Pain has a way of masking the truth.
As a young girl into my teens my family lived in the West side of town. Today the area is called Little Italy. I will correct myself at this point as most of my immediate family inhabited the home as my dad would be in and out of our lives until around the age of eleven. True to form in the cycle of violence my parents were caught in the web. The fights between them were not only verbal in nature they became quite physical. Mom would be in denial and be lured in by the honeymoon stage which was followed by tension building then the acute explosion. Johnny and Brenda (neighbors to our right) would often come and take the two apart or if not the police would make their presence known. To make matters worse both my parents struggled with alcohol.
My siblings and I never spoke of the drama that was unfolding in our home. Each of my siblings including myself would find ways to deal with our domestic situation. We each took on a family role. My oldest sister would be the caretaker, my second to oldest sister would be the hero, my brother the scapegoat and I the mascot. These roles helped our family function and would also inform future social interactions at times to our benefit and other times to our detriment.
Being Puerto Rican was not a heritage I had not wanted to embrace. I witnessed machismo, poverty, pain, struggle, violence, and pain. I became a runner figuratively speaking. I thought if I could get away from the mess things would change. They problem with that theory is that wherever you go there you still are with all the baggage you left with.
Running worked for some time. Thanks to the Father of my children and the Army we lived in 12 different place and in Europe. All of which took me away from the pain of childhood and young adulthood. At times pain would peek it’s head for me to only suppress the feeling because if anyone knew how I felt it would ruin the facade I created of a happy pain free life.
I recall when the time came and I could no longer mask the pain of the past. If I someone would have listened perhaps life’s course would have altered. But I found not and life’s course did change. I had to face the ghosts of my past and deal with the disappointment, the hurt, the disillusionment, and the pain.
I found that it wasn’t my Puerto Rican culture’s fault, no it was decisions made by people. And in every culture people are experiencing similar growth opportunities. My traumatic experiences tarnished my perspectives. With the knowledge of that truth I would no longer allow the hurtful past to hide away my true self.
When I dismissed my culture I dismissed a rich part of self that today I am fully embracing with pride and joy. I am Latina and Proud.