I grew up in the countryside of Puerto Rico. I was the middle child. I have two brothers and two sisters. In the rainbow colors of Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans can have features of white skin, blond hair and blue eyes to black skin, kinky hair, and a wide nose. In my family I was the darkest, so I was called, “la negrita.” It was not a derogatory expression, but it emphasized the color of my skin. I knew I was dark, but the term “negrita” was never a point of discussion.
‘Mi negro’…’mi negra’…yes, these are expressions of love that go beyond racial differences, light skin or dark skin. They are intended to be sweet phrases of endearment.
Yes, Puerto Ricans are mixed. We talk about the mixture of three different continents (South America, Africa, Europe) that came together in the history of the world to produce all shades of people to a beautiful Caribbean island. In most Puerto Rican families there is a range of colors, from very dark African features to very white European features.
When I came to the United States I was expected to define my color….my race. Even when I filled the Census data, it was a challenge. What was my identity? For I was mixed.
The skin color of my paternal and maternal grandfathers was white. My maternal grandmother was of African ancestry. My paternal grandmother was a Taíno Indian descendant. My mother looked like what someone in the United States would consider Creole; she was light skin with curly hair. My father was short with Taíno looking features. My youngest sister was very white with blond hair, and me, I was the negrita of the house.
Many Puerto Ricans that have the same features as me declare themselves white on the United States census. This is a total lie, that unfortunately some Puerto Ricans believe, but we’ll pick up this conversation again.Meche