Domino/Dominó is a body of work in which I
reflect my process of acculturation as a
Puerto Rican who has now lived in the
United States almost as much time as I
lived in the Island, where I was born and
raised. To acculturate means "to modify
one's own cultural parameters through the
prolonged and continuous interaction,
involving intercultural exchange and borrow-
ing, with a different culture."! To assimilate
is "to take into the mind and thoroughly
comprehend or to absorb into another cultural tradition."2 While I may acculturate, I resist assimilation.
Given the tremendous racial and cultural hybridity in Puerto Rico and the colonial relationship that exists between the Island and the United States, the question of how much acculturation or assimilation has formed the character of Puerto Ricans is a constant in our communities. Such a definition is inextricably tied to the Island's colonial status since Columbus arrived in 1493 and to the recurrent conditions of loss and absence that are always present in our consciousness. The extermination of the indigenous people of Puerto Rico (the Taínos) and the importation of and enslavement of Africans on the island left as sense of rupture and displacement that could not be healed by our colonized embrace of Spanish culture.
The 1898 Hispanic-American War and sub sequent invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States brought a different language and set of cultural values that further con- fused us, but to which we reluctantly adapt- ed. After debating our political status in three recent plebiscites, what constitutes Puerto Rican culture is ostensibly tied to whether we choose to continue our adaptation to U.S. culture or move away from it by embracing a new construction of our Spanish past.
Based on this history one could conclude that what characterizes Puerto Rican culture is not simply the mixture in us of four different cultures and three races, but more importantly, a sense of loss for the original, yet non-existent, Puerto Rican. Even when we are able to fully debate, articulate and establish a self-determined status for the Island, the fluxing tangents of history, poli tics and culture will assure that puerto- rriqueñismo is characterized, not by a singular definition, but by the shuffling that marks the ongoing processes of culture.