my eyes and vividly remember combing my Great Grandmother’s hair while she rocked in her chair watching cars drive past. Can you remember your childhood with that much love? If you can’t, I’m so sorry-But I hope that when you have children you place importance on giving them that. It is something they will never forget and will carry their entire lives.

I feel this way because my parents made it a point to  show me where I come from.  We have been to Puerto Rico 3 times since my son was born 4 years ago and I plan to make the trip at LEAST once a year from here on out. I want him to Love his culture and his back round the way I do. Not only in Puerto Rico but to make it a point to visit Dominican Republic and One day even Cuba as well.

This is important not only to know where we come from but who we are. A gift I can never thank my parents enough for. Nothing makes me sadder than when someone shrugs their shoulders when you ask they where they come from. To know your culture is to know who you are. Know where your family came from. So what gives anyone the right to tell me who I am or where I am FROM. Who got you to where you are today?

“Preciosa te llevo dentro
Muy dentro di mi corazón
Y mientras mas pasa el tiempo
En ti se vuelca mi amor”
“Porque ahora es que comprendo
Porque ahora es que comprendo
Que aunque pase lo que pase
Yo seré puertoriqueño
Yo seré puertoriqueño
Por donde quiera que ande, oh
Por que lo llevo en la sangre
Por herencia de mis padres
Y con orgullo repito
Yo te quiero Puerto Rico
Yo te quiero Puerto Rico”

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2 Responses to “Raising Kids in Love with Culture

  • Kimberly
    3 months ago

    I get the SAME thing!

  • Marisol1979115@gmail.com
    3 months ago

    YES!!! I remember that house. I remember those beaches and my beloved Cabo Rojo.
    But I can only say that about my mother’s place of birth…. my father’s place of birth and his culture not so much. 🙁

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