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Another False Choice
By Gene Roman
March 28, 2001
The minefield of political correctness is filled with lots of traps and holes. Felix Trindidad Rodriguez, the father of boxing champion, Felix "Tito" Trinidad, decided to dive into one of them during an interview with Primer Hogar de Puerto Rico. In a story reported by Carlos Arias of El Diario/La Prensa of New York City on March 8, under the headline: Ruiz is not an authentic Puerto Rican hero, Mr. Rodriguez made the following statement regarding John Ruizs victory over Evander Holyfield to become the first Heavyweight boxing champion of the world of Hispanic descent. Mr. Ruizs parents are natives of Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico and he was raised in Massachusetts: "I have a lot of respect for John and his family. I dont want to make anyone sad with the following comments, but I think all this talk about John as a national Puerto Rican hero is a bit exaggerated. To be a national hero is not easy and even though John is the son of Puerto Rican parents, he was not raised in Puerto Rico. I think we need to save our celebration for when we have a champion of our own. I dont think its fair that we are bestowing a title on John that doesnt belong to him since he was born and raised in the Boston area." I laughed as I read this article and whispered to myself, "Here we go again."
The cultural dividing line that exists between some Puerto Ricans born and raised on the Island and those of us raised in the states is an old one. We all have different war stories. One of my favorites occurred while I was attempting to court a Puerto Rican gal I had met through mutual friends. I asked her to lunch and as we left my office one evening after work, she said the following: "Ive changed my mind. Ive decided I dont want to go to lunch. Out of curiousity, I asked why. "Youre not Latino enough for me,"
she said. I remember smiling to myself and thinking as I walked away that she was doing me a favor because what person of either gender wants to waste time building a relationship with someone who would make this kind of statement. I humorously thought to myself that I guess my Spanish wasnt good enough, or I didnt aggressively flirt with her in public (Oye mami), I dont smoke, and I wasnt wearing an open neck shirt with 5 different gold chains around my neck.
I consider any invitation to battle over who is authentically Puerto Rican a huge waste of my time, energy and talents, and those of our extended community here and on the Island as well. The false choice being presented to us in the above statement of Mr. Rodriguez is a diversion from the real work that needs doing. The blood, sweat and tears that is traditionally directed toward the polemical battle of cultural authenticity is better spent trying to figure out how we can build bipartisan coalitions to get universal health care, good schools for our children and jobs for our fellow citizens.
Gene Roman writes from NY where he is the Deputy Director of the National Center on Education and the Economy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.