Natalia I. Vázquez Rivera

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I haven’t even reached the door and I can already hear  hip-hop playing loudly. Oh God! I don’t know how to dance to this beat, I thought as I walked through the door. The others were already starting to dance, with alcohol running through their veins. As we approached the dance floor I could see everyone dancing with some choreographed movements. Back in Puerto Rico dancing is more freestyle, but here there wasn’t much originality.

“Come on! Aren’t Puerto Ricans suppose to be good at dancing,” yelled Whitney to me.

“Well, there are some that dance pretty good, but that doesn’t mean that we all are good dancers,” I told her. Hopefully, she will let the subject drop.

“You must have some moves in ya,” said Whitney.

Nope, she is persistent. “Not to this music, everyone seems to know some moves, like choreography,” I answered her.

“Well that is how it is over here. Some moves we learn them from music videos and others we learn in the club. Don’t let that make you shy, come on there are a lot of cute guys to dance with.” Whitney smiles and moves to the dance floor.

I started dancing trying to imitate some of the girls around me.  I felt ridiculous. Why can’t they just dance like in Puerto Rico? I feel like a fish out of water.

“Hey you!” I turned around and found myself looking at Luis, another Puerto Rican I had met earlier.

“Hey. ¿Cómo estas? ” I asked him.

“Missing el jangueo of Puerto Rico. Wish they would play some Reggaeton.” He made a face of dislike, which made me smile. I’m not the only fish out of water. “Laura went to the DJ to ask if he could put something else.”

“Well that would be nice,” I told him. Generally, I’m not that into Reggaeton, even back when I studied in Carolina. While growing up, I remember listening to the Backstreet Boys and then to Linkin Park. In the meantime, all of my friends listened to Ednita Nazario or Ricky Martin.  I always felt outside of Puerto Rican culture, my taste in music and TV too Americanized.  There is too much rock in English on my iPod, to be honest.

Te vas y no me dices nada. Que pasa que ya no te veo. The familiar beat of Reggaeton brought me back from my reverie.  Jowell & Randy, at least that’s who I think sings this.

“Wow, que viejera! I thought the DJ would have more up to date music, seems I was wrong.” said Luis.

“Well you can’t have everything in life” I told him as we danced to the beat of the music. Other Puerto Ricans started to move closer to us, forming a circle and danced as if we were back in Puerto Rico. I can’t believe that Reggaeton, out of all things, would make me feel Puerto Rican in a foreign country. We all know that the DJ will only play some songs and then change it back to Hip-Hop again, so we danced and had as much fun as we could.

Reggaeton doesn’t make me as proud of being Puerto Rican as my accent or my heritage does, but it sure provided me a connection with my culture in a moment when I really needed it. I was enjoying my time in the States, but I still missed Puerto Rico’s green mountains and sunny skies. I missed the warm sand beneath my feet and the salty taste in my lips after spending a day in the beach. I missed the smell of frituras and the humidity that sticks to the skin, the gray-bluish streets of El Viejo San Juan with its hanging balconies, and mix of beats coming from different cars in the middle of a tapón.  It is amazing how a genre of music that usually makes me feel outside of Puerto Rican culture helped me feel more Puerto Rican than ever.

Natalia Vazquez

Natalia I Vazquez Rivera is a twenty-four-year-old, from San Juan, recently graduated from Chemical Engineering and is now in the Environmental Engineering master program at the University of Puerto Rico who wants to make the world more environmentally friendly.


1 Comment

  1. Incredible contradiction that works. I agree with you I felt the same reggaeton does not make me feel proud of being Puerto Rican but it is the music that a lot of Puerto Rican heard and dance and that is where the connection and contradiction works well. It is weird but it is what it is. Good Story very clear to understand.

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