Fierce

‘The Boricua Way’ Slang Cards Teach Puerto Rican Lexicon Like ‘Brutal,’ ‘Corillo,’ ‘Pichea’ And More

Courtesy of The Boricua Way

In Puerto Rico, like most Latin American countries, the people have their own lexicon. Local slang, inspired by various languages and cultures, as well as regional pronunciations are heard throughout the Caribbean island. For islanders, it’s a way of life. For travelers, even those coming from other Spanish-speaking countries, it can cause confusion. But for Camelia Rojas, it’s cultural pride and a way to invite others to learn and enjoy what it means to be Boricua.

That’s why Rojas started The Boricua Way, an illustrated art and memento project that explains Puerto Rican sayings, traditions, food and more. The short lessons, which are fun, accessible and humorous, are taught by a bacalaito, salty cod pancake-like fritters beloved on the island, named Pablo. Whether through flashcards or social media illustrations, Pablo the Bacalaito, along with his fritura friends, teaches the “Boricua” way of things — and he’s starting with local language.

“Puerto Rican slang is very funny. We create words every day or give other words new meaning, and only we understand it,” Rojas, 25, told FIERCE. “We take different cultures and languages and mix them together en un pilon and get Puerto Rican slang.”

Courtesy of The Boricua Way

The idea for The Boricua Way came when Rojas, a Trujillo Alto-based freelance graphic designer, was working on her graduate degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. Away from her island, she was often on social media, laughing at memes and videos from her Puerto Rican friends that made her feel, even if for a moment, like she was back home. But the confused looks on her classmates’ faces when she burst out in laughter to jokes they did not understand soon reminded her that she was not. To get her new friends in on the fun, she began explaining Puerto Rican slang and customs in a way they could grasp: art and design.

“I took that approach because I didn’t want anyone to be intimidated by the language. You see the character and laugh and learn something,” Rojas said.

Through a crisp and golden bacalaito, a treat that always reminded Rojas of tropical beach days, she was able to create a scenario for each word that helped her classmates understand the meaning of the language and then the joke and also brought her an unexpected joy and closeness to home.

“When you live somewhere every day, you don’t notice your culture and tradition until you step back and look at it. I realized my identity and culture, and how awesome it is, when I moved to the US and had to explain it there,” she said.

Courtesy of The Boricua Way

Rojas’ class lessons turned into a school project and today is her own small business. Through social media, like Facebook and Instagram, she shares illustrations of Pablo the Bacalaito hilariously explaining the meaning of words like “brutal,” which refers to something or someone being awesome, cool or thrilling, “corillo,” which describes a close group or crew of friends, and “pichea,” which is to ditch or ignore someone or something, among other local terms and expressions.

Posting once a day, Rojas finds inspiration for new content everywhere, from casual conversations with friends that are filled with common slang to suggestions from her followers. She says just living on the island, where culture bursts through music, community and everyday activities, offers her a plethora of topics that keep her project flowing without interruption.

On Wednesday, Rojas released her first product: The Boricua Way slang cards, a set of 24 lesson cards that turn the illustrations fans love online into physical learning tools or keepsakes that teach Boricua jargon and phrases. It’s the first in a line of products that she hopes to begin selling soon, which includes stickers, clothes, T-shirts, tote bags and, hopefully, an educational card game.

Courtesy of The Boricua Way

Rojas, who hopes to get her items sold at airports and souvenir shops, wants her products to be fun, educational tools that could keep tourists who visited the island excited, interested and aware about Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture even after they leave.

But more importantly to her, Rojas would like The Boricua Way to be a connection to the island for all the Puerto Ricans living in the diaspora, whether they are longing for home after fleeing the devastation left by Hurricane María or they are second-generation Boricuas who are eager to learn about a culture and land they love but don’t know firsthand.

“I started this because I was in the US and missing home. I want this to be for anyone anywhere who misses Puerto Rico and wants a piece of home with them everywhere they go. I want to give them community, something to hold onto that’s part of their identity, so they don’t feel they lost connection,” she said.

To purchase Rojas’ newly-released The Boricua Way slang cards, send her a DM or email.

Read: This Puerto Rican Illustrator Uses Art To Explore Her Sexuality

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Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Entertainment

Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Flamboyan Foundation / Facebook

Maintaining funding for the arts is a challenging enough task during the best of times. For Puerto Ricans, those “best of times” have long been gone. A backlog of corruption scandals coupled with the most devastating natural disaster in the island’s history has exacerbated the arts organizations resources. Two years after Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Puerto Rico, hope for maintaining the culture and arts of Boricuas has arrived.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey Seller, the play’s producer, have partnered with the Flamboyan Foundation to establish an art fund for struggling arts organizations in Puerto Rico.

The Flamboyan Foundation was established just earlier this year, funded by ticket sales from “Hamilton.”

@theatermania / Twitter

Even better, the $14.7 million that was raised for the fund were all raised by Puerto Ricans. The “Hamilton” cast and crew up and went to Puerto Rico for a 17-day run. The Flamboyan Foundation, named after the flamboyán tree native to Puerto Rico, established the arts fund in 2018. “The Flamboyan Arts Fund is an extension of our deep commitment to ensuring that Puerto Rico is thriving economically and socially,” Flamboyan Puerto Rico Executive Director Carlos J. Rodríguez-Silvestre said in a statement. “We cannot be more excited to partners with our 12 inaugural grant recipients as well as the new grantees that we will welcome following this round of applications.  This is just the beginning!”

