Elements of Homesickness
About moving and dealing with separation
In this hub I am going to write about my feeling from my homeland, Puerto Rico. I am pretty sure that some of you may feel the same way to your homelands, those of you who now live far from where you were raised.
In today’s world, there are many reasons why people tend to move to new places, leaving behind their homeland and with it, family and friends. Unfortunately, some of those reasons have really nothing to do with “willing to move” but mostly the “need to move” to prosper or simply, survive.
I now live in Tampa, Florida, although I also spend a significant amount of time in Fort Myers, two hours south of Tampa. I was raised in the eastern part of Puerto Rico; a beautiful, mountainous tropical island in the Caribbean, with a lot of natural landmarks to visit in spite of its overall small area (average of 100 miles by 35 miles). In the eastern part there are many areas I love, like the Palmas del Mar resort in Humacao, a town in the southeast; El Yunque, a Rain Forest in the northeast; Vieques and Culebra with their white-sand beaches and beautiful hills, Old San Juan with its unique view towards the Atlantic Ocean; the western part also has its uniqueness, like the Dry Forest and cliffs in the southwest and the high tides of Rincon in the northwest. There are caverns, caves, beautiful man-made lakes and natural rivers with lots of waterfalls all over the island. Today, all of that beauty that I left behind can only be enjoyed from time to time, although one of the great benefits of living in Florida is the cheap prices to fly there as well as its short distance by place of an average of two to three hours from all the airports that fly there: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.
But as some of you know, Florida, which is not really tropical but enjoys a typically warm weather all year-round, but tropical temperatures in the summer and mild warm weather in the winter with sporadic cold temperatures as cold fronts and blizzards pass nearby in states north, does not possess the same attributes Puerto Rico and other Caribbean island such as Hispaniola and Cuba have. Florida has some small hills north and west of Interstate 4, but Florida has neither prominent hills nor any mountain. It’s really ironic that only 100 miles south of Key West we can find some prominent hills in Northwest Cuba, but for those of us who live in Florida the nearer mountains would be found northwest of Atlanta in Georgia. Still, Florida has some great beaches and its own attributes, like the theme parks in Tampa and Orlando, the vibrant nightlife and tourism of Miami and South Florida and its great agriculture in all the state, especially in the central zones.
For me, living in Florida is a blessing in terms that even though I miss the geographical diversity that Puerto Rico has, it still has a similar climate with a lot of things to do. But to be honest, it does not fill the entire void that Puerto Rico leaves in my heart when I am not there. I just came from two weeks of vacation there and I did not want to come yet. I lived in Virginia three years ago, and I went to Puerto Rico by the same period, and when I went back to Virginia the feeling was devastating, there was absolutely no feeling of happiness or content going back to the harsh winter. Florida kind of mitigates well the sadness of not being in my beautiful tropical island with its overall similar environment and climate, but it’s still not the same, but Virginia simply has nothing to compare to Puerto Rico for me, and I hope Native Virginians don’t feel bad for what I am saying it is simply that for my personal likes, the cold winter and temperate climate cannot really replace or at least “mitigate” my preferential like for the tropics. In addition to that, traveling from Washington D.C. to San Juan is not cheap and it is about four hours, which makes it a lot more difficult to travel to Puerto Rico as I would like than living in Florida near the mentioned areas where, for less than one hundred bucks, you can fly to the island of enchantment.
Now to make this more general, a great advantage Puerto Ricans have here in the states is to travel to our island without visa or passport complications, but I am pretty sure that the same feeling I have for my island is the same Mexicans have for Mexico, or Colombian for Colombia or Chinese for China. Moving to the United States from countries that are far away and complicated is far more uncomfortable than moving within the states. Puerto Ricans have for Puerto Rico what Californians, for example, feel for California. A lot of Californians that move to the eastern U.S. feel a strong homesickness- and California is a state of the U.S.; but so long they have the resources, Californians living in Florida or New York for example can go back to California whenever they like. Mexicans cannot do that unless they are dual citizens or possess visa permits that allow them to move back and forth to their country; for people far from the U.S. is more difficult not only because of visa and passport reasons but also for the price and distance. An Australian living in the United States has to be aware that moving to the U.S. will be a great move and that they just can’t go back and forth to Australia unless they are somewhat rich.
As I mentioned in the beginning, there are many reasons why some of us move; and some are not because we want to. When I first moved to the U.S., I had the naïve mentality that Florida and the entire United States was undoubtedly better than Puerto Rico. I was so naïve that it took long to realize the geographical differences between Florida and Puerto Rico. I thought of Miami as the greatest city in the U.S. for its tropical location and big size, and I was “enamored” of the benefits of living in Florida. But truth is that only when I came here I began to realize the “cons” that living in FL and the U.S. as a country; the culture is not the same, people here tend to be more “constrained” such that not only Americans but even Latinos and other people may tend to be more “in their own world”. It is like people here tend to guard a distance, which has its pros but for our Caribbean culture it is somewhat frustrating. For example, my parents who live in Fort Myers have Puerto Ricans neighbors they don’t know yet. We only know they are Puerto Ricans but we haven’t had any contact. Even people from my family who have moved here do change in a way that is quite upsetting. Some come with the mentality that this here is to make money and nothing else.
In Puerto Rico we have tons of festivals and cultural parties, one of them being so big that people from all over the island gather there to dance, sing and have a great time in family. The Christmas season is full of activities, although it has been decaying over the years. The overall feeling, in terms of land and culture, is somewhat saddening here, with Florida being the state with the lesser impact of homesickness due to its climatic similarities and geographical proximity to Puerto Rico as well as the ease to travel there cheap.
But Puerto Rico also has its cons, and those cons can significantly outweigh the pros depending on the people who decide to move to the U.S. Drug trafficking is right now the third largest industry in Puerto Rico, and everywhere you can see people clearly immersed in that world. Crime is staggering, and the rates of murders have even surpassed that of the country of Mexico. Burglary and robbery happen all over the island in a daily basis, and unemployment is double of what is in the U.S. in average. Most jobs are in the San Juan area which is also the most dangerous region to live in Puerto Rico, as well as one of the most dangerous in the U.S. only surpassed by New Orleans and Detroit and has been recently found to be among the 30 most dangerous areas in the world. An average of 100-200 people leave Puerto Rico daily with a one-way ticket, most of them coming to Florida but also moving to Texas and other areas in the U.S.
This situation is sad because as people have to leave, families get dispersed, friendships eventually fade as people get farther from each other, and this could boost a feeling of unhappiness and bitterness. For example, I have a lot of family members and friends living all over the country. Some live in California, others in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, Illinois, Hawaii, Louisiana, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Some live in Puerto Rico, but the overall exodus that is battering the island is making people get farther from each other.
The job market today, if you decide to look for a job and work for others, will most likely force you to move, sometimes several times during the time you work, which, if you have a family, means several stages of separation from your family as well as having your children move from different schools and leaving friends, which is not psychologically good. Companies mostly care about their financial stability, much more than the welfare of their employees. The world of jobs can be exhausting, upsetting and overall negative for people because of the stress that affects not only people in terms of what I have discussed so far but also the health. It can even cause, sometimes, family crisis- divorces, rebellion, and even entering the world of crime.
We have to think about how we are managing to endorse happiness in people because I have just described my experience and what I have seen so far, but for other people it can even be more marked.