From the five days that I have been in Puerto Rico it has been evident that there are many cultural differences between here and where I live in Chicago. I obviously cannot fully understand the Puerto Rican experience since I am not Puerto Rican, but from what I have seen so far during this trip, I can identify a few differences between my culture and my world view, and that of the Puerto Rican experience.
The first thing that I can think of is music. I am really into music, listen to it all the time, and it plays a huge role in my life. I feel very passionately about the music that I listen to, and find myself head-banging and sometimes even dancing around when I listen. But why do I listen to the music I listen to? What is the connection that causes an organized array of sounds to bring pleasure to my everyday life? The answer for me is simple: because I like it. However, while being in Puerto Rico I can sense that there is something else in play. In the time that I have been here I have realized that everywhere we go, especially in the little beach town Cabo Rojo, there is always music playing. The kind of music that I have heard here is stuff that I am not very familiar with; these kinds of music are Bachata, Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, and Reggaeton. These genres of music are unique to the Puerto Rican culture and they are something that every Puerto Rican can feel a connection with. It is fascinating how Puerto Rican Music is directly a part of the Puerto Rican culture. You can tell that it is a deep rooted part of their culture because everyone is dancing to it and they are doing so so passionately and embracing it as a part of themselves. I feel like I cannot say the same about where I am from, I have not been born into any kind of music genre, other than what my parents listened to. There isn’t a cohesive genre of music that is linked with American culture, at least from my experience. There is obviously some kind of gap here. As an American I view music as something I listen to because I like, and, in comparison, I’m sure Puerto Rican people also listen to music because they like it but they also listen to some music because it is an innate part of their culture.
This music culture plays an important role in the lives of Puerto Rican people. In Cabo Rojo, at all times in the day there was always some kind of traditional Puerto Rican music playing somewhere, and almost half of the time it was live. I also saw karaoke at almost every bar we passed by. At night they closed off the street, put up speakers and microphones, and there was always some live band playing. This only highlights the importance of music in the Puerto Rican experience and how valuable to their music culture it is to them. During the three nights holiday (a holiday in Puerto Rico that we learned is very similar to Christmas) there was a huge celebration in town and people filled the entire streets. There were live bands playing all day and night and the Puerto karaoke going nonstop and everyone was dancing and celebrating their culture. There were three people dressed in kings, who probably played a big role in the celebration, and they were also singing and dancing with everybody. Not only is there music that can be associated with culture but there is This just goes to show how much they see music as such an important part of their culture unlike my culture.
Another view that I think differs greatly between the United States and Puerto Rico is the cost of college. In the United States, some of the only ways to get a decent college education and being able to afford it is by either going to community college, your state’s school (which can still be too expensive and can be very competitive), or get a scholarship which are always extremely competitive and sometimes don’t even give you enough money. There are so many high school students in the United States that do not go to college merely because they cannot afford it. This is unbelievably unjust; a college education should be a right, not a privilege. The amount of money that a family has should not determine whether their kid can attend college.
In Puerto Rico, although college still costs a good amount of money, especially at private universities, it is a lot less than it does in the United States. One of the Agricultural Engineering professors at the university that we visited told us that at that particular college students paid about 45 dollars per credit hour. To put that in perspective, students at the University of Illinois pay about 452 dollars per credit hour on average. The engineering school that we visited was a public institution so it would generally cost less than most private schools in Puerto Rico. The professor told us that typically the private institutions in Puerto Rico cost 3 times as much per credit hour as the public ones, which makes the private schools cost 135 dollars per credit hour which is still significantly less than the cost of the University of Illinois. Although school still costs a good amount of money in Puerto Rico, it is so much less than the United States. It seems that they actually understand that all hardworking students should go to school instead of people with money. This is one of the many big problems in the United States that leads to our incredibly messed up capitalistic society, in which everyone is competing with each other to stay afloat in life. I really think that we should take a lesson from Puerto Rico and begin viewing things as they do so that we can become everyone can have an equal opportunity to become passionate about learning, not competing.