Having been born and raised in the United States, Philadelphia to be exact, to Puerto Rican parents, I consider myself just as much American as I am Puerto Rican. I jokingly would call myself PhillyRican. Hey, if the term fits, right?
As a mother I am finding that it is important to keep my culture alive for and through my children. If not, they may lose who we are as a people in the assimilated melting pot this country is. I have always enjoyed the diversity of America. Learning new cultures and ways of life has always been intriguing.
I remember sitting with my mother as a child asking her to tell me stories of when she was a girl. After all, having moved to the states at a young age herself, I’m sure holding on to the memories was special for her. She would tell me of the country side where she lived, her grandfather and his farm, the horses, fruit freshly picked from the trees, fun by the river and so much more. Everything seemed so carefree and I stood in awe at what this “other world” must be like in real life.
Now I find myself sharing my childhood stories with my little ones as they eagerly ask questions in amazement. They too feel I am describing another world since they are being raised in a suburban almost rural community. Though my environment was inner city compared to my mother’s island of enchantment, as Puerto Rico is lovingly known, I still felt the influence of her homeland throughout our everyday life. From the deliciously unique Puerto Rican cuisine to the language that speaks volumes to the music that will automatically have one move to the rhythm, our home was filled with a culture that was alive and flowing through our veins.
I remember the cold winters and the blizzards of endless snow we endured in Pennsylvania and I would say “my blood is supposed to be where warm weather is all year round”. Funny as it may seem, I had never even been on an airplane, much less made a visit to Puerto Rico. But I still felt a love for the island and a pride in knowing where my people were from. I would pick up any book or magazine that made mention of Puerto Rico and learn all I could about our people, foods, music, customs, events, holiday traditions, any and everything.
I try to pass our deeply rooted culture on to my children by maintaing the traditions and values my parents instilled. Whether holidays or everyday, I have filled my home with the aromas, flavors and sounds of my Puerto Rican culture. I am working on getting my children fluent in reading, writing and speaking Spanish. My grandmother has always encouraged me to keep a strong hold on our language. As with any other skill, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Thankfully I have had several opportunities, employment and otherwise to continue using Spanish on a regular basis, and helping others by doing so.
Our growing Hispanic population in the US will certainly have a continuous need for bilingual skills. I want my children to be able to embrace those opportunities and not be ashamed of who they are. Most importantly I am teaching my children the importance of family and togetherness, which is something that our Hispanic heritage takes pride in.
How has your culture influenced your life? If you have children, how do you manage raising them as cultural, and/or bilingual in today’s society?