Friday, August 6, 2010

Are Puerto Ricans Really Lazy?

One time, on my blog (, someone made an anonymous comment that I wear my Puerto Rican pride “like that kid in High School who thinks he discovered Led Zeppelin, and for 4 years wears black zeppelin shirts to school.” Although I don't particularly care for the music of Led Zeppelin (no offense to his fans), the remark made me question whether there is anything wrong with being proud to be Boricua and displaying that nationalism in everything I do.

Growing up, my grandmother would occasionally comment to me that if she could be reborn that she would be Puerto Rican all over again. I would ask quietly in my hand, whats so special with being from a tiny little island like Puerto Rico? Ironically, in conversations on the islands future political status, my grandmother would say that “que los boricuas son bien bagos” and cannot survive as an independent nation. How could a woman with so much national pride and dignity at the same time limit our own collective potential?

Around my neck, I wear a macheté to remind me of my familial roots – for my grandfather and his father before him who toiled in the U.S company-owned sugarcane fields. Everyday, they rose at the crack of dawn to sweat under 100 degree weather while wearing long-sleeve shirts and gloves, cutting the hard, human-size sugarcane stems while the fields crackled with fire, engulfing them with smoke. I invoked this memory to my grandmother when she made the comment and the fact that at age 18, until she was 8 months pregnant with my aunt (who now is getting a doctorates in Education), she worked, standing for hours on end, at a factory in a new country, during the middle of a Chicago winter. Los boricuas son bien bagos, ¿verdad?

Countless Puerto Ricans in Chicago have similar stories to these, many of which will never be told. However, what can be told is recorded facts of the collective possibilities of the Boricua people.

On their website, the Puerto Rico Space Grant Consortium states that Puerto Rico is the leading producer of Latinas/os in the United States who have a bachelors degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. According to the consortium, islanders receive 17% of those degrees, while they account for only 9% of the Latina/o population.

Furthermore, according to a 2005-2006 study from the American Chemical Society, the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico graduates more chemical engineers than any college in the entire U.S.

While reading the article, La Radio Ante Nuevo Retos, by Elmer Gonález in La Claridad newspaper (May 20-26, 2010), I also discovered that the fifth radio transmission in the entire world and the second in all of Latin America took place in none other than Puerto Rico on December 3, 1922. What were the first sounds broadcasted from the radio station? The musical notes of our beloved national anthem, La Borinqueña.

And we don't even have to look to the island to see how Boricuas are able to accomplish so much. One of the first Puerto Rican families in Chicago, the Sanabrias, were pioneers in engineering and television. According to the 1989 book, “Chicago: Historia de Nuestra Comunidad Puertorriqueña” by Manuel Martínez, the Chicago-born Boricua engineer, Ulises Armand Sanabria, was the “builder and engineer of the first television station in Chicago on June 12, 1928” and founded the Sanabria Television Corporation in January, 1931 where he produced the “first 10' television pictures for public viewing.” He also founded the American Television Institute in 1935.

This is only a small glimpse of what we, as a people, have accomplished. This is not to say that other people of different nationalities have not accomplished great feats, but it is my attempt to chip away from the prevalent cynicism and self-hate among our community. As for my grandmother who, after years, made these negative comments about Puerto Ricans. Well, she promised to stop. Why? Well, I told her that if she wanted people to look upon her and her people in a good light it all must begin with herself – we have the key to our image.

So often, we are hooked on whats wrong and “bad” about our people and community – we just need to learn how to see the world differently. If you, the reader, were to look at Division Street and Humboldt Park more than just a ghetto and see how the Puerto Rican community has transformed those spaces into something to be proud of, then you will understand what I mean. Then take it further and think of how we, as Boricuas, with so many obstacles in our way, are able to accomplish so much and how we continue to do so, together, as a community, here, on Paseo Boricua.

Originally published in La Voz del Paseo Boricua, June 2010 edition and Que Ondee Sola July 2010


Anonymous said...

No es "bagos" con "b" de bola; es "vago" con "v" de vianda. Verifica. Aparte de eso, tremendo ensayo.

Anonymous said...

try connecting with people an ask questions on who they are an what they like. thats how respect an love really can grow for you an everyone that surrounds you.

Anonymous said...

My name is Ruben Carrasco I am puerto rican born raised 17 years in new jersey USA i have been on the island of puerto rico for roughly about 8 years and i can say i was proud of my heritage when i was in america i would scream out yo soy boricua con orgullo but after moving to the island i realized that by saying such things i was insulting myself this island along with the inhabitants is pitiful there is no way for the government to please the people because they expect everything to be free or cheap to them because they are from and island they claim to want liberty from america they want to be a republic but don't even have a currency for itself there is nothing to sell to other country's to profit from the island will crumble if the puerto rican people get their republic they complain about the economy everything here is cheaper than in the us in example $180.00 for car insurance and that's only once a year yet they find it expensive everyone has a high-tech phone a new car every year and enough money to get drunk every weekend but complain to economy is to little for them to buy food in the states i paid $400.00 to $800.00 a month for electricity over here its $150.00 and they think its expensive and they say their pay is to little i paid $400.00 for light and $600.00 for a one bedroom apartment on a $7.00 an hour salary hey make $7.25 minimum on the island everyone gets food stamps and section 8 which is free housing and humana which is free medical treatment the girls here are getting pregnant at age 13 14 15 and never know who the father is so yea i am really proud and so will those bastard children on the island be they complain about the drug related murders that occur everyday yet no one cooperates with the police to be rid of the crime the kids are out of the school never learning and school have nearly no security to keep kids in them teacher are always on strike and when their not they don't care enough about the islands future to teach kids anything everyone here seems re-tarted... i am Ruben Carrasco born puerto rican raised american and yes i am proud of my slave trade pit stop islands history not the slave trade part but the history of hard working puerto ricans who use to work the fields and grow their food sell tobacco and work without complain to better their life from the sweat on their brows but like i said thats history todays common puerto rican is a lazy good for nothing leach to the united states which claims to want freedom from america (which they already have) but want to keep leaching of their money

Anonymous said...

a puerto rican on american soil acts differently and what obstacles could you be talking about puerto ricans have no obstacles theirs no major color issue because we look american and no immigration issues because were legal in america so get over your self theirs no obstacles unless your to stupid to learn English (which is a language taught in puerto rico public schools)and move to the states with no language skills although almost everyone in america knows Spanish also so no puerto ricans have no obstacles thats just excuses to be lazy

rudrod66 said...

Ok so..this is my observation from growing up with puertoricans in the lower east side..first of puertorican to the northeast are what mexicans are to the south and southwest and cubans are to florida of this country..ok..they are the only lating countrymen to be u.s. Citizens without ever having to actually go through immigration to get in..ok..that's fine..they have opened a lot of doors and fought for opportunities and laws in this country..that was in the 50's 60's and 70's..ok..we appreciate its like they over-welcomed their stay..I've seen a lot become cops..join the military..become teachers,nurses..superintendents with 50 keys dangling from their belt loop..they're lesbian gay.white,black thugs..etc..but they don't where they are from..are they lazy..I think its a mix of being too comfortable..not having or wanting to move up in you found a comfort zone..second..if you come from a beautiful trpical island..where you don't have to deal with expensive living like here in traffic..cold weather..racist is cheaper..etc etc..and you're telling me you can't get it'd rather be a baby daddy..jail.sloppy clothing..overweight life..and if I ask you about your countries history you have the audacity to tell me you don't know who luis munoz marin if I asked you.??? I got something to say cuz now as a latin american or maybe fellow puertorican you are making me look is that for an explanation