Saturday, July 31, 2010

Big Yellow Taxi

The snow on the ground crunched loudly under my big leather boots.  The street was strangely deserted at three in the morning.  I walked to the corner of 96th Street and Central Park West.  I raised my arm in the air hoping to catch a taxi.  I yell, “Taxi!” and the sound of my voice is almost deafening.  All the cabs whizzed by.  They disregard poor little me standing in twenty degree weather.  One cab actually stopped and after ten seconds, quickly sped off.  But what do you expect, when they see my face and the color of my skin?

Image courtesy of Jeff Rowland, "Big Yellow Taxi," Castle Galleries.

To see The Burrow's drabble dare winner of the week, check out Burrow, Books & Balderdash.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In the Black!

Image courtesy of: A. J. Callan, Castle Galleries.

This is where the action is at, people. You got the high rollers betting the limit. That schmuck over there, yeah, he's a shrewd pit boss. Don't cross'm or you'll have them suits on you like these star struck floosies. That loser looking like Elvis, he's placing an inside bet. I've been watchin' him. He ain't gonna win. They give ya comps instead. Watch the dealer cuz you betta believe that the eyes in the sky are watchin' you. With one sweep BAM! You're broke. But I got my eyes on black 26. Come on Lady Luck. Oh shit, I hit!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bronx Stories: An Unexpected Dinner

One weekend, I went to visit my grandmother. I walked with my sister to the train station on 167th Street and the Grand Concourse. We passed a cuchifrito (Spanish restaurant that sells fried specialties), two bodegas (Spanish grocery store) and the old Kent Theater, where you could see two movies for $5. I paid 75 cents for a token and went through the turnstile. My sister was small so I told her to go under the turnstile. Surprisingly, she did what I said and didn’t complain. We took the “D” train to 125th Street and transferred for the “C” train. We got off at 96th Street and Central Park West. We walked three blocks to Mamita’s house. It was early morning, so she still had rollers in her hair. They were the huge purple rollers that only your grandma would wear. The funny thing was that when she took off the rollers and combed her hair, it still looked frizzy just as if she never bothered with it.

Mamita had some errand to run so my sister and I were lucky we had our navy blue and white ProKed sneakers on. They kind of look like Converse sneakers but low tops instead of high tops. First we stopped at apartments near her home. These people gave her money. When I questioned her as to why people always gave her money, Mamita simply stated that she lends it to them. I asked her why? Mamita said that for every $100 she lends someone, they have to pay back $125, so she makes a profit of $25.  I asked her what would happen if someone didn’t pay her back and her response was that she would send someone of the male persuasion to collect it. It did not dawn on me that my grandmother was a loan shark.

Finally we stopped at a Live Fowl Market and she purchased a gallina, hen. She brought the chicken home and we played with it. It kept trying to fly but didn’t really get very high. My sister kept creeping from the doorway and yelling, “Boo!” whenever the poor hen came near. My grandmother yelled at us in Spanish. As I was not proficient in the vulgarities of the Spanish language, I had no idea what she said. What was clear, was her tone. We immediately stopped bothering the chicken.

Mamita told us to follow her to the kitchen, cocina. The kitchen consisted of the typical amenities: sink, stove/ oven, refrigerator, table and chairs. However, this kitchen was the size of a small bathroom. It’s dimensions were 7 feet wide by 4 feet long and 10 feet high. We crowded into the cocina as best we could. To my horror, Mamita grabbed the chicken, snapped it’s neck and plunged its body into a large pot of boiling water. With tongs, she then placed the dead hen into the sink and began plucking its feathers. My sister stood fascinated. I looked on in shock. She chopped off its head and let the blood drain from its body. I retched all over the tiny kitchen floor. Mamita told me to get the mop and clean up my mess.

