does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cultural Identity - Part 2

My friend Mari Carmen grew up in Puerto Rico but now lives both on the island and on the mainland. Given her unique perspective, I asked her to share thoughts about Puerto Rico and its people. She highlighted the following items. The first applies to Puerto Ricans everywhere, but the remaining items apply specifically to island life.

"The hospitality and warmth of the Puerto Rican people are absolutely charming, notwithstanding all the irony in the reports of violence and crime, etc. They give you food, even if they have little to eat. I remember being a teacher and going to visit parents of Puerto Rican kids after school, and these were poor kids, but they always had rice and beans and tostones [fried plaintains] to share.

"Christmas in Puerto Rico. The 'asaltos' [the assaults], meaning groups of people who wake you up and then have those 'asaltados' [those assaulted] join the group and go on to the next 'asalto' and wake up the next family all night long until it is time to go to the Misa de Aguinaldo [Carols Mass] at 5:00 AM. Sometimes 50-60 people are in the group.

"Las Máscaras de Hatillo. Right after New Year's, I think, in the town of Hatillo, the people get dressed up with máscaras [masks] and they do travesuras [mischief] all around town dressed in costumes and máscaras that resemble vejigantes but are a little different.

"On the feast of San Sebastián in Old San Juan, they close the old town and they used to parade with his statue. Now it has become more of an arts festival, but it is still a big deal sometime in mid January and the old part of the city becomes a walking mall.

"The elections and political participation. Elections are a big deal, and everyone participates (voter participation is over 80% of those registered). No matter how rich or how poor, everyone has a banner or a decal in their car, their house, their balcony. There is a festive air to the elections, and people take their politics very seriously. It used to be that everyone used to vote on the same Sunday at 3:00 PM in an assigned classroom. If you were not there, the doors would close and you lost the opportunity to vote. Now it is more like the States and you can go any time during the day, so long as you have la tarjeta [voter card]."


A Cuban In London said...

Marvellous insight which could well be applied to Cubans, Dominicans, Venezuelans, Colombians, in short, to the Latin Diaspora.

Re your comment, I agree with you 100% and no, I have not seen the list you mentioned - despite the fact that I read the NY Times online - but my post next Sunday will touch upon that issue head on.


Greetings from London.

Sheila Deeth said...

Fascinating. Thanks.

Nevine said...

Judith, this is a great cultural sampler from Mari Carmen that you have shared. It's nice to get information about a place directly from someone who knows the facts. And, I can't help but notice some similarities with my own culture, especially in the hospitality department. I'm also very intrigued by the post-New Year's dress-up fest. I look forward to the next installment.


Judith Mercado said...

Cuban, Sheila, and Nevine, I'm glad you enjoyed this post. It made me hungry for rice and beans and tostones.