I’ll never forget the first day I moved to my university in the United States: the feels, the nerves, the anxiety and the thoughts of fitting in. I was walking up to my dorm with a million boxes, and I had no idea what to expect.
Registering inside my brand new house was so chill. That is, until I mentioned a comment that seemed foreign to everyone around me: “I’m from Puerto Rico. But like, from the actual island.”
People gave me looks as if I were from another planet, but the best part was the questions I got afterward. Some of them even left me flabbergasted.
If you're a Puerto Rican college student attending an American university, you've definitely experienced these eight things:
1. Your status as an American citizen is questioned.
People forget that Puerto Rico has been an actual part of the United States since 1898. Then, we became actual residents in 1917 in order to go to war. But it wasn't until 1952 that we became an actual commonwealth.
I know that history is like totally not cute, but it's not cute when some people insist I forgot to send in my visa application, even after I show them my passport with the US symbol. It's whatever at this point, to be honest.
2. You're told you're Mexican, Colombian or from some part of South America because you speak Spanish.
If I'm not mistaken (and I'm not), there are about 21 countries around the world that speak Spanish. So, no. Not everyone is from the same country, in the same way not all English speakers are from the US.
3. You're told you don't look Puerto Rican.
Puerto Rico has an extremely diverse past that started way back in 1493. This led to a mixture of cultures, including native Indians, Spaniards and Africans. So there is no actual specific “look” or way of characterizing a Puerto Rican person. We are multicultural and very proud of it.
4. People remind you that the US "owns" you.
There are also people asking you for updates about how the island is doing. Now, these are special cases of people who actually know about Puerto Rico and its political history. They tell you about how the country is doing: the deficit and the economic problems.
They ask, "What do you think is going to happen?” But you just brush it off and pay no attention to the haters because you are still trying to answer the same questions this person is asking you.
5. You get compliments about how good your English is.
Because knowing two languages is apparently the most complicated thing ever.
Are people throwing shade?
Newsflash: We high-key are mostly all bilingual in Puerto Rico, given that we have so many different cultural backgrounds. In addition, there are also many other languages spoken in Puerto Rico, including Chinese, Italian, Arabic and even German.
Trust me: You'd be surprised by the things you can find in an island that is literally 110 miles by 35 miles. So throw your little shade. It's fine.
6. You're told you're speaking too fast.
This is such a Puerto Rico thing. We do need to get speeding tickets for our tongues because no one can apparently understand us when we speak Spanish. Friends have heard me talk, and they have to stop me because they just don't get it.
There's even a whole page dedicated to people who find it difficult to comprehend us. Sorry, but I'm not sorry.
7. People ask whether you only eat rice and beans every day, or whether you eat "like an American."
Puerto Rican cuisine is extremely varied and versatile. We do eat our arroz con gandules and our Big Macs, but that's not all we eat.
We have plates such as tostones (fried plantains), arroz con cebolla (rice with onion), a famous dessert with guayaba y queso blanco (guava and white cheese) and a lot more.
Ugh. Now I'm actually starving.
8. You're constantly asked if you're from New York City.
The answer is (you guessed it) no. We all know Jennifer Lopez is from the Bronx. We heard it in her hit song. But Puerto Rico is not New York.
I've gotten countless questions about which part of Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx or Brooklyn I live in, and the answer is none. Yes, there are Puerto Ricans in New York. Trust me when I tell you I love them.
But no. Just no.
I hope I got to shed a bit of light on La Isla del Encanto. If you just read this and are amazed by everything you just found out, come visit. I mean, come on: Just look at Jared Leto waving our flag.