One hour later, Mamita served dinner. It was homemade chicken soup. I was lucky enough to get the chickens leg with foot attached. Needless to say, I went hungry that night.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bronx Stories: Love Child

It was hazy, hot and humid. The three H's. Nothing could be worst. Well almost nothing. The smell of hot garbage was intense. The date was July 24, 1994 and I was nine months pregnant. I woke up early and went to the Puerto Rican Day Parade on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. This is near 167th Street, about seven blocks from Yankee Stadium. All day my family had been cheering and waving their flags on the sidewalk.

As the flags waved from side to side, we shouted, " Que viva Puerto Rico! (long live Puerto Rico)." We ate piraguas which are a mixture of juice and snow cones, coquitos which are coconut icies and pasteles, an ethnic food that is hard to describe but trust me delicious. I stuffed myself with every single Latin delicacy available.

Later, around 6:00 PM, I went home exhausted feeling pressure and pain in the center of my back. I walked around somewhat and performed the same menial chores I did every evening; cooking, cleaning and tending to my mother's needs as she is wheelchair bound. I waddled around for two hours. Finally, at 8:00 PM, I grew hungry. I was absolutely ravenous and wolfed down three pe
anut butter and jelly sandwiches. At 8:07 PM, I got up to put the plate in the sink and I felt warm fluid coursing down my leg.

My water broke! Immediately, I experienced the most excruciating ring of pain around my waist. My child's father assisted me into the car. I felt every bump, pothole and sharp curve on the way to the hospital. It was an interminably excruciating journey.

He drove me to North Bronx Central Hospital. There were several complications. I had toxemia or preeclampsia, a condition in which high blood pressure and protein in the urine develops after the twentieth week of pregnancy. It is an autoimmune disorder that can have serious repercussions on the fetus, if not controlled.

Unfortunately, I then spiked a fever of 104 degrees Farenheit due to a placental infection. I suddenly stopped dilating at nine centimeters. I screamed in anguish because I only had one more centimeter to go! As if that wasn't enough, I threw up peanut butter and jelly all night long. To this day, I refuse to eat a PB & J sandwiches.

Several excruciating hours later, I whispered to my aunt, as my voice was hoarse from vomiting, "I feel like I'm going to die." She runs out of the room and finds a midwife. All of a sudden there were people screaming orders to one another, mass confusion and I was unceremoniously thrown on to a g
urney. I heard "Fetal distress, pressure low. Take her to the O.R. stat!" A nurse jumps on the gurney with her hand placed unceremoniously between my legs.  I am not sure if she was holding the crown of the baby's head or just wanted a free ride.

At last I was rushed into the operating room. I was told to count backwards from ten. I made it to nine and knew no more.

Justin Eric Rodriguez was born at 11:31 PM on July 25, 1994. When I finally awoke, sixteen hours later, to my dismay I found myself in the recovery room. I had an emergency Caesarian section. I cried for several minutes as the realization set in that I had missed the first few hours of my son's life. I was in physical, emotional and mental anguish that would not be assuaged until I held my darling in my arms.

I had the pleasure of gazing into his eyes on the 26th, as both our fevers would not abate. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.




This was written when teaching my students to write memoirs. They were suppose to write one of the happiest moments of their lives. This was mine.

Join the drabble dare challenge at The Burrow.

Friday, July 23, 2010


There they go again. Two nosey women with nothing better to do than talk about the girl who was caught in an empty apartment with a boy. What does it matter? The girl is not their relative nor a friend. The girl was merely indulging in a clandestine rendezvous with her boyfriend. It was only for an hour. Do these old women understand love? Betcha' they've forgotten what it feels like to have the person you love look at you with stars in their eyes. Damn gossips. It wouldn't be so bad if that girl wasn't . . . me.

Image courtesy of:  Alexander Millar, "Gossips," Washington Green/ Castle Galleries-

drabble- n. a story written in exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You Said You Loved Me. . .

You said you loved me but I always knew,
that when the time came, you would leave on a cue.

I found the note left on my pillowcase,
it left me in tears, with images I cannot erase.

