Culture

A Homeowners Association Tried To Keep A Boricua Who Fought For Our Country From Flying Her PR Flag

When hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans came together to demand former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign following leaked chats that revealed political corruption and a series of sexist and homophobic messages, Frances Santiago wanted to stand in solidarity with her people. Living in Kissimmee, Florida, she wasn’t able to protest with her country folk on the archipelago but she demonstrated symbolically by placing her red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag outside of her home. 

Now, the Central Florida Boricua is facing a battle against her own community leaders. Three weeks after putting up the flag, the homeowner received a letter from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association requesting her to take it down. 

Santiago, an Army veteran who served 14 years as a medic, including two tours in Iraq, says she refuses to remove the flag.

“I fought for this, to be able to do this. So, I don’t see a problem with flying my flag here,” the woman told Orlando-area news station WFTV.

According to HOA bylaws, all flags are outlawed. However, the board made an exception for US flags, sports flags and flags used to honor first responders and fallen officers. Considering these edicts, Santiago is unsure why the group is asking her to remove the flag, as Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.

“Puerto Rico is part of America. What’s the big issue with us having our flag there,” she said.

HOA president Norma McNerney told  WFTV that she’s not asking the Santiago family to remove the flag because it’s from Puerto Rico; however, she did not comment on the island being the colonial property of the US and, thus, meeting the association’s criterion. 

“We treat all owners the same. If you travel through our community, you will see the only flags are those regulated by the state,” McNerney said.

Puerto Ricans have historically been banned from displaying their flag. 

While many tease that Boricuas exhibit their bandera on anything and everything, from their cars and house goods to their clothes and accessories, owning a Puerto Rican flag wasn’t legal until 1957. Nine years prior, on June 10, 1948, la Ley de La Mordaza, better known as the gag law, made it a crime to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, sing a patriotic song or speak or write of independence. The legislation, signed into law by Jesús T. Piñero, the United States-appointed governor, aimed at suppressing the growing movement to liberate Puerto Rico from its colonial ties to the United States. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years in prison, be fined $10,000 or both.

Additionally, in Kissimmee, which locals nicknamed “Little Puerto Rico” because of its vast Puerto Rican population, there has been pushback from community members who are not pleased with the demographic changes. City-Data forums warn people interested in moving to Central Florida to beware of Puerto Ricans, who commenters refer to as “roaches,” “criminals,” and the N-word, while news of attacks against Boricuas has become more common. Florida is home to more Puerto Ricans in the contiguous US than any other state. Most of the population resides in the Orlando-Kissimmee area. The region has been the top destination for Puerto Ricans escaping the financial crisis since 2008 and displacement following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. But it is also the prime journey stop for diasporic Puerto Ricans from New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts. The area is among the largest and fastest-growing Puerto Rican communities in the country.

As such, Central Florida Boricuas have rallied around Santiago. An online petition created by the Florida Puerto Rican group Alianza for Progress is asking the HOA to cease their discriminatory practices against Santiago and is already close to meeting its goal of 1,600 signatures. At the time of writing, it is short just 51 names.

Santiago and her husband Efrain have insisted that they have no intention of bringing the flag down.

“[The flag] will stay there and we’ll deal with it; we’ll exhaust every avenue possible,” Efrain said. “We have our house, you see, up to standards. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re not doing anything to our neighbors by flying our flag.”

While the Santiagos haven’t presently been issued any fines for the violation, they said they do have a lawyer and are prepared to take this fight to protect their freedom further. “I’m proud of my roots, who I am, [where] I come from. We’re not offending anyone. None of the neighbors were offended with us putting the flag there,” Efrain said.

Read: The Governor Of Puerto Rico Was Caught In A Chat Using Grotesque Homophobic And Sexist Language And The Entire Island Is Calling Him To Resign In Massive Protests

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Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Trend Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Culture

Alaina Castillo’s New TikTok Trend Is Empowering People To Embrace Their Latinidad

Not everyone has the privilege of growing up surrounded by their cultura, with parents there to pass on knowledge of traditions and customs from home. That, combined with heavily opinionated internet trolls, has led to many people struggling to feel confident in their identity. In a digital world that tries to force us all to fit into boxes, what does “Latino enough” mean and how do you know if you’re there?

