10 Valuable Lessons from Puerto Rican Culture

I have never been a patriotic person. If you ask me, I’m from everywhere. I go around the world adapting traits from other cultures that resonate most with my lifestyle.

But there are things about my roots that I just can’t deny. Traits engraved deep within me that I cannot change no matter how hard I try. There’s no denying of one’s roots; they take an important role on your personality and sometimes you just have to learn how to work with it as best as you can.

Growing up in a Puerto Rican family was difficult for me. Which is weird to say because I was born and raised in the island. However, I was always like the ugly duckling of the family. I was never myself at family reunions, often choosing to hide myself from others behind a book or inside my room. Their thunderous way of communicating was never something I identified myself with. Seriously, how can they listen to each other when they’re all yelling at each other at the same time. It must be a talent I don’t possess.

However, there are Puerto Ricans ways and views about life that I’m actually proud of and that help me deal with life in a good way.

Here are some Puerto Ricans lessons that help me get through life:

1. Be emotionally strong even when you feel like you’re dying inside.

Puerto Ricans are not sentimental people. Showing signs of being too emotional is ridiculous and makes you a softie. Whining will not get you empathy but rather a slap in the face.

It sounds cold but that mindset has helped me go through rough times in life. In some sense it helps me “snap out of it” and not make a great deal about everything, which I tend to do.

2. Family will always be your family no matter what.

I was taught that the most important people in the world is your family. True, there are many dysfunctional Puerto Rican families but, it’s still an important aspect of the culture.

I believe this is something all Hispanic cultures share. Sacrifices for the family are part of the culture and expected from you. People will work hard and do whatever it takes to provide for their families.

And yes, family includes long distance cousins you’ve never heard of nor even met. But if you ask your ma’ she’ll say they’re your family too.

3. Always look your best.

Appearance is an important aspect of the culture, and if you go around looking like you just woke up people won’t take you seriously. And you would think Who cares what people think of me?, well your Puerto Rican ma’ cares about it.

There is no way you’re going out of the house looking like crap. A Puerto Rican mom will stop you right before making it out of the door and be like “¿Pa’ dónde tú crees que vas así?” (“Where do you think you’re going looking like that?”).

Sadly, Puerto Ricans will judge you by your looks and you better be sure they’ll talk about you if you show up anywhere in your pajamas. Moms are constantly worried about “el que dirán”(“what will people say”), and they won’t let you go anywhere you could be identified as part of their family.

4. Be grateful for the things you have.

Puerto Ricans live from paycheck to paycheck, often not having enough for the month. Even when they do, low income and big families are a common situation in the island. And when you have to share what you have or don’t own much, it makes you appreciate the things you have even more.

My abuela always told me that other people have nothing, not food nor roof but if you have that it means you have it all and you better be grateful. Otherwise every time ma’ feels like she raised ungrateful children she’ll get home upset and complain how no one loves her, how no one thanks her. You don’t want that.

La chancla power.

5. You can choose whether you learn lessons the good or the bad way.

(always go for the good way)

When Puerto Ricans moms are about to lose it, they’ll give you the choice of doing something the good way or the bad way.

Sometimes I sit and wonder whether the beatings my ma’ gave me were fruitful at all. Honestly, Hispanic moms were savage. You never wanted things to go the bad way if you appreciated your life. I could always feel it coming. She was in the middle of scolding me and then demand an answer from me, but I was too afraid to utter a word so she would get even angrier and be like “¿Por qué no contestas, malcriada?” (“Why aren’t you answering, spoiled brat?”), and I’ll have no choice but to answer and then she’ll yell at me why I dared talk back. There’s no pleasing them. Chancla or belt, whatever was closest to them was going to get you.

It sounds cruel and sometimes I think most of my mental issues might’ve come from those chancla moments.. However, I’m determined to look at it from a somewhat positive perspective:

When you have to do something you don’t want to do, but you know you have to do it anyways, it’s better to just shut you mouth and do it without being a nuisance to anyone. Otherwise there’s always the hard way.

6. To have manners and greet everyone, even strangers.

I can’t say how many times I was dragged out of the comfort of my room because I had to greet the guests. This is a perfect example of choosing the bad way. If you dared not coming out of your room, they’ll knock the door down and slap you.

That’s the voice of experience right there. I remember it like it was a moment ago, mainly because the fear I felt while the doorknob was being destroyed. But, you know, it was all for the better. I’m a respectful, functional adult right now. 🙂

7. Don’t take life so seriously.

Puerto Ricans’ sense of humor consists mainly of making fun of others. Your family will always joke about your weaknesses or that one time you screw up, and that other time. Trust me, they’ll remember them all.

While I don’t enjoy making fun of others, it taught me not to take myself seriously. To laugh at my own mistakes and always try again.

8. Having no sense of time can sometimes be a good thing.

Puerto Ricans have no sense of time. We’re late for everything. It’s an awful habit that’s brought me so much trouble. I feel like I’m constantly running around trying to make it on time. I run on Puerto Rican time. Yeah, that’s a thing.

Despite how irresponsible it looks, sometimes it feels nice not to be tied up to time. It feels nice to take the time to be ready, to look your best. And besides…

9. Having a strong sense of solidarity.

Puerto Ricans love to help. If you’re having a rough time, a family member will always be there for you. If you car breaks down, there’s a good chance a few people will slow down, scroll down the window and ask if you need help. If you’re lost, there’s always a stranger willing to go out of their way and help you.

I remember a few months ago, a friend visited Puerto Rico for the first time with her fiancé . When I asked for impressions the first thing she said was “People are so nice! Like we got lost and this random sir helped us and asked nothing in return. He talked to us like he knew us already and told us his whole life story!”

10. Always keep things positive.

Hay que reir para no llorar.

As I said earlier, whining is frowned upon. Puerto Ricans just don’t like crying nor complaining. If you whine, there will always be someone that will tell you, more like remind you, “That’s why things happen to you, because you complain.”

We gotta keep our head up and stay strong no matter what we go through. Life will chew us and spit us out, but we have to stand up and smile. Replace the tears with laughter even when everything is falling apart because bad times will always come and they will eventually go.

And that should never stop us from enjoying our lives.

Stay strong, pinepples!

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