Diamond Gee Cotto

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Diamond Gee

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Establishing Myself in Puerto Rico

Ever since I was eleven months old, I have been traveling back and forth to Puerto Rico. However, it was not until I was twelve that my mother decided we were going to stay and live in my Grandmother’s house.

I will not lie and say that I was not shocked or disappointed. How was I supposed to react? I mean imagine me, a seventh grader, tall but really skinny and with hairy legs (because my mom did not allow me to shave until I was sixteen). I was upset because my whole life was in Virginia where my one true friend since kindergarten lived. My mother expected me just to give up my life (not that I really had one at twelve), learn how to read and write a new language, make new friends and wear a uniform to school. It was like my whole world came crashing down. I mean don’t get me wrong, coming to Puerto Rico for vacations was awesome. Going to Combate beach at night to see dolphins was just breath taking. But to come here and live, now that was a whole other story.

Consequently, I was enrolled in a middle school named Pedro Nelson Colberg, where none of my family members attended and which also had a bad reputation. So my older sister, Devanisse, (who is three inches taller than me and looks like me) taught me how to fight. Not that I was going to need it because I am a pacifist, but just in case.

We went to the roof of my grandmother’s house. The funny thing is I was allowing her to hit me while she kept saying “hit me.” So I did better than hit her, (she had a green t-shirt on with a v cut at the neck), I pulled at the neckline and stripped her on the roof.  When she realized what I had done, I told her, “There I have won the fight because nobody wants to fight naked.”

Nevertheless, on my first day of school which was a month after school started, my homeroom teacher welcomes me to the class and says, “Today we are going to have our first test.”

I tell her, “I cannot read Spanish.”

She answers me, “ Numbers in Spanish are the same as numbers in English.”

As I take this test, I come to realize two things, one I am about to get an “F” on this test and two I better start learning how to read and write Spanish really fast or otherwise I will not pass the seventh grade. A week later, we get our grades back and I get a 94%. My face lights up and I now know I can do this. Living in Puerto Rico might not be so bad after all.

Henceforth, I made new friends, people who accepted me with my accent and my hairy legs. One of those friends was a girl named Keysha. She was the first person to speak to me (we met in a classroom) and did not laugh at me. On the contrary, she would help and correct me. Almost ten years have gone by and we are still friends.

As the years have passed, I have decided that I am Puerto Rican, maybe not by birth or by choice, but because I have come to love this island.  I cannot go to bed without eating a plate of rice since it makes me feel like I have not eaten all day, and when special occasions come rice with peas must be the first thing that is made. In addition, what identifies me the most as a Puerto Rican is my love for music. I mean a day without music (especially reggaetón) is like a day without the sun, sad and lonely. Finally, I may not have been happy with my mother’s decision to stay in Puerto Rico, but I am sure grateful for it. Because, as a consequence of that choice I am not only American and British, but also half Italian, half Hispanic and a third Irish through birth, association and genes. But it all adds up to; I am a proud Puerto Rican.

 

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