Gabriel Mejia

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I AM WHAT I AM –

Colombian

I have never felt anything other than a strong sense of Puerto Rican-ism. Well, except when I speak English or when I practice my hobbies. Come to think of it, there are more times I feel as if I’m not Puerto Rican than when I do feel like a Puertorro. For instance when I go to the novena reunions with my father, I feel Colombian. When Maria Francisca makes arepas and Fabio starts arguing with Balbino over how students are so lax nowadays, I can’t help but acknowledge my Colombian roots. Even the way we talk changes ever so slightly when we’re together. My Spanish turns more proper and the words flow from my mouth at a slower pace and in a much more coherent structure. We all sing the novena till we can sing no more and then we prepare to do it again for nine days straight.

American

A language is the badge of a citizen. If a person speaks English fluently here, then they are most likely American. So, when I speak English, I don’t feel Puerto Rican. I often find myself talking to my brother Guillermo in English while we’re on our way home, it goes something like this:

Guillermo: Chico, yo creo que nadie en mi clase me entiende. Mis ideas son demasiado para ellos.

Gabriel: Y, what do I care? Si nadie te entiende explícale.

Guillermo: That’s the thing; their feeble minds can’t understand my geniuses.

Gabriel: You know what you should do; you should go Tiger Tanaka on their ass.

Guillermo: Screw you!

Subconsciously my mind switches to English without giving it a thought. I even think in English.  It makes me feel more like I’m just living in the 51st state.

Japanese

My knees bent ever so slightly at an outer angle. I can feel the hilt wrapped in a tight black cloth firmly in my grip and I can feel its weight straining my arm yet at the same time giving me a sense of reassurance, waiting for that right moment just…

before…

Slash!

Those are my thought just as I’m going through my Kobujutsu. I often find myself working through the katas for my katana for no reason other than that feeling of personal satisfaction. That is one of my hobbies, swordsmanship making me unlike most Puerto Ricans who play basketball as a hobby.

As I practice my hobby, I can’t help but feel as if I am a Samurai in feudal Japan, living my life by the way of the sword and following only my Bushido. I feel the fresh air of the mountains surrounding me on all sides as if to remind that it will keep me company, my black O-Yoroi with its gold trim ready to protect me should an enemy pass my guard. In those instances, I can honestly say I feel as if I’m Japanese.

Something Else

No matter how hard I try, even as I write this, I know that I’m Puerto Rican. The blood flowing through my veins says so and there is nothing that can be done to restrain, suppress, or hide it. Whenever I go to the novenas, I play dominoes and beat everyone there because it’s in my blood. Every time I speak or think in English, I know that I do it because if I thought and spoke as a Puerto Rican, I would speak my mind because that’s what Puerto Ricans do. Every time I hold my sword and complete a kata, I end it with an outlandish flip and twirl because being a Puerto Rican means that you are guiyao by nature. So in essence, I’m Puerto Rican even though I might not feel like a boricua de pura cepa. In technical terms I’m not, but I was born and raised here just the same as every other Puerto Rican.

What I’m trying to say is that I am what I am.

 

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Gabriel Mejia is a twenty-three-year-old, second year linguistics major from San Germán, who is studying at the University of Puerto Rico and who seeks to attain a PhD in Linguistics to become a Professor.

 

4 Comments

  1. This was very a very enlightening read, to say the least. Although I was born in Puerto Rico, and all my family is from there, I can’t help but identify, even if just a smidge. Especially that “American” part. I have the exact same conversations with my brother, not the exact same but you hopefully get what I mean, and sometimes, especially when I’m speaking with a gringo, my mind will switch off spanish and go full english. It’s silly, but I thought that was just me.

  2. Having diferents roots is confusing when you wanna know or feel from some country. But theres one thing one can know, you are from were you were raise. In this case Puertorican and and as persons we have to be proud of what we are no matter what.

  3. I really liked how you developedthis essay. The fact that you do so many things and you classified them as a country characteristic made the essay fun to read. I really like the part when you were talking about the katana and that you felt like a Japanese, it was funny. I also liked how you finished the essay with such strong conclusion. It was a very inspirational work.

  4. Indeed you are what you are. I am half Puerto-Rican and half Mexican and I was born in Texas. At times I feel a swirl of all three especially because both my parents emphasize their culture to the max at home. I don’t identify with any, I feel that I am my own.

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