Listen, my people, the greatest in this world, You always make me feel deep pride. "Mi Gente" by Hector Lavoe
What is beauty? Is it what you look like? How you act? What makes a people beautiful? Hector Lavoe knew what made his people beautiful. He described it in his famous song, "Mi Gente," my people. He goes on to say; “Mi gente, I always ask for you to come and you do. I invite you to sing and dance, and you do." When I think of the time I lived in Puerto Rico as a child and all my subsequent visits, I have to be honest--every experience with mi gente has been uplifting. I say that with all seriousness. Yes, there is the occasional jerk and there has been traffic and graffiti, and of course there was hurricane Maria, but with all of that, there still is this gentle spirit, an optimism. There is a kindness, a willingness to share, and a generosity that is wonderful to experience.
As a child, it was the neighbor willing to share his meal with you, however skimpy. As a young woman, it was my grandmother climbing up a coconut tree, taking her machete and making two coconut drinks for my husband and I. At my grandmother's funeral, it was my cousins taking us to Old San Juan and dancing the night away in honor of my grandmother’s spirit. Years later, it was family caring for my father, bathing him and burying him, when we couldn’t. It was in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in the dignified way people went around their business focusing on dreams and moving forward again. My husband visited Puerto Rico for the first time last year. He is Cuban-American and his first time on the island impressed him so much, he wanted to come back right away. He fell in love with the friendly people, the beauty of the island, and the gentle and humble spirit of mi gente.
I think of the lowly beloved Jibaro, the famous country man that is sung about in Puerto Rican folk songs, and I can still see him walking the streets of Old San Juan, as he sings about his troubles and a world full of happiness.
World Values Association in 2005, ranked Puerto Rico, not Disneyland, the happiest place in the world. It’s a bit of a mystery, said Professor Robert Inglehart from the University of Michigan. Even with all of the crime, half of the Common Wealth below poverty, and all of its troubles, the people of Puerto Rico are happy. He said, "It’s about the good attitude and positivity." In 2016, Curaçao Chronicle said, "Puerto Rican’s were the happiest people in the Caribbean." In 2018, an article read, ”A Deadly Hurricane Can't Stop Puerto Ricans from Partying." I don’t need studies to tell me what I have always known, my people are a beautiful people.