Coming from a colonized place and as a descendant of many interracial encounters/marriages, it has always been difficult to find an identity. What is it to be Puerto Rican? We have three different histories: Spaniard, African American and Taino (Arawak Indians). However, for my whole upbringing we were only taught Spaniard, Eurocentric history. As I looked up Census records on ancestry.com I found many of my relatives, including those darker than me, would report as white. This reflects the heavily blanquecimiento(whitening) this colonized island went through. By controlling what was taught and making citizens feel modernized by teaching whiteness culture only, people would get to a point where they wouldn’t understand or question their histories. Which is exactly what happened with me.
It was not until this assignment where I researched who I really am.
I looked up the definitions of my last name Vizcarrondo, Taino and Borinquen (the Taino name for Puerto Rico). Ancestry.com says Vizcarrondo has Basque origins, meaning people who live near mountains. This is probably why I feel so at home in Sitka near mountains. Rachel Craig implied names given to people are colonialist in a way since they are influenced by power of written word (Whats in a Name?). Craig informed “explorers named Eskimos eaters of raw meat”. In my instance, our Native ancesters are called Tainos, meaning “good and noble people”. I do believe the definition of the land of Puerto Rico called Borinquen is biased because of the power of the written word. Columbus stated Boriken meant “Land of the Valiant Lord” which is also colonialist because it implies religion. Our land now is called Puerto Rico, which translates into “rich port”, having no Taino or cultural meaning.
The recycling of names had been done on my family for generations on the male side all the way down to my brother, Gerardo. I had no idea my great grandfathers name was also Gerardo. Also, just like Rachel Craig stated Inupiaq names were given regardless of gender, same thing in my family tree. On my mothers side, we had trouble tracking down my great great grandparents names because they both sound ‘female’, so it isn’t know which one was which. My great great grandfathers name was Guadalupe, which is mostly known to be female. Even my great great great great grandfather of my moms side had a middle name of Maria. I found out through documents on ancestry.com that he was actually from Portugal. That was so interesting to me! I had no idea. So when I did my DNA test after this assignment, I found out I am 25% Portuguese. I had no idea.
documents on my mothers side
This document below is the death certificate of Domingo Jordain Jimenez. The second to the top of the left (moms side) on my family tree. He was born in 1843 and passed away at 66 years old on the year 1909. He is identified on the document as "blanco/white" on the left.
This is the death certificate of Domingo's (above) daughter Carmen. She was married to Jenaro Portalatin. Carmen and Jenaro are my great great grandparents. She passed away at 60 years old because of pulmonary tuberculosis.
documents on my fathers side
I found this information on my great grandmother Gumersinda. As you can see there are many typos on ancestry documents. Even misspelling the last name Vizcarrondo. This is due to the fact that most of the documents were written in cursive
For years my dad said we were related to Julio Vizcarrondo Coronado, the abolitionist or so stated by Wikipedia. After doing more research I found out that we were NOT related to him. We are related to Juan Vizcarrondo Coronado. His parents stated in the image right above are different than those stated in Wikipedia.
Below is marriage certificate dated 1901 between Juan Vizcarrondo Barrata and Gumersinda Ballesteros Deruffe, my great grandparents.
These documents below were a shock to my family. It shows how much my great grandmother hustled to work for the family. She constantly moved back and forth to Cuba for work as a seamstress.
I did find out interesting information that on my dads side there are a lot of musicians. Here below is an article about the death of my great grandfather who was considered in Puerto Rico as "The Teacher". An article of 1904 is very poetic thanking him for all his work for the Puerto Rican arts.
Unfortunately, I was not able to find information about my grandmother. She NEVER stated where she was from. Even though when she suffered from Alzheimers nearing her death she would constantly sing old Mexican songs. She stated her parents names but couldn't find anything on them.
I learned so much about myself with this activity. I even shocked family members with the documents above. My DNA results show the diversity of the complicated history we face in Puerto Rico. My blood is from so many different places, traveled so many miles. Hoping one day I get to visit even half of these places to connect with my ancestors.