When posed a question about my view of my American identity, I consciously decide to take the question and use it to confront my Puerto Rican American identity. I’m a third generation Puerto Rican. Back in the 1940s, my grandparents came from the island, got married in the US and raised their families in Brooklyn. They, along with my parents, would eventually have their first jobs in the factories in Red Hook. My parents would eventually move out of the “ghetto” and buy a home in Queens– the one that I grew up in. Since then, thanks to my parents’ sacrifices, I went to private schools from elementary though high school. And thanks to my own perseverance, I’ve been an honors student through it all, so if that doesn’t showcase the American dream, I don’t know what will.
What it means to be an American is bettering yourself and the lives of those around you. Differences are accepted and if there are problems, we do our best to solve them.
“Before the Civil War, the states were all separate. People used to say “the United States are…” It wasn’t until the war ended that people started saying “the United States is…” Under Lincoln, we became one nation.” – Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage), from the movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Here in America, with all it’s problems, we are still better off than nations around the world. The poor little island of Puerto Rico has its own anthem, flag and carries a pride in itself that I was raised to carry in myself, but it is not free country. It is a Commonwealth protected by the US. While there have been attempts for it to break free and become its own nation and other opposing ideas to make it the 51st state; it is often brushed to the side and forgotten. It has the least rights which is why businesses are closing, the island is in debt and everyone is coming here. Here in America, there is a chance of becoming successful, opening a profitable business, and doing more than menial labor. If it isn’t a reality for you, it could be for your children.
What is still beautiful about the USA is something Benjamin Franklin alluded to in his writing, “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America”. He wrote: in America, “people do not inquire concerning a stranger, what is he? but, what can he do? If he has any useful art, he is welcome; and if he exercises it, and behaves well, he will be respected by all that know him…” While this can be lost on some in our society, I believe that is what makes an American and that is why I think of myself as an American, along with all the other people who’ve traveled long distances and gave up the fabric of their past to enjoy a better tomorrow in a country where they are free.