Diary of a Boricua in Massachusetts

History has showed that Boricuas move to the Unites States and many other countries looking for a better opportunity; better job, better pay, better schools for the children. But is not all that easy. I was surfing the net and I found an email that was sent to me back in 2007 when I was in Washington, DC and I loved it. It’s a diary from a Boricua in Massachusetts. I really laugh out loud when I read it because I can relate to it. Here it is, enjoy.

August 12:

Today I moved to my new house in the state of Massachusetts. What a peaceful place! Everything is pretty here; the mountains are majestic and I can’t wait to see them covered in snow. I’m so glad I left behind all the heat, the humidity, traffic and the hurricanes of Puerto Rico. This IS living!

October 14:

This is living...
This is living…

Massachusetts is the prettiest place I have ever seen. The leaves have gone from green to red and now orange. So happy to have all four seasons. I took a walk through the woods and I saw a deer for the first time. Such an agile and elegant animal. This has to be heaven. I hope to see snow soon.

November 11:

Deer hunting season is just around the corner. I can’t imagine anyone that wants to kill one of those amazing creatures. WINTER IS HERE!!! I hope to see snow soon. This is really living!

December 2:

Last night we had our first snowfall. When I woke up everything was covered by a white layer. It looked like a postcard, a movie. I took my shovel to remove the snow from my entrance. But before I did that, I played in the snow and had a snow fight with my neighbors (I won, of course). When the snow plow truck passed by I had to shovel the snow again. But the snow is amazing. It looks like cotton balls thrown all over the place. I love Massachusetts!

December 12:

Last night we had some snow again. The snow plow truck got my entrance dirty again, but what can I do, right? Even with that, I love this place.

December 19:

Another snow fall last night. I was not able to clean the entrance today, because before I was finished shoveling the snow, the truck came again. So, I did not go to work today. I’m tired of shoveling the snow. Damn snow plow truck!

December 22:

Snowed again last night! Or should I call it white shit! My hands are killing me for all the shoveling I’ve been doing. I think the damn snow plow truck driver watches me from the corner and when I’m done shoveling that son of a witch drives by again. I hope you crash that truck, you jackass!!!!!!

December 25:

Merry white Christmas, but really white ‘cause is full of white shiiiit! Damn it!!!!!! If I get a hold of that damn snow plow truck driver I swear I will kill him. I don’t understand why they can’t use more salt in the street so this shit melts faster!

December 27:

White shit
White shit

Last night we had some more white shit. I’ve been inside my house for three damn days! I only go out to shovel the shit out of my entrance after the snow plow cleans the street. Even the car is under mountain of black snow. In the news they say we will have ten, yes TEN more inches of white shit! I can’t believe this. PUÑETAAAAAAAAAA!

December 28:

Damn plow truck
Damn plow truck

The damn news channel was wrong again; we did not have 10 inches of snow, we had 24 more inches of that WHITE SHIIIIIIIIT!!!!!!!!! If we continue like this we will have that white shit even in July. Now the damn snow plow truck broke a couple of blocks from here and the stupid driver had the nerve to ask me for a freaking shovel. I told that son of witch that I had broken 9 shovels trying to clean all the white shit he left in my entrance. Told him that if he wanted a shovel he could go to hell and get one. Then I broke the shovel in his head…. He deserved it! SON OF A WITCH!!!

January 4:

I was finally released from jail today. I was driving to get some food and a stupid deer jumped in front of my car and I killed it. Carajo, I will have to pay around $3000.00 to get my car fixed! This stupid deer should be poisoned. I wish hunters would have kill them all last year. Hunting season should be all year long.

March 15:

I slipped in the damn ice that is all around this damn city and I broke my leg. Last night I dreamed I was planting a palm tree.

May 3:

When my cast was removed I took the car to the mechanic. He told me my car had rust under it because of all the damn salt that was used to melt the white shit. Who came up with that dumb idea? Isn’t there any other way to melt the damn ice?

May 10:

Borinquen es pura flama...
Borinquen es pura flama…

Finally I’m back in Puerto Rico. Now, THIS IS LIVING!!! The heat, the humidity, the crazy traffic, hurricanes, pinchos, the beach, carne frita con mofongo, pitorro y cerveza…. This is the place to be in.

This is basically what happens when Boricuas decide to leave the Island. It may be for a better future for us and our family, but the sacrifice is huge. Feel free to share your experiences with me. In the words of poet Virgilio Dávila: “Mamá, Borinquen me llama. Este país no es el mío. Borinquen es pura flama y aquí me muero de frío (Mom, Borinquen is calling me. This is not my country. Borinquen is pure flame y here the cold is killing me). Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Advertisements

PUÑETA: Special Edition Post

We do it better
We do it better

If you have been following the World Baseball Classic, most likely you have seen this word in a big banner in the crowd. What does it mean, how is it pronounced? Today, we have answers!

