Tuesday, June 27, 2017

So Your Character is From Puerto Rico ... Featuring Lilivette @ Reviews by Leeve + Kathryn @ Nose Stuck in a Book

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Mexico ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Puerto Rico is technically a territory of the United States, so I've known some people who've gone there for vacations. I know it's very tropical and they speak Spanish there, but I didn't know much beyond that, which is why I'm happy to have this post by Lilivette and Kathryn!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts are as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

I am Lilivette and I live around the north part of the beautiful and small tropical island of Puerto Rico. I am currently a college student, and I enjoy wasting my free time reading, writing, playing video games, reviewing things at my blog and having close encounters with nature and a nice time with friends!

My name is Kathryn Calderon. I am Puerto Rican and Peruvian. I am 23-years-old. I am an artist, graphic designer, blogger, and future film producer and scriptwriter. My favorite word is preposterous and I an avid reader. I am a Kingdom Hearts, Disney, and Bollywood enthusiast. I live in the southern hemisphere of the United States at the moment but I was born and raised in NY. Hobbies include art, makeup, photography, dancing, watching movies/tv, and reading. My occupation is a full-time student going for my Masters and I work from home in a home business.
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Lilivette: Something that I feel is unique to my country? I’ll have to go with our mixed culture and language! Our culture has been touched by Spain and the US, so it is a mixture of both. And our mother tongue is Spanish, but it’s pretty much Spanglish (Spanish + English) these days, but besides that, our Spanish is also mixed up with African and Taíno words, and that’s pretty much why I feel like it’s something unique. Some other things I think as unique from our country is one of our native music: la plena, and of course, our little coquí.

Balneareo de Rincón, Rincón by Lilivette
Kathryn: As a Latin Woman living in the United States for me the unique things in this country are the places and festivals that celebrate my culture. For me, that would be the Puerto Rican Day festival and parade in NYC and the different Latinx/Hispanic festivals in different states like NY, GA, Florida, etc. Also, any time I can find a restaurant that reminds me of Puerto Rico and Peru I feel warm and homey. But when I go to Puerto Rico I think Old San Juan is extremely unique because of all the history. I also think the different museums my Tio Danny has art in and the mural he painted are unique spots as well (I forgot the name of them at the moment.)

Camuy by Lilivette

Naranjito by Lilivette

Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Lilivette: Our environment is like any other normal and humid tropical island, and even though humidity can be a pain in the butt, I love it! Some of my favorite places are the beach, the rivers that lay hidden around the center of the island and just inner tourism; going to famous places like: El Morro, El Castillo San Cristobal, La Parguera and more! They’re just so beautiful, fun, peaceful and inspiring places! 

Kathryn: In America sometimes, I don’t feel comfortable certain places because people will look at my family with such hatred and it is something that is hard. As a Christian I give my love to people no matter their race, gender, sexuality, color, ethnicity etc. So, it can be difficult and lonely when you don’t get that same respect just because of what I am. When I go to Puerto Rico I feel free from those prejudices but I can have whole new ones because some people there don’t feel I am Puerto Rican enough because I didn’t grow up on the Island. Both places have good and bad for me but I still love both and call them both home. My favorite place in America is the country side of Pennsylvania and my favorite place in Puerto Rico is El Yunque and the historical town in Ponce.

El Morro, San Juan by Lilivette
Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Lilivette: This right here is my favorite question! Food? Thought you’d never ask! Our menu is pretty big and tasty, but our daily dish almost-always is rice, beans and any kind of meat! But that aside, some of my favorite dishes are: mofongo (which is pretty much a small ball of mashed fried plantains stuffed or surrounded with chicken soup, seafood or pretty much anything you want it with), alcapurrias (these are a delicious combination of green bananas, meat and other tasty stuff, they’re also fried and gold for your breakfast), bacalaitos (which are heaven on earth but I don’t know how to describe them, they’re fried and have cod on the inside), arroz con gandules, pasteles, dulce de coco, besitos de coco (which are some sort of candy made with coconut flakes, sugar and vanilla; and they’re so soft and tasty, God) and I can go on mentioning more dishes! There are just way too many, but these are from my top 10 and they’re very delicious, feel free to google them and wonder how they taste like!


Kathryn: Ah the food of my people is something truly magnificent. It is something that truly brings the people together. Some of my favorites are pernil, arroz con habichuelas, tostones, alcapurria, pasteles, bacalaitos, mofongo, and chicharron de pollo. There is a lot of other food that I love but that is just some of my favorite dishes.


Dulce de Coco
Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
Lilivette: Like I said before, our mother language is Spanish, but it’s mixed up with English, and some African and Taíno (I forgot how this language is called) words. The different thing about our Spanish is that our “r” is really messed up, I don’t know how to explain it in English, but if you hear Puerto Ricans talk with any other Spanish speaking person, you’ll understand. Our slang is pretty dirty, but I have to admit that it’s something that makes us “us." And I will finish my answer for this tricky question by saying that we always forget the name of things and go around yelling for someone to bring the thing that’s over there on top of that big thing in the kitchen. See what I mean?