Recently, we asked our Instagram community “what does being Latino mean to you?” and although some responses had details in common, for the most part they were as unique as every member of the community itself. There is no one definition of Latinidad, and therefore there is no way to measure what exactly makes someone “Latino enough.”

We got the chance to talk to Alaina Castillo, musical artist and TikTok Queen, about how she identifies with Latinidad and what this TikTok trend means to her. Did we mention quarantine has not stopped her from dropping new music? Check out her latest single, “tonight”!

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

What does being Latina mean to you? – mitú

“It means that I have something to identify with and be proud of because of my family members, my culture, and the things that I participate in as a Latina.” – A.C.

Side note, this was a personal reminder that we represent the community wherever we occupy space, whether we realize it or not. We are all participating in things as members of the community.

What’s something that, as a Latina, you are proud of? – mitú

“The strength and endurance that we have. I’ve seen it in my dad, his family, and so many others and it makes me feel proud as well as encouraged to achieve my goals with the same mindset as them.” – A.C.

While they may not be perfect (and let’s face it, who is?), our parents are the definition of hard working. Remembering that their blood runs through my veins always keeps me going when the going gets tough. Si se puede!

What Latino figures inspire you? – mitú

“Selena, even though she was an artist that I didn’t really grow up listening to. When I found out who she was, she was someone who I related to because she was a Mexican-American learning to speak and sing in Spanish, while breaking a lot of barriers that people had set up around her.” – A.C.

La Reina del Tex-Mex was a trailblazer indeed! Who else could forget Selena’s iconic “diecicuatro” blurb when she appeared in an interview with Cristina Saralegui? The important thing to focus on is that she was TRYING! As long as we’re all working on improving and being the best versions of ourselves, that’s the best we can do, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

Name one meal that, no matter where you have it, always reminds you of home. – mitú

“Homemade tamales!!!! 100%” – A.C.

You know we love some good tamales, so naturally our next question was…

Where is your family from? – mitú

“My dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Ohio.” – A.C.

Mmmm…Mexican tamales 😋

Have you ever been to those places? – mitú

“Yes, both places. I went to Mexico when I was really young, maybe about two times, and then I’ve traveled to Ohio on various occasions to see family. I was young each time I went to those places so they’re little memories I think of when I miss my family.” – A.C.

What would you say is the most “Latino” item in your home? – mitú

“We have these blankets from my grandma that I grew up using. I thought they were normal blankets but then I saw on social media that almost every Latino household has some and I was like hmmm, what do you know?” – A.C.

IMAGE COURTESY OF ALAINA CASTILLO

What would you say to people who think that not speaking Spanish makes you less Latino? – mitú

“I think it’d definitely be nice to know the language fluently but some people aren’t taught Spanish growing up and that’s not their fault. Not speaking the language doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same customs or should be rejected from the culture that their family is from. I decided to learn on my own because I’ve always been interested in Spanish, and also so I could speak with my family and I see that’s what a lot of other people are doing too.” – A.C.

One more time for the people in the back: not speaking Spanish doesn’t make you any less Latino.

How do you celebrate your Latinidad? – mitú

“With pride. I wouldn’t be who I am today without influences from my family so it’ll always be something I carry with me and proudly show throughout my life and career.” – A.C.

What do you hope people take away from this trend? – mitú

“That Latinidad is something you’re born with and it can’t ever be taken away from you,” – A.C.

So forget about the opinions of other people! All they’re doing is projecting their beliefs onto you and that is not an actual reflection of who you are. We hope you are inspired to embrace your Latinidad on your own terms, and that you walk more confidently in your identity. So duet us on TikTok and don’t forget to use the hashtag #AreYouLatinoEnough to join in on the fun!

Did we mention quarantine has not stopped Alaina Castillo from dropping new music? Check out her latest single, “tonight,” below!

