By Aida E. Rivera (a.k.a. ChaCha Reyes)
It’s a privilege and an honor to be a guest blogger here at Boricua.com. The objective was for me to talk about who I am and what I do.
As a passion, lifestyle, self-development blogger, and spiritual and life strategies coach, I write, teach and coach about increasing self-esteem, developing a growth mindset, effective couples’ communication, and even about crazy ex-wives and narcissistic men.
But those are roles I fulfill. They’re not who I am.
Who I am is what led me to what I do.
So, let me tell you who I am by first telling you who people say that I am.
THE GIRL IS AS A NUYORICAN
I’m what some folks refer to as Nuyorican; that is, a Puerto Rican who was born in New York.
New York City.
Brooklyn, in particular.
Ridgewood, more specifically.
You know, one of those crazy, wild, amazing, festive people who love to listen to and dance salsa while they’re cooking, and can speak Spanglish.
Yeah, one of those.
Having been born there, Brooklyn, New York I knew, but I had only heard about the Island of Enchantment (Isla del Encanto) from my Abuelita.
She talked about its history, music, poetry, beaches, legends, and its strong and diverse cheerful, loving, and compassionate people all of the time.
I remember distinctly sitting at her feet listening to her stories about pirate treasures buried in different locations along the coasts of the island. She always laughed at the look on my face when she got to the part where pirate ghosts tried to bury treasure hunters alive when they went digging for it.
I’ll never forget a story she told me about going to the beach to dig for treasure when she was nine months pregnant with one of my Titi’s. She said some stranger showed up at their door and told her and my Abuelito that they would find gold in a particular spot on the beach.
The man, according to what she said, escorted them to the beach then pointed to the site of the buried treasure. My Abuelito started digging and called out for her to help him. She said that she climbed down into the area that he had already dug out in the sand, and that’s when it happened.
The man started laughing a wicked laugh and when they looked up, they saw a pirate’s ghost with a disfigured face where the man had been standing. She said that at that precise moment the sand started to cave in around them. She yelled for my Abuelito to help her get out because it was caving in so fast, that it was already covering her pregnant belly.
My poor Titi was almost buried alive!
As a child, I believed everything she told me, but as an adult, I’m like, “Seriously, Abuelita? Following a stranger to a remote location on the beach?”
I’ve got to give her credit, though. She was a great storyteller.
NUYORICAN MEETS LA ISLA DEL ENCANTO
My first trip to Puerto Rico was at the age of five.
I was NOT excited about going.
My Abuela’s tales also included stories about “jueyes,” or crabs, which according to her were “All over the place during crab season.”
My mother was super happy that we were headed to Puerto Rico during that specific time of the year. She loved trapping, fattening them up with Mamey and dried corn then feasting on her crabs.
Me, I wanted nothing to do with them.
Ghosts and jueyes all over the place?
Nope. Not happy!
Like any other five-year-old, I had a very vivid imagination. I just knew the ghosts and hundreds upon hundreds of jueyes were going to be waiting for us at the airport.
Needless to say, when we arrived in San Juan, I refused to get off of the plane because the “jueyes” we
re going to eat me if the ghosts didn’t get to me first.
It took my mother and a flight attendant (stewardess back then) over 30 minutes to convince me that it was all right to de-board the plane.
My mother was from a barrio called Jarealito, which is in Arecibo, a town on the northern coast of the island.
My idea of a beach was Coney Island, so you can imagine how I felt when I saw that beautiful aqua color of the Atlantic Ocean from the patio of my Abuelito’s house, which was within walking distance from the shore.
In New York, I’d fall asleep to the sound of sirens from police and emergency vehicles.
In Puerto Rico, I’d fall asleep to the sound of waves moving in and out to sea, the ocean breeze caressing my face, and the tree frogs singing the song that gave them their name, “Coqui, coqui, coqui.”
NUYORICAN KID MEETS HER TRUE LOVE
Once the jueyes and ghosts hurdle was crossed, it didn’t take much to realize how madly in love with Borinquen I was.
Not too far from Jarealito, there’s a cave called “La Cueva del Indio” (The Indian’s Cave). I learned from my visit to the cave that the name Borinquen derived from the word Boriken, the Taino name for Puerto Rico, which means The Great Land of the Valiant and Noble Lords.
The time I spent at the beach was the most memorable of my experiences during that trip. It was like everything my Abuelita ever told and taught me about Puerto Rico came all together, and made the most perfect sense.
My heart would swell up with love and pride as I stood knee-high in that amazing ocean in awe at being able to see my toes wiggling through the clear water.
I was entrenched in my birthright, and I felt it in every fiber of my being.
At only five years old I knew who I was and what Puerto Rico meant to me. Regardless of where I was born, I was Borinquena. Love for our island ran deep through my veins, and nothing and no one could take that from me.
MY MOST INFLUENTIAL FIGURE
I’m sure that by now you’ve figured out that my Abuelita was my most influential figure.
A survivor of domestic violence, she was as strong and resilient a woman as the Taina ancestors who inhabited our island.
She believed in the value of education, the fulfillment of human potential, the bravery of the people whose blood ran through our veins, and in keeping the Boricua legacy alive.
A woman way ahead of her time, she was a positive thinker. To her, nothing was impossible as long as there was desire accompanied by fierce determination, courage, and faith.
I believe those qualities distinguished her because she was Boricua. They were ingrained into her DNA, just like they are into the DNA of every Boricua regardless of where they’re born.
SO, WHO AM I?
Regardless of where I was born, when I first traveled to Puerto Rico, or what I do for a living, I’m first and foremost Boricua.
Filled with love for our island, a desire to reach and help others reach their full potential, a fierce determination to keep forging ahead, and the courage to never give up, no matter how great the odds.
The kindness and compassion of my ancestors chose what I do today.
I do what I do because of who I am at the very core.
A proud Boricua.
About Cha Cha:
Social justice and helping people find their passion and fulfill their full potential has always been one Aida Rivera’s (aka ChaCha Reyes) most ardent desires.
“To tell you the truth, it’s what inspires and helps to get me out of bed every morning filled with hope and enthusiasm,” she said.
Aida has been a voice for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault for over 20 years. In 1997, she developed and implemented the first Department of the Army (DA) volunteer-driven Victim Advocate Program at Fort Polk, LA, a program that in the year 2000 earned DA recognition as a Family Advocacy Program Centers of Excellence (FAPCOE) in victim advocacy training and research. The program blazed a trail for victim advocacy within the Army. As a result, Aida became the Army’s Subject Matter Expert in the field of victim advocacy program development and service delivery. She presented at Annual Family Advocacy Program Managers’ Conferences and was an Adjunct Faculty member for the AMEDD Center and School Family Advocacy Staff Training Advanced (FASTA) course.
More recently, Aida expanded her career to include a passion, lifestyle, and self- development blog, and life strategies and spiritual coaching practice.
“Up until that point, I was able to help one woman at a time,” she said. “The blog allows me to make an impact on a much larger scale.”
Aida holds a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Human Services and Mass Communications, with a focus in Family Studies and Public Relations, from Kansas State University, and a Master of Science in Psychology with a focus on Family Psychology, from Capella University. She blogs under the pseudonym ChaCha Reyes. Her blog can be found at www.chachareyes.com.