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- Growing Up Bronx
I cannot and will not claim to be an authority on Puerto Rico. I was born on the island and left for New York City at about 5 years old. I returned once for vacation, and I may as well have just been any other “tourist” at that point. Besides the fact that I can speak the language and claim the country as my birth home, I am more Bronx, Nuyorican than Puerto Rican.
Being aware of those factors, you can understand my disconnect with the streets of Puerto Rico. I spent the first five years of my life living in “El Caserio”, but I can’t remember much from that time. One day, we just abruptly left, I can’t remember if it was the cops or some gangsters that were looking for my dad, but we had to leave asap. As an adult for years I’ve heard about the violence, murders, drugs and the typical problems any large city faces occurring in Puerto Rico, but that’s normal isn’t it? Right? I’m from the South Bronx, I was dodging bullets since as far back as I can remember! Can’t be that much different in PR, just the way of big cities. Right? Well, not really, perhaps it can be worst my friends, perhaps it can be worst.
I’m sure that most of you have heard that boxing legend Hector Macho Camacho was shot in the face in Puerto Rico this past tuesday. One of his life long friends was killed in that shooting. This shooting has brought to light an issue that many in the mainland, Puerto Rican and others (myself included) do not seem to have a full understand of, the problem of violence in Puerto Rico. I listen to Tego Calderon as he casually talks about it in music, as do other rappers from Puerto Rico. One of my barbers that claims to be one of the founding members of Sangre Nueva tells me about it, the information is there but I think that we are just desensitized to these things. The media just doesn’t care, Puerto Rico is sort of like a satellite, you know, out of sight out of mind, right?
Not really, Puerto Rico has so much potential, we as a people have so many advantages that others simply do not just because we were born there. Roll of the die, I mean we could have just as easily been born in any other Caribbean island. Being Puerto Rican has afforded me many opportunities straight from birth. For instance, what is a major hot issue in politics at this very moment, possibly an election deciding variable? Immigration reform!
Well, guess what? As a Puerto Rican born male, this isn’t a problem for me, non-issue, I am a United States citizen by birth right! Lets take those privileges a step further, my son, he was born in the Dominican Republic, Dominicans have no such “birth right”. Many struggle and wait for years for the right to come here, believe me I have many friends and family that have been through it. Well, because my son was fathered by me, a United States Citizen, he was here with me in no time flat. In fact his mom was also granted her residency within one year or so. Long story, but not relevant and private.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, my point in providing that very personal information is to show that people from Puerto Rico are GIVEN at birth a huge advantage in life, US citizenship. At least on paper it is a big deal, otherwise why would so many people fight so hard for it? That being said, why are things the way they are in Puerto Rico? Why don’t people take advantage of this? Does it really make a difference in regards to what they can have and do? If you are born in a campo somewhere, parents have no money, no education, does citizenship do anything for that child?
I could research online and pull up statistics as to the crime rates in Puerto Rico as compared to other areas, but you can google that yourselves, I don’t want to bore you with that statistical garbage, I just want to talk real here. Statistics? Here is how I look at stats, I ask a simple question, “are a lot of nikkas killing each other?”, if the answer is yes, then that’s a bad statistic. Period.
So what is it that is driving Puerto Rico further into this state of disarray? I mean this question could be asked of the mainland just the same, I know many people that live here and enjoy these “extra” privileges, tuition assistance, etc that never take advantage of them and amount to nothing in life. In fact many opted for the fast rewards of the criminal element. Unfortunately that also leads to fast consequences, death and or prison. In a best case scenario you make it to be an old man that has nothing, and in some very rare, rare cases like with Angel Huertas the person has managed to turn their life around. You can read all about his story in Rise to grace.
When I started writing this piece, I had no idea where it was going with it, in fact I still don’t. I’m just all bummed out about Camacho, and speaking with Latino Rebels we agreed that something has to be done! Here’s the point, two men are dead. We only hear of it because one of them is Camacho, a former star, but it happens every single day. The question is why? If you
have the answer, or some insight to this topic, please share. Honestly I am at a loss, I am deeply saddened and I just cannot understand it at all.
When I was growing up I wanted to make sure that my children wouldn’t have to go to school and get shot at while trying to learn. I did everything in my power to escape that life. I had my bad moments back then, and I encountered potentially life altering experiences, but somehow I always made the right decisions. Thanks to my mom for always being present in my thoughts back then. So for someone like me it’s hard to understand the mindset of someone that is living for that life of crime.
I recently watched “gang tapes”, and this movie though fictitious really touched on the way life is in gangs and crime, a vicious cycle of kill or be killed. By the end of the film all the main guys were dead or severely injured, though mostly dead. Oh yeah, the final victim/killer was 13 years old!
In any case, for some reason, this last incident involving Camacho has me all torn up. I’m walking around the streets thinking about how easily life can be taken away, how delicate it is. Mind you he was shot with a .22! A gun caliber that I was told never to buy for self defense because of how weak it is! Meanwhile it laid out a former boxing champ and his friend. No wonder it was the preferred gun for old time mafia hits!
I don’t know why I’m so distraught, maybe it’s the timing, the fact that a mother had to spend her thanksgiving deciding whether or not to take her son off of life support? I don’t know, I just feel really bummed and vulnerable. I wish there was a simple way to address all this street violence.
What are your thoughts my friends?
Growing Up Bronx