The day my Puerto Rican identity was questioned
“You know, it’s weird that you identify yourself as a Puerto Rican when you speak Spanish like a Mexican.”
Words that for a second left me speechless, and if you know me, you know that’s hard to do. Why should my Mexican accent versus Puerto Rican accent in Spanish dictate how much of a Puerto Rican I am? And what exactly does speaking Spanish like a Mexican sound like? Did she mean I had a Mexican accent in Spanish and just didn’t know how to phrase it correctly? All these things were going through my mind as I was looking for the words to reply with. Then came my response, “Well, I have a Mexican accent in Spanish because I was born in and grew up in LA and my father is Mexican but I identify myself more with my Puerto Rican side which is why I named my blog, Becky Boricua. Everything about me says I’m Puerto Rican.” Her response? A blank stare as to not really agreeing with what I was saying (as if I needed her to agree). She then tried to fix the awkward moment by saying, “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that you like to represent us.” She meant “us” as in her (the Puerto Rican) and not “us” as in her and me. She tried to fix it but not really because even at the end, she made sure she made a difference between the both of us. After a few more words were exchanged in what continued to be an awkward conversation, she left. And there I was left with a sour taste in my mouth and asking myself, “Did she really just question my identity?”
My grandfather was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico and later spent several years during his youth in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico before moving to San Juan.
Ever since I started my blog I’ve had the notion in my mind that I have to prove myself as a Puerto Rican to people because everyone assumes that I’m going to be speaking Spanish with a Puerto Rican accent. And although no one (until that day) had straight out questioned me, I always felt that people considered me less of a Puerto Rican or maybe not even Puerto Rican because I didn’t have the accent. Truth be told, there are a lot of us that weren’t born on the island and maybe don’t speak Spanish with a Puerto Rican accent but have Puerto Rican heritage that can be more Puerto Rican than people who were born on the island. It’s all about how you were raised and about the love that you have for your heritage and how you consider that your own even if you were never born there. That’s what truly identifies you as a Puerto Rican. If you weren’t born there or if you don’t have a Puerto Rican accent when speaking Spanish is irrelevant. That doesn’t dictate whether or not you have the right to claim being Puerto Rican.
My grandmother was born in Corozal, Puerto Rico but grew up in Old San Juan and eventually later on settled in San Juan.
I’m blessed to be bi-cultured where I can equally claim being Mexican as I can being Puerto Rican and the fact that I wasn’t born in either country doesn’t take that right away. I can claim both identities because it’s who I am. Both of my parents have instilled in me the love for both countries as well as the love for this nation that I was actually born in and grew up in, and no one has the right to ever question that.
Mami was born in San Juan and grew up in the Hato Rey area of San Juan.
If you’re from a mixed heritage or even if it’s only one heritage, never be ashamed to claim it as your own because it is a part of you; it’s what makes you the person you are. Own it! Be proud of it! Never forget your heritage and always remember to pass it on to your children because that’s what makes us different and special in this nation.
To the fellow Puerto Rican lady who questioned my Puerto Rican identity: Yes, I am Puerto Rican and proud of it and you have no right to question that. And thank you for giving me something to write about.
This post forms part of a series of posts that I will be publishing during Hispanic Heritage Month. I hope you also take the time to read the other upcoming posts.