Esmeralda Santiago’s “When I was Puerto Rican”

I recently finish reading the book, “When I was Puerto Rican”, which I bought way back (199?) when I was still in college, and it has since gathered dust in my bookshelf, until I decided to take it with me here in Cebu where it finally got the attention it merits. The author, Esmeralda Santiago’s exceptional method of storytelling is both engaging and entertaining. Her accounts of rural Puerto Rico with its old traditions, religions, social code (“dignidad”) and people (like the Jibaras) was told as if it was just yesterday, the events took place when she was little Negi, decades before she even learn how to write, how she was able to accomplish this is remarkable. The details she provided were amazing. She took me to the Puerto Rico of old with her book–at times I felt that I could pass as a Puertorriqueño. There were many similarities between them and us. Like us, the Puertorriqueños was once an island with several divided indigenous groups, they were subjected to colonial rule and was introduced to the concept of a centralized government by the Spaniards; this explains why the most indelible marks in Puerto Rican culture came from the Spaniards. Its official language and its food culture for example are deeply influenced by their former Iberian colonizers.

Esmeralda Santiago, the author, has these quotes in every chapter in Spanish. I would like to borrow a short poem (dedicated to the town of Candelaria*) but would offer it to Cebu this time, a place that has given me nothing but beautiful memories.

Adios Cebu* Hermosa

Las espaldas te voy dando

No siento lo que me llevo

Sino lo que voy dejando


One response to “Esmeralda Santiago’s “When I was Puerto Rican”

  • latinaDE_VERDAD

    why don’t you visit PR today. or any country in latin america. anyone can see your interest in hispanic / spanish culture. i mean nothing by it i just think it would be good for you.

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