Let’s Talk About Puerto Rico || My Heritage & Hurricane Relief

I really struggled writing this post. It was originally supposed to go up the last Friday of September, but I just felt stuck. I took a bit of a blog break because I kept getting hit with a case of writers block and needed to step back to refresh. Today’s post is not photo heavy, but it is text heavy. This is something that is important to me and different for me to write about so I really hope you will stick around for a minute and hear me out. So let’s talk about Puerto Rico. My heritage & hurricane relief. I promise you this is not a typical post and not what you would expect.

My Heritage

In case you didn’t know, I am half Puerto Rican and half Vietnamese. If you read the post I wrote for my mom’s birthday in September, then you know that I was raised by a single mom. Because of that, I’ve always been closer to my Vietnamese heritage. I even visited Vietnam earlier this year and it was by far the highlight of my year. I’ve never embraced my Puerto Rican heritage and there are a few reasons why. I’ve never opened up about this, even to my friends and family, none the less a public forum so please bear with me.

For starters, I don’t know anything about my Puerto Rican heritage. I don’t know what town my family would have been from, if I have family currently on the island, how they got to New York, I literally don’t know anything. My father has never played a role in my life and I’ve said countless times that I’m not upset about that. And I stand behind that. I had a great childhood and my mom always took care of me and to this day we are so close. But, I think a part of me resented or was ashamed of my dad and I took that out on the Puerto Rican culture. I would get upset when someone told me I looked hispanic or brought up my last name (Quinones) and followed it up with a question about Puerto Rico. I never wanted to be associated with it. Especially because it always ended with me admitting I don’t know anything and feeling like I had to explain my situation with my father.

Being from New York, there is such a strong Puerto Rican presence and naturally I started dating Eddie who is Puerto Rican. Every time he talked about Puerto Rico or invited me to vacation with him, I always danced around the subject. I want to say that I didn’t hate Puerto Rican people or the culture. I think I always just took it as, well my father didn’t want to have anything to do with me so I didn’t want anything to do with anything that associated with him. Don’t get me wrong there were some family members on his side that were kind to my mom and I, but overall we weren’t close and were made to feel like second class citizens. I had a relationship with my grandmother on my father’s side. Not a close one, but a relationship nonetheless. She passed away when I was a senior in college and no one told me or invited me to the funeral. I found out from a cousin on Facebook.

I think I dealt with all of the family issues by just not wanting to be associated with anything Puerto Rico. I couldn’t control that it was part of me, I couldn’t change my last name, how I looked and I couldn’t change whether or not my father was in my life. The only thing I could control was how I represented myself and so I always just gravitated towards my Vietnamese side because it was something I knew and understood. I knew all the stories about my family in Vietnam and I didn’t have to look like I was out of touch with my culture when talking about them. I’m proud to be Vietnamese. The people, the culture, the country itself, the history, I’m proud to say I’m Vietnamese. I’ve never been proud to be Puerto Rican because I never knew anything about the culture or my family. I didn’t hate anything about it, I just didn’t know anything about it and didn’t make an effort to.

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria was the third major hurricane that hit in a matter of days. My boyfriend, as loving as he is, is a classic boy. He’s not overly emotional, everything is just “okay”, and he’s the polar opposite of me. Where I freak out over everything, he stays calm and more level headed. When hurricane Maria was about to hit Puerto Rico, I was shocked to see he was so worried and concerned. Of course, I understood why, but it was just so uncharacteristic of him to be that emotional and worried so I was a bit taken aback. Other than his immediate family, his whole family is there, including his grandfather who is in a nursing home and a pregnant cousin. I remember when the hurricane hit, I was constantly refreshing social media and news outlets, trying to get information. I started to worry when the entire island lost power, but it really hit me when the storm passed and his family in New York couldn’t contact his family back in Puerto Rico. And what really hit me the most, was the lack of attention and care that surrounded the situation.

A week after the storm passed, we hadn’t heard news about his grandfather. We finally heard from some people that he was okay, but it was all just from word of mouth and nothing was confirmed. Finally his family got a call from the hospital that his grandpa was in the hospital and as sad as it was, at least we got confirmation that he was okay. My heart broke seeing his mother so worried and wanting to just go visit and not being able to. Only to then hear the news that power may not be restored for months and that a dam in their town was on the verge of breaking.

