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While in Puerto Rico, I had the opportunity to experience and learn from those that live there. I learned about some of the history of the country and of its people, mostly through an artistic point of view. On the 2nd to last day, we had the chance to go down to Old San Juan. It’s a historical city that’s sort of similar to Old Sacramento, but more colorful and with more history. It was full of little shops, boutiques, and apartments. We went into an art gallery that had various mediums of art including masks, paintings, sculptures and so on. The gallery worker gave the history of the different masks which were bright, of all shapes and sizes and really colorful. While similar in design, they were made of different materials and had a resemblance to African art. Later on, we heard music and went down to the street where there were two canopies set up and tons of older people with chairs all around a makeshift dancefloor. The musicians played salsa music, love ballads, and other traditional music. My mom and I danced with the older ladies for hours; they showed us their Puerto Rican electric slide and perfected our salsa dancing. While taking a break, we ended up talking to two women from Puerto Rico. They requested that the band play a traditional song so that we could watch one of the ladies dance, and see how it incorporated African dancing elements. One of the women that had been talking to us then went on to point out the different parts of the dance, and give history as to why it had such a blend.
I was surprised by all of the diversity in Puerto Rico, and when you look at all of the people there, you see a huge rainbow. They’re all shades, shapes, and sizes. This speaks to their past and how it blended so many cultures together. I was able to see how similar our histories were and it allowed me to feel comfortable and a sense of belonging. I enjoyed it very much and I loved how open the people were to telling their own story and how much they knew about their history.
This experience has allowed me to see more of the similarities that we share with each other rather than the differences we have. If I ever get a chance to work with people from this culture, I’ll be able to be as open and warm with them as they were with me. I’ll feel a sense of community with them as well, because of our shared pasts. Having some of this knowledge also just opens up my worldview a little more and I appreciate the opportunities I have to do this.
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