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From the Executive Director

February 2004

Dear Readers,

This is a particularly special issue as it focuses on the Latino community. And, as always, I am excited to write to you about things that are important to me and, I hope, to you as well.

When I began to think about what I would say this time around, I suddenly realized that this wasn't going to be easy for me. You see, I'm half Puerto Rican, but not culturally Puerto Rican at all. My name is Rodriguez, a good Puerto Rican name. My father was Puerto Rican, yet he wasn't culturally Puerto Rican either. Let me start from the beginning. ...

My father was Puerto Rican but, due to a series of unfortunate events, was raised by a white foster family. They allowed him little access to his heritage, even going so far as to forbid him from speaking Spanish in their home. He and my mother -- who is of German descent, not a Latino bone in her body -- raised my older brother and me with little understanding of our Latino heritage. Interestingly, my brother physically resembles my father's side of the family, while I look very much like my mother's.

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Growing up, it was only during the occasional visits to see my Nana, my father's real mother, that I connected with my Latino self. Nana's English was not very good, but we were always able to communicate and I loved learning about my other side. It was almost as if a part of me that was usually buried came alive. But still, I confuse a lot of people by my non-Latino looks and my Spanish name. And I guess I'm confused sometimes too. When people ask, I always say proudly that I'm part Puerto Rican. Yet, inside I know that I haven't done nearly enough to understand what that truly means. I'm a Puerto Rican/Latino wannabe. But that's changing the older I get. I have begun to work to connect with my heritage. I plan to visit my family in Puerto Rico this coming year. I am learning to speak better Spanish. I am determined to finally embrace and understand the Latino man that I am. My father passed away several years ago without ever getting the opportunity to fully reconnect with his heritage. I am determined to do so -- I think my father would like that.

So how does this personal story relate to HIV/AIDS? HIV seroconversions are up in New York City, especially among the Latino community. As an HIV-positive man, I became Body Positive's Executive Director to better help other HIV-positive individuals get the information they need to make informed decisions about their own HIV. As a Rodriguez, I owe to myself, and to my father, to better connect with my Latinaje so that I can more effectively bring this message to the Latino community as well.





  
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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.
 

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