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Yo soy Boricua, 100% through and through. One of my hip hop songs says “Naci en Puerto Rico pero criado en Nueva York, expresando lo que siento poecia en espanol. Palabras que dominan representando para ti, yo parezco un blanquito pero sembrado en el coqui! La isla del encante es como llaman mi pais, comiendo arroz con habichuelas, the delicious rice and beans.”
New York City is my home. I have lived here since I was 5 years old. But I was born and being raised in Puerto Rico, but back then my dad was always hustling and up to no good en el caserio (that didn’t change for a long time by the way). One day, literally out of the blue we were all packed up and moved to NYC, just like that, asi mismo. But not before hiding my dad under a sofa several times from what I can only assume now was the police (they never did tell me the truth). Sparing you any more embarrassing family details, let’s fast forward to today. 35 year old Latino raised in the South Bronx, among other Latinos and blacks, my people, right? Wrong!
See there were a few problems for me growing up.
0) I look very much like a white person.
1) I look very much like a white person.
2) I look very much like a white person.
3) I wanted to get an education, and by going to school and doing the right things, I was accused of “acting white” and wanting to be like the “whites”.
4) I wasn’t violent and avoided trouble, this was perceived as being soft and made me even more of a “white” target.
5) Did I mention I looked very much like a white person?
6) I tried to speak proper English, acting white again and this was not a good thing in my hood.
During that time my Puerto Rican brothers and sisters never accepted me. In fact they bullied and abused me more than the blacks or any other Latino groups including our “sworn” nemesis Latino race, the Dominicans. Lol. Due to this, I never really embraced my culture. These people rejected me, they abused me and treated me like an enemy, an outsider. All because I was going to school and staying out of trouble. So I kept mostly to myself and a very select mixed group of friends during my youth.
There came a time when I started hanging out with the Latino gang bangers, and through violence and crime I was becoming accepted. Can you see how this would cause a young person to have an identity crisis? Thankfully I pulled away from those folks before it was too late.
As I become older and have developed better social skills, confidence, and have no concerns of being “picked on”, I’ve started to reconnect with and explore my roots and heritage. Back then I felt that my people didn’t care for me, so I never cared for them or our ways. I focused on my studies and getting the hell out of there as soon as possible! As soon as I could stand on my own two feet I was gone from the Bronx and moved to several different areas ranging from Forest Hills to Brooklyn Heights. Only returning when visiting family or absolutely necessary. Which in truth was not too often. I did my best to stay away.
Now as I meet more like minded Latinos I find myself embracing the culture and wanting to learn and experience more of it. Attending events like the Capicu Cultural Showcase, or working with guys like the Latino Rebels where I am surrounded by other Latinos and there is nothing but love for one another, it’s just a beautiful thing. I wonder why it wasn’t like this when I was younger, why didn’t I feel this back then? I feel like I have missed so much.
But, it’s better late than never to embrace and be embraced by your culture right?
As a side note, don’t punish people for doing the right things. Respect them and help them, even join them! They may be your boss one day!