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mi casa

La Isla Bonita : Puerto Rico

So I am latino by birth and experience. I am an original Boricua, the native word {pre-conquistador} for a person from the island of Borinquen { in the new world called, Puerto Rico}. I was born in the tiny island of fire back in the late seventies. We moved to the U.S. because my father was dodging court orders to pay for child support for his children from his first marriage (what a dead beat). He moved first and about two years later we followed him. It was devastating for me as his oldest child because I understood what it meant for us to leave, i was old enough to know we were leaving close family and I also understood that I would not see them again any time soon. I spoke hardly any English, only knowing things like 'dog', 'cat' and 'hello' and 'goodbye'. It was a hard transition (pardon the pun) but I survived it obviously. I got into a bilingual program in school and excelled in the Honors programs in middle school. After three years in the program i was allowed into the "normal" school system which was not bilingual, I would have to fend for myself now. But I did.

Growing up Latino in the US is a very strange experience. With Puerto Ricans things shift a different direction form every other Latino country. We are part of the US but not part at all. We are basically a modern colony. We were too small to fend for our own land and so the US made us into a commonwealth. The treatment of such a nation is really no different then a colony. We have American currency, and where ever there is a Puerto Rican flag, there hangs the American flag. There is no independence in my county, we are merely part-of something bigger, all the meanwhile we are trying to preserve our culture when a country like the US is using our natural resources as a form of tourism attraction. Puerto Rico's biggest business is tourism. Since we are a commonwealth, there is no passport needed to come to the island. Every year thousands of Americans have to get away and come to the island to chill out for a week or two.

I grew up with the salt water beaches and the white sandy shores and the 86 degree everyday weather. I grew up on a truly tropical island, i grew up watching the first wave of surfers really hit Puerto Rico, I grew up with fried food, dark curvy women in bikinis and beautiful (mostly) brown eyes, smily people who knew what it was like to be different among America's fifty states. It was a very strange experience but my childhood was filled with drama, constantly.On the weekends my mom would take me and my little sister to the beach of Curacao, or Luquillo or Old San Juan at El Morro, the oldest Spanish fort in Puerto Rico, built in the 1500's. It was to keep intruders from coming into the island. It is a park now where you can see hundreds of kites flying high up in the air, catching the perfect warm air current that rises form the sea. It was a fun time there, I remember it well. I thought I would live there forever, but so much for thinking.

As a trans person in the US, as a Latino, specifically Puerto Rican trans person, things get a little bit more complicated. My experiences as a man are different but not that different. Most people perceive me as non-white, though my closest friends have been whites. My strongest allies have been there the most for me, they have been white. I am a marignalized person in the US as a Latino, but even more marginalized within the black and Latino community for being not only queer at one point, but now trans. Issues of deviant sexuality are very, very strong in my culture as is the indoctronization of Roman Catholicism by the missionaries and priests from Spain. We have never recovered.

As a male, because of my size (5'4") I am seen as no threat ( HA! if only they knew!) I am perceived a lot as a gay boy, which is nice and all but it isn;t who I really want to attract. I am queer identified in the sense that I would prefer to date feminine lesbians/femmes. I don't have any desire to attract straight women either, don't feel like starting over with a two year old. Um, my Latino background is very male oriented in the sense that men rule the economic realm of the family. But at the same time, the family is matriarchal, it is mother centered for sure. Women take care of all family affairs and the husbands deal witht he logisitcs ouside of the family. The mother is the core, the center of your identity as a child. In Latino communtities you just don't fuck with your mama or anybody else's either. This though dichotomizes the gender/family structure. This divide is not always effective because it leaves no room for changing roles. Men are the breadwinners and women are the home makers. This leaves little room for men to explore their fatherhood and masculinity. It is rare to find a man cooking in a Latino household and rare to see a woman (presumably, the mother) working on the car. Latino women in this country however are a different story. They have to learn to do everything, from yard work, to financial work to helping the kids with schoolwork. In the United States with the economic plight of most Latinos, mothers have to learn to be on thier toes 24-7. My mohter had to do this when we were younger. She did everything, she was mother and father to me. I never had a great male role model. my father was a poor excuse of a man, and in his own country he was a disgrace as a husband and as a father because he never provided for his family. My mother always did.

My sexuality is considered non-existant in Puerto Rico, I mean my transgenderism and trans sexuality would never even be considered something real. This is a problem for me. I am very tied to the Latino culture, the food, music and especially the language and it becomes difficult to face the reality that most of my people would shun me because of something that I consider my truth. As a Latino male, I am very much wanting to provide for my partner, much in the way that many Latino men do. There is an immense amount of pride in this for the Latino culture. I am however not family oriented and this is a bog difference. Latino culture, more specifically, Latino male culture is very oriented towards the notion of the more children you haver the better man you are, but you need to provide for these children too, to complete the equation. I am at a crossroads with being a Trans Latino who is queer identified. Not only am i dating lesbian women, I am a female bodied man, and I am a minority within an already marginalized group. For some reason I am not resentful of my culture, I am certainly critical and very politically oriented even if it means 'turning my back' on my country, but I have immense love for it. It is a difficult spot to be in, especially because my country is a commonwealth, so there is an identity there. A strong individual identity as people of 'La Tierra del Borinquen' (native name for the island before Conquistadors) but also as an American because we use American currency, and where there is an American flag, there is a Puerto Rican flag right below it. Where there is Spanish, there is english, and whenever, whatever time of year you stop in San Juan, the capital, there are hoardes of American tourists getting the benefit of a non-passported, tropical island vacation.

I feel male in a very intrinsic way, but I am definitely a Latino male. the stereotyipcal notions of Latino masculinity is an oversexualized one. I am a very sexual person, and I love to dance, I love to eat, and i love to cook and I love being a feminist and for the most part ( surprisingly for a Latino) I am a vegetarian. Puerto Ricans are an incredibly meat oriented people, so it is a big deal for me to be mostly vegetarian too. My mother actually laughs at me when I tell her I am trying not to eat any meat.

In the Spanish language, there is no such thing as gender neutrality. Things are either masculine or feminine. there is no gender nutral word like child. there in nino, which means child but it is masculine. when you want to say children (another gender neutral term) you say ninos, which plural of the male term for boy. It is very difficult to talk to my moms sometimes because she is not comfortable uing the male pronouns yet but she doesn't want to offend me by calling me she, but there is no choice in the matter. You either use the masculine or the feminine terminologies. It actually really blows but it tells you a lot abotu the culutre through the use of language. Also producing chlidren as I mentioned before is a huge sign of masculinty is a country where large families are very important. So in this context what kind of man would I be considered in my own country? These are intense questions for me, especially with the possibility of wanting to change my birth certificate from female to male. These issues are going to play a role in the difficulty of doing this. but i think I am gonna go ahead and do them because it is what feels right to me. All right then, enough about my damn self.

These are some links to sites on Puerto Rico, they are rather cool. If you have time, check them out and see where I came from.

[Puerto Rico] [] [Nuyorican Poets Cafe] [Article on Puerto Rico]