It broke my heart like shattered glass,
There’s nothing left, our love did not last.

You said you loved me but I always knew,
that when the time came, you would leave on a cue.

Like a leaf on the wind, you came and went
I cannot stop myself from this abysmal descent.

You whispered harshly, an abrupt good-bye.
It was inevitable that you had to die.

You said you loved me but I always knew,
that when the time came, you would leave on a cue.

Image courtesy of:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Caught in the Act

“Did you hear something?”

“No, you’re just being paranoid.”

“Seriously, I hear footsteps.”

“No one’s here. Hurry up. Get the money cart.”

“Wait, I hear them too. What do we do?”

“Quick, behind the door.”

“No, no.  Let’s get in the closet.”

“They always look in the closet.”

“Okay, behind the desk.”

“Don’t be stupid.  They’ll see our feet.”

“Come on.  Behind the door.  No one looks there.”

“I knew this was a bad idea.  All of you always get me in trouble.”

“You wanted the money just as bad.  Get behind the door.”

Footsteps.  Door opens.  Flashlight.

“Anybody here?”

drabble- n. story written in exactly 100 words.

Image courtesy of:

David Foster Wallace
Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, July 19, 2010

Music Blogfest: The Soundtrack of My Life

I got this wonderful idea from Arleebird.  This blogfest is about the 10 songs that sum up your life.  Join in the fun!  Here we go . . .

1.)Love Child by The Supremes
My mother dedicated this song to me when I was very young.  I didn't really understand the implications then, but I do now.  She was pregnant from my father, whom she loved dearly but was unable to be with him.  His mother was did not approve of my mother simply because of the color of her skin.  The odd thing is that both my parents are Puerto Rican.  They were both born in Puerto Rico, both speak two languages but my father was light-skinned with blue eyes and my mother is dark-skinned with brown eyes. It's a shame really.  I never got to know him.  However, my dad (really my stepfather) raised me as his own.  I suppose it all worked out in the end.

2.) Silly by Deniece Williams 
My first kiss ever!!!!!  I was really young. You can read about it here.

3.)Borderline- Madonna
This was the first song that began my preteen to ansty teenage years.  I dressed in lace gloves, lace ribbons, black rubber bracelets, bright red lipstick and dyed my hair red for the first time.  What was I thinking?  However, during this time, I had my second kiss ever behind the mini-school at C. E. S. 90 in the Bronx. 

4.)  Love is a Battlefield- Pat Benetar
Aah.  This song reminds me of my first real boyfriend. I will leave out his name but we were an on-again-off-again item for almost three years.  I think I was in love with the idea of being in love rather than the individual.  Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.

5.) I Think We're Alone Now- Tiffany
This song is reminiscent of my turbulent high school years that revolved around boys, school and then boys again.  It was a difficult cycle to break.  It would be 10 years before I could get my hormones under control.  :D

6.) The Choice is Yours- Black Sheep
College years- Oh the bad choices I made.  Most of these years were a blur.  I went to Long Island University at C. W. Post campus and this was two years of my life- drinking, partying, playing spades (card game), up all night then going to early morning classes, crash after class and repeat cycle.  Good times!

7.) Not Gon' Cry by Mary J. Blige
My first adult relationship was a failure and I felt like I just needed to bust out and find my own identity.  I didn't want to just be a mom, daughter, ex-wife or care-taker.   I loved my children but I really needed to find me.  I started dating and looking around.  This song is reminiscent of those years.

8.)  Bitter by Teddy Geiger
I realized after some time that I wasn't bitter anymore and I could move on from a failed marriage.  It was really hard to pick up and start again but I did it and survived.

9.)  Million Dollar Bill by Whitney Houston
This is how I feel about my husband.  He is my rock, my soulmate and he really makes me feel like a million bucks! 

