For you, what does identity mean? For me, it is a word that takes you to where your heart belongs. To those family traditions you learned as a child. To that place where you have your first memories. Identity brings a visual slideshow of images in my head of my life within a beautiful 100 x 35 island. To a place where my identity is complete, the only place my soul really feels home. And it is more than just four walls and a roof. It is an identity, like an unspoken, always known and never-breaking connection to a culture, to a language, to a rhythm and to the heat. I grew up feeling proud and loving being Puerto Rican. I was taught and forced to feel American and honor a country that was not my identity. Even now, those of us who have had to part with that connection and have been forced to leave Puerto Rico, hold as friends anyone they meet within their new reality, just because they know and understand the connection and deep struggles between a Puerto Rican and their identity.
Unfortunately, identity has always been a big question mark throughout my life for my island and brought a lot of mixed issues for Puerto Rico. Growing up, I will always recall our local political elections as the biggest illustration of our identity struggles. Puerto Ricans burning the American flag, Puerto Rican burning the Puerto Rican flag and honoring the flag of the United States of America. I saw real hatred between Puerto Rican brothers and sisters; all because each wanted either statehood, independence or as a more defined commonwealth; at the end, we all wanted a final decision. A decision that would finally lead to an understanding of where we belonged. Alone or with the USA? Puerto Rican or American? During my schooling years, I learned about our Ponce Massacre and our Grito de Lares. The Ponce Massacre was the biggest suppression of the Puerto Rican independence movement by the US. It was a massive, bloody and the deadliest massacre in Puerto Rican history. El Grito de Lares