How is it possible that a country so small–an archipelago of less than 4,000 square miles–contains so much pride and vanity? Only when you feel the sand beneath your toes can you know the weight of all that pride. Or presume to know it.
What does it mean to be Puerto Rican? I only know that I always show pride for my people, my flag, and my culture. I only know that I walk to the rhythm of our songs and love to dance to the beat of a different drum. I only know that I come from a country that loves to celebrate any and all small achievements. I only know that I am part of a fraternity, never afraid to spend time with each other. I only know that I live a Puerto Rican dream and that Roy Brown’s lyrics, “I will always be a Puerto Rican even though it may bring me nothing but grief,” is my carpe diem (Lugo and Rivera). Every nation, every community, and every citizen must have a dream to follow, but it must be attached to their past struggles, their history and the new influences integral to their future success. My dream of Puerto Rico entails that trilogy, but maintains as much uniqueness as my love for the Island.
Since 1952, the Puerto Rican flag–triangular blue field with a single white star, three red stripes, and two white stripes–has shared the trade-wind breezes with the United States flag (Government). Once an outright colony of Spain and later secession to the United States after the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico is now a commonwealth called Estado Libre Asociado (Associated Free State). Puerto Ricans have been United States citizens since 1917. We consume more Coors beer than any other state, and McDonalds and Burger King are as popular as our own rice and beans. Nevertheless, without legal residence on the mainland, they are refused a vote in the Presidential elections, but handed a mandate to serve a commander–in–chief who may lead them to war as one has five times before (Deane). Puerto Rican blood has been shed during both World Wars, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the Persian Gulf Wars and our veterans show pride for their sacrifices. Puerto Ricans do elect their own governor, as well as a resident commissioner, who represents our interests in Congress with voice but no vote. Federal taxes do not apply in Puerto Rico, but all economic activities are tied to the United States. Moreover, many of the island’s significant activities are under federal (U.S) control, including the post office, radio and television licensing, as well as the customs and borders service.
These inconsistencies furnish propaganda for three political parties that battle to govern the Island every four years: the independence movement, the statehood party, and the commonwealth party. Puerto Ricans are extremely enthusiastic about the elections and the status of our Island. Our enthusiasm takes on a numerical value in our participation rate of over 79%, a stat well over any state of the Union’s (Government). Politics may divide us into three pieces, but no matter which color, a treasure still awaits,us at the end of the rainbow: our nationality.
Puerto Ricans of all political spectrums insist that we are a distinct nation– as validated in our participation in Olympic sports and beauty pageants. Puerto Rico is indeed a nation, but a nation within a nation, earning us the term “nation-state” to describe our geo-political status. .While Puerto Ricans lack a distinct citizenship, we have a clear sense of national identity.We may still be an economic and political colony, but most Puerto Ricos on the US mainland continue to identify themselves as such as their primary collective affiliation. Culturally speaking, Puerto Rico meets most of the objective and subjective characteristics of the conventional view of a nation, among them a common language, shared territory, and unique history. The Island also possesses many of the symbolic attributes of a nation, such as a national system of universities, museums, and other cultural institutions; a national tradition in literature and the visual arts; and even a national representation in international sports and beauty contests. Most importantly, the vast majority of Puerto Ricans conceive themselves as distinct from Americans, as well as from other Latin American people. This distinction is fuel by our relationship with the United States and its influence on our culture and daily lives. My Puerto Rican dream envision this influence as a positive enhancer that continually reshapes our ever-evolving culture.
Cultural nationalism has become one of the leading discourses of identity in contemporary Puerto Rico. We call ourselves “Boricua,” meaning a national of Borinquen, the name given to the Island by the Taino Indians before the Spaniards landed. The idea of a national culture is still embedded in the everyday life of Puerto Ricans. A lyric poem written by Juan Antonio Corretjer, and transformed to the famous song “Boricua en la Luna” by the talented artist Roy Brown, defines in its totality what being a Puerto Rican is all about. Its chorus sings, “And so I shouted to the villain, that I would still be a boricua even if I were born on the moon” (Lugo and Rivera, 2010).
A Boricua is a being that puts forward with great pride the dignity, honor and love of our homeland, culture and flag. A being that is able to awaken and stir a whole nation from a deep slumber. A being that skips the “s” when he or she speaks and who sings with his tongue-tied up. A being whose Coca–Cola is the coconut milk. A being who claps with joy when the pilot lands safely the aircraft that takes him or her inbound or outbound from his or her home. A being that shares two flags and two national hymns. This being is called a Boricua, and no matter where in the world, he or she will never forego the chance to shout: “Proud to be a Boricua!” This is Puerto Rican pride.
Not surprisingly, my small island represents itself quite well among countries with a larger territorial size and/or population. In fact, we are ranked among the top 10 nations in basketball. We enjoy a boxing tradition of World Champions richer than many larger countries. Puerto Rican superstars have filled major League Baseball teams rosters, from Roberto Clemente to the Molina brothers. Not to mention that Puerto Rico, although the smallest of the Greater Antilles, has produced more Miss Universe winners than any other nation except Venezuela and the United States. Why and how is this possible? Lior Pachter’s research at the American University of Berkeley showed that a mestizo with such widespread miscegenation as the Puerto Rican people has the greatest chance of hosting as close to a “perfect human” due to its mix of Spanish, African and Taino heritage. Pachter goes further and says, “The nearest neighbor to the perfect human is HG00737, a female who is Puerto Rican” (Borreli).. The fact that the “perfect human” may be a Puerto Rican female makes a lot of sense to me.
The Puerto Rican man, a creature from the Caribbean, is unlike any other human being. We come from a different place, where the sun, heat, beaches, breezes, and the different races, command a different culture. This mysterious and magical place is something else. Here we yell and use lively colors. We look for the fresh air because the heat constantly overwhelms us. We insist that God blessed us with sandy beaches. We are all people filled with enormous pride, no matter what bigger nation may influence or assist our economy or political status.
As a Boricua, learning a second language, enjoying American football as well as soccer, and partaking in the joys of the American dream do not confuse me. The essence of my existence is a sense of duty to my community. For us Boricuas, our homeland is Puerto Rico, our culture is the Caribbean and our dream is to be unique. I don’t have to be back in Puerto Rico to celebrate my roots, my culture and my people, because being a Boricua means always having Puerto Rico in your heart and the community in your soul.
Being Puerto Rican entails being a part of something bigger. Even though politically and economically we are an extension of the United States, geographically we pertain to the Caribbean. This is a place where the sun and sea makes beauty, a place where nature is one with the universe, and where the sun never ceases to warm its people. It is the envy of all visiting tourists and a treasure to all those who are fortunate enough to live here. A place where sunsets are golden throughout the year; where moonlights shine clear and bright; where the boundaries consists of beaches blessed with seashells, corals and shimmering sands. This is my Caribbean.
Borreli, Lizette. “Biologist Says Puerto Rican Women Possess Ideal Genotype Of The ‘Perfect’ Human Via DNA Ancestry.” Medical Daily. N.p., 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 June 2015.
Deane, Zain. “What Is the Relationship Between Puerto Rico and the U.S.” abouttravel. About.com, n.d. Web. 29 June 2015.
Dowling, Mike. “The Carribbean Islands.” mrdowling.com. N.p., 30 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 June 2015.
“Government.” Welcome to Puerto Rico! Ed. Magaly Rivera. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 June 2015.
Lugo, S., and D. Rivera. “Boricua en la Luna.” sdspa. N.p., 7 May 2010. Web. 29 June 2015. This source is no longer available