O, Puerto Rico, my Puerto Rico (not my Puerto Rico)

I am half Puerto Rican. Half Anglo.

I have access to both identities and access to neither.

 Rinse Recuerdame, para siempre. Hand embroidered Puerto Rican flag.

Rinse Recuerdame, para siempre. Hand embroidered Puerto Rican flag.

I have traveled all over Latin America, but I went to Puerto Rico for the first time last month. It was an amazing and unnerving experience.

I was comfortable and strange at the same time.  The island felt both familiar and distant.

So much about the place felt like something from my childhood (the people, the food, the loudness). I felt like I belonged. Like I was absorbed.

 Luquillo Beach, where my parents met in 1964.

Luquillo Beach, where my parents met in 1964.

But then, in another sense, I felt foreign. Like I’m so close to Puerto Rico emotionally, but I don’t really have access to it. This is what it’s like to love and to be invisible to your beloved.

(My Spanish is not fluent. Then there are the realities of the privileges of my Anglo half, my American half. The half of me that passes.)

 Peeking out from the banyan tree, Old San Juan.

Peeking out from the banyan tree, Old San Juan.

The juxtaposition of familiarity and distance felt like something from a dream. When you dream you go home and it’s home but utterly unfamiliar. My personal/cultural experience Puerto Rico has a dreamlike kind of unreality.

 Recuerdame. Para siempre.

Recuerdame. Para siempre.

Strange, beautiful, divided. I loved the oddness of the experience. The disconcerting pause it gave me.

 The sky through the rain forest. El Yunque. Always, my view is obscured.

The sky through the rain forest. El Yunque. Always, my view is obscured.

Recuerdame means “remember me.” But I don’t know if this stitch is my voice asking Puerto Rico to remember me, or if the island is begging me to remember her