So far, at least 12 grant recipients have been named.

@ElNuevoDia / Twitter

“It’s the first time that we have funds guaranteed for the beginning of the year so it’s been very important, Lolita Villanúa, executive director of Andanza told NBC News. Andanza is a dance company and school that has been giving back to Puerto Rico since 1998, but not without struggles. “The search for funds has always been very difficult,” she said. One year, the government gave Andanza just $8,000 for a full year of operations.

Villanúa felt the grant “was like a big prize on our 20th anniversary because we [have been] working tirelessly and intensely for the country.”

The trickle-down effect goes to benefit young scholarship students.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

One Andanza dance student, Paola Morales López is just 15 years old and wants to make a career out of dancing. “I feel super grateful because I see that they support me and that they believe in me,” Morales López told NBC News. “Andanza is like my second family.” Another 18-year-old ballet student, Gabriela Arroyo, said that, “Dance has helped me. It’s a form to escape reality, and it’s also a way to stay healthy.”

Of course, the “Hamilton” funds will also go to help local theaters stay open.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Another grant went to a collective of seven artists who started the San Juan theater company, Y No Había Luz (“And There Was No Light”) when they were just students at the University of Puerto Rico. For the last 15 years, the group has continued to stay open, using their literal theater platform to advocate for social change and to humanize Boricuas.

Without the grant, Puerto Ricans may have never witnessed a play centered around an ancient tree that fell during Hurricane Maria.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Y No Había Luz created the play “Centinela de Mangó,” which retells the experience of the town of Orocovis, which survived Hurricane Maria only to find the tree that symbolized the island’s identity had fallen. The company has been able to bring the play to New York City, as well, where many Hurricane Maria victims were directed by FEMA. The company wants to turn the story into a children’s book, forever immortalizing the tree’s meaning into words that will be passed down for generations.

With rent paid, the art grant recipients can dream even bigger.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

“For three years I can plan and create a healthier structure for my team. I can make dreams more long-term,” Yari Helfeld of Y No Había Luz told NBC News. She added, “My dad always told us that we should do what we wanted and not let anyone tell you what to do.” Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the “Hamilton” family, dreams are being made a reality for art directors and young children alike. The arts will have a safe home in Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future.

READ: Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

realdonaldtrump / Instagram

When Donald Trump began his campaign for president, one — if not the most important — promise he made was that Mexico would pay for the border wall. Trump’s border wall, which would extend throughout the south as a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, has been his No. 1 mission as president of the United States. Now, four years after making this promise, Mexico has still not paid a single cent for the construction of any such barrier that has been built or will be built. 

In order for Trump’s border wall to get constructed, he’s still very short on funds, and since Mexico is obviously not going to pay, the president is taking money away from Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery budget. 

Credit: @Nicolemarie_A / Twitter

Trump has allocated $400 million to go toward building the wall and will take it directly from funds that were intended to help Puerto Rico and their hurricane recovery. The Department of Defense announced that several hurricane-related projects in Puerto Rico would be halted because their funding would be diverted to building the border wall. Some of those projects include a National Guard Readiness Center, a Power Substation/Switching Station Building, and an Aircraft Maintenance Hangar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

According to NBC News, a senior Defense official said that people shouldn’t worry because these projects in Puerto Rico will get done, eventually. “We don’t see ourselves delaying those projects. We’re fully committed to that recovery,” the official said since many of them wouldn’t begin until 2020.

The president still needs billions more for the wall, at least $25 billion more, so he’s taking money from various military sources in the U.S. and its territories. The total amount he’s diverting is $3.6 billion.

Credit: @ChrisLu44 / Twitter

Aside from Puerto Rico, 117 other military construction projects will be halted and/or delayed now because of funds. People might assume diverting funds away from Puerto Rico’s recovery or other sources isn’t a big deal because it doesn’t seem like tangible needs. However, people familiar with the military centers and operations know that it is a huge deal and almost appears like robbery by the highest level office. 

“I visited the current RPA training facility at Holloman earlier this year. The building is falling apart, with some equipment being held together with duct tape. To say this facility, which supports training for 100 percent of the Air Force’s MQ-9 crews, urgently needs to be replaced would be an understatement,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement, according to NBC News. 

Other projects losing funds include $160 million of construction projects at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; $85 million operations facility at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico;  $40 million for an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Facility, and much more. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is planning to file a lawsuit to prohibit Trump from taking $3.6 billion away from Puerto Rico and the rest of the country and territories. 

Credit: @ACLU / Twitter

“The fact that the government sat on these so-called ’emergency funds’ for seven months further confirms that this is nothing but an unlawful power grab,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a statement, according to The Hill. “We’ll be back in court very soon to block Trump’s latest effort to raid military funds for his xenophobic wall,” he added.

Despite claiming that Mexico would pay for the wall for years, Trump already said that he didn’t mean that literally. 

Credit: @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

In January, the president tried to backtrack four years of declarations that Mexico would pay for the wall by insisting that he wasn’t speaking in direct terms but indirectly. We know, it makes no sense.

“When — during the campaign, I would say, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it.’ Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check. I said, ‘They’re going to pay for it.’ They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, called the United States, Mexico, and Canada USMCA deal.”

Yes, the president said he never said what he said. We feel a headache coming on. To illustrate how many times Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall, Factbase Inc. listed each of them. He has referenced the border wall at least 456 times

READ: New Border Wall Is Being Constructed In California But It Is Not The Same Border Wall Trump Promised His Voters