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"God made me Puerto Rican, and Everything
God Makes is Perfect".
Reflections after writing the novel "Boricua
By Luis R. González Argüeso".
|n the backcover of my novel "Boricua
Homecoming" I admit that this story
was written on my skin long before it was
set down on paper. It was drafted and recorded
in the memory of my own body's cells with
every experience outside the island of my
birth that reminded me in a thousand positive
and negative ways, that I was exactly that,
"and nothing else," for all practical
purposes: a Puerto Rican. Not even a Puerto
Rican-American, but just a Puerto Rican.
During the whole fifteen years or so I lived
in the United States, and the thirty years
that I worked for American corporations,
that was the way teachers, neighbors, friends,
superiors and colleagues described me, introduced
me, and evaluated my performance and my person;
in essence, that was the way they identified
whom they thought I was: "Come meet
our Puerto Rican student, our Puerto Rican
neighbor, our Puerto Rican colleague,"
etcetera, ad nauseam. "He is bright.
He is articulate. He speaks without an accent.
He is charming-and in the winter, he's so
pale he doesn't even look Puerto Rican."
De venta en la tienda PROYECCIONES;
propiedad de Luis Molina Casanova, director
de la película "El sueño del regreso",
primer piso de Plaza Las Américas,
o en: gonzalezargueso.com
My initial cultural innocence was the result
of a Catholic school education by northamerican
religious which taught me more about the
history and culture of the United States
than Puerto Rico's. So I flew up north believing
myself as "American" as the next
O'Brian and McDonald, only to receive the
persistent treatment of rare exotic tropical
specimen that failed to meet stereotypical
standards but still was not and could never
be "one of our own." I was not
overtly mistreated, but it took me forty
years to know myself subtly excluded from
many fundamental aspects of the so-called
American Dream and begin in earnest the long
and painful journey home.
Survival meant, for a saltwater fish thrown
into a freshwater pond, learning new ways
to interact, to project myself, to self-promote,
to get ahead, to put my latin temperament
under a tight control. Eventually I grew
a second cultural skin and felt somewhat
safe in the freshwater pond. I began the
upward motion that defined success and did
rather well. But then I bumped my head against
that nasty glass ceiling that said, in many
subtle ways, this is it; this is as far as
you go. The rest of the ladder is reserved
only for our own.
My novel "Boricua Homecoming" is
about people who eventually got tired of
trying to make it "out there" and
decide to come home, where they expect to
thrive in total freedom. After all, self-knowledge
and self-acceptance is the key to personal
healing. Ah! But can you really come home?
Home has changed too, you know, and you have
changed, and nothing can ever be the way
it was when you set out in your life's journey.
My novel says, Yes, you can come home, but
you must pay a price. You have to shed that
second skin you grew to learn to swim in
different waters. And when you do, the Angel
with the fiery sword will let you re-enter
your former Garden of Eden, your home, where,
as Robert Frost so aptly put it, "they
have to let you in," because it's your
divine right to be there and claim it as
your own. And then you proceed to discover
exactly what they mean by 'the plantain stain'
that God implants on your soul's core that
sets you apart from the rest of the world.
"God made me Puerto Rican, and everything
God makes is perfect." This is the message
of healing and redemption that Sister Cachita
teaches Carlotta, the one who makes it "out
there" but ends up rejected at home.
If God made you Chinese, that's perfect too.
Be a good Chinese. Be whatever, but Be who
you're supposed to be. Don't' try to be someone
or something you are not. Carlotta has to
stay and fight for her right to come back
and claim her place among her own.
The journey home is more than physical, it
is fundamentally a spiritual reality: it
is the journey to self-knowledge, self-acceptance,
and ultimately, self-embrace and celebration.
Becoming who you are is the key to peace,
harmony, and fruitful labor in this world.
Love yourself, and THEN you will be able
to love everyone else. Knowing that makes
returning to a small, self-contained, tribal,
trivial and in many ways myopic island existence
easier to take. It makes possible the mature
decision to stay here or go back to the mainland
or Europe or a more globalized world. Because
now you are fully and joyfully aware that
no matter where you go, you are first and
foremost Puerto Rican, and THAT is precisely
what you bring to the party of the gloriously
diverse global village.