As I exited the airport in Carolina, I inhaled deeply—the air was crisp and refreshing, just as I had imagined it to be. I looked around and was in awe at everything I saw; I could see the sandy beaches in the distance, the dazzling blue sky, and some palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze. I was relieved to have returned to the island of Puerto Rico, where my family comes from. My mother called my uncle so he could pick us up, and I was extremely impatient because I was ready to begin exploring the island.
During the car trip to the city of San Juan, I peered out of the window, simply enamored with all of the smaller towns we were passing through. There were small houses scattered along mountainsides, and the mountaintops seemed to pierce through the small group of clouds. I saw people tending to their gardens outside of their houses, with clothing lines strung high above the ground, with their clothes dangling in the cool air. They would wave to us and shout “Bienvenidos!” as we passed, demonstrating the generous hospitality the people of Puerto Rico have.
Finally, we arrived in San Juan. Most of my family lives here, although some live in the smaller towns surrounding it. My uncle parked on the side of a street, allowing us to get out and walk around the gigantic city. I remember the unique architecture and culture of the city; it was nothing like Arizona. Many of the buildings in Old San Juan are brightly colored, ranging from blue to red to pink. Although the city is extremely old, the buildings and the cobblestone streets are very well maintained. Walking along the sidewalks, I looked into the windows of a few stores and saw all of the tropical knickknacks they were selling. Further along down the street, there were groups of jíbaro and bomba dancers dressed in their vibrant attire unique to Puerto Rico.
It was here in San Juan that I felt more connected to my roots than I did living in the United States. When one goes to another country, especially one where their family comes from, they can feel a sense of attachment and love for their culture, which is what I felt during my trip to Puerto Rico back in the summer of 2013. Although many people in Puerto Rico are poor, they still have their rich culture and history to cherish, and many of them do. In that moment, I fell more in love with my culture and was and still am proud to have roots in such a beautiful place. My heart will forever be in Puerto Rico and I always look forward to returning someday.
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