Embracing Your Roots and Culture

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As I look at my son, and see the beauty within him: that he’s a child born out of love, and brought into this world with the richness and greatness of having three cultures: Black, Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian. I reflect upon my own life; my roots and culture. I was born in New York, to a Puerto Rican mom, and an Ecuadorian dad. As far as I can remember I was always proud of roots, my culture; heck I was even more thrilled that I had another culture other than being Puerto Rican. As an adult, I am still proud of my roots, and continue to embrace where I came from. So now that we have a son, I want to instill in him this same pride.

Unfortunately, not everyone embraces their roots and cultures; and most of the time deny it. Puerto Ricans are mixed race of Spaniards, African slaves, and Taíno Indians (native indians). Even my own aunts and uncles (on my Mom’s side) denied that there could be any “black” in them; but science came back to prove them wrong.

My Grandmother participated in The Origins of the Mitochondrial DNA of Puerto Rico Project, sponsored by the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus. They were conducting a series of DNA study and interviews about issues related to heritage and race in Puerto Rico. The professors Dr. Anayra Santory and Dr. Luis A. Avilés, were leading the investigation and visited my Grandmother at home, and requested her authorization to conduct a DNA testing with a strand of her hair to determine her race.

Every member in the family kept saying that my Grandmother was Spaniard, and my Grandmother herself said she was a Taíno Indian. She has a elongated face, light-caramel skin, straight hair, long nose. The test results came back, and the results were in “drum roll please” she was African. Wow, I was happy that I was Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian and now African! My other family members, not so much (I even mailed them a copy of the report! {giggles}); even my Grandmother wasn’t thrilled with the results, oh well! It is what it is, right?

Which brought me to think of phrase that I often heard back in Puerto Rico: “¿y tu abuela aonde ‘ta?” Which means “and where is your grandmother?”

This my beautiful Mother with my beloved Grandmother.

These are the DNA results:

In Puerto Rico, there’s a lot of racism amongst the Puerto Ricans. The dark-skinned Puerto Ricans will ask “¿Y tu agüela, aonde ejtá?” (where is your grandmother?) to the lighter-skinned Puerto Ricans to remind them of their mixed heritage: African. Especially when they deny their roots, and the color of their skin. At the end of the day, there is no denying your Abuela (therefore, your ancestors).

A good friend of mine shared this poem with me (that I had long forgotten). You can find the Spanish version here.

English translation:

Dinga and Mandinga By Fernando Fortunato Vizcarrondo

And your grandma, where is she?

Yesterday you called me Negro, And today I will respond to thee: My mom sits in the living room, And your grandma, where is she?

My hair is kinky, Yours’ is like silk, Your father’s hair is straight, And your grandma, where is she?

Your color came out white, And your cheeks are pink; Your lips are thin, And your grandma, where is she?

You say that my lips are big And they’re always red? But tell me, in the name of the Virgin, And your grandma, where is she?

Since your girl is white, You take her out a lot… And I feel like yelling to you: And your grandma, where is she?

You like Foxtrot, And I like ‘Bruca Manigua’, You display yourself as white And your grandma, where is she?

You are white on the outside and got into High Society Fearing that someone may get to know The mother of your own mami. Here, who does not have Dinga has Mandinga ha ha ha haaa! So again, I ask you, And your grandma, where is she?

Yesterday you called me Negro, Wanting to embarrass me. My grandma steps out to the living room, And yours hidden from everybody. The poor woman is dying Seeing herself so abused. Even your dog barks at her If she ever steps out to the living room. And I know her very well! Her name is Mrs. Tata You hide her in the kitchen, Because Negro is really… she.

The English translation was found here.

We’re not the only race that has a mix of different races, and sadly enough many deny their race, or where they come from; therefore, not embracing their roots and culture. I encourage you to look deeper into your family roots, you’d be surprise where you really come from.

And your grandmother where is she? “¿Y tu agüela, aonde ejtá?”

Would love to hear about your own experiences and thoughts. Please comment and share!

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17 Responses to “Embracing Your Roots and Culture”

  1. Love it sis, and as Don Pedro Albizu Campos said, "That is not proud of their origin will be never nothing because it start by disrecpect it self", definitely these are our roots and very proud of it….

  2. Como dijo ese gran procer puertorriqueño, Don Pedro Albizu Campos, " Aquel que no esta orgulloso de su origen, no valdra nunca nada porque comienza por despresiarse asi mismo"….,,

  3. Frances, amiguita! Te felicito por tan informativo espacio. Tantos años de conocernos y ahora es que me entero que tu padre es de Ecuador! Igualmente, que interesante lo que le pasó a tu abuelita!!!

  4. Amiguita! Cierto es, nos conocemos de hace muchos años 🙂 pero creo como vivi tantos años en Puerto Rico, este tema no era redundante jajajaja hasta ahora. En fin, si te cuento todos los detalles del estudio que le hicieron a Abuela, te mueres de la risa. Pero nada , ya eso será otro tema a discutir en mi blog. Abrazos!

  5. wow! Frances I love this blog!!! and even more when you are talking about our FAMILIA!!!

    It is interesting to know that a DNA testing for ancestry allows us to locate where you came from and identify the connections in our genetic history. I have always acknowledged that I was Puerto Rican and that I was born in the United States of America but what I didn’t know was where my roots came from. Nowadays thanks to advance technology, this meaningful and easy way to comprehend that through a strand of hair, blood or even skin tissue it is possible to know what race you come from. Furthermore thanks to the University of Puerto Rico, of the Mayagüez campus that made it possible to know what my roots were and where my family came from. I was skeptical at the beginning about the project these university students were conducting but when the results came I was totally convinced the accuracy of the outcome. Moreover I found out that I was also african. I am proud to be Puerto Rican and African. My culture also gives me and my love ones an individual a unique identity. Amo Mi Raza Y Mi Cultura.

  6. Yes, indeed my dear sister…I'm talking about our familia! Science and technology have come a long way. Isn't this awesome! Embracing who you are and where you come from is the best feeling in the world! Love you!

  7. What a great story and I can feel the pride dripping through your words. Thanks for sharing with us and what a beautiful poem!
    I have to admit I don´t know much about my deep ancestry and roots. Maybe it´s time to really start digging.

  8. Thank you Ana for your words. This was something that I had been meaning to write about for some time now, and now that I have son of my own I want him to feel that same pride as well. Have fun in your quest for your ancestry and roots! 🙂

  9. Just wanted to share some Facebook comments about my blog post:

    David Torres: Very interesting read and informative. Good job comai!

    Diana Diaz-Torres: Hey sis, Dav read it to me the other day and we were both very impressed with your writing and the content of the blog. Thanks for sharing! By the way, your grandma looks Indian lol

  10. My sister used ancestry.com and we found out we were 51 percent Nigerian, 45 percent Western Europe and 4 percent Western Asia. I always have people asking me if I'm Latina. So funny isn't it. Love the article.

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