August 14, 2022

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A Journey to Loíza Helped Me Outline My Blended Puerto Rican Identification

My whole life, I have been trying to find the proper phrases to explain my id. Regardless that I have been an id advocate all through my profession, encouraging folks to outline themselves on their very own phrases, in actuality, I’ve by no means given myself the identical grace. My worry — as I am certain it’s with many mixed-raced folks — is that I by no means wished to offend both aspect of my household. And in that respect, I let folks outline me in the best way they really feel most comfy. I’m Black. I’m Puerto Rican. I’m Afro-Latina. Whereas I’m all these issues — and can at all times be proud to be — I normally let folks fill within the clean for the time period they really feel most fits me.

This does not seem to be a method to stay.

I might visited Puerto Rico twice. As soon as after I was 10 years outdated, I stayed on the Condado resort. Apart from falling in love with the traditional castles of Outdated San Juan, I actually do not keep in mind a lot of that journey besides the resort pool. I later visited in my 20s; San Juan was a cease on my household’s Carnival Cruise journey. Whereas the Italian aspect of my household visited the El Yunque Nationwide Forest, my half-Puerto Rican cousins and I drove on a dust street with my uncle, in search of my abuelo’s burial floor in a cemetery for masons.

I at all times felt disjointed from my Latinx tradition, raised by a Black mother, with out a lot entry to talking Spanish.

I at all times felt disjointed from my Latinx tradition, raised by a Black mother, with out a lot entry to talking Spanish. My dad’s aspect of the household is totally Americanized. Whereas a proud NuYorican, I repped the Puerto Rican flag with out understanding the language, as many people New York-born Puerto Ricans do. I stan Marc Anthony and I play Unhealthy Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti” prefer it’s my day job. However that has by no means felt like sufficient. Curiously sufficient, after a latest journey to Puerto Rico — by myself, as an grownup — it looks as if Abuelita was leaving clues for me to find all alongside.

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Even with a language barrier after I was very younger (my abuelita realized English as I grew up), Aurea Gomez upheld Puerto Rican traditions. Vacation weekends at her dwelling in South Ozone Park, Queens, included an outdoor shed the place elders roasted pernil as salsa performed on the radio. We spent each Día de los Reyes at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, the place I used to be excited to obtain much more Christmas presents in January. After her journey to Madrid, she introduced dwelling a standard flamenco doll with pores and skin sun-kissed brown like mine. She at all times jogged my memory that I used to be Puerto Rican, with roots throughout the island.

Jada Gomez

Outdoors of Abuelita’s dwelling, I did not have a chance to talk Spanish. My dad is completely fluent, however after being scolded for talking English in the home by my abuelo, he and my uncles grew to become Americanized. None of my cousins communicate Spanish or uphold the traditions. Rising up with my mother, I used to be immersed in Black tradition, traditions, and politics. I by no means wished to get too distant from my Latinidad, particularly since Abuelita had laid such a basis. If it is solely as much as me, I will not let her tradition fade out of our household cloth.

I had this starvation my whole life to be taught precisely who I’m and the place I come from.

My mother is half Honduran and half Bahamian. Since she did not develop up with my grandfather at dwelling, she by no means realized Spanish. And right here I got here: a half Puerto Rican, half Honduran, West Indian who seems Dominican however who’s as preppy as might be. I had this starvation my whole life to be taught precisely who I’m and the place I come from. And now that my abuelita has handed, I wish to be taught each little bit of my tradition to make it possible for her traditions stay on.

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I spent three days in Viejo San Juan as a visitor of Uncover Puerto Rico. What made the journey additional particular was that I used to be in an all-Latina touring group. With our widespread love of the tradition and our reference to our personal Latinidad, we had been in a position to have some affirming conversations. On the Museo de los Americas, although, I used to be in a position to see a lot of Puerto Rico that I used to be too younger to know after I first visited at age 7. There, we realized about Puerto Rico’s dedication to representing the three components of our id: Spain, Africa, and Indigenous Taínos. And as we traveled from cities like Caguas and Loíza, I noticed how all three intersect and make me who I’m. I discovered myself, sometimes shy to reply in Spanish, feeling fully comfy talking with our group.

Jada Gomez

However the place did I slot in on the map? Within the museo, we realized that Puerto Ricans additionally establish with creole id, much like of us in New Orleans. Outdoors of the museums and in passing dialog, I might ask locals the place I might truly slot in. Some mentioned, “We’re all Puerto Ricans,” which is what I am used to listening to at dwelling. However for me, as a proud Black Puerto Rican, I do know it is not that straightforward. A well-known Afro-Puerto Rican artist, Samuel Lind, left me with the phrase that made me really feel fully seen. When he noticed my golden pores and skin and lengthy wavy hair, he mentioned, “Mulatta!” And though that phrase is outdated, it was the primary second in over 30 years the place I felt like I had the true speak about who I’m, particularly because it got here to him so simply and fluidly. It acknowledged my two Latinx mother and father with fully completely different pores and skin tones, which has led to fully completely different experiences. It additionally acknowledged that my expertise is a wealthy and complex one which deserves to be absolutely seen.

I haven’t got to hold the disgrace anymore or have others outline me. This Latina wallflower has stepped into the solar.

How do I establish? After my journey, I really feel like combined race matches me finest. I’m additionally now not uncomfortable utilizing the time period biracial, as I’ve one White Latinx dad or mum and one Black Latinx dad or mum. I haven’t got to hold the disgrace anymore or have others outline me. This Latina wallflower has stepped into the solar.

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Picture Supply: Jada Gomez