We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofYeuris I. M.

When I was younger, my mom always talked about how proud she was to be Puerto Rican. She described it as a true paradise warts and all. She told me about the beaches and all the beautiful coast lines. She told me about the strict schooling system and their advanced classes. Of course, there were economic problems but, all in all, it was the ideal place to live. I’ve never been "home," but growing up I had a sense of nostalgia for it.

I was really intrusive when I was a little kid and I always wanted to dig deeper into my heritage. I don’t really understand why I was this way but I really wanted more answers to my questions.

I was maybe seven when I asked my ma these questions. Calling this moment into memory was hard enough, so I asked my Nana. My Nana is a sweet, small lady who LOVES gossip and preparing family meals. She's also the one lady I know for certain gave me the party animal genes. She still lives in Puerto Rico but she always comes to visit. I used this knowledge to my advantage...

When I was 11 years old, I asked my Nana what it was like to live in Puerto Rico. She was cooking up some pernil with rice, fried cheese, salami, and mangu. I feel like she was excited to hear me ask questions about my heritage. She described everything with such vividity, as though she had spent all her time observing the different views. The morning sunrise over the looming horizon. The way the sunset glows over the beach tides. The merry little farms that some residents use for fresh produce. And the scorching hot afternoons that make you want to get into the water. She went on and on about how beautiful the island was.

Our conversation was long over, but I was still standing, thinking about everything that I've seen now, and everything I will see far from now.

I was never granted the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico nor was I well-off financially, so I just didn't ever ask to visit. A part of me desperately wanted to go and take in some of the sights and experiences that it had to offer, but a part of me was reluctant to do so. See, I love my home land and it's gorgeous beaches, farms, and bars but I also love this imperfect America with it's cracked streets, loud parties, and political problems. America has something that Puerto Rico doesn't and vice-versa. 

I feel strongly about how I perceive both places but, if there's one thing this vast country has to offer, it's a sense of company. Everyone likes to have someone to talk to, to comfort them and to hang out. This seems like the bare minimum for a society to be prosperous, but not all places have this sense of ignorant bliss. It's exciting and scary and can feel like a terrible place to be at times but, it is a land of many opportunities,as long as you work for it. 

I've lived here since my ma made the decision to relocate. I've seen a fair share of what this place has to offer to know that we get it pretty easy. I can't say most of us are non-discriminatory but most of us do mean well. You could chalk it up to coincidence, timing, or even luck but we all create our own opportunities. The only struggle is if we can measure up to the challenge. Anyone anywhere can be great at whatever they do; it sounds cheesy but I believe it to be true.

© Yeuris I. M.. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.