Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Puerto Rican? Nuyorican? Who Cares?

Some consider themselves Puerto Rican. Others Nuyorican. What’s the difference?

Here’s the definition from the ever wise and always accurate Wikipedia:

Nuyorican is a blending of the terms "New York" and "Puerto Rican" and refers to …Puerto Ricans living in… New York…. The term is also used ...to differentiate those of Puerto Rican descent from the Puerto Rico-born…Nuyoricans are not considered Puerto Ricans by island Puerto Ricans due to cultural differences; this is a very controversial topic amongst both groups.”

Ay yay yay. Like we need more controversy.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I consider myself Puerto Rican. I was not born on the island, but my parents were born in Puerto Rico (Aguadilla and Toa Alta). My grandparents are from Puerto Rico (Aguada and Aguadilla).  Like most Puerto Ricans, my great grandparents on each side came from Spain (various towns in Andalucia, Madrid and quite randomly, one was born in Ireland).

By, definition I would Nuyorican. And yet, I protest.

I was raised in both Puerto Rico and New York and I travelled frequently back and forth. I was taught to embrace my heritage (all the Taino, African, and Spaniard in Puerto Rican culture as well as the splash of Irish in my family). I was born dancing the bomba and the plena, raised listening to freestyle blasted from car radios on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, cleaned the house listening to Salsa on Sundays, and blasted underground reggaeton in my walkman.

Although I live in New York, I do not call myself Nuyorican because I feel like it separates me. Living outside of the island I am considered to be a gringa, and if I classify myself as Nuyorquina then I feel more “gringa” then “Boricua.”

As much as I refuse it, being Nuyorican is in fact what I am: A ‘Rican born in NYC, who maintains her cultural values as opposed to completely assimilating and letting go of her roots. There's nothing negative about being Nuyorican - just to be clear. I just don’t call myself Nuyorican because I don’t want to be separated.

When I'm in Puerto Rico with the sun glinting off of my skin, I walk barefoot on the orilla where the ocean meets the sand, scoop up a handful and let it run through my fingers and onto my toes, as I whisper to myself that esta tierra is my own.

Because it is, in my heart.

I am a New Yorker. I am Puerto Rican.

Written in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated between 9/15/10 – 10/15/10