Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Puertoricanness is getting in the way of the Gringolicious environment I am in...

To start or not to start with a disclaimer.. that is the question.
Ok, here it is, just to play it safe. :) DISCLAIMER: Anything written in this blog is 100% bias, from my own perspective, based on what I have seen, lived and learned from. Do I have a choice? It's what life has taught me and what my contribution to this world is, based on who I am as God's creation, just like everyone else living and breathing in our lovely planet. I write with the outmost respect and appreciation for the gifts and blessings my family has recieved.
Skeptics will take the title of the post and have a field day... boasting confidently how they "always knew it," how a person who is from a different culture, country and speaks a different language can never assimilate fully to an adopted land. Well, for many years I have proved them wrong. Or have I?
Previous posts have highlighted my upbrining in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While family life highs and lows made for a "not so typical" childhood, my goal was always to take who I was, my culture and take it further from what seemed the norm. To want more than that was expected and NOT to give in to stereotypes. I also faught tooth and nail NOT to be pigeon hold or the "token" Latina in my newly found home. I had something to prove. Puerto Ricans are hard working, passionate, loud, yes, very loud, life-loving, food and drink obsessed, colorful people. We are different, we are special. THAT had been minimzed to a mere side-show of the occassional salsa song played by the DJ at a co-worker's wedding. My dance partner and I were entertainment, and we were good at it.
Problem no. 1. What if the entertainment actually wanted to discuss current political issues, global affairs in government or the economy? WHAT? What do you know about that? And while politics are never a "light" topic, I do my best to lighten up the load. 
Again, I am simply telling a story... stay cool. I did my polite best to brush away the ignorant comments and questions and again, minimized the fact that I could eloquently tackle any small talk and conversation driven by the most educated in the room. Some were accepting, others walked away. I didn't want to offend.
Problem no. 2. What if the little Puerto Rican, with her energy, enthusiasm, commitment, skills and persuasive talents was to excel far beyond peers' expectations? Unheard off.
Recently, and with long, soul searching periods of discernment, prayer and inner reflection, my own culture, language and qualities that define me as who I am, NOT how I am expected to be, have been chipping off pieces of the walls I myself carefully and meticulously built. Being loud is part of me (I get that mostly from the Ortiz side!), especially when I speak Spanish. Hugging is something I do. No, it's something I HAVE to do. We are warm and loving people with NO agendas, people. RELAX. I give a peck on the cheek to my closest friends, as well as my family. Again, RELAX, it's a way of showing we care, that's it.
We love music, we love to dance, we love people and we NEED, I NEED to be around them to be the best I can be. My best version of myself is with people, leading, teaching, learning.
The point of all this, folks, is simple. No matter how many years I may have lived in Ohio, regardless of how much I have called this place home, which has certainly been home,  I will ALWAYS be an island girl. I am sure my fellow Hawaiian peeps can relate, even if they choose to live in Alaska. :)
I have struggled lately by having to stand firm and defend my culture and language. I shouldn't have to. No one should. For the first time in almost 20 years here, I have felt different. Maybe it was always there, duh! :) I mean, I am different. Even growing up, I always felt different. I wanted more, I wanted different things than my friends, my family. I had to give in on a few things, but that never changed the fact that Iwas different. I always wanted MORE!
I now stand, after feeling the most proud representative of my Puerto Rico, standing even taller than ever, owning my Puertorricanness hoping it can still find a place in my adopted Gringolicious home. Another disclaimer: As stated in previous posts, also in defense of my "different-ness" (I think I just made that up!!) I will not use the same culture and language that makes us unique, as a crutch or excuse for this or that. On the contrary, we are assets, we are bi-cultural, bi-lingual and CAN assimilate and appreciate different cultures and expectations BETTER than others can. It's in our DNA, it's who we are as a colonized culture.
In conclusion, I stress that everything written is from a place of love, respect and appreciation of all that has been granted to me in my personal and professional development. Lessons learned about how to be and how not to be, but always, always TRUE to yourself, even if the wake-up calls takes a few hits to the snooze button. :) To be the best version of myself, no matter what language I  have to use to communicate, including Puerto Rican pig latin, HA! ;)

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