Please do not take this wrong way, because I genuinely do not mean any disrespect by it. But, when Harvey hit Texas, the news was everywhere. Even in the blogger community, it was beautiful to see everyone rally together to help and check on one another. As a country, we came together to donate money and help those in need. But, when things continued to get worse in Puerto Rico and families couldn’t contact one another, I didn’t see anyone talking or rallying. It seemed like the only people who talked or cared about it was the hispanic community.

I’ll be very honest. Since the hurricane hit and more details have been released, I’ve been sad, angry and feeling helpless. I look at pictures and videos and it looks as if it’s a third world country. Puerto Rico is literally a few hours from Florida and yet they are living like a third world country in the middle of nowhere. Daily they line up to get food rations like refugees. For a long time the hospital didn’t have any power and I’m not sure they do right now. Homes are destroyed. Some people haven’t even been able to get a hold of their family members. The people who need help the most like babies and the elderly are not getting the resources they need.

I’ve spent years denying who I was and having no interest in learning about the history and culture of Puerto Rico. My boyfriend used to always tell me I would love the island and try to get me to vacation with him and I danced around the subject. I realized that I would never see the island in its original glory because of the destruction. I realized I spent my entire life, not interested in knowing anything about Puerto Rico because of my family background and now when they needed help the most, no one was interested.

I’m not going to sit here and preach to you all of a sudden that I love being Puerto Rican and how I’m so proud of my culture because the reality is, I still don’t know anything about it. But, what I will say is, after seeing this destruction and everything surrounding it, I realize that life is too short for me to be bitter and for my pride to get in the way. I want to learn more about my Puerto Rican side and make an effort to visit and experience the culture and the island.

Seeing the Puerto Rican community in New York and famous hispanic figures really rally together to raise money and awareness has been really great to see. What I’ve noticed about Puerto Rican people is that they are very quick to treat everyone like family. Eddie lives in the lower east side of Manhattan where there is a strong Puerto Rican culture and I’m always amazed when I stay with him, how kind his neighbors are. Every time we run into someone, they are always willing to stop and make conversation and ask how the family is and that just warms my heart.

Hurricane Relief

Like I’ve said, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling angry and sad and helpless and that’s really what inspired me to write this post. When I fell out of love with blogging, it was because I was posting content that I thought I should because everyone else was posting the same thing. What helped me find my passion again, was realizing that as much as I love all of ya’ll, I started this blog for myself so I can post whatever I want. And I want to use my voice and platform for good.

I think in this world we need more empathy. It’s really sad that we only ever speak out or help or pay attention when it affects us on a personal level. I’m guilty of this. As sad as I was for all the destruction the past two hurricanes left behind, I didn’t donate or try to help in anyway. When Puerto Rico got hit, it was like something clicked in my head. I went through this realization about my Puerto Rican culture as you can see and it made me realize, yes I’m angry that no one is helping, but because I’m holding everyone to a high standard, I need to hold myself to that same standard.

What I mean is, you never know when you’re going to need help or when something is going to impact you so have some compassion and have some empathy and help those in need because you never know when that’s going to be you and when you’ll need a helping hand.¬†Below are a few ways you can donate and stay in touch with what’s going on. It’s not every single resource out there as I’m sure there are more, but it’s what I’ve been donating to and getting a lot of information from.

  1. The Hispanic Federation. They offer up a lot of information and ways to help, including donating to them directly. Lin Manuel Miranda has been a huge advocate for them.
  2. B Strong Disaster Relief. This one is headed by Bethenny Frankel of the Real Housewives of New York. She’s been such an amazing force in the effort to help Puerto Rico and I am incredibly impressed and have nothing but respect for her. You can follow along on her twitter to really see your donation put to work.
  3. Download Almost Like Praying. A song written and produced by Lin Manuel Miranda with so many amazing artists on the record like Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Camila Cabello and even a rap by Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin. You can purchase it from the iTunes store and all proceeds will benefit the hurricane relief.
  4. Again, I don’t have too many details, I’m just trying to share the resources I’ve used. If you want to help, I highly recommend following these people for updates and information on Puerto Rico and the hurricane relief effort. Lin Manuel Miranda. Gina Rodriguez. Bethenny Frankel.

I also want to note that for the most part this was written prior to the Las Vegas tragedy. There’s a lot going on in the world these days. Most days it feels like there is a bigger reason to cry over everything rather than smile. We need more love, compassion, empathy and respect in this world. So with that being said, whatever your passion is, whether that be Puerto Rico, Mexico, Las Vegas, Texas or whatever it is, please help out in some way. Even if it’s a dollar or five or finding a way to donate a pack of tampons or diapers. I strongly believe every little thing helps.

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out today.

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