My maternal grandparents, Irma (Perez) Echevarria y Adriano Echevarria, both from Isabela, PR, on their wedding day.
I am a second-generation Hispanic, born in the late 70’s to a Puerto Rican mother and a Caucasian father. I was fortune enough to have my maternal grandparents in my life until my mid-twenties; and I cherish every memory I have of them. (I refuse to believe that anyone can make arroz con pollo as tasty as my abuelita did.) They lived near us, so I was able to see my Grandma and Grandpa Echevarria (“E” for short) often growing up. My grandparents met as teenagers in Isabela, PR, and relocated to Brooklyn, where they raised 4 daughters, the oldest being my mother, who went on to have 4 children of her own. I think it’s amazing that my grandparents came to America from Puerto Rico in search of a better life; they pursued their dreams. Although they weren’t rich by any means, they found jobs and settled down in Brooklyn for many decades.
I still have family in Isabela and San Juan and we try to visit them yearly. Facebook is a wonderful way to keep in touch with all my cousins in Puerto Rico; I can feel their energy and warmth through my laptop and it cheers me up on cool New York nights. One of my fondest memories from the 90’s was exploring El Yunque National Forest with my mom and sisters.
My daughter is almost 2, and although she’s too young to understand she’s 1/4 Boricua and has a Puerto Rican grandmother; I find little ways to remind her of her Latin roots. On a recent trip to Boston, we watched the Puerto Rican Day parade and cheered on all the dancers. My daughter has a toy coqui on her toy shelf and I sometimes read her books in Spanish such as Gansi y Gerti. Tia Teresa bought my daughter a Baby Abuelita doll that sings Pon, pon, pon el dedito en el pilón which was my grandmother’s favorite “baby” song. I definitely let my daughter know she’s got some amazing culture in her family gandules tree!
Hispanic Heritage Month reminds me that my grandparents were hard-working immigrants; that Spanish is a beautiful romance language, and famous Latinos such as Gabriel García Márquez and Miguel de Cervantes left behind a legacy of amazing literature. As a Hispanic, I cherish zesty foods, look forward to family Quinceañeras, miss my primas dearly, and sing loud and proud with brave passion. I’m so honored to have Hispanic roots and love meeting other Puerto Ricans. (Although I have yet to actually meet the Ricky Martin…someday!)
Currently, two Hispanics are running for President of the United States; and, according to The Economist reporter David Rennie, “business is waking up to the rise of Hispanics.”
Hispanics are growing rapidly, making their voices heard, and are proud–and I love being part of such a welcoming group of people.