Hispanic Voices Series: The Colon Finley Girls, Puerto Rico

It is Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States and to celebrate our Latina sisters, we’ve interviewed a handful of participants for our Hispanic Voices Series to provide a platform to share while we learn a bit more about their background, family life and well… heritage.  

For this special edition, we feature mother, Yolanda with her two daughters, Gabriella and Juliette “Jewels”.

Welcome, Yolanda, Gabriella & Jewels from Stamford, CT

What is your heritage/background?
 Puerto Rican
Gabriella: I identify as multicultural and my background consists of Black / Puerto Rican / Native American
Jewels: Multicultural: Black and Puerto Rican

Do you speak your families native language? 
Yolanda: Yes, I speak Spanish fluently.
Gabriella: No, I don’t speak it fluently. I learned it in high school & did a brief stint abroad in Argentina. Currently, I can understand about 80% of the Spanish I hear but am a limited speaker. I am the first generation to not speak it. 
Jewels: No, my only knowledge of Spanish is what I’ve learned in school (five years). I am the first generation not to speak spanish at home.

When did your family immigrate to the United States?
Yolanda: 1961
Gabriella: Since we’re Puerto Rican we didn’t technically immigrate in that sense but my grandmother moved to the Bronx from Puerto Rico when she was about my age. 

Do you still have family in Puerto Rico?
Yolanda: Yes, I have tons of aunts, uncles, and cousins currently living in Puerto Rico

Do you know the reasons for coming here or dreams, aspirations etc?
Jewels: As far as I know my grandmother came with her husband at the time for more opportunities and a better standard of living.

Storytelling the fabric of many ethnic cultures.  Do you have stories that you have been told or tell that you cherish?  
Yolanda: My mom grew up on a farm. She often tells me how she would go out and pick fresh fruit from the trees and watch adults kill animals for dinner (OK, maybe I don’t cherish the killing part :/),
Gabriella: All I really know is the coqui frogs and how they used to keep my grandma up at night (i think this is true but I may be remembering wrong). 

Do you have any family heirlooms, recipes etc that you pass down through your family?
Yes, my mom makes two things every holiday season that are a must (1) pasteles, which are like Mexican tamales and (2) Coquito, which is like eggnog
Recipes definitely. I need to get a hold on my grandmother’s recipes for rice & beans, bacalaitos, pasteles, tostones, coquito, & so on. 
Jewels: My grandma knows how to cook almost every type of Puerto Rican meal and now we’re just waiting for her to share them and teach us.

What language was spoken in your home growing up?
Yolanda: Mostly Spanish
Did you find it difficult growing up here with parents who were not from here?
Yolanda: No, my parents adjusted to America very well with many return visits to Puerto Rico, as it is easy to travel there.
As a mom, can you give an example of something you have taught your girls to be proud of their heritage?
Yolanda: Speaking Spanish is helpful, Latin music is amazing, and rice and beans are soul food!

What is your take on the current administration and the outlook on immigration?
Gabriella: FXCX Donald Trump, we’re not building a wall, & I stand with dreamers 
Jewels: The root of the issue is a false sense of fear and xenophobia from those in power. The current administration has created rules and instituted laws that are solely based in fear of differing cultures, languages, diversity, religion, and anything under the umbrella of non-white. While national security is extremely important as more recent events in our history have shown, it is never and should never be ethical to ban an entire race of people based on their religion or their beliefs. Nor is it even remotely intelligent or moral to scrape away at the national budget for a wall that serves *only* as a metaphor for divisiveness, racism, inate hatred, and bigotry. A land of immigrants cannot possibly build walls and close its doors to anyone that hopes to make our country great. Ever.

Are there any organizations that you work with or donate money or time to that you would like to mention?
Gabriella: I donate money to the ACLU monthly but there are a lot of great organizations that are more tailored to certain causes that you should consider as well! 
Jewels: Everytown, Inspirica, Equal Justice Initiative.

Do you identify specifically to your heritage only (Puerto Rican) or do you identify as part of a Hispanic community and culture overall?  
Gabriella: I identify as being both Puerto Rican & part of the Latinx community at large 
Jewels: A lot of the time if someone asks how I identify I’ll just say Black and Puerto Rican and on surveys online or on standardized testing I’ll put Hispanic because there is never an option for Puerto Rican and I think Hispanic is the umbrella term.

Yolanda,  first Hispanic woman that pops into your mind…
Author – Isabel Allende
Legislator – Sonia Sotomayor
Singer – Gloria Estefan
Musician – Celia Cruz
Athlete – Laurie Hernandez
Actress – Rita Moreno
Activist – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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