Spotlight on Puerto Rico – Living the mission with tradition

Friday, October 15, 2021
Mercedita International Airport’s 9/11 event.  (Photo courtesy of Carlos Rivera)

As Hispanics, we represent TSA Puerto Rico, united and committed to serving our nation’s transportation system from our beautiful island. In Puerto Rico, we have three airports on the island: Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in Carolina, three miles from our capital of San Juan; Mercedita International Airport (PSE) just outside of Ponce; and Rafael Hernández International Airport (BQN) located in Aguadilla.

“As Hispanics, we know how to define our roots and discover who we are and what we can become,” said BQN TSA Officer Rosa Gomez. “United through language and customs, we can celebrate what makes us unique and proud of our culture.”

Hispanic heritage strengthens mission

Language, diversity and family values are key to the Hispanic culture in Puerto Rico. Being able to speak the same language — 100% of our workforce is bilingual — plays a key role in our mission with the traveling public. We’re diversified by the combination of ethnicities and experiences, but similar family values bring Hispanics together as a community. These elements strengthen the TSA mission.

"Being of Hispanic descent makes me feel proud of my roots,” said BQN TSA Officer Margarita Santiago. “We are strong, resilient and capable of adapting to any environment. Doing something for the security of the nation from home is special and makes me wear my uniform with pride.”

As Puerto Ricans, we not only share our culture, traditions and life experiences, but we are also a hardworking community, resulting in a reliable, dedicated and disciplined team.

Most of the Puerto Rico team hold bachelor’s to advanced degrees and are influenced by other ethnicities. “Team members have transitioned to TSA from other professions such as teaching, the legal field, engineering and accounting, creating a highly qualified and diverse skill set,” said Training Specialist Yvette Aldarondo Rosado.

Puerto Rican traditions unite diverse families

Mercedita International Airport’s reopening ceremony after being closed because of COVID-19.   (Photo courtesy of Carlos Rivera)
Mercedita International Airport’s reopening ceremony after being closed because of COVID-19.   (Photo courtesy of Carlos Rivera)

“I grew up in an Irish-Puerto Rican family in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and I was raised to be proud of my Puerto Rican and Irish heritage,” explained PSE Supervisory TSA Officer Lunawa Bryan. “I was not born on the island, but I was taught the values and riches of the island of Puerto Rico by my family and friends. When I hear the term Hispanic, all I can think about is the unique and fascinating blend of many nationalities, traditions and cultures, each one of them with their own fantastic history and character. I am proud to say that I am Hispanic and that I am part of this great diversity.”

As Hispanics living in Puerto Rico, we cannot leave out the vibrancy of the Puerto Rican culture that comes alive in its dishes, a celebration of flavors. “Some of my favorites are arroz con gandules (rice with chicken peas), lechon asado (roasted pork), pasteles and coquito (Puerto Rican coconut nog),” recalled Executive Assistant Eva Guevara. “They’re considered the most popular Puerto Rican food during the holidays.”

Unique holiday celebrations

Children carry out Three Kings’ Day traditions. (Photos courtesy of Eva Guevara)
Children carry out Three Kings’ Day traditions. (Photos courtesy of Eva Guevara)

“Our holiday season is the longest in the United States,” said Puerto Rico Federal Security Director Mariely Loperena Moure. The celebrations begin with Thanksgiving, then Christmas, New Year’s Day, Three Kings’ Day (January 6) and finish with the Octavitas celebrations at the end of January. The season ends with a big celebration in the streets of San Juan, called “Las Fiestas de la Calle de San Sebastian.”

On January 6, Puerto Rico celebrates “El Día de Reyes” (Three Kings’ Day) or Epiphany, which commemorates the visit the three wise men paid to Jesus after his birth. Puerto Rican children put grass under their beds or Christmas trees in exchange for gifts. The grass is food for the three kings’ camels. The celebration of Three Kings’ Day is a Christian holiday adopted from the Spaniards.

Team Puerto Rico is proud of our identity as we keep and share our parents’ and grandparents’ traditions. We embrace our Hispanic heritage at work, home and with friends, while taking any opportunity to enjoy our traditions, music and food.

Editor’s note: TSA celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American champions who have inspired others to achieve success. In this feature, three members of Team Puerto Rico share how their culture strengthens the TSA mission.