Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coexisting: My Summer Fellowship Experience

I am Puerto Rican. Period. This is something I have always been extremely proud of. I like knowing where my roots are, where I come from, so I have a good sense of where I am going. In fact, one of the reasons why I became involved with Raíces was because I couldn’t bear that there was an entire Cuban generation, and their children and grandchildren, in exile; Cuban or not Cuban, I had to do something. While I had grown up playing with dinosaurs and remote control cars (believe me, I wasn’t very girly), some of my friends were leaving Cuba and starting anew in a foreign country. This, I couldn’t bear. It made my childhood hardships, the scraped knee, the bee stings, seem like nothing.

This summer, a very wise man told us, “You have an incredible advantage. You are the missing link, the bridge, precisely because you’re both American and Cuban.” Although I have always appreciated learning languages and being fluent in two, I refused to understand that acquiring a new language was like acquiring a new piece of a different identity; it brought you closer to that culture. Because I speak English, I feel much more comfortable in an American setting than most of my countrymen; I guess you could say I’m more “Americanized.” Does that mean I am not Puerto Rican? Not at all. I guess I just have a little bit of both. I guess two languages, two identities (and even more), can coexist in one person… I guess you can be a little bit of everything and still be true to every single component of yourself. It's okay to be American and Cuban; Cuban and Puerto Rican. And it's not just okay--it's a beautiful beautiful thing.

As Raíces is a Cuban-American nonprofit organization, I felt we needed to stay true to our Cuban roots (yes, sometimes I do refer to myself as a CubaRican). And this obviously includes having our website in our own language: Spanish! So after long hours of hard work, my fellow Fellow Rafa Delgado and I, along with Wali’s help, managed to finally introduce Raíces (officially) to the world of bilingualism. Spanish represents our beginnings. We speak it at home, with friends and family… we had to have our website represent our true essence. I also managed to assist my fellow Fellows Sasha with the planning of the Summer Blast mixer, Alfo with the new C4C box design, and Rafa with his informational campaign on opportunities for RDE members to study abroad in Spain.

These 10 weeks were extremely inspiring and fulfilling for me. I made amazing friends, who I truly consider my herman@s at heart, and got the opportunity to reconnect with already-familiar Raíces’ brothers and sisters. After 10 weeks of hard work, long (yet fun) days at the office, I decided this was my niche—whether I was Cuban or not; this is precisely where I have to be because I believe in this movement. As the newest RDE Management member, the “Ops Baby” (as I like to call myself), I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us Roots! Thank you for embracing me and allowing me to be a part of this family without even having to ask. It was truly an unforgettable summer and the beginning of a new series of adventures! I love you all!

And remember: "Cuba y Puerto Rico son de un pájaro las dos alas."

~ Karla "La Boricua"

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