10.) Theme to Good Times by Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams
This is the theme song for my family, all of them.  We may not have much but we are always there when needed and give what we can.  They have taught me to be not only moral but conscious of my fellow man . . . and woman.  They are the embodiment of "Am I my brother's keeper?"  It's no wonder that there are so many of us.

Wow that was really difficult since I have so many songs that represent various periods of my life.  However, this list will do for now.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just another lazy sunday . . .

I really didn't have a blog for today as I have been super busy with family.  So, instead I have a few cute pics for you.  Here we go . . .

This is my lovely daughter Ayanna during her 8th grade awards ceremony last month.  They grow up so quickly, don't they.

This is Zionne's birthday cake.  She is my youngest at seven years old.  The woman who made this cake is actually the geometry teacher with whom I co-teach, Nicki Gonias.  She is really talented.

This is Zionne looking quite sad when we were up in Ithaca, NY.  She wanted to swim in the watering hole beneath the waterfall. 

This is where she wanted to swim.  Aren't I just horrible for not letting her and thinking of her safety?  :D

Here is a close-up.  I really loved this waterfall!

Here is Zionne touching a mushroom.  Since we live in NYC, we rarely ever get to see this.  I know, it's just a mushroom but it was exciting to us at the time.

Here is my handsome son being silly and goofy.  Who knows what goes through the mind of a teenager?

Well, that's all for now.  Have a wonderful and lazy Sunday!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

City of Dreams . . .

City of Dreams, to some maybe.  To me, not.  The cacophony is overwhelming.  Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a reminder of what we once were.  The memories smother me.  Desolate.  Lonely. Inconsolable.  That is all that is left of me since you have gone.  In a city filled with people, I am alone. 

City of dreams, to some maybe.  To me, not.   I place one foot in front of the other until I reach the edge.  Spreading my arms out, I am free and kiss the cool blue that greets me. 

City of dreams, to some maybe.  To me, not.

Image courtesy of:

drabble- n. a story written in exactly 100 words.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting to Know You . . .

1. What is YOUR definition of sexy?

My definition of sexy is tall, dark and handsome.  *winks at husband*

2. Would you rather clean up puke or change a poopy diaper?

I would rather change a diaper.  Vomit is something that I just have issues with.

3. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

I think I am a little of both.  I can be extroverted when at a party or out with family and friends.  However, at work, I think I am an introvert.  I like to keep low key and get all my work done.

4. If you had to give up one of your 5 senses for a year..which one would you give up?

 I would probably give up smell.  I have an affinity for all the other senses.

5. Cake or Pie?

I can't decide.  I love them both!

6. If you could play any character on TV (old or current) who would you play?

I would love to play Micah on Warehouse 13.  I think she has the coolest job in the world working with magically mystical and historical objects.

7. My favorite website is.....?

Unfortunately, I will have to say Facebook.  I just can't stay off of it when at home.  I like the networking, the hooking up with friends that you haven't seen in forever, and getting out an announcement to the family quickly.

8. The highlight of my day is....?

When I can lay in my husband's arms and talk about our day.  It's very relaxing and a relief to de-stress.

I got this little fun activity from Mannland5 so head on over there and copy/ paste the questions.  So send me a link to your blog in your comment because I'd like to get to know you too!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

What a sweet relief it would be to sleep eternally and dream. My body is tired. I am terminally ill from appointments, lab tests, lab results, HMO's, the revolving door of physicians who, in the end, cannot help me. I trudge from building to building, office to office and laboratory to laboratory. To what purpose? I am dying. I am in that moribund state of limbo. I am neither dead nor am I truly living. What a sweet relief it would be to sleep eternally and dream. To sleep, perchance to dream.

For more on dreams and writing, check out Burrowers, Books & Balderdash.

drabble- n.  A story written in exactly 100 words.

