Im Proud to Be Puerto Rican

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Are you Puerto Rican or American? Hesitantly, I don't know what to say when people ask me this question because I feel that I have to choose between the two ethnicities. Since I was born in the U.S., I am considered American. But, if I say I am American, I am asked about my origins. Thus, controversy evolves around inhabitants of Puerto Rico because they are considered Americans since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. My skin is white, my eyes are brown, and my hair is dark brown. I am confused with Europeans, such as Italians, Portuguese, or Spanish. As early as the sixth grade, I experienced prejudice indirectly. I grew up in a predominately white neighborhood where I consistently heard racist thoughts about Latinos. Throughout the hallways of my school or outside in the playground, I would hear that Latinos are drug addicts; they don't work; they depend on welfare. I also heard comments, such as Latinos are gang members, Latin mothers are slaves to their husbands, and the only job Latin women can have is working as a maid. Growing up, there were few Latinos in television and Hollywood. Even then, Latin characters were portrayed negatively. They were criminals, maids, gang members, drug addicts, or drug dealers. Presently, a dramatic change has occurred with more Latinos in the media along with different characters. Since Latinos were portrayed negatively in the media, many people internalize this belief bringing forth racism. During the sixth grade, I encountered a critical stage in my life where I denied my heritage by saying that I was American. However, I never told my classmates I was a Latino. I didn't lie about my background or denied my race because everyone assumed that I was either Spanish or Portuguese. My experience had to do with feeling accepted by my peers. Also, I was very shy and I didn't have the capacity to stand up for myself or other Latinos. While they talked about Latinos, I kept quiet; I didn't want them to think of me...
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