The first time I read this phrase, something inside me click. Margaret Lazarus Dean used it to refer to her Puerto Rican friend and NASA contact Omar Izquierdo, in her book Leaving Orbit. I found it humorous that, in all the ways I’ve seen my culture be described, no one has so eloquently distinguished my people’s love for the facts, a thirst for fact checking even gossip. Information integrity and human capital is our island’s best export. Curiosity and a well connected network is what life is all about, in this storytelling rich culture.
The irony is not lost on me.
I can’t let inconsistent logic nor incorrect facts permeate a discussion no matter how inconsequential. Boricuas don’t trade or rely on incomplete data; reputation and credibility are more valuable than coin. We do our best to find all sides of the issue before committing to an opinion, especially an unpopular one, or before spreading malicious gossip. The person with the best information is sought by all, revered and admired above all else. I am yet to find a culture with better investigative reporters; we speak with conviction in our hearts and tell it how it is, without “pelos en la lengua” or shame.
If I had to guess, we owe this trait to straddling the best of both worlds – the Hispanic and Anglo-Saxon – since the beginning of our modern history. Puerto Ricans were caught between the lies the old and new colonists told, and their sense of national identity. The sassy and bitter champions of justice and equity, thanks to our disdain and distrust of authority. Corruption and indifference are the bane of our existence. Deep down we are all realists and cynics; memes became our latest canvas, our virtual megaphones to express our concerns and skeptical optimism. The dark humor proof that we can laugh at ourselves for as long as we must, in order to retain our sanity.
Because of all this, innocence and naiveté is lost very early in life. Resilience is rhe key to surviving the treacherous waters of misinformation, the occasional hurricane, and the hardships of bad government and second class citizenship. I always envied those who didn’t care about history, the privileged and the blissful. Those who don’t feel a need to document and photograph everything. There’s a pre-emptive nostalgia permeating everything I do because I know things can change within a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever.
“La ignorancia es atrevida” (ignorance is brazen) and must be eradicated for the sake of humanity’s survival. As my immediate landscape and social narratives evolve – hopefully becoming more inclusive and less foreign – I’ll do my best to learn and adapt with an open heart. As much as it hurts to see the vestiges of my childhood fade into obscurity, and new ideologies replace the ones imparted onto me by my grandparents, this growth is a necessary evil. To fully become an epistemological purist is in essence to serve as a witness to progress; to hold others accountable and commit to speaking the truth. To collate anecdotes with the data. To ensure that there’s always two sides of a story but only one correct set of facts.
Whenever in doubt about an event, an idea or an origin story, ask a Puerto Rican. They’ll always deliver!