In last week’s post I talked a bit about how my personality and culture contradict each other. Turns out that wasn’t the only part of me that rejects my roots. Maybe you’ve seen the recent Coca-Cola tattoo can commercial about what it means to be Latinx. News outlets from back home have interpreted it as a message to Trump. Anything done in the Latinx community these days seems to be interpreted as an act of defiance, as if he’s already won the elections and is our tyrannical leader. It reminds me of one of the many “talks” my parents never gave me and instead got from my friend when I came here to the US. Anything and everything you do will be representative of your culture as a whole to white people. When your mere existence is taken as protest it can leave you exhausted and tied up.
Unity in the Latinx community seems to be of vital importance lately, with the threat of a Trump, or really any Republican, presidency looming before us. So here I am once again feeling guilty for complaining about my beefs with my culture. The Coke Commercial I mentioned earlier? I absolutely hated it. It highlights and praises one of the most toxic elements of Latin American culture. If you haven’t watched it by now, I’ll break it down. It’s these new cans that let you tattoo your last name onto your skin. It brands you with your clan like property or cattle. Blood ties are blinding and rust your sense of self, no matter the circumstance. That’s the message it wants to drill into our skulls.
This way of thinking is what drove me away from Puerto Rico. If anyone asks me I’ll say that my current university offers me a degree that better suits my wants than my old one, and that’s true. But what I really needed was to get away from that highly toxic environment where my parents took every one of my actions as an attack against my family. My mom would always say friends will drop you at a moments notice but family is forever. I would have believed her if I wasn’t still friends with the same group of people for over seven years. Of course some come and go, but the inevitable betrayal and disconnect they assured me would happen the minute we graduated high school happened in only the most minimal way.
There’s this culture of guilt, shaming and fear that is ever-present in our households. It’s a tactic of control and manipulation and would be categorized as emotional abuse by most. We don’t see it that way because our society is constantly telling us that this is normal and what’s right. I’m reminded of a Calle 13 song, Latinoamérica. I loved this song deeply once in my freshman college days as baby independent. I even voted green in my first elections. Most of the song still holds a place in my heart but there’s one line that I find unforgivable:
“El que no quiere a su patria, no quiere a su madre”
‘That who doesn’t love their homeland, doesn’t love their mother.’ If that’s not manipulative guilt-tripping I don’t know what is. Why should I love my homeland? As I mentioned last week, it has done nothing but reject who I am and try to beat me into the citizen it wishes I was. Why was I condemned to be born into such a prideful culture? What should I even be proud about? We are always struggling to maintain our culture in the face of American imperialism, yet how do we so easily accept our past of Spanish imperialism. Is it not the same, especially for us Puerto Ricans, a colony still? We like to highlight our pride with our Spanish language and Spanish names, forgetting how it came to be, rejecting anything American for fear it will tarnish our culture. And yet in the commercial we see everyone take a single can to their skin. Last time I checked I had two last names. Even this display of Latinx pride has been Americanized to drop our mothers in the greatest of ironies. All of this is why I hope to someday fully drop both my last names and how I’ve chosen my pen name.
My name is Laura Andrea and my life is my own.