Dear Anonymous blogger of “Casa Bavaria: Porque los Guaynabitos también son Cafres”
My name is Mariana Rojas. I was born and raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and recently just moved to the United States (U. S.) to pursue my college career. Because I have lived my whole life in Puerto Rico, I have always been very proud of my beautiful island and the culture of my people, especially now that I live far away from home. I very much admire our many stunning beaches, our delicious and irreplaceable food, the friendliness of the people, and the many joyful traditions we have. However, there is one thing that has always troubled me, something I have never been proud of at all. That is, our never ending prejudice and divide between the “Guaynabitos” and the “Cafres.”
As a spectator of all things going on in my beloved Puerto Rico, I recently heard the unpleasant news of the fights that occurred in Oktoberfest last month. Still, that news did not surprise me as much as the blog you posted, explaining the wrongdoings of underage drinking in this festival, which recently became a hit on Facebook. It troubled me how you blamed this social wrongdoing on not only the “Guaynabitos,” those who are stereotyped as the upper class citizens who live in the city of Guaynabo. When in reality, it is common knowledge that underage drinking in Puerto Rico is practiced by adolescents from the entire island. Nevertheless, underage drinking is not the problem that I wish to discuss with you. What I would like to point out to you is how you are worsening our social divide by stratifying our population between the “Guaynabitos” and “Cafres,” and consequently degrading both.
My purpose in writing this letter to you is not to argue against the stereotype of the “Guaynabito” or to talk about the “Cafres.” Instead, I want to talk to you, not as a “Guaynabita” or as a “Cafre,” but as a Puerto Rican citizen, and how in fact all Puerto Ricans are the same, no matter the region of the island in which they live.
One of the most defining peculiarities of a Puerto Rican is the food. As a Latin culture, derived from Spanish, African, and Taínos, our food has evolved from each of the different ethnics to what we proudly call today our comida criolla. Just like our mixture of race, our food is a mixture of condiments, which result in the endless variety of traditional foods we Puerto Ricans cannot resist. Even by hearing the words mofongo, bistek encebollado, empanadas, pernil, or lechon, our mouths begin to water. Additionally, our kitchen can also be distinguished by the big amounts of food we eat in each of our meals. Every Puerto Rican has heard their grandmother say “Hijo, tienes que comer más porque estas bien flaco!,” even though we weight three times more than we should, at least once in their lifetimes. The fact is that we cannot resist the temptation of eating more and more of the tasty food our grandmothers lay for us in front of us, even if we just ate before. It is not hard to guess why we all have chichos somewhere in our bodies due to the amounts of greasy, delicious alcapurrias we eat every time we go to the beach.
Just like our food is overflowing, our personality is overflowing too. One of the things I have noticed most about us, Puerto Ricans, over the years, especially now that I am not in the Island, is that we are one the happiest people one could ever encounter. We emphasize greatly on family, we have “an easy warmth among even strangers and a readiness to celebrate anything, anywhere, at any time, which contributes to a high quality of life.” Thus, if one could describe a Puerto Rican in two words, it would be hospitable and festive. It is not weird to be walking around the sidewalk and momentarily hear someone greeting you from the other end of the street. Moreover, at least half of the days in the year are considered a festivity for us. Even a boxing match to watch Cotto fight against Manny Pacquiao is a reason for the whole family of grandparents, uncles, great uncles, cousins, and friends to gather and bash. On Christmas time alone, we have at least seven celebrations, in which we all gather to sing and dance to our traditional bombas, drink and eat with the family. Hence, just like our food, and our personalities, our celebrations are big. It is fair to say that there is nothing more depressing for both the “Guaynabito” and the “Cafre” and all those 4.5 million Puerto Ricans that live in the U.S. than not spending Christmas in Puerto Rico, as without the coquito, the pitorro or the parrandas, there is no holiday. This explains why Puerto Rican families and communities living in the U. S. try to assimilate as best as they can to the Puerto Rican holiday, just as described by Judith Ortiz Cofer’s “Silent Dancing.”
What is also a very important peculiarity of our culture is the fact that even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and many of us live in the States; we are always true to our native tongue, Spanish. A few days ago, while having a discussion with a fellow Puerto Rican from Ponce, I was taken aback when she mentioned that “Guaynabitos” spoke mostly English in their households, instead of Spanish. In reality, only seven schools are English unilingual schools out of 761,793 schools in the Island. Therefore, not only 1% of the schools are English unilingual schools. Spanish is considered the mother language for both the “Guaynabito,” and the “Cafre,” and even to those who emigrate to the U. S. Thus, it is a factor that will always set us apart from the rest and that make us unique.
Conclusively, It is our food, our people, our celebrations, and our language that make up the most important factor of the Puerto Rican, which is our pride. There is no better feeling for us than that of seeing our beautiful flag up in the sky, or that of listening to Marc Anthony singing “Preciosa” and singing it from the top of our lungs, or that of chanting “Yo soy Boricua, pa’ que tu lo sepas!” wherever we go, in order to let everybody know that we come from Puerto Rico. From my experience, and that of the many people I know whom no longer live in the Island, that pride is even more intensified when we immigrate to another country. We feel the urge to sing our anthem and listen to El gran combo everywhere we go just to get a piece of home. We brag about Puerto Rico to every person we know until we hear the words “Oh my God, I have to visit P.R. some time!” or “Can I go home with you this summer?” It is impressive how this little Island becomes such a part of all of us. No matter where we go, or where we are, being a Boricua is a big part of our identity.
I hope that after such explanation, you can understand that “Guaynabitos” and “Cafres” are not two different groups, as they share many more common characteristics than they do differences. If people keep on pursuing these labels, our community will never be united. We need to understand that we share a small island, and we also share a culture. By eliminating stereotypes, we will also eliminate the prejudiced treatments and separation between us. We will stop throwing bad looks at each other when seeing difference in clothes. We will stop parking in separate areas of parking lots depending on the price of our vehicles. We will stop mocking each other with the “Guaynabitos” and “Cafres” prejudice based on the area in which we live in. But most importantly, our population will become one whole community, instead of two.
As mentioned before, Puerto Rico is a small island that has many charms to it that I am very proud of. We have beautiful beaches, like the island of Icacos and Culebra, and Palguera, where thousands of people visit during the summer to lay on our warm sands and blue waters. We have “El Yunque,” the biggest and only tropical rainforest in the United States, and many other waterfalls and rivers to admire. We have a town full of history and houses of every color that is San Juan, and delicious foods that cannot be found anywhere else, like mofogon, pilón, tostones, and even the mayoketchup. But most importantly, we have beautiful people of every skin color, due to our mixture of the Taíno, the Spanish, and the African race, who scream “Oye Pablo, tanto tiempo!” from one end of the street to another with no shame, and make every occasion a reason to celebrate. “Guaynabito” or “Cafre,” we all do the same things, and we enjoy it equally, because social classes do not define our culture; it is our motherland that does. Thus, if our way of life is the same, why do we citizens of Puerto Rico identify and classify ourselves based on the region we live on? As a Puertorrican, not a “Guaynabita” or a “Cafre” I would encourage us to eliminate all our prejudices, and not be ashamed of where we live or how we live, because in the end, we are nothing but Puerto Ricans.
I hope you too can join my cause,
A Puerto Rican Citizen