I don’t feel I’m from the US, however I’ve been told over and over again that I was not born on the motherland of Puerto Rico and therefore cannot claim full-blooded Puerto Rican. I find myself constantly living in a state of limbo, not American enough for the US, but not Boricua enough for Puerto Rico.
Being Puerto Rican has its complexities and Puerto Ricans from different areas identify with nationality differently. You find different answers everywhere. From Puerto Rican to American, Afro-Boricua, Nuyorican, Chirican, to a mix of Spaniard, Taino Indian and African. Born on the Island or born in the US, we come in all colors and each of us carries are own identity and truths.
News of the current conditions in Puerto Rico streamed on my social media feed and it makes me wonder why more people are not talking about the state of the island. While the issue is complex, many simply do not know that Puerto Rico is on the brink of bankruptcy much like Detroit, MI in 2014. It also brings up questions of how much do people really know about the history of Puerto Rico and why the current situation is very important to the Puerto Rican’s on the Mainland, good old US of A.
Quick History Lesson
Allow me to enlighten you with a very quick history lesson of Puerto Rico, I won’t bore you with the whole Columbus discovered Puerto Rico story. In my personal opinion Columbus was an intruder on the Island. There were Taino Indians living on the Island way before Columbus thinks he discovered anything. However, I will add that when Columbus invaded Puerto Rico, the Taino Indians had never seen a white person, with blonde hair and blue eyes. The Taino’s believed that the Spaniards that took over the Island where actually gods and worshiped these white, blue eyed, blonde haired creatures (that’s how they described them). Story has it that one day in 1510 the Cacique Urayoan, a chief of the Taino tribe ordered to drown one of the Spanish soldier’s to determine whether or not the Spaniards were immortal, as they believed that Spanish colonizers had divine powers.
It is told that after they drowned Diego, they watched him for several days until they were sure that he was dead. Later in 1511, after the Tainos realized that the Spaniards were not immortal, they attempted to revolt. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful and many of the remaining Taino’s either fled the island or where killed. It was during that time that the Spaniards began to bring slaves from Africa, these included men, women and children. The main purpose was to work the land, see Puerto Rico was known for its abundant agriculture in sugar cane, coffee, and an abundance of tobacco. This is how the Puerto Rican race came to existence. Some might be a mix of all three, Taino, Spaniard, and African as I am or some may be more one than the other. But one thing in common is that we all have a connection to the motherland.
The history and fate of Puerto Rico changed in the 1900’s when Puerto Rico was surrendered to the United States military authority and two years later in 1902 Puerto Rico was declared a territory of the US. Yes I know, there are a lot of missing gaps in time but I did say this was a quick history in order for you to understand why the current situation is very important. It wasn’t until 1917 that Puerto Ricans were given US citizenship, making all Puerto Rican’s whether born on the Island or the US, American Citizens, however it wasn’t until 1952 that Puerto Rico became an official commonwealth of the US.
…Why does any of this really matter?
When we look at the definition of a commonwealth it is defined in Google as a “self-governing unit voluntarily grouped with the US.” I want to bring your attention to the words, “voluntarily grouped.”
Puerto Rico was and has never voluntarily been grouped, it has always been dictated to and handed down from one invading government to the next.
You might ask yourself, why does any of this really matter? Or, why is it so important for the US?
Puerto Rico is an asset to the United States and it’s to the advantage of the US to keep Puerto Rico.
Yes, there is much speculation that the US provides federal help to the people of the motherland. See that’s what the US government wants you to believe, in reality Puerto Rico brings more revenue to the US than the US provides to the island.
Currently Puerto Rico is facing economic hardships, hardships that now the US government after exploiting Puerto Rico for its tax breaks and resources does not want to assist Puerto Rico; and will not allow for Puerto Rico to claim bankruptcy either.
I know, I know this all sounds so confusing and too complicated to understand.
So, if it’s complicated for you can you imagine for those of us who have continually seen how Puerto Rico is used and abused but has no freedom in what happens with its own wellbeing.
Those of us who carry the warmth and the original culture of our history in our hearts and in our lives on a daily basis have to witness the injustices that happen with our island. We are not considered our own race, even though we have our own rich history – a history that continues to be lost because of America’s presence and grip on the Island.
Many who live in the island live in poverty and are seen as lower class because of its economic state, which was created by the hands of the government. In my opinion, the government imposed its presence on the island.
We, the Puerto Ricans who live in the US, have no say in what happens in our island because we are in the mainland. And yet, when those of us who are born in the US move to the island we are not considered to be Puerto Rican enough and told that we are “de alla” (over there).
So much is currently happening in this world that Puerto Rico’s current situation gets lost in all of the daily happenings and injustices. A small tiny island known to many as paradise is quickly fading in the shadows.
Puerto Rico matters to the many islanders and mainland Boricuas. It is being abused by corrupt governments that continue to keep us in a modern day state of slavery. Colonialism is slavery and should not be in existence in 2015, let alone happening right under your noses.
The next time you hang with one of your Puerto Rican friends, ask them about what’s currently happening in Puerto Rico. You will be surprised how much more you will learn than reading a text book.
[Feature image: An United States flag waiving in the sky on the left and a Puerto Rican flag waiving in the air on the left. Both flags are attached to flag poles against a bright blue sky.]