Response to Puertoricanness (#1)

So the writer, Aurora Levine Morales, is both the narrator and the protagonist; who then is the antagonist?, I suppose that the antagonist is American culture in general, and in particular, that part of American culture which conflicts with the Puerto Rican culture of Aurora Levine Morales’ youth; that which is close to her heart, and for which she has found no substitute in the United States. What instant convenience of American culture can compete with a pot of food on the stove all day, humble as that pot of food may be. For if a pot of food is on the stove all day, there is somebody there to tend to that pot all day, somebody to serve you perhaps, somebody to talk with you as you eat. What refrigerator, full of microwaveable delicacies can compete with that?        

The rooster….it is significant that Levine Morales starts with the rooster (a metaphor for the Puerto Rican in Levine Morales that will not be suppressed?). That visceral rooster will be heard and cannot be ignored. The rooster will wake her up, will be part of her dreams, until she answers him and embraces her dormant Puerto Rican culture.  

 The narrator has the misfortune of emigrating from a warmer climate to a colder one. Who in Chicago’s cold winters would not miss the Caribbean or the shores of the Mediterranean if they could. How can the plain mulberry tree compare with the exuberant flamboyant tree of Puerto Rico. How can the grey winter Chicago skys compare with the vibrant colors of a Caribbean sky?       

 Like all immigrants, the fear of lacking “savoir faire”, seeming to be ignorant of social norms; to not “know” how to dress, or date, or to address a professor appropriately, caused the narrator to suppress the intuitive part of herself; to appear as dyslexic, stuttering, and to sell herself short; but no more. Yesterday, as she answered her husband, something changed; she felt comfortable with being herself, by telling him that “This is how we talk, I will not wait sedately for you to finish”… this is who I am, I am not sedate! She will drink piña and mark time by mornings, afternoons and nights, not by the technical exactness of minutes and seconds. Her “work, eating, sleeping, lovemaking, play” will now shape her time.    

The narrator is torn between the two parts of her identity, the innate and the adopted; but she can abandon neither: “Since she could not now, in the endless bartering of a woman with two countries, bring herself to trade in one half of her heart for the other, exchange this loneliness for another perhaps harsher one”. Here the narrator acknowledges that her adopted American culture has also become a integral and valued part of her identity, and is thus also close to her heart, albeit at odds with the Puerto Rican part of her identity.     Is it not this very conflict, between the two parts of her heart, like a woman torn between two lovers, which gives Levine Morales the inspiration for her writing.             

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