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Growing up Puerto Rican can mean many things. From the language difference to the traditions and festivities, growing up Puerto Rican is a process that is chock full of culture, color and variety. From using the Spanglish language to celebrating “Noche Buena with some Arroz con Gandules and Pernil”, when it comes to being puertorican it does feel as if we have all lived the same childhood.

One of the main things that I consider that most Puerto Ricans deal with on a daily basis is Spanglish. For some reason, it seems as if it comes out naturally. Both Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico, but Spanish is the vernacular language. This is because fewer than 20 percent of Puerto Ricans speak English fluently, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. However, 20 percent use a little Spanglish at least in one of their daily conversations. If you’re Puerto Rican you may have probably heard the term “goooglear”. Whenever you don’t know the answer of something you quickly hop into Google, or as many Puerto Ricans would say “googléalo!”. It simply means Google it. Other simple phrases that even I find myself saying are “estoy full”, “el parking”, and “chequear”. They simply translate into “I am full”, “the parking”, and “to check”. Spanglish has become part of our language and it is seen everywhere in the island and spoken by most people.

The same way that we have incorporated Spanglish into our language, we have switched up the way we use the letters “R”, “D”, and “S”. Growing up Puerto Rican means hearing your family members constantly roll their R’s. The R is pronounced as an L. “Porque” is “polque”. “Cortina” is “coltina”. However, that’s not the case if the R is in the beginning of the word. Puerto Rico would be pronounced as “Puelto Rico”. When it comes to the letter D, we don’t pronounce it. We don’t say “está cerrado”, we say “está cerrao”. The letter S is not used; instead, we change it to an H. For example, “¿Cómo estás?” becomes “¿Cómo ehtah?”. If you’re Puerto Rican, these are some vocabulary changes that you have probably done before as well. 

For most Puerto Ricans, language is more than just words; it is the position of one’s body, the look on their faces, and their body language. Sometimes growing up Puerto Rican means that we need to catch up on conversations through our family member’s hand motions or faces. However, once you get the hang of it, you can quickly identify what they’re saying.

Something that every family has is their own traditions. Puerto Ricans are usually considered happy people, and I believe it’s because of our traditions. Growing up Puerto Rican means celebrating any and every activity that comes our way. You name it: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new jobs, new beginnings, and even a nice sunny day is celebrated. In other words, we love to have fun. One of the most important traditions for most Puerto Ricans is celebrating “Noche Buena”. Growing up Puerto Rican means celebrating “Noche Buena” with a huge family gathering, lots of food, music, and dancing. During this festivity, some families exchange Christmas gifts and go on parrandas (the Puerto Rican equivalent of caroling, but with lots of folkloric instruments and food) .
Growing up Puerto Rican can be explained in many ways or lived through many different unique experiences. However, in the end, being Puerto Rican can be summarized as something that mainly involves love and family. It is about the laughs and coffees shared in the kitchen, and the “tapones” (traffic jams) that form our childhood. It is about the constant support we receive from each other as families and friends. Perhaps, some of the things I have mentioned can describe us growing up, and through these experiences is how we are constantly forming and embracing our cultural identity.

Joyliz Pérez Vélez is a Public Relations and Publicity student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She is an adventurous soul who loves to travel and discover new things alongside to the people she loves. In her free time, she enjoys bingewatching series, reading, listening to podcasts, journaling and many other things. She loves sharing positivity through words, music, and actions.
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