"To sleep, perchance to dream," Act 3 scene 1 lines 65-66 , Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

Image courtesy of:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010



The rhythm courses through our bodies with a tempo equivalent to our desire.  Sweat moves without obstruction down my breasts.  Your smell clings to my skin and mingles with my own musk.  The heat emanating off your body infuses me with a passion barely contained.  My hips mimick and mirror your every move.  I wrap my leg around you and I almost feel you within, enticing with what is to come.  Holding me close, just a hair width apart, you encircle my entire body with your sexuality. Hearts beating rapidly, the music slows and you carry me to bed.

Image courtesy of: Tango Rouge by Hamish Blakely

drabble- n. story written in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whose round is it anyway?

"Hey Bobby!" Danny calls as he enters the bar on Broome Street. 

"Hmm." Bobby replies with little enthusiasm. He continues to read the paper. His contempt grows with every second. 

"It's been a helluva day. Two people called out at the last minute. The rest of us had to pull up the freakin' slack," Danny says as he slides into the barstool beside Bobby. 

"Yeah, that sucks," and turns his attention back to the paper. Bobby tenses up as he knows Danny will ask the same question he does everyday. 

"So Bobby, whose round is it anyway?" 

Damn moocher.

Image courtesy of:  "Whose round is it Anyway?" Alexander Miller

drabble- n. a story written in exactly 100 words.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Yesterday, I went house-hunting for the first time.  Wow!  What an experience!  I saw twenty houses in under three hours.  I must say that it still felt like a world-wind.  I really should have brought a snack or something to drink because I was famished by the end of this process.  Thank goodness, they were in close proximity to one another or I may have abandoned the whole idea.  

Some of the individuals we encountered, seemed as though they were written into some comedic, fictional novel.  One man had all of the archetypal sleazy salesman characteristics.  I swear that when I saw him, he reminded me of a king cobra.  I kid you not.  Another person was a woman with a big flowery dress, matronly, kind and very polite. She reminded me of the sweet old grand And yet another example, this time a couple, were the "opposites attract" incarnate.

I realized that all of the people I met could have been a basis for several characters in my WIP's.  It was like a light bulb went off and Eureka!  I hit gold.  I promptly went to my computer and looked for character descriptions so that I could insert several adjectives.  This helped to define my characters and give them more of an appeal to readers since the readers will be able to make a connection. 

Needless to say, out of the twenty homes we viewed, we liked two and three were "maybe's."  Not very promising.  I've made a new list and plan to do it all over again this weekend.  But on the positive side, I will probably gain more material for the WIP's through all of the people I will encounter.

*crosses fingers*

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Toxicity and Drabble Challenges

On Friday, during the early morning, I encountered a truly toxic individual.  I was really good about it too.  I did not react to what was told to me and I did not jump to conclusions and tell them off like I would normally do.  I contemplated my next steps, shared the situation with my husband on the commute home, and replayed in my mind all the various ways that the scene could have played out differently.  

Yesterday, I realized that all this was wasted energy.  I really don't care what this person says or thinks about me.  I am a person who generally gets along with everyone and I am very easy to work with.  Why then did I waste all this time on a person who really has no impact on my life?  Well, the answer is:  I am a problem solver.  I see conflict or any type of dilemma and my mind races to find a way to balance it out.  Kind of like an algebraic equation. 

 **FYI- The one up above, is the quadratic formula used when solving for x when you are unable to factor binomials.**

Well, I decided that Monday I will ask this person if they have a problem.  If not, I will let it go.  If so, then I will try to resolve or just cut the person off completely.  I don't need negativity in my life.  I get enough of that from the rest of the world.  

On a more positive note . . .  

Today the Burrowers, my very supportive Writers' group, is hosting a drabble challenge.  We post the image and you write a story in exactly 100 words.  Please visit here.  Happy writing everyone!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Not able to drive.
Not able to drink.
I am so deprived
I must see a shrink.

M for mature
I cannot procure
For I am immature
and its all just manure.

I find myself tired
Because I cannot get hired
At places of leisure
I am liable to have seizures.

This bane is not mine
For I am not inclined
To succumb or subjugate
To adults that are irrate.

