“I moved from New York to Puerto Rico when I was in 11 and went to high school there. I was drafted and went to Vietnam in 1970. I did my time and I realized I could make a career out of the Army because I had already been through the worst. I went back and stayed in for 25 years. My tattoo is the flag of Puerto Rico on a conga in chains. It represents the African slaves who brought the bongos and their music to Puerto Rico. When I went to Iraq, I was in a unit with no Spanish people, so I got a tattoo that was part of my culture and identity. I came back to Puerto Rico because this is my home.
Not all Spanish is the same
Not all Spanish is the same. The Spanish of Puerto Rico sounds different from other Spanish countries. Like the southern accent in Alabama and Memphis sounds different than the accent of the Bronx. I had a partner in the Army from England who sounded nothing like either. If you aren’t Spanish, it is hard to tell who is who. In the 1940s and 50s a lot of Puerto Ricans went to New York for a better life. I lived in an area that was only Puerto Ricans and a few Italians and Polish. My name is Wilfredo. It is a German name, but add the ‘o’ and it becomes Spanish.
After Hurricane Maria, we were without power for 7 months. The power line is leaning toward my house and one day it is going to fall on it, but no one is doing anything about it. I had two generators that kept the fans and refrigerator running I helped my neighbors and cooked them food on my gas stove. We take care of each other here.”