—after Ada Limón’s “The Real Reason”

That it was once a felony offense to fly the Puerto Rican flag on the island is not my story to tell. It’s my daughter’s. Not long ago, she posted to her bedroom’s wall the “Smithsonian Map of the World.” She’s

an avid reader of fantasy and a freakishly good eight-year-old artist. All of which is to say that, like her father, she’d rather live in an enchanted world. We looked at the map together, pointing to the

equatorial lines and mountain ranges, taking in the scale of the oceans, and wondering how cold it gets in Russia. Innocent. Then, as if instinctively, I looked for the Caribbean islands. You have to understand:

Puerto Rico is so small that you can’t take for granted it will even register on a map of the world. Usually it’s a small speck, no name affixed. And, yes, sometimes (indeed often) it’s not there at all. But

there it was, respectfully robust (all things considered) and appropriately green. I said its Castilian name with a boricua accent and said it with a smile. My daughter’s used to this, so she smiled back. But then I

looked to the bottom of the map, where all the flags are depicted, and palms to the heavens, said: “Y dónde carajo está la bandera de Puerto Rico!?” She’s used to this, too, so she giggled but knew I was

dead serious. What you don’t know is that I’ve never liked our flag. And that’s not meant to be polemical. It’s purely aesthetic, or it would be were it not for history. But all the same it’s a boring

facsimile of an already bland and unimaginative flag, and when I was a kid I loved to look at flags. I’d open our yard-sale encyclopedias and I’d rank national flags all like I’d rank NFL teams, regardless of

how they performed or whether I was supposed to love or leave, fear or loathe them. It was all a matter of beauty, especially of flamboyant colors and solemn icons. Just look at Angola’s or Afghanistan’s or

Bolivia’s. Or, for that matter, so many of the Caribbean islands’ flags, each of which you can find at the bottom of that map, except Puerto Rico’s. Don’t get me wrong. The fact that a Saint Lucian or

Grenadian child could look at that map and see themselves symbolically exist is something to applaud. There are islands smaller than Puerto Rico, after all, and they don’t usually show up. But here was my

daughter, already learning how insignificant she (and her kin) is, already learning to think bigger is better and more is more. And, yes, I’ve heard it said that rallying around a flag is a“syndrome,” and I

don’t necessarily disagree; it’s just that some flags haven’t flown freely all their lives and I want something else for her: for her to wake each morning to a world not orphaned, a world beautiful and unscathed

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