I am in a terminal of the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport. I leave for Orlando in a few minutes. There are a lot of people. Two flights, two different airlines, departing for that city. A lot of people.
Suddenly, a trumpet sounds, tambourines and a “güiro” (a local percussion instrument). “¡Voy subiendooooo, voy bajandoooo!” (“I'm coming up, I'm coming down!”), and the employees form two rows and begin welcoming those getting off the plane. In this landing parade, some are dancing, others are laughing, a few are crying, but in general there is absolute joy.
Suddenly the gate is full of people filming all of it, and for a moment we were all welcoming our family home, although we don’t know each other...
If that wasn't circular migration, then I don't know what it was. But the truth is that all the fuss ended in a few minutes, and those of us who were leaving, left...
For dozens of years, the settlement of Puerto Rican communities along the east coast and the mid-west of the Unites States has been called the “diaspora.” But the term “extended homeland” recently reached my ears.
When I heard that phrase for the first time, it completely changed my outlook on “them.” Suddenly it wasn't them. Suddenly it’s me. Suddenly, we all are. Suddenly, we are the extended homeland.
In Greek, diaspora means dispersion, and it’s been historically used to describe the exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel. To me, it has an eschatological and profoundly religious connotation.
To the point that I’ve always associated the term with the transcendent experience of the Jewish people and their land. I have always had difficulty assimilating that term to our experience.
Furthermore, I associate the term with expulsion, not with return, as has been the case for so many Puerto Ricans who come and go. On top of that, I associate it with an otherness, that is to say, that they are them and not us. In fact, using the term “diaspora” gave me the sense that we were closing the door on them and enclosing them in some sort of bubble in Cleveland, Worcester, or New Haven...
And when they came back—or we came back—from the “diaspora” to live here for a while before going back again, were we diaspora or not? Were we Puerto Ricans or not? Because since the diaspora conjures up ejection, then I am “another” and I am discriminated against.
The thing is that diaspora seems to me like a term of exclusion. However, extended homeland envelops us all, it envelops us like our Puerto Rican flag, where there is room for all of those diverse Puerto Rican identities.
Twenty years ago, I began exploring this relationship between “them and us,” and that article was called “The other Puerto Rico…”
Today, my extended homeland lives in the “dot com,” and it comes and goes in millions of text messages, photos, and audio recordings. With music, art, politics, and much more, maybe a new Puerto Rican identity is being forged, one that is more inclusive and fluid. The “dot com” has erased the physical barriers. There are no “air buses” anymore; travel is done in real-time now.
Knowing that we are eight million, and not three here and five there, changes your perspective. While the world is splitting apart (Brexit, Trump, Syria), and the occurrence of random and unexpected events continues to increase, the extended homeland offers opportunity and stability. Living in that collective and individual space surrounds us with opportunities. How to learn about ourselves, how to know ourselves, will be a necessary path—fascinating and revealing to say the least. Let us begin. We are the Extended Homeland.