Community

Guest Column

Know Your Neighbor

f15666bef3e192bbd567_valinoti_family.jpg
The Valinoti family in Puerto Rico Credits: Angelique Valinoti
f15666bef3e192bbd567_valinoti_family.jpg

For Desi, Cam, and Lily 

I am Puerto Rican. 

But, I have light skin and two blonde boys. I grew up in Upstate New York and now live in New Jersey, and have a very fortunate life. I am not the Puerto Rican portrait you might imagine.

Sign Up for E-News

During a college interview I was asked about my heritage and experiences with adversity.  I said then and can say to this day, I never truly felt that being Puerto Rican held me back from social, academic, or professional opportunities. Aside from my dad's pronunciation of "shocolate ship" which my brother and I mercilessly teased him about, being Puerto Rican was about cultural richness and family pride - I got all the good without the bad.

And that has only made the past two weeks of endless disaster more unbearable and confusing. I have been walking around, living my normal life, with a lump in my throat. Watching the news or going on Facebook only furthers my broken heart. I feel guilty for not being more vocal or more visibly Puerto Rican throughout my life. For accepting the good without the bad, and being Puerto Rican when it was trendy or convenient, but not consistently sharing where I come from. I think about my grandparents who have been a strong and constant presence in my life from miles and miles away; while I go to work every day and have the same conversations I did a month ago, they have not had fresh water to drink in two weeks. I am helpless no matter what I can send to them because I am not there, and there is a limit to what can be done from afar. So all I can think to do for now, in their honor, is to share with you what it means to be Puerto Rican.

I might brag about knowing the words to "Despacito" but, being Puerto Rican means more to me than being able to shake it on the dance floor. It’s more than the beautiful hotels and beaches of my island, even more than my sentimental and vibrant wedding there right beside the shore. To me it's about the memory of walking to the bodega with my grandfather for caramels, which to this day I cannot eat without thinking of him. It’s his cooking, arroz con pollo and avocado with every meal. Or listening to Menudo records in my grandmother's house and through the window on her lawn. It's my cousins' amazing house and garden with the "water slide" and the way the AC felt in their bedrooms in stark contrast to the heat of everywhere else. We wrote a song about being cousins and literally walked through the streets singing it. It means singing and dancing, and laughing until we pee our pants (still).

I’ve always felt less Puerto Rican than my cousins who live in Florida and PR, have tanned skin and are all as gorgeous as J. Lo. Yet I've always been a little different than my friends too, because at my house we sang Olga Tanon instead of Bruce Springsteen or Phil Collins, and because there was always a piece of me that belonged somewhere else. It has taken me almost my entire life to accept the full package of "me" as being complete and rich from diversity. Puerto Ricans are brown, white, rich, poor, gay and straight - they come from Europe, Africa, and everywhere in between. But you'll rarely hear them say any of those things. They are one thing - Boricua. Puerto Rican.

As I’ve tried to process my feelings these days, I’ve shared them with some very special friends and colleagues. What I’ve been overwhelmed with, is not only their love and compassion but how raw people become when you open up. They open up too, about related and unrelated pain, like they've been waiting for someone to welcome them in and ask. I am lucky to live in a pocket of the country with beautifully progressive people like you. But I challenge myself and each of you to push a little further. I promise it won’t be hard. Pick one friend, co-worker, or neighbor and spend more time getting to know them, really know them. Ask questions. Find out what moves them, pushes them forward: their children, love of art or nature, wanting a better tomorrow? What holds them back: the past, fear of rejection or failure, not knowing where to start?  I think you'll be surprised what you learn. We are all different, yet we are all the same.

Angelique Valinoti 

Maplewood, NJ

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

Columbia High School Principal's Removal Raises More Questions Than It Answers

The last Twitter post from Columbia High School principal Elizabeth Aaron is very telling. 

The four-year CHS schools chief, who was recently, surprisingly, reassigned to a vague “Principal on Special Assignment” post by the school district, was a Twitter regular on her @CougarPrincipal account. There she would often promote the school’s successes and notable staff and ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 18

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll find out how accessing care at Atlantic Health System is now easier, more affordable and closer to home than ever, learn which item from the produce aisle could be the newest weapon against cancer, see what Atlantic Health System, the New York Times and Instagram all have in common and much more.

 

 

Maplewood Police Blotter - Stolen Vehicle in Maplewood Recovered by South Orange Police

July 18, 2018

July 11 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime during the early morning hours, a vehicle was stolen from a residence on the 400 block of Richmond Ave. The vehicle was recovered by the South Orange Police Department the same morning.

