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Puerto Ricans Are U.S. Citizens… A New Life

Puerto Ricans Are U.S. Citizens

P.A. Abigantus

Pembroke Pines

October 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Sandra Sanchez-Perez's recent first-person "immigrant" account in the Community News was an impressive example of the success and impact Hispanics are having in Broward County. Mrs. Sanchez-Perez is a great role model.

However, the Community News profile is representative of the failure to understand the culture of Broward's fastest-growing minority group. The profile was labeled as an account of "how someone from outside the United States has established himself or herself successfully in South Florida." The package was also labeled as part of a series on immigration.

Mrs. Sanchez-Perez is not an immigrant. She is Puerto Rican, and Puerto Ricans are Americans by birth. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States and has non-voting representation in Congress.

The people of Puerto Rico do not encounter the same constraints facing immigrants. On the other hand, immigrants do not have the same rights and face unique challenges. That said, many Puerto Ricans who move here also face challenges in trying to assimilate.

I commend the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Community News for wanting to increase the exposure of Hispanics on its pages, but the failure to understand the difference between a Puerto Rican and an immigrant can only result in teaching ignorance to your readers.

A New Life

By Sandra Sanchez-Perez

October 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

"I like to be in America" is the line every Puerto Rican remembers from the musical West Side Story. My father, Jose E. Sanchez, was no exception.

He traveled the world. And he wanted his two children to be exposed to other cultures.

I was born and raised in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, surrounded by nature's best: the beaches and the mountains. Extended family everywhere. Then it happened: My big transition to the United States.

Schools, tall buildings; anxiety levels high. I was fortunate to have been placed in a bilingual high school program in Fort Lauderdale. It could have been worse; I could have been set one grade behind. I was very excited, so far, so good.

I realized for the first time what segregation looks like and feels like. Everywhere you looked, you saw pockets of ethnic groups. Talk about fitting in! Not a chance.

I stayed with my Latino group; we only spoke Spanish. With this group, I learned the different dialects and the richness of our Hispanic culture.

I went to college where there were no bilingual programs. English became my second language. Did I consider myself completely integrated? No. Grateful? Absolutely.

This country provided me with a broad understanding of what freedom really stands for. In what other country do you find so many opportunities? Today, I proudly hold the position of director of Hispanic services and customer relations for Memorial Hospital Pembroke in Pembroke Pines

I have learned many lessons, experienced many challenges and have grown into a much stronger individual. The words "yo puedo," I can, are part of my daily motivation. I learned that persistence drives success.

Sandra Sanchez-Perez is director of Hispanic services and customer relations for Memorial Hospital Pembroke in Pembroke Pines. She can be reached at 954-963-8004.

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