Growing up in Puerto Rico I never imagined I would end up being categorized as part of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. When I went to college it never felt like I was moving out permanently, it just felt like I was going on an extended break from being home, but I would always come back to it. My parents lived on the island, as did my brother, my grandparents and a good amount of my aunts and uncles. Even after my parents divorced, they both continued to live pretty close to each other. As far as I was from Puerto Rico, something always remained true, I would always have a place to come back to.
Six months ago while I was abroad in Europe, Hurricane Maria hit home. The destruction and devastation I saw shortly after from photos and posts on my social media platforms was one I had never witnessed before pertaining to my home. After days and weeks of terrible phone and internet connection, anxiety and despair over water, electricity and gasoline, and a perpetual wall of uncertainty hanging over every decision, my brother and mother decided to move out of Puerto Rico.
When you’re younger, the decisions your parents make for their lives go hand in hand on how they will affect you. If your parents decide to move to a different state, you have no choice but to move with them. If your parents decide sell their house and move to an apartment, usually you don’t have much of a say. And up to now this is what I’ve been used to, since the last big decision I took for myself was where I would be going to college, and that move mostly just affected myself. After my parents divorced I was given freedom to pick with whom I wanted to spend my breaks with and for how long. If I wanted to visit a friend for Thanksgiving Break, as long as my parents found the decision to be a reasonable one, they usually never opposed.
This time a decision was made that changed my perspective on where I placed myself in relation to what I considered home. Home has always been the place where my family is in, no matter where we live. But as a whole, Puerto Rico, the island itself is home. I know my friend’s favorite restaurants where you can usually find us laughing and catching up for hours on end, even on a Monday night. I can name the bar or club where I will undoubtedly find my best friend and her friends in a heartbeat. I don’t have to think too long about where to get dinner with my dad because the answers are usually the same. I love my home because the minute I land in Puerto Rico I don’t need to turn on a GPS to figure out which street to drive down, no matter how many weeks or months have passed since the last time I drove my car. I don’t have to think too long about which word to use as I do when I’m in the states and my mind has to quickly translate a word from Spanish to English. I’m home.
My mom and brother’s decision to move was one they needed to make to survive at the moment after what had happened back home, but it unquestionably changed my relationship with Puerto Rico. It’s definitely harder to visit since it’s not a simple and cheap ticket to acquire from Ohio to Puerto Rico at the drop of a hat. My vacations are now split between visiting my mom in Florida or my dad in Puerto Rico. My summers are now spent figuring out where I will do internships that most likely place me outside of Puerto Rico. And now the closer I get to graduating from my university, the more I get asked whether I will return home or not. While in my heart I would love to say that I am returning home once I graduate, I have dreams I want to fulfill and some of them seem to be guiding me elsewhere. I don’t know when’s the next time I will be able to go home with just a one way ticket. So I find myself accepting the fact that I’ve become part of the Diaspora.