Nuyoricans are a funny bunch. They have a mixed cultural identity that is extremely strong that forms a strong core component of their being. The term broadly refers to the Puerto Rican diaspora experience. There are now more Puerto Ricans stateside in the United States than in Puerto Rico itself. As such, the term Nuyorican also is used at times to differentiate between those born in Puerto Rico and those just of Puerto Rican descent. The term and the identity are rife with political nuance.
Just this past week some colleagues were discussing their Hispanic identity in response to a recent post by a self-identified Argentinian Latina. Here is the rub when this Argentinian, who was born in the US to an Argentinian mother, went to Argentina she was effectively disowned by Argentinians therein. She had made a point growing up in New York to self-identify with being Latina and yet that was not the identity ascribed to her by Argentinians in the home country.
Identity is such a fluid, rejected and accepted concept. I too as a Puerto Rican female often get rejected by those in the island. In everyday life, I do not feel the need to constantly note I am Puerto Rican. I am brown. I stand out in a crowd. People know that I am “something.” I just am a Nuyorican. That is how my mom raised me to be. I am a strong New Yorker with Puerto Rican blood running through my veins.
When I go to Puerto Rico, there is often the assumption that I do not know Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture. I am a “gringa” despite being brown and from there. Yet, when I tell them my mom died there, my grandmother is buried there, my sister lives there (for now), they do a double take and look at my eyes. It’s as if they are trying to gauge how much Puerto Rcian blood runs through my veins by piercing their eyes through mine.
Every time I go there I have to prove myself. Anytime, I go anywhere in Latin America, for that matter. I was in Panama a few months back where a man was shocked to hear me speak Spanish. I had ordered in English at first and he approached me wondering “what I was.” I get asked that all the time both in the US and abroad. I am a chameleon at times and an exotic one at that. People have thought I am Tunisian, Indian, Ethiopian, Cape Verdean, French and so on. Name it and I have been thought it depending on the context. When I let the man in Panama know I was Puerto Rican, he did a double take. He thought I looked it but had not met many Puerto Ricans that spoke Spanish. Aha. He had probably met Nuyoricans.
Anyway,when I go to Puerto Rican I have to prove many things. I have to prove I am from there and that I get the cause. I have to prove I feel the pain and that I can empathize. And every trip I leave having proved it so. In a way, if I make it there I can make it anywhere. If I can be accepted by my own skeptical people, who are bound to be most demanding, I can be accepted in most other places. However, it is quite a dance. This brown-eyed and skinned girl is still a “gringa” but I’m their “gringa.”