Luis Hernandez: It's not like any of us ever mention where we're from unless we're asked. I don't go around saying, hello, I'm Luis Hernandez and I'm from Puerto Rico. And until recently, the last few years or so, I haven't much thought about my origins. That's because I was raised in the mainland United States, in Florida. If anything, I consider myself more American than Puerto Rican.
You may be asking, wait, aren't Puerto Ricans Americans? Well, we're U.S. citizens. But, do they, I mean we, consider themselves, again I mean ourselves, Americans?
Alyssa Mendez Batista: I consider myself a Puerto Rican, a Boricua first. I know I am an American citizen. I have the passport, it's part of my birthright and I do not deny it. But being Puerto Rican is part of my identity, my cultural identity--the way my Spanish accent is, the music I listen and dance to, my family traditions, the food I eat--and it will always stay with me. It's weird for me to say 'I'm American' because I feel like something else is missing.
Luis Hernandez: I've only been back to Puerto Rico once since leaving at the age of 1. It was 1990 when I was looking at possibly attending la Universidad Interamericana Recinto de San German. I haven't been back since. It's fair to say I know very little of my heritage, or what it means to be a Boricua.
Puerto Ricans often proudly identify themselves as Boricua (formerly also spelled Boriquén, Borinquén, or Borinqueño), derived from the Taíno word Boriken, to illustrate their recognition of the island's Taíno heritage. The use of the word Boricuahas been popularized in the island and abroad by descendants of Puerto Rico heritage, commonly using the phrase yo soy Boricua ("I am Boricua") to identify themselves as Puerto Ricans. Other variations which are also widely used are Borinqueño and Borincano, meaning "from Borinquen". Wikipedia
Alyssa Mendez Batista: I define Boricua as someone who identifies his/herself with La Isla del Encanto and proud to call it their home anywhere that person goes. A Boricua is someone with flavor--a lot of sabor--who is loud, happy and always welcoming. I think that Boricuas on the island act a bit differently from Boricuas in the the mainland, but I think it's more on the attitude and the way they view the island, its political and economic situation.
Luis Hernandez: That's interesting. I seldom ever even consider myself a Boricua, and I only ever mention I'm Puerto Rican when asked. One time, when speaking to a friend who was also Puerto Rican, I mentioned the fact I was Boricuan. She laughed and said, you're not. I know she was teasing, but she was also pointing to the fact that I act very differently than Boricuans who have lived on the island.
I wonder what happens to all of those Puerto Ricans who are coming to the states considering the situation on the island. Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans are leaving every year according to the Pew Research Center. They're leaving mostly due to jobs. Most of them are coming to Florida, with Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey the next three most likely landing spots. Was it hard to leave the island?
Alyssa Mendez Batista: It was hard for me to leave the island three months ago. Although I travel back and forth, this time it felt like a more permanent decision to stay in the mainland, and it shocked me. It took me about two to three weeks to make a decision to quit a part-time and a full-time job and relocate. It was emotionally draining. There's always that bit of hope inside of you that things will change, that things will get better and that it is part of my responsibility to contribute to that change, but I think I needed to leave first, then go back one day.
Luis Hernandez: Interestingly, at this stage of my life, I want to reconnect with my heritage. I want to return to the island and see the homes and land of my ancestors. I don't want to live there, not that I can imagine at this point, but that's only because I see myself as a mainlander and life for me is here, in the U.S.