I bumped into this topic from the Geneabloggers emails which posts prompts (amongst other links) from a blog by Anglers Rest. Pretty much the prompts are created for you to fill out, that way you are building up some genealogical information about yourself as well! I think it's a great idea, especially since we focus so much on the past that sometimes we forgot -- one day we'll be a part of that past! And prompt #43 is a great prompt for me for many reasons, so I decided to give it a go!
Here are the questions for the prompt. I've reorganized a bit to my liking since I want to tackle them in a certain way.
- Have you ever lived overseas from your place of birth? Would you want to? Could you?
- Did your ancestors or even a more recent generation?
- Do you feel akin to another country from that in which you were born?
- If so have you found any ancestral links in your research that perhaps explains those feelings?
The process of emigration, migration, or immigration have always been completely interesting to me -- And I think mostly because my parents are Puerto Rican. When they came to this country they technically weren't "immigrations", yet a lot of the experiences we share are those of "immigrants" (The language barrier, custom/cultural differences, etc.). I never saw my family as immigrants but more so as emigrants. Yet, I can't fathom the courage it takes to uproot your family (or yourself) and completely move away from everything you know, love, and cherish.
I've experienced living abroad through my experiences from study abroad. I was able to spend a semester in Yaroslavl, Russia as an exchange student. And those four months changed my outlook on life completely. Being disconnected from the outside world (barely any internet to Skype back home properly) and the complete change of culture and language was definitely hard on me. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Russia yet I had the luxury of emails, Facebook, and occasionally Skype. I can't imagine how my mom came here at the age of 18 and her only communication with her own mother was through the occasional phone call and letters (and she 'migrated' in the late 1980s). I definitely think living abroad (even for just a short period of time) definitely makes you a stronger, more independent, and just overall livelier person. Now with my next adventure of living abroad on the way, I'm excited to compare and contrast how living abroad in Spain will be to Russia. Obviously, language, locality of country, and similarities in culture will play a huge role in my "easing" into the country but I wonder how easy it will be in Spain. I actually didn't suffer from culture shock in Russia but will I in Spain?
Before my parents coming to the USA, pretty much every generation dating back to the 1800s/mid 1700s had been living in Puerto Rico. I can't imagine the jump from (A) to (B) being easy, both in the case of A being Puerto Rico and B being the United States. But also the jump of A being Spain and B being the new territory of Puerto Rico. Did the fears and concerns my family had in the 1980s mirror those of my ancestors in the 1600s/1700s? Leaving family and friends behind for a new land which they had only heard about through stories.
My fourth great grandparents are currently super, über intriguing to me -- they immigrated (since they were crossing territories of countries) respectively from Guadeloupe and Martinique. I can't even begin to imagine their journey from a land of French/Créole to that of Spanish. A least when I went to Russia I had an idea of what Russian sounded like; I could read, write, and speak in the language pretty well by the time I landed in Moscow. But what about Gustave Jean-Charles and Julienne Malvina Lautin? Where did they muster up the courage to travel from their home islands and make their way to Vieques (a small island of Puerto Rico on its eastern coast). Were they scared they wouldn't fit into the culture there? Had they heard such wonderful stories of Puerto Rico and its people that they had to see, experience, and live it for themselves?
How well did they 'mold' into the culture when they first arrived and in their first years? Living on Vieques probably wasn't an issue, they must have known some other immigrant families settling themselves in the island. But were they nervous when the appeared before the church in 1869 to get married? Or when they had to baptize and register the birth of their children? Did Julienne whisper songs in créole to Paulina and Tomás as small children? Did she feel the need to preserve her Martinican traditions, words, and mannerisms? Did she lug them from Martinique to Vieques and finally to Río Jueyes, Salinas or did they stay behind in Rivière Salée?
I often wonder and worry that as time continues I'll begin to lose my "Puerto Rican-ness". That I won't teach my children Spanish, how to sing La Borinqueña, or share with them the traditions, customs, and superstitions my family passed down to me. (Never walk with one shoe off and one shoe on, it means you want your mother to die!). Yet, deep down I know (and hope) this won't happen. My ties to the island, my culture, and the way I was raised are too strong and too important to just let go. But yet I still worry -- did Julienne and Gustave feel the same way? In just three generations, it seems that the ability to speak French/ Créole was lost (my great grandfather being one of the few who I was told spoke French). Will three generations after me not care what their 4th great grandfather Luis Rivera talked and preached about culturally?
Hopefully, living in abroad in Spain will give me some more insights. Remind what it is to be in a land that isn't your own (no matter how similar they might seem). I wish to learn more about the immigrants who came from El Puerto de Santa María, from Huelva, and from Pastrana and made their way to Puerto Rico. To learn the stories of those who came from unknown towns to the beautiful island of Borikén and settled there. To learn the stories of those who against the odds made the various towns of Puerto Rico their home, their nest, their humble abode. Did other people in my family move to Puerto Rico without knowing Spanish? Or maybe those of different religious backgrounds into a Catholic territory?
I don't know where I'll end up -- where I ultimately will set up my own nest and home. But I do hope that wherever that may be (either here in the USA or else where), that I bring along my heavy yet important Puerto Rican bags. That I open them up, air out the contents inside, and let them breathe old yet new life into my home. That my children and grandchildren will run around saying "Bendición papi, bendición abuelo". That most importantly, they'll know and care what it feels like to be Puerto Rican. Because I know I definitely do!