Welcome to my very first blog post. I have a story to tell so grab a cuppa and get to know another life on this terrestrial ball. Allow me to introduce myself.
So my parents decide to move to New York from my native California when I was 3 years old. After living in New York City about 3.5 years, my parents decided to move back to California. Now, understand in New York I was among my peeps, homies, fellow PR brethren and most at home con mi familia. Tu sabes? I was so at home in NYC. I was part of the majority so no one messed with me. It was nice. Unfortunately, housing discrimination was really bad so my parents decided it was time to go.
Both sides of my family are Taino indians through and through. Here’s the rub. There are two types of Puerto Ricans: Black and White. My father is of the white persuasion. Mom is black. Consequently, I’m a milk chocolate Puerto Rican. My father’s mother vehemently objected to her son marrying a woman with dark skin. They wed anyway but that tension remained.
Catholic school sucked
When I moved to California, I was greeted with these tender words of welcome, “You fucking nigger!” What? What’s a “nigger?” My third grade teacher, a nun, explained the N word was a mispronounciation of the African nation of Niger. My mother immediately refuted that stupidity and gave me a civil rights history lesson.
You’d think since “Everyone is beautiful in their own way, … red, yellow, black or white, we are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world,” surely I would be accepted in a Christian school. Nope. It was difficult making friends in Catholic school but I had at least one bestie during second and third grade: Bernadette Cabral.
I loved public school
Though most of my school career was in Catholic school, it was in public schools where I found acceptance. I spent fourth and fifth grades in public school while on a waiting list for Catholic school.
I made awesome friends and got along very well with everyone. I loved school. Then a spot opened up at Catholic school and I had to leave my friends behind.
Catholic middle school was a nightmare
For three years I had zero friends. This class of 39 students had been together since first grade then I crashed the party in sixth grade.
There were 30 boys and 10 girls with two cliques of girls. I became the nigger in the middle. In fact, I was the only black sans an actual albino black boy who I beat up in 8th grade. It was a miserable existence. I was being severely bullied, ostracized and outcast. I didn’t think it could be worse until “Roots” was on TV. My life became exponentially more terrifying after that. Three words: The Cox twins. They were the most evil, twisted people I had ever met.
Outside of New York it was hard to find Puerto Ricans so when you ran into one, it was nearly a family reunion but not these two. So imagine how thrilled I was to learn there were two Puerto Ricans in my class. The two Ricans were white. It was all over before it started. They wanted nothing to do with me.
Peer pressure won and I was dog shit. It was the loneliest existence of my life. Only one of those 39 students would apologize for her part of my middle-school misery years later. Today, I love her to pieces.
Twisting in the wind
Adding insult to injury, my parents separated shortly after I started sixth grade. It was ugly. They had no time for helping me because they had problems of their own.
Then when Dad disappeared because he worked for a startup, my mother struggled to help. She instantly defended my siblings to teachers, coaches, etc. She wound up perpetuating sibling rivalry. I, on the other hand, was left twisting in the wind because she couldn’t bring herself to trust a word I said. I never understood why until just a few years ago.
Back to public school
After a year of Catholic high school, I returned to public school. It was good to see my old friends. I felt at home right away. No one messed with me since I had the full backing of the Black Student Union (BSU) and MeCHA in case of a confrontation with white students.
It was even nicer to see some of my former Catholic school classmates observe I wasn’t a complete turd. I had friends who cared about me because I was worth caring about. I was a human contrary to popular belief.
I preferred dating Hispanics but they shunned me because I looked black. Mexicans knew few, if any, Hispanic blacks from Panama, Dominican Republic, etc. I felt most at home among Hispanics because that was my culture. I also had lots of black friends. I HAD FRIENDS again!
I remained very proud of my island heritage. I had Puerto Rican flags on my car, wore PR clothes, tried to find PR night clubs, celebrations. My license plates read, “Caribbean Queen.” The only PR social gathering I could find was the annual Dia de San Juan Festival. They were always sparsely attended because there were so few of us but as our city grew, so did the festival turnout.
There are more transplants today but whenever I see a PR sticker on a car, someone wearing a shirt or see a flag flying from someone’s home, I get very excited.
I know who I am today and love me and my heritage. My kids are half PR/German. My kids know who they are and they are proud of their PR heritage. It helps that the food is awesome and I know how to cook.
PR is “me encanta.” Now I just need to get there for an island vacation one of these days, ideally sooner than later.
Living on the edge
I have survived the impossible. My life is crazy. I’m on permanent disability thanks to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a nasty abuse history that includes incest and ritual abuse. My children collect their father’s death benefit until they are 18 years old.
Thanks to my mother, I have been involuntarily divorced from both sides of my family because my mother, simply put, is evil. When I got married, I swore my parents would never be able to abuse my kids but they did it anyway.
The only explanation I have for how I’m still alive is Jesus. I need to vent. I know I’m not alone. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you know someone who can relate. Join me on this crazy journey of self discovery, healing and recovery.
“Still I rise”—Maya Angelou
Revised as of April 24, 2015.