Boricua en la Luna : Why Citizenship and Identity Don’t Always Intersect

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Reposted from VivirLatino

Apparently Citizenship Day came and went. The entire I pondered my citizenship: how I was born into it, how my parents were born into it, and how my abuelos, when they were toddlers, woke up with it one morning. My U.S. citizenship, with all it’s rights, privileges, and associations is held somewhat heavily along with my passport and other “proofs” that I “belong” here. When I level criticisms against the U.S. and it’s policies, I am told to go back where I came from. Leave. As a Puerto Rican U.S. Citizen living within the 50 states, I can vote. If I were to reside in Puerto Rico, I could fight wars in the name of the United States but suddenly would have no say in who the Commander in Chief of the U.S. armed forces should be. I have considered going Juan Mari Bras style: moving to Puerto Rico and renouncing my U.S. Citizenship, after all, to quote the poeta Mariposa, Yo no naci en Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico nacio en mi. Pero when people ask “what are you”, I stumble a bit. Sometimes I say Nuyorican, placing myself firmly in the city I love while holding on to who my family is. Sometimes I say straight up, Rican. Sometimes I say Latina. Pero I never, ever say “American”, at least not the way people want me to say it.

At the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala a few nights ago, U.S. President Obama said:

Our success has long depended on our willingness to see our challenges as ones we have to face together; our willingness to live up to a simple ideal: Todos somos Americanos. We are all Americans.

Todos somos Americanos and yet, there are polices in place that reinforce the separation of the Americas. From Punta Areanas, to Puerto Rico, to Puebla, to Prince William County, Latinos are given clear signals that the “American” Obama speaks of doesn’t mean those of us who are Latino.

Let’s be real, in the context of the current debate around immigration, my citizenship is supposed to protect me because I am not one of “them”. I am not an immigrant, although I am the child of immigrants. As if during an ICE raid that my vecinos fear or an attack because of what my family looks like, what language I speak, or what my last name is, I could wave that blue booklet filled with images of bald eagles and be safe. Racial profiling, rising hate crimes, hate speech played off as fair and balanced news and the President himself and Congressional Hispanic Caucus keep making the check off box we are asked to fill out on numerous forms we encounter living here in the United States smaller and smaller, almost invisible.

On Citizenship Day, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said that he was going to propose his own immigration reform proposal. My sense is that he is doing this porque he as a Latino working in the belly of the beast is starting to feel burned by all the compromises he has had to make as a legislator trying to support the current administration while seeing little to no movement that even begin to fulfill the promises of change. I’m sure pressure from Latinos plays a role as well. Hopefully, his proposal will address some of the criticisms that have been raised by activists, advocates, and most importantly, nuestra gente, los Americanos.

Even in space, we are more than our papers or lack therof.

5 Comments

  1. I never thought about it before, but I never say I’m American either…New Yorker, Nuyorican, Rican or Latina are also my usual first responses too…interesting

  2. The reason you never have to say that you’re an American, and you say “Latina,” or you say “Nuyorican,” is because you have never had to worry about what you are. That’s the inherent measure of protection you possess by virtue of that passport with the bald eagle. You are American, so you don’t have to worry about defining yourself.

    It’s easy to say something like “we are more than our papers or lack therof” when YOU HAVE papers.

  3. Eh, nah I don’t think that’s it and I think you kind of missed the point. I have always had to worry about “what” I am. I can remember being in elementary school and wrangling with the “hispanic” question and consciously choosing to identify myself as Hispanic/European because I could.

  4. boricua hasta la muerte ,nuestros dias mejores se asercan mis hermanos, dicho por nuestro maestro Campos.

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