Saturday, December 09, 2006

On who we are

If there is anything I dislike reading or hearing about the most, it's when people like politicians, writers or professors, people who believe themselves to be more sophisticated and to be superior to the "common" people, write about how Puerto Rico, and the people who live in it, have no culture. Or, worse yet, when they write or say about how we have no identity.

I will give them the point of perhaps being partially right. We seemingly have no culture. Centuries of being a colony will do that to any place. We haven't had much of a chance to come into our own. That, however, doesn't mean that we have no culture whatsoever. The people who say that have, perhaps, been living here far too long to make that kind of acertation. Of course we have a culture. Any kind of society, no matter if it be a nation or a colony or a territory, has to have a culture. In fact, here's the definition of the word "culture":

cul·ture /ˈkʌltʃər/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kuhl-cher] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, verb, -tured, -tur·ing.
the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.


Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning "to cultivate"), generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance. Different definitions of "culture" reflect different theoretical bases for understanding, or criteria for evaluating, human activity.


Though we are perhaps not known for things such as literature, art or music (rather, we are known for boxers, beauty queens and rappers), this doesn't mean that we, as a culture, have not produced significant amounts of cultural advances. What about authors such as Luis Rafael Sánchez or Alejandro Tapia y Rivera? What about actors like Raúl Julia or Benicio del Toro? Or painters like Obed Gómez and José Campeche? Are you people trying to tell me that what they've achieved is nothing because we are a mere colony? Or that it's not enough? If it's not enough, then when will it be enough?

Personally, though, I believe that the problem is that, most of the people who tell us that we lack culture are the ones who either believe that the United States is more cultured, or they believe that we have been crushed by having been a U.S. colony over the decades. To me, however, the U.S. aren't any more cultured than we are. In fact, if we are to compare, the U.S. is just as cultured as we are. The U.S. hasn't been around for many centuries to begin with, and they are younger than we are. This is my personal opinion, but having been born in the U.S. and having lived there for about ten years, I don't see how we can't possibly have a culture and the U.S. has far too much. I think we're on equal ground, actually.

This opinion of mine correlates to my opinion of how we seemingly have no identity. I once thought that we Puerto Ricans had no identity either. I've been proven wrong, though, and it was when I was on the plane home from Chicago. As the plane landed, all I could think of was, "this is home, I'm home". Anywhere you go in the world, if you find a fellow Puerto Rican, you'll know it automatically, and you'll fraternize and talk and mutually miss the mother land. We take our pride for our home wherever we go. I hardly see that in Americans, to be perfectly honest. To them, it doesn't really matter that much. But to most Puerto Rican who move outside the island, it's almost like they're simply visiting the outside world. We remember things like how it always rains in August, or family get-togethers at the beach where everyone pitches in to bring beer and food, or the Fiestas Patronales, or most of all, the way we celebrate Christmas.

I think that we Puerto Ricans, along with many other people from other countries, exhibit the trait that I believe Americans have lacked for a long time, and that is pride in ourselves. Yes, our economy's a mess. Yes, our politicians are about as diplomatic as 800 pound gorillas. And yes, we still have problems with things like poverty, unemployment and education, among other things. But those of us who truly believe in who we are as people also believe that if we continue to take pride in ourselves, if we continue to make good literature and music and art, if we keep taking strides internationally in the music and movie industry, if we work together to fix our recurring problems, these are the people who make our culture, and make it even stronger. To say we are culture-less, to say we are color-less even, is to say that we have no pride in who we are, and that just isn't really true at all.

For those who think that the solution to our problems is to become a U.S. state, will that really fix everything, when we are so opposite from the U.S. to even be a state? For those who think that becoming an independant country will solve our problems, how will that work when our economy's in shambles? For those who think that staying the way we are, a mere colony, is the best cop-out, are you truly content with staying stagnant for however long? I'm not trying to make you question your beliefs, whatever beliefs you may have, but solutions come when we look at both the big picture and the smaller details. If we want to prove that our pride in ourselves is not for nothing, then we have to work to make it so.

In the meantime, quit writing about how we're a black hole of degradation and go get some coquito. It's fucking Christmas time.


Anonymous said...

Di, animals have culture... So the issue is not, perhaps, if PR is cultured, the issue is how distorted it might be.

Di said...

ciudadanoem: That's still different than saying we have no culture whatsoever, as I heard from my Spanish professor in high school say once a week to our class, at the least.