The word Puñeta, according to the diccionary is… I have no idea and I don’t want to look for it. The fact is that the word is mostly used by Boricuas and its meaning is “to masturbate”. But, as I have said before, one thing is Spanish and a totally different one is Boricua Spanish. I will not talk about sex here, don’t worry parents out there!
We use the word in different situations and moments. Let’s say you work with a hammer. You start hitting the nail and all of a sudden, the hammer decides to hit your finger. Some people may scream, some others may say “Daaaaaaamn”, or many Boricuas can choose to use “Coño!”. But if it really hurts, a big “Puñeta” is always necessary. In this case is like a pain reliever kind of thing.

But it can be used in other situations too. We all have a friend who we have not seen in quite some time. One day you walk by the street minding your business and you see this friend. You are filled with emotion, really happy and surprised to see him. You walk to him, embrace your friend with a big hug and you say: Puñeta, que bueno verte brother! (So damn good to see you, man!) You see, in this case the word is used to express a good or happy emotion. I was buying candy for my son the other day at school and a lollipop costs 25 cents. A quarter for a lollipop??!!!!!?? Puñeta, pero que caro está eso! (Damn that is expensive!). When you are surprised about someone trying to rip you off, Puñeta is the word to use.

PUÑETA
PUÑETA

But why did we see it in the baseball game last Monday? Is it a Boricua word for Strike three? Is it the Boricua word for “We need a better pitcher”. No my young apprentice. Puñeta in sports is a scream of war, a “Geronimo” for…whoever uses Geronimo (I don’t know, I have never used it). For us, means “WE DID IT”, “IN YOUR FACE”… On September 1999, while Felix Trinidad and Oscar de la Hoya were waiting for the final decision on their fight, everyone in Puerto Rico was in the edge of their seats. When Trinidad heard he was declared the winner, he did not scream “Thank you”, or “I knew it”. He screamed a big and clear “PUÑEEEEETAAAAA!!!!!” In a baseball game some time ago, Edgar Martinez, future Hall of Famer, hit a home run, on his way to first base, he did not shout “That was a good hit”. He screamed PUÑEEEETAAAAAA!!!!!! And when Denisse Quiñones won the Miss Universe pageant, she should have scream Puñeta too (Shame on you)!

So that’s what happened last Sunday in the game. We were winning, we were going to the finals, we were screaming PUÑETA! Tonight we will use the word again; without fear, with pride. What does it mean, you ask? In tonights game, it means a Nation is ready for a win. How do you pronounce it? With you heart full of pride. Until next week, cójanlo suave, puñeta!

UPDATE: Puerto Rico lost the game with a 3 – 0 score. We can still use the word “Puñeta” in this case. Today it means sadness, pain. “Puñeta, perdimos! (Damn, we lost!) But still you got to learn what the word means and when to use it. Also, the championship stayed on this side of the Planet, on the Caribbean. Great job to my Dominican friends! Until next week…

Pride through music

People say music is an universal language. Something like that was proven in a study made by researcher Thomas Fritz, from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany. The study showed that regardless of culture or previous exposure, people were accurately able to recognize three emotions in Western music – happiness, sadness and fear. Every culture around the world has its music; melodies that represent certain place or people. Puerto Rico has its own also. Many people say its salsa, many others says is bomba y plena and other says in danza. I will not get into that right now, but we also have music that inspires the true Boricua in us.

Bobby Capó
Bobby Capó

I don’t know if this happens in other countries, but many songs have been dedicated to Borinquen; songs that let us know how great this Island is. One of those songs is Soñando con Puerto Rico (Dreaming of Puerto Rico), by great song writer Bobby Capó.  Composed in the 1950’s, it was considered to be the anthem of those who had to leave the Island looking for a better future in the United States. “I can’t hide the pride I feel of being Puerto Rican. And my thought, no matter where I go, moved to the Island, no matter where I go, to the blessed Island, my thoughts fly”. Every time I hear that song, and i bet that those of my readers that are Boricuas, feel the pride for your race and Island. And when you are outside it really hits you deeper in your soul. To those of you reading that are not Boricuas, or don’t speak Spanish, you will be able to feel nostalgic when you hear the song.

