Puerto Rican Identity: To Be or Not To Be
by Don Jíbaro
The Cultural Quest for Identity is an incredible phenomenon.
It has been the theme of countless works of science, art and
literature. One's personal identity can be manifested in any part of the world. All you need is behavior. You are who you are no matter where you stand. We are Boricuas when we behave like Boricuas;
otherwise we're John Does. Some live at home and some live abroad. Some
behave, some don't... but, what makes one a Boricua?
The answer to that question is so deep that I'd need to write a book to convey the many aspects of the human character that makes us who we are. Suffice it to say that the right to be Boricua
can't be imputed by others nor monopolized by those how feel they
have studied more or display more of the traits that would
characterize a Puerto Rican.
is a state of mind in where there's an urge to manifest one's origins. That urge is prompted by many sociological and psychological factors... the most common is being absent from the Island surrounded by different types of
peers from all parts of the globe. Another factor lies deep beneath
the personality traits we show. It is simply the fact that we've
been a colony, a protectorate, a territorial possession , et al...
for over 500 years. Did you hear that? FIVE HUNDRED YEARS!!! More
than any other land in the world.
Identity can be distinguished by the essence of its content. You don't need body language.
Any degree of contempt motivated by of lack satisfaction that someone might think is due to him/her
is shown in our identity. So, the gap that exists in the Newyorican vs.
is real. Each society treats you differently. I have seen it. I have experienced it. Friends tell me about it and how much it worries them.
It goes so deep as to the socio-political dividing asunder of our
people because of the place where we live. Yet, the identity remains
the same. Pura Cepa.
When it comes to defining Boricua ethnicity, some people "shoot" blindly at whatever moves with a flag. And because their inability to see the glass "half full", they demand a satisfying answer from those who do not meet a certain Puerto Rican
criterion. Such dissatisfaction come from a
preconceived view on what is and what's not Puerto Rican. Being BIAS equates to being PARTIAL which leads to being IGNORANT which comes from, obviously enough, not having enough information to formulate a wholesome assertion.
When you examine the USA-rican culture and the ISLA-rican culture, both cultures are based on the same roots that grow different DUE to the environments in which they develop... both accrue on enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training that is
given by BORICUA peers, hopefully before you leave the home ... parents being the MAIN influence.
IF YOUR parents don't teach you to be Puerto Rican (in cultural behavior, that is... not in ethnical identification) you'll grow to being or thinking that you are anything, whatever... EVEN an eskimo or a viking... WHILE deep IN REALITY you are a BORICUA, "mancha'o con plátano."
Moreover, because the racism and inequality that ethnic groups suffer in the USA, the BORICUAS there have suffered their part of the unfairness and turn apprehensive when revealing personal aspects of their culture. The crisis is there… the cultural gap is for real. That prompt us to
seek out our "panas" and form communities in where everybody says: WEPA! …and QIUBO? Incidentally, that phenomenon has proven futile in cities like Los Angeles (where I live) where there's virtually no Puerto Rican community. Because of that, a Boricua here will stop any other car that
has a PR flag hanging from the mirror just to ask: “Oyee!, ¿De qué pueblo tu erej?”
Are we obligated to represent in order to identify?
A Puerto Rican's acquaintance with taste in Boricua arts, humanities, and some aspects of Puerto Rican social arts and politics (as distinguished from vocational and other technical skills) IS a responsibility that is HIS OWN in order to nurture a healthy self esteem. Ignorance is never
an excuse. Knowledge of ALL those things is culture. Subsequently, NOT knowing enough Spanish or Jibaro lingo to be a TRUE RICAN would not be acceptable. The same rule would apply to a “Borinqueño” from Utuado or Corozal going to New York without knowing some English to, at least, stay
out of trouble.
Aaah, but that changes if you live in Puerto Rico. In the ISLAND the culture is around you and binds your existence daily. You can't miss it. The PR ISLANDERS don't have an identity crisis... The Jibaros of Comerio don't need to know that they are jibaros, they know that already.
Nevertheless, you still see there Puerto Ricans wrapped up in flags and "pavas"... because our perspective is global... THE WHOLE WORLD is watching us!
So, we are also responsible, almost mandated, to spread, not impute, the patterns of Boricua
culture, knowledge and customs to those who lack them. That rests
upon our capacity for learning and teaching. We are the ones who
transmit knowledge to succeeding generations. BOTTOM LINE: It's up
So, flashing tattoos on your chest or flags on our cars is just a way to say: "I talk the talk." But, one also needs to "walk the walk." Our culture is very deep... with more than just customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of our social groups. We also have sets of shared
attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes what being Puerto Rican is all about. We share those through education and tolerance, knowing that there are Boricuas out there that are going though some kind of identity crisis because they were born in Alaska or New Zealand
and have have no idea what a "PIONONO" or a "GUANIME" is.
Let me end by saying that... those who "talk the talk" can also "walk the walk" by the means of promoting
culture rather than just showing culture. I hope that as co-patriots we can keep our culture thriving and our ethnicity untainted.
Pa' encima, pues...!!!
May God Bless and Prosper You,