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Puerto Rican Migrants Search For Identity In Massachusetts

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For Puerto Ricans, this question of statehood and their status as American citizens make identity a complicated topic. Puerto Ricans often move to the mainland for economic reasons, and now there are fewer on the island than in the rest of the United States. NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji talked about this tension with Puerto Ricans for a recent episode of our Code Switch podcast. Here's what one person told her.

NATALIA MUNOZ: My name is Natalia Munoz, and I'm a multimedia journalist, a bilingual and bicultural. I am also the granddaughter of Puerto Rico's first elected governor, Luis Munoz Marin.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: What are you doing in this part of the world?

MUNOZ: I am part of the diaspora. I'm here because there is no work in my homeland. I would love to be back in Puerto Rico, and I'm not talking about weather. You know, it snows here. I'm not one of those people who says, oh, it's so cold. You know, in the mountains of Puerto Rico, it can get cold also. It's not weather. It's culture. I miss being in my language, in my food, in my weather, in my political mess, in my educational mess. I'm - I feel that I'm in somebody else's mess I've been dragged into.

MERAJI: Do you consider yourself American?

MUNOZ: No. I've never considered myself American. I am an American citizen. I am Puerto Rican, and I have American citizenship. I have tremendous privilege, having that document, over someone who has crossed the desert from wherever they came in Mexico or Latin America or Central America. And I treasure it, but it's a very complicated feeling. I am a descendant of people who were conquered not once, but twice - first by the Spaniards. We were under their rule for about 400 years and then under the Americans after the 1898 Spanish-American War.

And sometimes I'm an angry Puerto Rican, and sometimes I am a grateful Puerto Rican. It's a very difficult relationship that I have with the United States because nobody asked us, do you guys in Puerto Rico - do you want to be American citizens because, you know, we're just offering it? And is it - no. So being in the diaspora - it's a painful experience. That's, I think, the bottom line. This is a lifelong, painful experience. It's a heartbreaking experience that we live with every single day, so far and yet so close to home.

CORNISH: That was Natalia Munoz speaking with Shereen Marisol Meraji in an excerpt of NPR's Code Switch podcast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Shereen Marisol Meraji is the co-host and senior producer of NPR's Code Switch podcast. She didn't grow up listening to public radio in the back seat of her parent's car. She grew up in a Puerto Rican and Iranian home where no one spoke in hushed tones, and where the rhythms and cadences of life inspired her story pitches and storytelling style. She's an award-winning journalist and founding member of the pre-eminent podcast about race and identity in America, NPR's Code Switch. When she's not telling stories that help us better understand the people we share this planet with, she's dancing salsa, baking brownies or kicking around a soccer ball.

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