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Robberies Reported on July 5

July 2 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime over the previous two days, a U-Haul truck was stolen from a business on Newark Way.

July 4 - Theft from Auto; During the overnight hours an unsecured vehicle parked on Elberta Rd was entered and keys were stolen from it.

July 5 - Robberies; At approximately 1:30 a.m., a male was assaulted by two males ridding bicycles while he was walking on ...

Free 'Movies in the Park' on July 18 and August 23 in Maplewood

July 16, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Free "Movies in the Park" are planned for Wednesday, July 18, and Thursday, August 23, a program hosted by the Maplewood Police Department in conjunction with the Maplewood Recreation Department, the Maplewood Office of Cultural Affairs, SOMA Film Festival and SOMA Municipal Alliance.

The movie on July 18 will be The Incredibles, shown in Dehart Park, ...

National Weather Service Issues Heat Advisory Through 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17

NEW YORK, NY, - The National Weather Service issued a 'Heat Advisory' this morning for Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union and Hudson Counties in New Jersey. The heat advisory will remain in effect from noon Monday July 16, until 6 p.m. Tuesday July 17.

Extreme heat can cause illness and death among at- risk population who cannot stay cool. The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_982bc8344531b1a37c85_par_440

Fri, July 20, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_af1b89eae735bf536426_par440_promo

Fri, July 20, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_d36e8541b1fb2e142ef9_bobbyvalli_par440_3_dates__11x17

Sat, July 21, 7:30 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, SHORT HILLS

Solid Gold with Bobby Valli at Par 440

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Carousel_image_839567c057b5b1db93e9_bill-boat_504x353_web

Thu, July 26, 6:00 PM

River Barge Park & Marina, Carlstadt

Meadowlands Discovery Sunset Eco-Cruise

Green Travel

Statement From Emergency Committee to Reinstate Principal Aaron

July 10, 2018

** TUESDAY RALLY IS CANCELLED **

We created a movement. We leveraged our collective 1,600 voices and forced the District leadership to sit with us today [Monday] and discuss the poorly communicated, weekend announcement that CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron was being reassigned.

Our meeting was a first step in both accountability and transparency as Dr. Ficarra revealed Principal ...

Coalition on Race Responds to Changes in School District Administrators

The Board of Trustees of the Community Coalition on Race seeks racial equity, integration, and excellence in education for all students in our schools. While the pace of change has been frustratingly slow, we have seen some progress. Yet, candidly, there are too many students of color who are not well served in SOMA, who still experience segregated classrooms and who still suffer from racial ...

Those Boarded-Up Homes in the West Ward? Newark Has a Plan for Them.

July 19, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - The city is using the power of eminent domain to reduce the number of condemned homes and vacant lots scattered throughout the West Ward.

The redevelopment plan for the West Ward was introduced in 2016 and encompasses properties from the border of Irvington to South 13th Street between South Orange Avenue and 16th Avenue. One of the main goals of the plan is to support new ...

Lawmakers Denounce SCOTUS Nomination at Essex County Courthouse

NEWARK, NJ - State Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin said it was important to support local women’s health organizations at a state level should President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee be approved.

The assemblywoman joined state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, congressional leaders and women's rights groups yesterday at the steps of the Essex County Courthouse ...

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

NJ Residents Take Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

New Plumber Joins the Woolley Home Solutions Team

July 16, 2018

We are excited to announce a new addition to the Woolley team! Our new plumber, Oscar Buonafina, is an expert plumber with nearly a decade of industry experience serving New Jersey homeowners. He is also a NJ Master Plumber Since 2007. As a military veteran, Oscar truly understands hard work and commitment, and we’re so happy to bring him on board!

"I believe in service to people ...

Maplewood Brings Local Youth to the Governing Table With the Youth Advisory Committee

The Maplewood Township Committee cordially invites diverse student residents of Maplewood who are enrolled in private or public school in grades 8 through 12 to apply to serve on its new Youth Advisory Committee.  In order to continue empowering local youth whose recent advocacy on - gun safety, safe schools, voting rights, immigration, greater institutional equity and inclusion, to name a ...

Repairs to Boyden Avenue Between Elmwood Avenue and Springfield Avenue

On Monday, July 16, road repairs to the south side of Boyden Avenue between Elmwood Avenue and Springfield Avenue will take place for approximately one week pending weather conditions. There will be access to the pool parking lot for pool members and NJ Transit employees. Signage and police officers will be present to direct traffic.