Lucecita
Lucecita

Moving from nostalgic songs to ones with better rhythm, we go to Amanecer Borincano (Boricua Dawn). Alberto Carrión, who started as a rock singer in the 60’s, wrote this song for his first album back in 1974. With this song Carrión describes a dawn in the Island and that we, as Boricuas, are part of it. We are sons of this God-blessed land. “I have Puertorican blood, I am the son of the palm tres, of the countryside and rivers, and of the sound of the coqui. Of valleys and coffee plantations, of sugar cane, sugar and pineapple. Of guava, mampostiales, of tembleque and mavi (these last three are Boricua delicacies)…” For me, the best performer of this unique song is Lucecita Benítez. Her voice is amazing and the feeling she carries in it makes this song one of a kind.

Have you ever heard a story of a family that moved to New York looking for something better. That was the situation of many Boricua families back in the 50’s and 60’s; looking for a better place to raise their children, or at least a better job than the ones in Puerto Rico. That feeling is stamped in Boricua en la Luna (Boricua in the Moon), a song based on the poems of Juan Antonio Corretjer performed by Roy Brown, born in USA from a north american father and a Boricua mother. The song tells the story of a man born in New York by his immigrant parents from Puerto Rico, and the way he was brought up to love the Island. “And this way I shout to the villain, I would be Boricua even if I was born in the Moon” That’s how deep the love for this Island goes.

La Universidad de la Salsa
La Universidad de la Salsa

Salsa…. simply the best music ever made, and when El Gran Combo is singing, is even better. The University of Salsa, name with which El Combo is recognized, has been around for 50 years. Song after song, rumba after rumba, the orchestra has made a lot of us dance and do the Jala Jala. One of their songs, Patria, describes in a great rhythm (unique to El Gran Combo) what Puerto Rico is. “A blue midnight, a silver dawn, a gold morning, that is my Island”, starts the great song released in the 80’s to the voice of Charlie Aponte.

Preciosa
Preciosa

And one of the best performances I have ever heard comes from a guy who was not born in this side of Puerto Rico, but in it’s extension: New York. The song Preciosa, written in 1937 by the great Rafael Hernández, is the song of Puerto Rico. Is a song that explains the beauties of the Island, and performed by Marc Anthony gives a greater meaning to the definition of Puerto Rican. “Beautiful call you the waves of the sea that bathes you. Beautiful for being an enchantment, for being an Eden… Beautiful, beautiful call you the sons of freedom”.

Songs that makes us proud to be born and raised in this Island, and even if born outside, Boricuas carry that pride in their blood. We sing, we dance, we enjoy being who we are and we will pass that pride to generations to come. Here are other songs that you will love and that show the love we feel for the Island. Verde Luz, La Perla, and if you want to know what Patria means, listen to this one, from our adoptive son Rubén Blades: Patria – Rubén Blades. If there are any other songs you may know about, let me know. Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Español Boricua

If you have been following my posts, even if you have only read one, you have noticed that this is a kind of tutorial thing; a “how-to” survival guide. You have to know how Boricuas do things so you can understand and enjoy your time when you are around us. Today is no exception. Spanish is a special language and there is no one way to speak Spanish. I mean, if your primary language is not Spanish and you learned it at school, you can survive pretty much in any Spanish-speaking country. When you learn English, you can survive anywhere in the United States at least. For example, a pumpkin is a pumpkin in NYC and in Texas (most likely the one is Texas is bigger). I will go over a couple of examples of words in Spanish and it’s translation in English.

Calabaza
Calabaza

The first one is pumpkin. As I said, in NYC and Texas is the same thing. The Spanish translation in Puerto Rico is calabaza but in Venezuela is auyama. How can that be? Spanish should be Spanish, right? If you want a watermelon in Boston, you ask kindly for one. If you are in Venezuela, after they looked at you funny for asking for a calabaza, you should ask for a patilla(for us Boricuas, that word means sideburns). In Borinquen if you want a watermelon you should ask for a sandía or melón. If you want a good drink  in Perú a chicha is nice, but not even close to what it means in Puerto Rico (but it’s still good). Same language, but the word is different.

Everyone in Puerto Rico has enjoyed a great quenepa from Ponce or Juana Diaz. But if you go to Cuba (you need a passport for that, don’t forget) they eat mamoncillos. In USA, it means Spanish lime and no matter where you eat it its still delicious. I remember when we were kids, my father used to bring us parcha. If you know me at all, you would know I don’t eat that fruit, but in Colombia it’s called granadilla, and in Barack Obama’s turf is called Passion Fruit. I know my family loved it, but they did not feel the “Passion” of the fruit.

