Celebrating my Hispanic "Boricua" Roots
National Hispanic Heritage month has arrived! Launched in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and later extended to a full month, the time between September 15 and October 15 is dedicated to honoring the cultures and contributions made by Latin Americans throughout the US. The dates commemorate the Independence Day anniversaries of five Latin American countries: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Originally a week-long observation, President George H. W. Bush declared it a month-long event in 1989 in order to pay tribute to a group that has made tremendous contributions.
Latinos are key to to American culture, making themselves known as musicians, small business owners, chefs, veterans and a myriad other professions. The sounds of Latin music have permeated U.S. airwaves and influenced American artists. Celia Cruz (Cuban) brought salsa to the masses and thanks to artists like Ricky Martin (Puerto Rican), Mark Anthony (Puerto Rican) and Shakira (Colombian), Latin music is listened to all over the world! We’re also seeing increased recognition of Hispanic people and their accomplishments, from labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez (Mexican American) to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Puerto Rican), baseball legend Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rican) and more.
In recognition of this special month, I’d like to share some of my culture and traditions. I am lucky to have been born and raised in Puerto Rico, nicknamed “La Isla del Encanto” (the enchanted island) for its magical beaches, mountains, food, music, culture and people.
Native Puerto Ricans often refer to themselves as “Boricua,” derived from “Borinken,” the name given to the island by the indigenous Tainos before the Spanish conquest. The vast majority of present-day Puerto Ricans descend from Spanish and African migrants as well as the Taíno people, and you’ll find aspects of all three cultures in modern day Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has an unusual status within the Caribbean as an unincorporated territory of the United States. Puerto Ricans are US citizens but you’ll find a strong Spanish influence on the island, a remnant of its 400-year history as a Spanish colony (it became a territory of the United States since 1898, after the U.S defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War) .
While my father’s side of the family is originally Spanish --all four of his grandparents came to Puerto Rico from the Canary Islands -- I was born and grew up in Puerto Rico. I left the island 7 years ago and relocated to Texas with my former workplace. Now I’m a proud member of Ribbon’s finance department, based in our Plano headquarters.
We celebrate many holidays as part of Boricua culture. A particularly important one is “Los Tres Reyes Magos,” which marks the day kings Melchor, Baltazar and Gaspar followed the Star of Bethlehem to baby Jesus, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Children write lists of things they’d like to receive from the Three Kings, similar to the custom of making a list for Santa Claus. Then on the night of January 5th, children decorate boxes and fill them with grass for the Three Kings’ camels to eat and leave them at the foot of their beds. During the night, The Three Kings visit each house and leave presents for the children and parents. The following day (January 6), families gather together for large celebrations filled with music, food and more.
As with many other cultures, Puerto Ricans like to enjoy good food during family gatherings. Some of the most common foods are: pasteles con arroz con gandules or habichuelas (pasteles served with rice and beans,) lechón asado (roast pork), piña coladas (no translation needed) and coquito (Puerto Rican coconut eggnog).
These are just a few of the reasons I love my beautiful Hispanic culture and all Latin cultures. From the diverse food choices, music, languages and traditions – I simply cannot pick one aspect that I enjoy the most. I’m thankful for my Hispanic roots, which have helped me love who I am, where I come from, and how to love others unconditionally. Family has forever been the number one priority in my life. Whether I participate at a birthday party, wedding and other events, I always have a blast with my loved ones. All of my fondest childhood memories include eating a homecooked meal and dancing until my feet hurt. To this day, our parties still never disappoint!
Thank you for taking the time to learn about my culture! I am extremely proud of being Boricua and am happy to share more about my culture with you.