New Yo-Rican
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Politics and Activism

New Yo-Rican

Too white for P.R.'s red, white, and blue

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New Yo-Rican
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I once had a discussion about my ethnic background with someone who I miss very much. They were very insistent that night that a person understanding their heritage was one of the most important things they should do, and at that time, it wasn't something I prioritized. I think something else was bothering them that night, because no answer I gave them would dissuade them from being frustrated with my difference in opinion. I remember adamantly trying to establish the fact that I felt no shame in my background but was simply preoccupied with other facets of life, but something about their demeanor implied that I was being insulting.

I've never felt any shame over my ethnicity. I haven't really dived into a great deal of the history of Puerto Rico, but what I do know is already very interesting. In conjunction with its history, the current affairs on the island and the general opinion that the world I live in has of Puerto Rico is also intriguing, offering me unexpected insights of people and their attitude of me. There is a habit that often manifests in people that calls for them to de-legitimize another's ethnic background based on the way they act and if it runs counter to stereotypes that belong to that. I couldn't possibly count how many times that I was told that I'm not Puerto Rican for the sole reason that I didn't know Spanish.

It was frustrating to be constantly discredited throughout my teenage years, and for a while beyond them, but I am forced to admit that I didn't do a whole lot to help my case at that point in time. Very likely due to the laziness that cripples many young Americans, I didn't actively try to learn Spanish in earnest. I lost the opportunity to start learning it in middle school largely due to the fact that I procrastinated (gasp) and lost the possibility of a shot that was already slim. I wound up taking French, meaning I'd spend the next 6 years learning a language that would disintegrate in my memory banks over the following 9. On the few occasions that my mother would offer to speak to me and my brother only in Spanish, the exchanges would last only a short while before our lack of enthusiasm for the project would terminate it.

Life is pretty busy, and if you don't have the proper motivations and processes established, it is so easy to go nowhere with an endeavor for what feels like lifetimes. As a teenager, I know that I had next to no patience for learning a whole other language, which essentially is another way of thinking. It isn't just about sticking loosely translated words together; with a different sentence structure, you actually need to approach the way you speak in a very different way, which also changes how you think somewhat. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that understanding the culture and background behind that language would ask the same of you.

Your background is an undertaking that you must be prepared for, and again, I respect just how much a person can learn about themselves from their ethnicity. In time, I know that in time, I'll want to know more about what it means to be Puerto Rican; the history: the cultural ticks, more about my families in particular, etc. With a nice chunk of time where you don't have too many outside pressures weighing on you, it's a good change of pace to get in touch with different levels of yourself.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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