By Ken Chitwood
For Juan, Ramadan is a balancing act. On the one hand is his religious faith and practice. On the other is his land, his culture, his home: Puerto Rico.
Although he weaves these two elements of his identity together in many ways, during Ramadan, the borderline between them becomes palpable. For the Puerto Rican Muslims like Juan, the holy month of fasting brings to the surface the tensions they feel in their daily life as minorities – and as Muslims among their Puerto Rican family and Puerto Ricans in the Muslim community.
That is even more true this year in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the storm that made landfall in the southeastern city of Yabucoa on Sept. 20, 2017, and devastated parts of Puerto Rico. Even today, many parts of the island are without essential services, such as consistent electricity and water or access to schools.
I met Juan in 2015, when I first traveled to Puerto Rico in an effort to better understand the Puerto Rican Muslim story as part of my broader research on Islam in Latin America and the Caribbean. What I have found, in talking to Muslims in Puerto Rico and in many U.S. cities, is a deep history and a rich narrative that expands the understanding of what it means to be Muslim on the one hand, and, on the other, Puerto Rican. This Ramadan, Muslims in Puerto Rico are using the strength of both these identities to deal with the havoc of Hurricane Maria.
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