by Beth Colón
I’ve never been one to grieve well. I don’t go through the stages. I just get mentally hit by a Mack Truck whenever I think about the things that have me devastated in the first place. When I was 12, my mother had a miscarriage; I cried once with my best friend, didn’t say anything to anyone for years and moved on. Two months ago, my paternal grandfather died of several health complications; I cried once with my best friend, tactfully shared the news with my group of friends and moved on. Today, I sit in a hotel room in Nicaragua hardly believing the piece of news that my parents have given me. My mother has been offered a job at the Illinois offices of her company, a U.S. company she has been working at for years. I’m full of grief.
Let me give you a bit more background.
I am a young Boricua (aunque naciera en la luna) that joined the Diaspora in the Chicagoland area three years ago to get a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. I left my family in the island and I only visit my home in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico nine weeks out of the fifty-two there are in a year. I’ve grown tired of this; of the short school breaks and spending my summers doing productive things so that I can look good enough for the grad schools I will be applying to. I had recently spoken to my parents about taking some time at home before a year gap broad. Brazil 2015 was sounding quite nice in my head. However, now I feel at a standstill because my parents are seriously considering making the jump to the United States.
My mother and father have traveled to the U.S. numerous times. They’ve spent some time with me in Chicago as well. Those were just vacations. I had asked them several times the one question that I think every Puerto Rican on the island has been asked by Reymundo y to’ el mundo: “would you live in the United States?” They always said no. “¿Estás loca? ¿Con to’ ese frío que hace allá arriba?”
All of their siblings have gradually made the move and they have been taking care of my grandparents for years. Once they told me of their plan to move, I got excited for a second. Then, I started thinking about my grandparents, the rest of our family, our home, our language, our food, our life in Puerto Rico and I got angry. Angry at what? The list is long. My parents are scared of the dramatic economic downturn in the island, especially since Puerto Rican businesses are almost non-existent and U.S. companies that they work for are downsizing dramatically or leaving Puerto Rico altogether. Many families are going through this situation right now and I couldn’t help but think that if the economy on the island were not so bad, I would still have that anchor.
The reason that I find myself most saddened by the move is that, as someone from the island that is so new to the Diaspora, I take pleasure in the fact that I always have my home to come back to. It is my refuge away from the socio-political garbage of the U.S.. Now that my parents are seriously considering moving to Illinois, I find myself, without a friend in sight, grieving that life.
I know my parents are nervous and thinking about the same things that I am thinking about. It’s not Florida or New York they are moving to, places where there’s a heavy Boricua presence and family members willing to help them out. No, it’s a suburban “village” that is incredibly small and 80% White; a place where they know no one and have no familial ties to. They have never had to deal with that in their lifetime. I’m worried for them. Before any of you point out the fact that I did the same thing three years ago, I never saw myself staying in Illinois. I am young enough to be open to going wherever life takes me—whether it’s North Carolina or Copenhagen. They have been slaving themselves away to U.S. corporations in order to fulfill the middle-class dream that their parents could not. Now, they could be going through a dramatic change that I don’t think they are prepared for.
If they move, my dad could be without a corporate job for quite some time. If they stay on the island, my mother and father would still feel the stress of impending corporate doom and could eventually lose their jobs. Aquí cunde el pánico.
My parents would not be the first, so I hope more can share their stories of joining the Diaspora too.
Beth Colón was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Beth is an avid reader, writer, and blogger that is both de allá y de acá. She is interested in the global Boricuascape and how it affects the island economically, politically, and socio-culturally; the African roots of Latin America; and Latin American gender constructions through music. She is a rising Senior at Northwestern University double majoring in Political Science and Latina/o Studies. She plans on attaining a Ph.D in Latin American Studies and becoming a researcher and professor in Latin America. She is currently conducting research on gender roles and community development in Masaya, Nicaragua through a Northwestern University research grant.