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What Does the Music of Puerto Rico Say About Puerto Ricans?
Racism and Grandmothers
The preoccupation with race prevalent in the United States and many other countries, does not extend to Puerto Rico. While some deny racism exists in Puerto Rico, the unfortunate fact is that it does, but it is not nearly as pervasive. In Puerto Rico, when racism rears its ugly head in social interactions, it is often dismissed with the question:
Y tu abuela, donde esta?
Translated, the question is: "And your grandmother, where is she?" The phrase comes from a poem by noted author, Fortunato Vizcarrondo, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, and later adapted to a song of made famous by the legendary Puerto Rican songstress, Ruth Fernández: Y Tu Abuela Donde Esta? (complete lyrics)
The song chides a racist by reminding him that his black grandmother was hidden in the kitchen, away from view.
Lyrics translated by Jaime Serrat
Historically, there has not been the same stigma attached to being white or black, or Indian or racially mixed, that one would likely encounter in other countries.
However, maintaining the pretense that one is "pure" white is most certainly frowned on. Even to Puerto Ricans who appear to be "pure" white, the issue of their own racial identity in the eyes of others, most likely does not matter.