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Essay: Wear Your Nationality Like a Flag

  By Maria Quiñones-Cordero
  Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The featured guest essay in our Council for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion's Fall 2022 newsletter is from Maria Quiñones-Cordero, PhD, assistant professor of clinical nursing, associate director of center activities for the Elaine C. Hubbard Center for Nursing, and a faculty diversity officer.

Quiñones-Cordero’s work is focused on mechanism-based intervention development and delivery aimed at reducing Latino health disparities. She leads work on expanding and implementing systematic approaches to cultural adaptation of evidence-based interventions to fit the needs and characteristics of the Latino culture in order to improve access to and delivery of care, as well as cognitive and mental health-related outcomes.

"Wear your nationality like a flag - be proud of it!" Words spoken by Puerto Rican icon and activist Rita Moreno. As a Puerto Rican, you learn very early on that your culture, that being boricua, is what shapes the different pieces of your identity. That it centers you in a world that will try to decentralize and define you based on its own standards. We learn that wherever we go, our island se nos sale por los poros (come out through our pores) being through our food, music, or different talents, and that it is important for us to share this with the rest of the world.

Being Puerto Rican means that we come from a nation that is very resilient, that we endure our hardships and always get through them. That this is possible because we help everyone around us, placing our families or neighbors’ needs before our own because when everyone else around you is fine, then you are fine. We also learn that we are a tiny, but brilliant, island that shines through the world because of the beauty, warmth, and compassion of its people.

Being Puerto Rican means that we acknowledge and celebrate our mixed heritage (Spaniard, African, Taino). However, our positionality in this world is very different from other Latino cultures. Our journey comes with the privilege of being American citizens. This allows us to move through parts of this world freely unlike the experience of our other Latino siblings. But our journey also comes with pain due to centuries of imposed colonialism and acculturation to the “mainland.” Of generations that have fought to keep an identity and a voice, that has repeatedly been attempted to be stifled. We are told “you don’t belong,” and so, we are marginalized.

Nonetheless, we continue our journey and use our privilege to empower those who also face their struggles, be them similar or different to ours. We continue to rely on and strengthen our boricua identity. We are PROUD of being Puerto Rican; pride being a salient trait among us. And so, we strive to wear our boricua nationality like a flag.

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