If you will indulge me, let me begin this blog post about Puerto Rico with an anecdote about Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Apparently, the Nobel Prize winner and master expositor of magical realism—where the fantastical meets the everyday—was once asked why he had never written about Puerto Rico. "If I told the truth about Puerto Rico," he said, "everyone would say I was making it up."
As Garcia Marquez pithily captured, to be Puerto Rican, to be from that small island (100 miles long and 35 miles wide) in the Caribbean, is a surreal, paradoxical experience.
A few examples:
We are U.S. citizens (as have been all persons born on the island since 1917), yet too many Americans are not aware of that fact. The island is a territory, a colony of the United States, yet it is referred to as a commonwealth, or a "free associated state." Puerto Ricans living on the island cannot vote for the U.S. President, yet fellow Boricuas living in the United States are freely able to do so. We also serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, but those living on the island have no representation in Congress, save for a "Resident Commissioner" who speaks but cannot vote, even in matters pertaining directly to their lives.
The contradictions are dizzying, yet we live and even thrive within those contradictions. We are more than the natural disasters that befall us, more than our erasure from the larger story of the United States. We are here—even if you don't know it.