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More in Touch with my Puerto Rican Heritage

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, Special to La Prensa

I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico but I’ve lived in the United States since I was four years old. Either because I’ve been too busy or because I’ve lacked the funds, I’ve never revisited my country.

In my home, we may only speak Spanish, eat arroz con habichuelas often, and even watch las telenovelas on the Univision Network, but this past week put me in greater touch with my Puerto Rican heritage.

For this year’s Lorain International Festival of June 21 - 28, 2009, the spotlight nationality was Puerto Rico. I’m still amazed how many Puerto Ricans of Lorain came together and took advantage of the opportunity to display our culture.

Ingrid Marie Rivera

Our culture.

Something interesting happened.

Father William Thaden, who was invited to the Breakfast event on June 22 and the June 24 gala event for the invocation and benediction, said he often found himself in “slip-ups” when referring to the Puerto Rican community. He would say “We,” even though he’s not Puerto Rican. He explained the Puerto Ricans had welcomed him so dearly that he now felt part of the community.

Lorain City Council President Joel Arredondo mirrored his words when he said “I know I’m Mexican but living in Lorain everybody feels they are Puerto Rican one way or another,” he said.

Precisely the way the Puerto Rican community has embraced so many members of other ethnicities in Lorain emboldens the pride in my culture. The members of the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee were all strangers to me when I went for my first interview, but by the end of the week I felt so welcomed; they felt like friends—like my extended family.



The music brought me to nothing less than awe.

The Puerto Rican folkloric dances of plena or bomba and even the boleros sang by the trio “Los Tres Sonidos” left me speechless. I may not have grown up listening to the folkloric sounds of the island, but hearing the cuatros, the guiros, and the maracas moved me to a powerful feeling of reverence. I felt like those sounds were always a part of me. I wanted to soak up all the sounds. I wanted to savor every second of it.

Carlos I. Montes, who was honored at the gala for his service in the Korean War while in the 65th Infantry, said the music of Puerto Rico is what he loves the most about the island. He said he also loves “el ambiente” and the great camaraderie of Puerto Ricans.

I told him that I – even though I have no clue how—that I would visit Puerto Rico very soon.

Montes advised me to visit the center of the island to get the full experience and witness the “jibaritos” work. That they are very humble but have great love and courtesy for others.

I am also amazed at the story of the first generation of Puerto Ricans to arrive in Lorain. Eugenio “Gene” Rivera, a clinical social worker in Connecticut, explained that “genesis.” My grandfather, Antonio Rivera, was one of those Puerto Ricans who traveled to Lorain after serving in World War II and constructed a small house in an area known as “El Campito.” My grandfather also worked the steel mills at the Lorain plant. My grandmother, María Rivera, attended the Sacred Heart Chapel – the religious foundation for the early Puerto Ricans.

The early Puerto Ricans to settle in Lorain were hard working, family-oriented, and religious individuals, who took great pride in their heritage – much like the Puerto Ricans of today.

Lorain Mayor Anthony Krasienko said at the gala “ Our city is so enriched because of the Puerto Rican culture.” I was enriched with the festivities that educated my community and honored my culture.

And just like the numerous Puerto Ricans of Lorain expressed this past weekend repeatedly, I too am proud of my rich Puerto Rican heritage. I can’t wait to visit my “isla del encanto.”






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