A NYRican in LA: Can I Be Chicana When I Grow Up?

What's interesting here in Los Angeles is that when I tell people I'm Rican, no one questions that identity here or accuses me of misrepresenting myself. Maybe that's because Chicanos/Xicanos are used to having their own identity questioned, their pocho Spanish-Spanglish looked down upon even if the land beneath our feet in Los Angeles was once Mexico. Colonialism is complicated but to quote the poetisa Maria Mariposa Fernandez, "Yo no naci en Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico nacio en mi".

What complicates the Boricua identity compared to the Xicano is the matter of political status. While some Chicanos may still dream of the reconquista of Califas into Atzlán, Ricans from the Bronx River to the Rio Grande de Loiza are struggling with their status as United States citizens in name only but not in terms of self-determination.

This is why so much art in the Puerto Rican diaspora clings to clichés of coquis and arroz con habichuelas. In the absence of real political recognition, it's often easier to cloak oneself in false nostalgia. Chicano/Xicano art has some of this too, with open mics echoing references to tortillas de maiz.

I get it. I have been guilty of this. It's an effort in resistance but so much of this "fighting back" by going back means getting held back in our own stereotypes of what it means to be something from somewhere.

It was somewhat comforting to hear my kids identify themselves without hesitation as Ricans. When I was 15, before I found activism, I called myself everything but. There is a whole other side to them though, Chilean and Mapuche. How do I connect them to that when I lack that thread and there's not a huge Chilean/Mapuche community here in East Los, is another question.

My daughters cannot be Chicana/Xicana when they grow up. Buy I hope they will grow into their Ricanness. I know I'm still working on it.

Watch a video of Mamita Mala interviewing her daughters about their identities

Follow Maegan "Mamita Mala" Ortiz as she chronicles her adventures as a Nuyorican in LA, including being grateful for not having to smell her vecinos, her musings on different Spanglish accents and slang, her quest for the best schools for her daughters, how she gets around without a car, and the story of how the self-proclaimed original "Twitterputa" fell in love and ended up here in the first place.

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