Love The Culture and The People

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Growing up as a woman of Puerto Rican descent, I experienced firsthand the fascination with the Puerto Rican mystique on behalf of non-Puerto Ricans. From comments about the desirable appearance of Puerto Ricans to assumptions about expert dancing skills, there is an immediate and persistent intrigue when Puerto Ricans makes their ethnicity known.

However, I have come to learn that embracing a culture does not equate to embracing the people of that culture. The view of Puerto Ricans being exotic can be a harmless manifestation of intrigue, but it is also a manifestation of the way United States mainlanders often view Puerto Ricans: as outsiders. This view is evinced in many of the United States Federal government’s policies pertaining to Puerto Rico.

I wrote the poem that appears below, entitled “Why Don’t You Love Me?,” as I was preparing to travel to the Island as a #UBLawResponds student attorney in the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic. The poem speaks to the long, unique relationship between the United States Mainland and Puerto Rico, a relationship marked with both adulation and indifference.

Why Don’t You Love Me?

I’m everywhere                       

And nowhere at the same time

I’m exotic, I’m “spicy,” I’m cool

Mesmerized by me

Like Ali by Iris

So why don’t you love me?

I toiled for hundreds of years

Your hands manipulating me

I let you inject me, radiate me

Use me and disregard me

I let you murder my insurrection

And suppress my hope

I did everything you asked of me

So why don’t you love me?