Appreciating Borinquen

Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 8.51.11 AMWritten by Ivanna Rivera; edited by Frances Coral

When I was old enough to go to school my mom decided to put me in a private “American teaching style” school. She wanted me to learn how to speak English correctly. In this school, there was only one class in Spanish, so it was our parent’s responsibility to teach us our native language.  It was drilled constantly into our minds that what we should always aspire to was to graduate high school and continue our college education in any state of the United States because it was a great nation and it was “so much better” than Puerto Rico. They encouraged us to watch channels like Disney or Nickelodeon instead of Spanish-speaking television channels like Telemundo or WAPA. Their intent was to Americanize the students and it totally worked.

 I detested how hot Puerto Rico was all the time and always wanted to just be inside with air conditioner. I would imagine what it would be like to see, touch, and play with snow. I never wanted to go to the beach because the sand always bothered me. I didn’t like listening to salsa, merengue, or reggueton. Instead, I would listen to pop and rock music. I was always dreaming of the day that I would leave Puerto Rico and go to the United States to achieve my dreams (because “that was the only way I was going to be able to achieve them”).I worked very hard to get good grades so I would be able to get into a good school and as I looked for potential places I could go study, I found the University of Massachusetts.

From the first time I saw the pictures of the campus I knew that I wanted to live and study here. My parents would constantly ask me if I was sure that I wanted to leave the comfort of my home. I would simply tell them that I was very sure. I applied without hesitation. Needless to say, I was ecstatic once I got in. During the summer the only thing that I could think of was my new life that was starting on September. When it was time to leave I was extremely happy. And although I knew I was going to miss my entire family, I understood that, in this era of great technological advances, I would constantly talk to them, so it didn’t really worry me.

To my surprise, UMASS proved to teach me a lesson I never saw coming. I didn’t expected to miss everything about Puerto Rico so much. Experiencing the winter made me realize that I really didn’t like the cold. The first day it snowed I got so happy because I was actually going to see a white winter. After five minutes of snowing I realized that it wasn’t what I expected at all, the snow started to hit me in the face and my hand basically froze when I touched the snow. After that, I missed the beach (sand included), the palm trees, the bright Sun and even the dramatic soap operas that you can only see in the “Telemundo” channel. I started dreaming of being in the warmth that you can only find in the Caribbean.

 I even missed listening to reggueton and salsa songs in the radio; I have to admit that I began listening to different songs from Puerto Rico obsessively and crying hysterically in every single one.  I missed my family and friends more than I could ever imagine but most importantly I greatly missed my wonderful language and the incredible culture and traditions of my beautiful island.

Slowly I’ve started getting used to university life, the new culture, and even the weather. I’m actually really glad that all of this has happened because I am now very proud to say that I’m from Puerto Rico and I’ve grown to love my 100 x 35 island even more. I am extremely grateful to have been born and raised in the environment that I have. As the Puerto Rican poet Juan Antonio Corretjer said: “Así le grito al villano, yo sería borincano aunque naciera en la luna.”

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