I love my Puerto Ricaness! Yes I said Ricaness because that’s what it is. pure saturated, orgullo Ricaness! I love that I grew up in a day and time where struggle wasn’t always sad and depressing. It was an accepted part of life and met with just as much vigor and stamina as youth. Not to mention that all those difficulties were met with music. I love that my Spanish is barrio. That I can drop a cono or a puneta perfectly!!! Don’t try to straighten it out because there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. it rolls from my tongue like second nature and even if you don’t speak Spanish you know exactly what I mean.
I love that being negrito in the family meant I was special. That I was what being Caribeno was all about. Negrito was a term of endearment that brought extra love, extra smiles, extra hugs, extra pride. I enjoyed the fact that I had to learn Spanish. There was no ½ assin it. When I grew up everyone spoke it. Our parents did not bother speaking Spanish even if they knew it. You answered in Spanish. You was hungry say it in Spanish. You wanted something say it in Spanish. You wanted extra sweets from Grandma you spoke in Spanish. They did not play that!
Being Puerto Rican meant exactly that, that you are Puerto Rican. Though you were born in America when people asked what are you with pride you said- I’m Puerto Rican! Soy Boricua! You never diluted it by saying-I am American but my parents are Puerto Rican. Nooooooo we were Puerto Rican whether we were born there or not. It was such a sense of pride. I was happy that I grew up with 20 cousins, 15 aunts and 80 uncles. As much as we thought we got away with stuff our parents made sure that neighbors and the other parents knew what was up. As much as we thought mommy didn’t know eventually a pichon told her and she found out. Always hated that damn bird!!!
I love the old school Ricans that I was raised by. When you would go to their houses and the smell of sofrito hits you at the front door and when the holiday’s rolled in there was a guarantee that there was a pernil and arroz con gandules being served in the kitchen no matter how poor we were. Then there was those huge house parties where it was made up mostly of family. the music blasting till the wee hours and everyone in the building was invited. How when there was a death all the woman especially the elders got together to do Rosary’s and help each other through it. Bad times were always met with support and the funny thing was you didn’t ask it was given.
I remembered when a block party was something huge. It was guaranteed that music was with a live DJ plating vinyl not C’s and more than likely he was taking the electricity from the lamp posts. You just knew that there was going to be some serious dancing happening that night. Everyone looked out for each other. If you had beef you just knew it was going to get settled with punches and a good ole fashion one on one. No one was going to jump in and no matter how much you whooped each other or who won you ended with a hand shake and a level of respect for each other. You didn’t have to love each other but you respected each other.
I came from a time where you went to church on Sunday no matter what type of sinner you was. There was a sense of community. In all things there was pride of being Puerto Rican. You knew that someone was going to pop up with a bandera as a cape or a hat with the words “Soy Boricua”. There was always that uncle that drank or that aunt that was the life of the party. You and your cousins covered each other’s asses as you went for walks and most of all you knew that you were home no matter where you went. That was my Ricaness. That was how I grew up.