Erika Grisselle Morales Montalvo,
I was born in Puerto Rico. I grew up learning that a Puerto Rican is blend of three: white European (Spaniard), Native American (Taino) and African (Black slaves). We don’t to measure ourselves through color but the heritage and knowledge acquired from these three great races. In Puerto Rico you don’t see racism as the way happens in the United States.
I didn’t suffer racism until I moved here to the continental United States. And hurts. Hurts because Puerto Rico is part of the United States. We learn it’s history and it’s predominant language since childhood. We learned to love it and respect it the same way we love and respect our island. But we are not recognized as part of it. I always say that I’m three times American: I was born in the Caribbean one of the American continent’s archipelagos therefore I’m American. I’m American because that’s how United States citizens are called and it is the only citizenship granted to Puerto Rico. I’m American because Puerto Rico is part of the United States. I’m not Puerto Rican American, why should I? I don’t see that word written in any document and I don’t see Anglo Saxons descendants writing “Anglo American” anywhere. Such adjectives create more divisiveness.
We don’t have that problem in Puerto Rico, our history demonstrates that at early stages people from all roads of life came together to build the nation: the Native American, the Spaniard (Christian, Moorish and/or Jewish descendant converted to Christianity), and Blacks (slaves, freemen or runaways) and fought against invasions and intermarried to survive the situations created by Spain’s abandon and politics. Here in the United States people like to point at each other, I have seen envy and accusations from others because I have a post graduate degree. I’ve been accused of lying because people don’t believe me that I speak several languages or that at one moment I had a 94,000 salary unless I show them the proper documents. It is like they want me to fail. I heard so many people, sadly to say Black, blaming race for their misfortunes.
Hey, I was called brownie and that didn’t stop me from getting a PhD nor stopping from getting a good job and buying my house in a great neighborhood! People who doesn’t succeed in life is because they don’t have the strength to go forward in life without blaming others. Yes, people will stop you and hurt you, they did that to me “because it is impossible for some like her be better than me” (that’s what my previous “new” supervisor said about me before doing everything in his hand to get rid of me), and yes it will create chaos around you and you’ll feel that is better to go back to where you come from because you’re no longer wanted. But guess what? My Native American ancestors, the Tainos, didn’t give up, those who didn’t died of desease, died fighting. Other went to the mountains and isolated themselves, others understood that it was better to joined the new group of invaders in order to survive. They showed strength, dignity, courage and how to love and protect the earth. So I better follow their example and be strong and fight.
My Black ancestors didn’t ask to be here but here they were and they kept their culture, and their dignity, and fought for their freedom. So fighting I’ll do. And the Spaniards? The white conquistadors? They didn’t have everything, they came to get it from the new land and have a better life for themselves so they worked, they learned to survive, they didn’t give up. So I won’t give up. I came here to stay.