I have already foreseen
A time when I glean
The power unseen
Beyond the age of a teen.

This is not at all fair
Nor do I care
This belief I foreswear
As I stand and I glare.

My parents are lame
The world is insane
I need to refrain
From the feeling to blame.

drabble- n. story written in exactly 100 words.

nonage- adj.  The period during which one is legally underage.

*This one is somewhat Dr. Seuss-ish.*

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Gherkin

The Gherkin I

When looking up, one sees an erotically enticing, phallus standing erect.  This shaft is a desirable enhancement against an archaic backdrop of battlements. The cylindrically sensual construct penetrates the city, emerging through layers and folds of flesh.  Smothered in a sexual glaze, this delectable gherkin arouses the appetite and emanates pleasure through its steel pores. Its thick base and slender tip provide for an orgy of interplay for all its clients. This entity is a potent, stroking member whose upright position awakens the senses and imagination of its partners.  It evokes desire, readiness and longing. Increasing in size against the landscape, it throbs against the city skyline.

drabble- n.  a story written in exactly 100 words.

Image courtesy of Castle Galleries, artist- Louis Sidoli

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rhythm of the City

Rhythm of the City

Mind racing. Heart thumping. Rhythms pacing. Music bumping.
Horns blowing. People walking.  Litter flowing.  Shoppers talking.
Taxis zooming.  Buildings rising.  Business booming.  Fashion sizing.
Lights blaring.  Shoes tapping.  Passers staring.  Awnings flapping.
Papers flying. Fires stoking.  Babies crying.  Poultry smoking.
Dogs pooping.  Children playing.  Seniors stooping.  Parents praying.
Meters running. Trucks parking.  Cops cunning.  Drivers barking.
Bikers peddling. Traffic moving.  Vendors meddling.  Dancers grooving.
Singles moping.  Couples holding.  Lovers groping.  Marriages molding.
Card sharks shaking.   Stocks falling.  No money making.  Sellers calling.
Liquors flowing.  No one’s buying.  Discontent’s sowing. People dying.
This is the pulse racing Rhythm of my city.

drabble- n.  a story written in exactly 100 words.
Image courtesy of Castle Galleries, artist- Paul Kenton.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award Goes To . . .

I was so graciously awarded The Versatile Blogger Award by Rayna M. Iyer and Jan Morrison.  Please check out their blogs.  They are fabulous writers and so much fun to hang out with.

As tradition dictates, I am supposed to reveal seven things about me.  So, here we go:

  1. I am one of 17 grandchildren (big family), not to mention that these grandchildren have a total of 22 great grandchildren.
  2. I have three beautiful children- Justin (16- Dear God, help me), Ayanna (14- ditto), and Zionne (7- my princess).
  3. I manage the inclusion program (special education students in a general education environment) at a NYC high school.
  4. I love to swim but rarely get an opportunity to go except during the summer.  :(
  5. We are going to Disney later this summer (excited!).
  6. I love art (Impressionism, Surrealism, and all its many forms).
  7. I am Puerto Rican but have only had the opportunity to visit the island twice (once in the late 80's as a teen and in 2002 on my honeymoon with my wonderfully romantic and caring husband).
Next is to award this to several new recipients:

Hart Johnson- for her Nakedness and World Domination
Cruella Collett- for her Digressionisms
Tara Smith- for her procrastination, plus dithering and dathering.
365 Days of People- for being so observant and poignantly funny with sarcasm.
Becky's Book Reviews- for covering such a wide variety of books.
The WM Freelance Writers Connection- for having such wonderful ideas and being so supportive of Writing Mommies.
And because everyone else who I was to award this to has already received it, I will end there.

Thank you Rayna and Jan!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Burrow, Books and Balderdash

I am part of a wonderfully supportive group of writers known as The Burrow.  I never considered being writer.  Some negative and irrational beliefs hindered me for many years to come.

