Friday June 17 has been declared a day of mourning in Puerto Rico. Twenty-three of the 49 people killed in Orlando on June 11 in the Pulse nightclub mass shooting were from the island. Young people who came to Florida to better their lives. Find the employment opportunities that were not available to them in Puerto Rico. Gay Puerto Ricans, who came to the LGBT nightclub on that terrifying night to dance, sing, and celebrate their culture and community.
Sadly, we know the celebration was cut tragically short.
By strange coincidence, I had contacted a man from Puerto Rico for this blog before the shooting. He is the friend of a friend. A native Puerto Rican, he lives in the lush, green city of Guaynabo. Self-employed, an actor, he agreed to talk to me about his life in Puerto Rico, reminding me that Puerto Ricans are by nature outgoing, friendly, and love to celebrate life.
Today especially, his words serve to honor his culture in the wake of the senseless deaths in Orlando.
My Conversation with Jim
Please look out a window and tell me what you see.
I live on the 24th floor of my condo so I have a bird's eye view of the city of San Juan, the bay, the old city, and the ocean.
Which languages do you speak?
I am an English and Spanish native speaker. I also have varying levels of proficiency in French, German, Russian, and Portuguese.
What is your ethnic background?
Irish-American Midwest upbringing at home combined with the cultural seasoning of Puerto Rico.
What do you want the rest of the world to know about Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico should be a paradise. If only Puerto Ricans realized what they have.
What myth or stereotype about your country is inaccurate? Which one is dead on?
That we are savages. That we all carry switchblades (although I haven't heard that one in years.)
That we love to party is dead on!
With which aspect of your culture do you identify with the most?
Please describe your favorite time of year in Puerto Rico.
Hands down, there is no better place to celebrate Christmas than in Puerto Rico. I have spent a few in the mainland (U.S.) and they are dull and boring in comparison. Again, Puerto Ricans love to party. Christmas lasts from December (sometimes black Friday) and does not end until mid to late January.
What brings you joy?
Being among friends and family, cooking, drinking, and having a good time.
What frightens you?
Stupidity and ignorance.
If I came to dinner at your house what would you serve me?
Oh, that's a tough one. I love to cook, so I'd have to ask what you prefer. I can do Irish, I can do Puerto Rican, meats and pasta. It's an open ended question.
What does Puerto Rico do well? What do you wish it did better?
Well? Tourism. Better? Everything else.
Who or what inspires you?
In terms of nature and natural beauty, what are the most remarkable things about Puerto Rico?
El Yunque, the rainforest. So much natural beauty!
What is your opinion of the United States/Chicago?
Chicago has the government that it deserves.
I love to visit Chi town because it has all the good things New York City and none of the bad ones.
Where do you stand on the issue of Puerto Rico becoming a state rather than remaining a territory?
Becoming a U.S. state is the only solution. The main reason many investors don't come to Puerto Rico is because of its instability. The colonial status is a temporary solution that has outlived its purpose. With statehood comes stability, security, and values. Puerto Rico has a lot to offer and vice-a-versa the United States.
Finally, what one word best describes Puerto Rico?
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I'm a freelance writer (The Chicago Tribune newspaper and magazine, Readers Digest, Entrepreneur, The Des Moines Register, etc.) who would rather be living in Iceland.
Writing Talking to the World is a joy and a privilege. I am so thankful to the people who welcome me into their lives and allow me to share their unique world perspectives.
I am also one of the three writers contributing to the blog, 3 Writers in a Cafe Every Friday. Please check it out here on ChicagoNow.