I thrive to keep this travel blog light. Yet, there are certain topics that, albeit complicated, should be discussed in order to better understand a destination. This is the case of Puerto Rico patriotism.
In light of the Olympics, and the commotion caused by my patriotic comments after Javier Colson grasped the first Olympic medal for our island in 64 years, I felt inclined to discuss patriotism in my homeland. As a U.S. territory, it has been an ongoing dilemma for more than 50 years–and main cause of mockery of Puerto Ricans ever since.
Puerto Rico patriotism: The U.S. territory’s dilemma
What I’m about to discuss is not unique to Puerto Rico, but shared among several overseas territories and dependencies around the world. For instance, this gentleman from Guam explains a similar problem with the U.S. and his island:
Such is the nature of all fundamentally unequal power relationships.
This line truly resonated with me. Is this how I feel? Is this the same problem of the Puerto Rico-U.S. relationship? Is this the byproduct of neocolonialism? Or is it Puerto Ricans taking advantage of the U.S. instead?
This is when Americans talk and usually piss me off.
It truly pisses me off whenever an American, ignorant of the situation, balks and yaps about how Puerto Ricans don’t pay any taxes, yet get all the U.S. citizen benefits. If you only knew of all the liberties we are not afforded because of this political status–mostly when it comes to commerce and international transactions. You see, if this political relationship were not beneficial to the U.S., I doubt it would have lasted more than 50 years untouched by Congress.
Speaking of which, there have been a couple of appeals made by the island to change the political status of Puerto Rico throughout the years. However, the Estado Libre Asociado has remained essentially unchanged since the 1950s. Why is that? This could be a rhetorical question, as nobody really knows the answer. This is quite the lengthy argument though, so I digress…
I will tell you, however, an awful lot about Puerto Rico patriotism.
We can’t lose our Puerto Rico patriotism just bc we are US citizens
I was taking a 15 min. break from work to watch Javier Culson run last week. It was the first time in Olympic history that Puerto Rico had a real chance at an Olympic medal in track and field. He was one of the favorites to win the race and our whole island was watching.
I was sweating. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I was hyperventilating.
As Javier crossed the finish line in third place, I started to cry. I was trembling and, while I would have liked for him to place first in order to hear our beautiful national anthem resonate in a packed arena, I was still proud. So proud I couldn’t stop crying. My heart was rejoicing just as hard as when I read that I was awarded the $20,000 scholarship to study abroad in Egypt for year. It felt amazing.
And seeing my flag being raised during the award ceremony? Priceless.
In fact, I cried again. If this is not Puerto Rico patriotism, I don’t know what it is. Sure, I’m a US citizen due to the fact that the U.S. “gained” my island after “winning” the Spanish-American War against Spain in 1898. Somehow, I recognize that I should thank this shift in political status (particularly, the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917). It has, after all, granted me a good set of rights and significant freedom in comparison to citizens of many other countries.
Yet, should I consider myself only an American because of this?
Should I totally renounce the fact that I am Puerto Rican, Puerto Rican first, and that I should also love my national anthem and flag? Just because my passport says “American,” am I insulting that great nation by stating the fact that I love my island and put Puerto Rico patriotism first? Is it my fault that this is so deeply embedded in me, after living on the island for 18 years of my life?
No, no, and NO.
Only people that have ever visited the island for more than a few days can truly understand. Culturally, Puerto Rico is so different to the United States. In fact, we share many more customs and traditions with the rest of Latin America than with the U.S. After all, we speak Spanish and are called Latinos, not Anglo-Saxons or Caucasians…
Yet, here I was, being mocked on social media.
Not that I care much about it, since Americans have mocked me for this very reason since I moved here to go to college in 2005. Oh, that’s another thing–just because I came to the states to go to college, they automatically say I don’t love my island: “Why did you come here, then?” And if I try to explain why Puerto Rico patriotism is dear to me? “If you don’t consider yourself American, you should go back to your country!”
Tsk tsk. Funny, because I’ve had it anyway. But I digress again…
What am I trying to say here? What am I trying to portray? That the culture and psyche of peoples are more complicated than political statuses and frontiers. Don’t be so quick to judge someone based on what they call themselves or their patriotism. Before you can have any say in the matter whatsoever,
go read a damn history book.
Yes, I respect America. Yes, I love my U.S. passport. But at the end of the day?
I am Puerto Rican — Just so you know!
Have you encountered Puerto Rico patriotism? Share your thoughts
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