Kathryn: For Puerto Ricans it is all just different dialects depending on where you are born. Within the Island there are different dialects and there are different dialects of people born on the Island versus people born in the United States. Then in America the way a New York Puerto Rican might say something can differ from a Florida Puerto Rican and so on. It is all the beautiful language of Español but just as with any language you have different dialects and sometimes different words.

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Lilivette: A regular day in my country will pretty much include waking up, having breakfast, taking your meds and then going back to bed and cry―oh wait, that’s my regular kind of day, sorry, haha. Joke aside: I don’t know, a regular day on my little island would probably include waking up, getting breakfast, reading the newspaper, driving to work or University or anywhere you’d like to go, lots of traffic, getting back to your house or going somewhere else, and if you’re in the mood by the end of the day, you go out and watch a movie or have fun or I stay in your house like I do. Like in any other country? Unless it’s Christmas season, ‘cause Christmas season rocks ‘cause you’re pretty much partying since Thanksgiving Day ‘til “El día de Reyes”! 

Kathryn: As I stated I wasn’t born on the Island so I wouldn’t know from first hand but since they are sort of part of America things are similar to how we in the states live according to my family. I think one major difference is all of their school wear heavy uniforms (I have seen them and they look HOT.) But they go to work, school, movies, etc. just like the states. But they have that added benefit of beautiful beaches, Spanish food everywhere even pinchos on the side of the road as you drive, live music on beaches and sidewalks in some places, and just a rich culture. 

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Lilivette: I won’t and can’t compare it to the States, but they’ve influenced enough on our daily basis. On the other hand, I can compare our environment and part of our culture with Dominican Republic, Cuba, and many other close islands because we’re all neighbors and brothers from another mother! Why? Because besides being tropical islands right next to each other, we pretty much share the same roots, history, culture, language, tasty dishes AND beautiful locations across our islands!

Kathryn: Again, since I don’t live there I don’t know firsthand but I know some things second-hand. With the recent hurricane devastation, a huge loss is in the medical field. My grandparents told me many doctors have left so that has left many people sick, dying, and in major need. They use the same money currency as America and they have their own government but they are sort of under America (I don’t know all the technicalities of their politics.) But they have governors, mayors, judges, etc. So, it is pretty much the same legal system and government system. Also, a big difference is in the language as I am sure you know and the food is primarily Spanish. 

Briefly describe three historical events of your country’s you feel are important.
Lilivette:      El Grito de Lares: El Grito de Lares was a small revolution for Independence from Spain that took place on Lares, Puerto Rico on 1868. I feel that this is an important event because things were bad on the island by that time and it was nice to see that people were willing to fight for them to get better, and even though they failed, they managed to make some things right: five years later, slavery was abolished on the island, two years later, the first political parties were created in Puerto Rico, and "la libreta de jornaleros" got radicated. 
   Tratado de Paris: This was the treaty that ended the Hispano-American War (the war between Spain and the United States) around 1868. This treaty also ended up ceding Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the USA. This was an important event because it made everything on the island change forever.
   1948 elections: These elections were important because they were the first democratic elections on the Island where the people were able to choose their first governor: Luis Muñoz Marin.

  • 1898 - Under the Treaty of Paris, Puerto Rico is ceded by the Spanish to the US at the end of the Spanish-American War.
  • 1917 - Jones Act grants US citizenship to Puerto Ricans.
  • 1993 - Spanish and English declared as official languages.

El Grito de Lares
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Lilivette: Probably that we’re all lazy, dumb, drug addicts, savages, or sexy. Why does the sexy irks me? Because we Latinas/us always get seen or portrayed as hot-headed sex symbols... and that needs to stop. The news gives my country a bad name sometimes.

Kathryn: I just get irked when I can’t see Puero Ricans or Latinx/Hispanic people in general in things other than maids, gangs, immigrants, etc. Of course, I know the things my people and culture face and go through but let out young people see themselves as Kings/Queens, magicians, bosses, etc. 

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Lilivette: I haven’t watched any that try to portray our country as ours, they’re always portraying it as somewhere else so. . .

Kathryn: I do appreciate the directors, actors/actresses, authors, etc. that are working to create more representation in their respective fields. Like Pablo Cartaya, Zoraida Córdova, Adam Silvera, etc. are some authors that have written about Puerto Rican characters and that brings me joy.

Who are your top three favorite characters’ native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Lilivette: I haven’t read any books with any Puerto Rican characters, or remember a good movie with any so. . . [silently sobbing]. This answer pretty much explains why I decided to make one of my main characters from one of my WIP’s Puerto Rican, or just simply Latina.  

KathrynReyna Avila Ramírez-Arellano. She is from the Heroes of Olympus books and from San Juan Puerto Rico. The authors mentioned above wrote about them but I have not had the pleasure of reading about them just yet. As far as movies and TV most Latinx/Hispanic characters don’t mention exactly where they are from so I don’t know any specifically native to Puerto Rico. So, I will just name some other characters who are Latinx/Hispanic that I love in general. Arturo Zamora, everyone in COCO, and Leo Valdez.

Thank you, Lilivette and Kathryn, for this very informative post! I hope everyone enjoyed reading it. Come back next week for So Your Character is from South Korea ...!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com.

Do you have any characters from Puerto Rico? Did this inspire you to write a Puerto Rican character or set a book in Puerto Rico? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Lilivette and Kathryn? Be sure to thank them!

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