Living away from your country, by default, makes you think about it more than usual. It certainly gives you distance in a physical and psychological way.

When I first left Puerto Rico to live in the States back in the late 1970’s, I remembered noticing how the Puerto Ricans living in the USA were stuck living in the past, or in the Puerto Rico they had left behind many years before. Years later I realized that it happens to all cultures when they leave their country of origin. However, Puerto Ricans, in this sense, are different. We are, by law, given US citizenship at birth. However, if you live in Puerto Rico you cannot vote for the US Congress or the President. In order to exercise those rights you must live in the US. So the citizenship has a second class tint to it.

There is no legal Puerto Rican citizenship. The United Nations does not recognize Puerto Rico as an independent sovereign nation. This has colored the migration considerably. When Italians, like many other groups, migrated to the States in the early years of the 20th Century, they left behind Italy and adopted the US as the country where they would work, live, raise a family, grow old and die. Of course, the thought of retiring in the old country was always in the mental back burner, but it rarely materialized. Puerto Ricans have never had to do that. Why? We can easily go back and forth from the Island to the US. So, our sense of national identity is quite mixed up. Among Latin Americans we are the spoiled brat dependents of Uncle Sam who have butchered the native Castillian language. In the US, most US citizens, not of Puerto Rican descent, see us as not-quite-like-them. We are outsiders who collect unemployment and welfare, and who have butchered the English language. Of course, there are exceptions, but this has been the history for over 60 years now. (Most Europeans that I have met so far do not know about Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship to the United States).

So in almost all spheres of life, Puerto Rico has this unique and weird relationship with the US. We are the grown up who is still living with the parents. This has created the complacency of a sheep. The sheep as a metaphor for Puerto Ricans is not new. It has been in our history for 500 years. Early in the 16th Century, the Spanish colonial government included the sheep in the coat of arms of Puerto Rico to represent the docile and complacent character of its inhabitants.

Well, yesterday, I was walking my dog Mia, in the fields near my house, and captured this photo as a visual metaphor of my country’s political reality.

Puerto Rico



  1. the independence movement never seemed to gain wide support on the island and statehood motions have been killed from the US… so limbo is the world of PR… ni este ni eso…
    But there should be no borders…

  2. olà Ruben, muy impressionante, your awarness of the place you live now. however, I do not know, if this message reach you, soy tecnicamente un desastre, so I just press a button, and hope it comes to its destination. It was a pleasure, to meet you and I do hope, you and Petra come by at Markthalle im Viadukt. un abrazo Béatrice

  3. Ruben: I hear you.

  4. In the words of Teresa Campos: “Me gusta mucho leerte.”

    I also enjoyed your metaphorical photograph…and couldn’t help but notice how green the grass was. I guess that the case you make about Puerto Rico and the sheep-like complacency of its faux citizens defies the the expression: “The grass is always greener….” Apparently, for many Puerto Ricans, it is quite “green” enough.

  5. Me encantó tu escrito, Rubén. Pensé en Filiberto Ojeda Ríos y en lo que escribió un periodista sobre él a raiz de su muerte: “No importa que sean minoría. Mientras exista un puertorriqueño que quiera la libertad y luche por ella, en él estará Puerto Rico.”
    Me gusta mucho leerte.

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