Latinos in the Melting Pot: Personal Memories During National Hispanic Heritage Month

The flag of Puerto Rico

The flag of Puerto Rico

By Elias Rodriguez

As mentioned in my previous blog, which commemorates National Hispanic Heritage Month, my parents were part of the pioneros who came to the mainland Unites States in search of personal growth and better economic opportunities. They were both born on Borinquen as the natives originally called it before the Spanish conquistadores colonized Puerto Rico. I collaborate regularly with my peers on the island since EPA Region 2 is comprised of New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations.

The island commonwealth is not yet one of the 50 states, but anyone born there is a United States citizen. Today, Puerto Ricans live in every state in the Union. In this blog I share a hidden treasure of information. My alma matter, Hunter College, houses the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro). They have developed a comprehensive and informative poster series about the Puerto Rican experience among a vast trove of other resources and archives. The series on Puerto Rican migration is particular

ly fascinating, but the entire series is well worth a perusal.

Latinos are a diverse bunch and our stories are ever evolving. My preferred identifier in this regard is to be called a Nuyorican, a creative designation we use to describe a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent rather than our Boricua cousins, who were actually born on the Caribbean island of PR. In this tradition, I am similar to the highest ranking Nuyorican or Puerto Rican in the United States public service, namely, United States Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Maria Sotomayor. With her ascension to that high position it is evident that we are fully integrated into the melting pot of American life.

As we join the fiesta together with folks whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, let us recognize that people from all nations, tribes and tongues are worthy of celebration and have unique contributions to make.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

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