Arroz guisao’

When you consider that América Latina covers from México all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, it kind of makes sense. It’s more than half of America (and I mean America, not United States OF America), and with all the years of history it makes sense of the difference in words. What is really funny is that in an Island as big as mine, we have differences too. In my hometown of Cidra, and also in the north side of the Island, a vellón is a five cents coin while in the south it is referred as a ficha. In English is just a five cent coin. In the north side Boricuas cook rice in a caldero and make sancocho in an olla (a big one, I should say). In Ponce (because they think they are special) they refer to both things the other way around. In English, you use a pot, a bigger one for stews. If you want a lollipop, is either a paleta or pilón, and if you want to have a pony tail you use a pinche (which in México is a totally different thing) or hebilla to hold it.

Our language is what identifies us with our fellow Latinos. The words we use, the way we say them and the letters we never learned to pronounce (or we choose not to) makes Boricuas unique. There is no other culture like ours and we are proud that it is that way. So, if you have other words like these or expressions in “Spanish” you want to share, feel free to. Leave a comment, or email it to me at j_lugo25@yahoo.com and I will make a special post about it. Make sure to share this post. Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Say what?

As the sayiging goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side” or “the apple does not fall far from the tree”. Those expressions or sayings are from different situations; the first means that usually we don’t see the things we have as good things, and the second is mainly used when comparing father and son, or family members that are alike in stuff they do. I love using these type of refranes (sayings), and in Puerto Rico, as in many other countries, they have been used from generations. I will explain a few of those refranes and include other sayings that I personally use that I learned from my father and my mother hates (sorry Ma).

A caballo regalao'...

A caballo regalao’ no se le mira el colmillo. If I want to translate this one as is, and there’s where the fun is, we will not get the real meaning (but it will be fun). It means, translated as we read it in Spanish: when you get a horse as a present you should not look at its fangs. This makes NO sense at all. First, why would someone give me a horse? And second, why in God’s green Earth would I look at its fangs? I don’t even know if a horse has fangs, really. But that is not the meaning of it. The message is that when you get a present you should be thankful and try not to see the faults of the present. Just be happy and, the important part, be thankful. Usually we learn this when we are kids and start complaining about a present we got that we did not like. And the saying comes from the practice of looking at the horse fangs to know its pedigree (I just learned that, really).

Quien a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija. Let’s try this one. He who gets close to a good tree gets good shadow (Duh!). In terms of translation, is close to the literal meaning of the refrán, but misses the real meaning. The teaching of this saying is that if you spend time with a good person, you will learn good things too. I think I learned this one as a kid when I picked a bad manner from someone and my mother said it was because I was learning that from kids that were not too nice. Las pocas vergüenzas las aprendes rápido (you are pretty fast to learn bad stuff), my mom used to say (and still does).

Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando. Translation: it’s better to have a bird in your hand than 100 flying. The way my father would explain that translation: “well, it all depends what you what the bird for. If you want it to fly with the others you should let it go. On the other hand, if you want to keep it as a present, then do it, it’s up to you. I don’t care what you do with the bird, just don’t bring it to the house”. The real meaning: work with what you have right now and don’t worry too much for what you could have. It’s like Carpe diem, cease the moment.

Cría cuervos...Cría cuervos y te sacaran los ojos. Translation: raise crows and they will take your eyes out (a little rough, right?). This one refers to, for example, when you raise a child and teach him/her bad manners, they will do just as they were taught (pretty simple).

El que quiera peces que se moje el fondillo. Translation: if you want fishes you should get your butt wet. This is one of my favorites because it comes with a funny story. When I was in 8th grade we had a project to make for our Spanish class about refranes Boricuas. The ones I just discussed here came to mind when my parents and I were brainstorming (and this story comes up every time someone mentions this saying in my house). But my father wanted to use this one because the others were used too much. Of course the real saying uses “ass” instead of “butt”, but that would be too strong for school. My mother did not approve of it, understandably so, but my dad and I loved it. I mean, being able to make a drawing and a saying with the word butt in it was awesome. My mom said I would get an F, and she was wrong (and I am no happy about that). I got a C, only because the teacher was a family friend, and my mom was called to school to discuss the project. My mom was right, I admit it, but still I got to use the word butt in a project and was approved by my father.

There are many other refranes Boricuas use for any situation we encounter. I know that readers out there, no matter where you are, have a lot more sayings that you grew up with, or heard your elders say. They are used to teach our youngsters about life, about situations that we all go through. I encourage you to use them so they never die, that way they will be enjoyed by generations to come. There are other expressions that I use, but maybe next time I will write them. Until then, ¡cójanlo suave!