Julius C. Reyes López

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Am I Puerto Rican or Not?

I wake up. It is Saturday at 7:00 am in the morning and my mom is there in the kitchen making  breakfast.  It smells like sorullitos and some scrambled eggs. Bingo! It is. I eat as fast as I can to get ready to go to church to give catechism classes to the kids that are preparing to make their first communion.

They arrive so happy and there I am in an improvised classroom at the church.  I tell them not to make noise because there are people entering the temple to pray. I see the devotion of the pepinianos and I feel so happy that I am giving some of my time to make those kids learn more about being good Christians. I teach them with all my patience but there is always the funny one of the group, Luis, who wants the attention of his classmates and changes the conversation to make a commentary about Michael Jackson. I laugh inwardly but I look at him very seriously and tell him to reserve his comments about Michael because he is already in heaven resting in peace. His classmates support me and he looks at me with a smiling face.  I continue my class and they start to get bored from all the speaking, so I make them stand up to wake them up.

They love this part because they enjoy wasting time. Then, I make them sit and I continue with the class, while I am speaking all the time the kids interrupt me to tell me an anecdote of something that happened to them in their school, house or community.  I listen to each one of them and sometimes I laugh, advise them or simply incorporate what they say into the class. When class is over, I give them their homework and they say, “Ay mister,” in a tone of protest.  I tell them that with the homework, I know if they are learning. They agree and before they leave we take each other’s hands, we close our eyes and we pray. At the end they all say good-bye to me and some stay after class to help me organize everything.

When I head home I see a girl coming out of the church. I tell her, “Good morning!”

She responds with a smile. She seems curious, so she gets close to me and asks, “You are Puerto Rican?”

I respond with a big, “Yes.” I ask her. “ Why do you ask?”

She responds, “Because you speak differently and your physique does not look much like a Puerto Rican.”

I tell her, “Yes, I know. It  is because my father is Salvadoran. I inherited some of the Salvadoran culture, like my features.”

She is impressed and tells me, “Oh!  That’s why you are different.” Then our paths separate and we walk in different directions.

Suddenly, I stop in the Plaza, a place very typical in the towns of Puerto Rico. When the Spanish conquered our island, they constructed the towns with the Church on one side of the Plaza and City Hall on the other. There are people sitting on benches all around talking, or walking around, buying coffee from a small cafeteria that is located on one corner.  People seem to be happy. They all look different because as we know Puerto Ricans are a mixture of African, Indian and Spanish, so each has different hair, skin and eye colour.

I arrive home and my mom is making  lunch. She is making yellow rice with gandules, fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The smell covers the entire house. However, my mom makes me another meal because I do not eat any of that, only mashed potatoes. I eat no meat because I am vegetarian, but that is another story. My family cannot live without eating Puerto Rican food because my mom believes that a meal without rice and meat is not a meal.

I go to my room which is small with one window where I see the backyard of the house.  It has a wooden dresser and my cozy bed. There I am sitting in my bed thinking “Am I Puerto Rican or not?” My mom is 100% Puerto Rican, my dad is 100% Salvadoran, but I was born in New York. What does that make me? A Newyoricadoran? I have lived here in this precious island since I was six years old. I studied here and I was raised here by my mom. I have grown up with the Puerto Rican culture and I say that I feel more like a Puerto Rican because I have never been in El Salvador and I don’t even know much about the Salvadoran culture. My dad has visited Puerto Rico on several occasions and he likes it a lot, especially the weather because it reminds him of his country. Also, he enjoys the typical food like yellow rice with gandules, mofongo, pasteles and frituras. I only have to say that I believe that he also likes the flavour of the Puerto Rican women, because my stepmother is also Puerto Rican.

Maybe my physique, the way I speak and how I eat is not typically Puerto Rican, but I know that in my blood I have what it takes to be Puerto Rican. I enjoy dancing when I hear music. I feel as if my body wants to start moving and is something I cannot control. I am a very humble, charitable person. I cannot see needy people because I feel very sad. I believe I inherited these traits from my mother. I am also a very cheerful person because I always make my friends laugh. This is a very typical characteristic of Puerto Ricans, cheerfulness. They add the sparkle to the parties. Also I believe, Puerto Ricans do everything better. So every time I see a Puerto Rican in a competition or representing our country I always support them 100%.  When I hear our national anthem, I feel like my heart wants to come out of my chest and I experience butterflies in my stomach. It is a feeling I cannot describe with words. When I go to another countries, I get homesick because there is nothing like going to sleep to the melody of the coquí.

I know that I am Puerto Rican because no matter where I die, I want my funeral to take place en la isla del encanto. This is the island that has seen me grow up. It is where I have laughed and cried and where I have lived my life.  Since I was a little kid, the most beautiful memories that I have had, have taken place on this island. Whether I am 100% Puerto Rican or not I do not care. Do you know why? Because my Puerto Rican roots are inside my veins. I sense it in the blood that runs through my entire body. “Yes! Yo soy Boricua pa’ que tu lo sepas.

Julius Reyes Lopez

 

Julius Reyes Lopez is a twenty three year old chemical engineering student at University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.  He is in his fifth year of study and plans to apply his engineering skills to help solve the world’s daily problems when he graduates.  

1 Comment

  1. Good story I liked a lot. I see that in some point you ask yourself if your Puerto Rican because you do not eat what Puerto Rican eat but I think that being Puerto Rican is not about what you eat. Being Puerto Rican is more about how you behave and how you feel inside. Like you said it you feel Puerto Rican so I think that makes you Puerto Rican. Great story.

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