Friday, November 03, 2006

Baby Steps

For someone who fancied herself a writer once, I am a little late jumping into the blogosphere. I had been hesitant to blog because I kept wondering if I will be able to write something new and fresh every day. Is my life interesting enough? Will anybody at all read my blog?

As the title of my blog says, I am a boricua living in Texas. Some of you may already be humming the song "Yo soy boricua, pa' que tú lo sepas" ("I am boricua, just so you know"). Others are probably wondering what the hell is a boricua.

Boricua (bor-ee-coo-ah) is another way of saying Puerto Rican. Back in pre-Columbian times, the island that eventually was named Puerto Rico was called Boriken by the native Taíno indians. From Boriken, the Spaniards came up with the work Borinquen, and from that evolved the term boricua. In the United States, this term is embraced as a sign of ethnic pride by Puerto Ricans who live here.

One of my favorites songs is called "Boricua en la luna", sung by Roy Brown and based on a poem by Juan Antonio Corretjer. In the last verse he proclaims "Yo sería borincano, aunque naciera en la luna". I would be Puerto Rican even if I was born in the Moon. To me it is very fitting. I am very much a Puerto Rican, there is no question about it. However, since I live in Texas I have been wondering a lot about what exactly constitutes the Puerto Rican identity, and even more about how to keep my daughters in touch with theirs. It is something that concerns me greatly.

Those who don't know much about Puerto Rico might be wondering why this is such a big deal for me. Puerto Ricans have always struggled with the definition of what constitutes their identity. Puerto Rico has never been an independent country; we went from being a colony of Spain to being a territory of the United States. There is no Puerto Rican citizenship, at least not in the legally recognized sense. Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth. So our nationality is a cultural construct, not a political one.

Living on the island, it is easier to assert our identity. We tend to have a "us-them" mentality, seeing the US as a unified mass against which we define who we are. The Spanish language is a crucial part of the definition of who we are. We speak Spanish, and in some cases Spanglish. We pride ourselves in keeping Spanish as our main language after more than 100 years under the US. But when you live in the mainland, these variables don't quite work the same. You move to a big city like Houston, and you start to see how diverse this country really is; so your first wall comes down. Then you marry an American and have children who speak English (and a little bit of Spanish), and another wall comes down. How, then, do you define what is a Puerto Rican? How do you keep your heritage alive in future generations?


  1. Once a writer, always a writer.

    And, interesting question. One for which I have many thoughts about... but no definitive answer.

  2. This may help you answer your question:

    BTW... nice blog.