Hints of Puerto Rico at Home

Items with Puerto Rican symbols.
Items with Puerto Rican symbols.

My family moved from Puerto Rico to Tampa, Florida when I was five years old. Despite growing up very Americanized, Puerto Rico was never far from my mind. We ate plátanos, ñame, yuca, and carnitas fritas, we listened to salsa music as we cleaned, and we had trinkets around the house with the Puerto Rican flag and other symbols of the island. For Latino communities, pride in ones heritage is a way of connecting us to the culture of our homeland. Beyond the flag, Puerto Ricans have the symbols from the native Tainos that lived in the Caribbean islands that we recognize as a way to remember our ancestors. We use these symbols as reminders. Reminders that the spirit of our ancestors have not died, they are alive in us. When I moved into my first living space with a kitchen in Arlington, Virginia my kitchen felt wrong. Gone were the symbols I have had around me my entire life. I told my mom about this offhandedly, willing to live with this change, but she said she would speak to my grandma. A few weeks later a package arrived with a spoon rest, a coffee mug, and some magnetic bag clips all with these Puerto Rican symbols on it. Acquiring these felt like a step into adulthood. Not only do I have a real kitchen, I also have these reminders of “mi Isla del Encanto,” my island of enchantment. My collection grows as I do and has followed me all the way to Tennessee, my new home. 

Place(s): Puerto Rico, Tampa, Florida, Tennessee, Arlington, Virginia
Year: 1997

– Joyska Nunez-Medina

Relationship:  Im/migrant who arrived as a child Im/migrant who arrived as a child