However, the Cafe Steinbeck nurtured what they deemed to be the beginnings of an author.  I am so grateful to Serafina Graham, Jason Drake and Rayna Iyer for believing in me.  I want to also thank Cruella Collett, Leanne Rabessa, Hart Johnson and last but not least Tara Smith.  You have all helped through the ups, the downs and the in-betweens.

Come check us out.  You won't be disappointed.

drabble- n. a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Very Van Gogh

Very Van Gogh

-oh my god.  these are the pictures made by that man that cut off his ear.

-well, what did he do a thing like that for?

-my mom says that he did it to feel pain or sad or something. 

-that is wicked cool.  i mean to just cut yourself like that and not be scared.  he is really brilliant. i like this van gogh guy.  think we can be like him?

-nah, i’m not cutting my ear off. plus, he’s dead. 

-come on.  let's go see his other pictures. i wonder if mom will buy one?
-he is awesome!

drabble- n. a story told in exactly 100 words

Image courtesy of Castle Galleries, artist- John Wilson.

Come see us at the Burrow-

Sunday, July 4, 2010

On Being American

Yesterday as I was in Faber Park celebrating my daughter's seventh birthday, I looked around and admired the diversity of cultural backgrounds.  There were Mexican-Americans, African-Americans,  Dominican- American (from the Dominican Republic) and my family is Puerto Rican (American).  I am not sure if it needs a hyphen or parentheses since most of us who are of Puerto Rican descent just call ourselves "Puerto Rican."

It's strange because almost everyone I know will define their cultural background with a hyphen.  There are Italian- Americans, Irish- Americans, Polish- Americans, Russian- Americans, etc.  The list goes on and on.  I don't know a singe individual who identifies him or herself as just plain "American."  Don't get me wrong.  This is a great tribute to the "melting pot."  I find it amazing that so many different cultures could live in one place. What perturbs me is that we need a hyphen at all.  If we are all American, why is then that we differentiate ourselves with the hyphen.  Is this the governments way of political correctness or is it a way to separate us from the rest of the flock?  I'm still wondering about this and will probably post on just this topic.

However, as it is Sunday morning and I have not had my coffee yet, I will go off on a tangent.  Growing up in the Bronx was a balancing act when thinking of nationality and ethnicity.  On the census form, for Race, there are only a few limited options, in which I fall into none of those categories.  I am not Caucasian, Black or Mongoloid.  Now ethnicity is a different story.  Here my culture is recognized so I check the box "Puerto Rican."  This is just one example.  Next example of the tightrope act was education.  I was forced to take an ESL exam (English as a Second Language), although through my speech and writing, it was evident that I had a clear command of the language.  It was assumed that because my last name was of Hispanic descent, that I did not know English. 

It was also a little weird that I had to balance the best of both worlds.  Puerto Ricans have their own culture, customs, language, music, and food.  The United States, or New York City in my case (as a child I had a very narrow view of the world), has their own culture and customs.  I had to find the best in both and somehow blend them so that I wouldn't lose my "Puerto Rican" identity and not sacrifice my "American" identity. 

When listening to my grandmother, I realize that I didn't have it so rough.  During the 1950's, it was really rough in Brooklyn when my grandparents migrated from Puerto Rico. My grandmother tells me some pretty horrible stories of how she was treated at her factory job, in her neighborhood and the local stores. She was called names with negative racial connotations and discriminated against at places of employment. I thank her for these stories as I realize I really don't have it so bad.

So where are we.  Well, I'm still on the fence about the hyphen in identity associated with "American."  I am not sure if Puerto Rican American or just plain Puerto Rican applies to me and the world doesn't seem like such a horrible place. 

For those of you who live in the United States, what are you views on being American?  For those of you who don't live in the United States, how does your country view Americans?

Happy 4th of July America!

First two images taken from Wikimedia Commons and are free of copyright.

Final image courtesy of Zac Allen, Fireworks!