Learning to be a "Georgia-Rican"

I am Puerto Rican; a fact worth repeating.

Seriously, I repeated it so much in elementary school that one teacher remembers me only for my exaltations of identity.

It's a fact that, for me to stay sane, I must rehearse.

I am Puerto Rican. Boricua.

I'm also from Augusta.

I get asked a lot, "Where are you from?"

I usually respond, "I'm Puerto Rican." But, in everyone's curiosity, they still want to know where. Does it not suffice to know that I am Puerto Rican? I assume that it is because my English has no accent, therefore, to them, I must have been born in the states.

Over the course of my childhood, I built hatred toward that question. There were times that, when understanding my heritage and how I grew up, were exciting, but also intensely frustrating. When I learned what Puerto Rico was from my grandfather - a majestic island with a rhythmic people with a pulsating hunger for life - in terms of his upbringing, I was jealous I wasn't born there. Not to mention that the food alone made me angrily crave the island.

I grew up here, I drank sweet tea and I know what an "achey, breaky" heart feels like. It was decent, and, at times, I feel well-rounded for it, even if the round object is an oval.

Growing up here has been a balance of when to be Puerto Rican and when to be American, or having to deal with the accusation that I'm not really Puerto Rican.

My studies in college showed me that my perspective on identity and frustration was not that different from Puerto Ricans who grow up in New York. How they were born with the Puertoricaness and no where to really express it, but over time and with growth, saw it translate into a different result. The world knows them as Nuyoricans. Yes, they are Puerto Rican, but all records show their birth on Big Apple soil.

Well, I hope I can see a different result here. I hope "Georgia-Rican" sounds better to my ears.

Truth is, it can be challenging to feel Puerto Rican in Augusta. The two are very different. What allows Nuyoricans life and expression is a large presence of Puerto Ricans. I did not have a neighborhood or barrio of natives that every day served as the Puerto Rican influence. I had my parents and grandparents, family and friends, and they did all they could. Bless my family for never once trying to raise me outside of Puerto Rican values, but within their limits they could never provide for me what a whole community of Puerto Ricans could have. However, I still grew up feeling Puerto Rican.

Almost every meal was served with rice and every conversation plated with exuberance.

After growing up and educating myself more about my heritage, the frustration to some degree still looms. However, I have accepted that my identity is blood-determined, and that I am to be a reflection of it regardless of where I'm situated.

In times when I now I have to answer that question, I look at it like teaching; an opportunity to share my knowledge about Puerto Rico. It is easy to be Puerto Rican in my classroom. There I can show the culture and demonstrated the pride.