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People Are Sharing Their Personal Experiences Of Feeling Shame Over Their Bisexuality And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

Fierce

People Are Sharing Their Personal Experiences Of Feeling Shame Over Their Bisexuality And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

mitu

It’s no secret that more than most sexualities, the bisexual experience is often invalidated and largely stigmatized. Often times, people who are bisexual are forced to shoulder the social stigmas from partners, friends, and family who believe that they are hiding their homosexuality, are sexually promiscuous, and or more likely to spread sexually transmitted diseases.

Curious about the effects of the stereotypes, we scoured Reddit for personal experiences with the sense of shame some people feel attached to their bisexual identity.

Check out what we found in one thread below.

https://www.reddit.com/r/bisexual/comments/4r4ha4/does_anyone_else_feel_shame/

So, I’m bi and finding some videos on the youtubes about bisexuality and started watching videos of people saying being bi doesn’t exist. I also noticed on some apps like grindr and a few others who seemed to have a ‘problem’ with my being bi for some reason. Which makes me feel bad about being bi :c

“I was really insecure about my sexuality for a long time… I still kinda am but I’m mostly ok with it Now. Sometimes I even love it. I’m not really ashamed of it anymore, I’m just incredibly introverted and very private so I’m not open to most people about it. It took me several years to come to terms with my sexuality and accept myself and I still struggle with it sometimes. I used to wish I could just be straight. But now I feel like if there was something I could do to make myself straight, I wouldn’t do it.”-Strawbeerylemonade

“No I don’t feel bad about who I am. If someone doesn’t like me for who I am, I don’t want to date them.”- EnLaSxranko

“There is a lot of misconceptions about us in the gay and straight community. I don’t feel shame but I feel awkward. No matter who I choose to be with I feel I need to explain. I’m currently in an amazing opposite gender relationship with a queer woman who I adore and we encounter bi-phobia. Today I kissed her at Pride. We are in love and queer.
I hold my relationships with my male partners in high regard and will never be ashamed that I loved them (because of their gender). So like it or not, as queer people my love for my girlfriend will be political. oh well. I’m used to it and so is she.”- torontomammasboy

“Kinda. I find it embarrassing for some reason, kinda like if I had a skin condition or something. I actually came out to my parents yesterday and they haven’t disapproved or anything but I feel really weird that they know now. Kinda exposed feeling. It’s weird. I also get the whole shame part. I don’t want to be public about my same sex attractions in the sense that they are almost purely sexual in nature. I would probably not date a guy. I’m ashamed I have sexual feelings for men but really wouldn’t date them (I could do a BFF with benefits thing but it wouldn’t be romantic at all and I don’t think I’d ‘fall in love’).”- CompartmentalizeMyBi

“I’m 25 and am currently having my homophobic mother staying with me until she finds her own place. I’ve came out to her a couple of years ago, but she dismissed it as “foolishness” and has basically been in denial about it ever since. I basically have to tip-toe around her if I want to have another guy in my own apartment. That combined with my own internalized homophobia and biphobia makes it hard not to feel ashamed of my own attractions.” – acethunder21

“No I do not feel any shame. Mostly because I actually don’t give myself any label at all. And why I don’t give myself one is because honestly, I hate labels. For jobs, for relationships, for sexuality. It all is just not something I want to deal with. Now I’m not saying that any of the the labels you give yourself aren’t any real to you. You’re reality is just as personal to you, as mine is to me. And I don’t want to get in the way of how you want to live. And that’s how everyone should really treat each other about their sexuality. I’m nearly 17, (6 days from now) and male. I’m in love with my first, and 7-month boyfriend. A lot of my friends and family know this, and I didn’t feel any different coming out about it to them than when they did not know. When wondering about your sexuality, learn it like you would playing an rpg game. Go out and explore, and find what you like, and make it yours. Hopefully my tired 1:30 am rant meant something. Have a happy night and 4th if your in the good ol’ U.S. Of A like me.”-PopsOnTheRox

“I stopped giving a f*** about what people think eons ago. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has them. Yours is the only one that should matter to you. Make yourself proud and you’ll find people respect and admire it.”-StroppyMantra

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