Analysis of the Puerto Rican Word 'Boricua' and It's Etymology
Table of contents
- Historical Context and Meaning
- Socio-Cultural Relevance
- Personal Connection
The development of language is a fascinating chapter in the analysis of culture and its components. Language often helps us understand the nuances of ethnicity and ethnic identity among different peoples. With this in mind, it is important to analyze the development of important words that are indicators of a culture’s social identity. This paper thus, analyzes the word “Boricua” form the Puerto Rican people. It does this to help understand its history, socio-cultural significance and context as well as giving personal insight to its importance in my self-actualization.
Historical Context and Meaning
To begin with, “Boricua” is a Puerto Rican word that is a description of the People of Puerto Rico. Its etymology begins with the original inhabitants of the Islands the Taino people who named it “Boriken”. However, the arrival of European settlers on the island diminished the original inhabitants because of miscegenation and the diseases brought by them.
Its development beyond colonialism occurred in the 16th century with the importation of African Slaves by the Spanish. Due to the transatlantic trade, many Spanish settled on the island permanently establishing dominion on the island. According to Lauria-Perricelli (363) by the 18th and 19th centuries, the population of the island had changed significantly because of the influx of runaway slaves and the intermixing of local populations creating the Canarian people.
The word “Boricua” is thus a Spanish version of the original Taino version because of the historical nature of Puerto Rican occupation by the Spanish. Steward (109) outlines that its identity stems from both local and international power. Puerto Rico was under colonial rule from 1493-1898 and after that, has become a territory of the United States. Because of this, locals ascribe to using this word to describe themselves to maintain their heritage.
In addition to this, the word is also a form of defiance to the United States norms which encourage English as the national language. Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Puerto Rico. Transnational issues between the United States and the self-governing island have forced the country’s people to become keener on their cultural identifiers in protest to what the locals view as the greater United States’ occupation of the territory, without granting them adequate rights and representation. The word Boricua is thus a description of the people of Puerto Rico that is used as an Identity word by them for patriotic purposes and has a deeper meaning beyond identifying native Puerto Ricans.
Secondly, Ardener (117) posits that the study of languages is based on the adaptation of people to their environments. Over a long period, language becomes shaped by the importance that a community imparts on certain aspects of it. As people evolve, so too does their language and meaning assigned to certain events and issues. In this context, the word “Boricua” is an evolved version of the original Taino version. Furthermore, the word is deeply influenced by its Spanish roots from the colonial actions of the Spanish. The Spanish colonized a large part of the Americas and thus have influenced language over an entire continent.
Sociocultural relativism is thus existent throughout the Americas because of the influence of the colonial masters. Although Spanish is now a mainstay of the continent, “Boricua” is solely an identifier of the Puerto Ricans. Because it comes from the original inhabitants of the island, it does not reflect in other Spanish speaking countries. It is thus, a singular identifier of Puerto Ricans and people of this origin.
However, because it is a Spanish version of the original, it has value to other cultures because of how languages evolve. Other people from Spanish speaking countries recognize its relevance and, thus, do not use it in their descriptions. Its development thus helps in the understanding of cultural relativism, and the concept of universalism as its development and use are integral to the creation of identity. Although cultures may develop in a close-knit way, and some languages are universal in application, there are nuances in language that separate cultures. Puerto Ricans are t free to use this word because it is one of the few identifies of their sovereignty, history and cultural identity.
Lastly, my connection to this word is the importance it has in describing my heritage. As a native Puerto Rican born in Mayaguez, it is an identification that I am proud of. Identifying a Boricua is important to me because my family moved from Puerto Rico to Florida when I was eight months old. Our ethnic identities are the degree to which an individual feels like they are part of an ethnic group (Ardener 71). Cultural identity is thus important to a person’s self-concept because they encompass issues regarding ethnicity and their interpretation of ethnicity. Thus, personally, identifying as a Boricua is an important part of my definition as a person. This is further bolstered by the fact that I am not a resident of the territory but have relatives who I visit often. This word gives me pride and is a big contributor to my exploration of self-conceptualization.
Furthermore, my identity does not decolonize the concept of otherhood in America, especially when one analyzes Spanish speakers in the country and the overall attitude of the country towards immigrants. Although I am a full American, my identity is often related to immigrants from other parts of the Americas. The country has a problem with immigration and thus, often discovers means to put people into cultural identifiers. Although my identity is that of a typical American, because of my heritage and the country’s issues with race and race relations, I often find myself put into an immigrant subgroup. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with being an immigrant, it is the country’s attitude towards them and the Spanish language that contributes towards stereotypes, misconceptions and characterizations. However, I wear my Puerto Rican heritage proudly because it is part of who I am, at the same time embracing the duality of cultures by being an American.
In summation, ethnicity is a big part of an individual. As human beings, we all belong to a subgroup of people that gives us an ethnic identity. Within this group, exists the development of language and words that not only help the group get together but also acts as a cultural identifier for external people. Thus, the word “Boricua” has a lot of meaning to people of Puerto Rican origin because it defines our history and identity. It is a gender-neutral word that is one of the last vestiges of Puerto Rican originality, coming from the native Taino people, without the affectation of the Spanish language or any other external factor.
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