Secaucus, NJ - Yesterday, Friday I had the opportunity to join the Latino Sports crew cover the Giants practice session at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Latino Sports has been very consistent in covering the Giants especially keeping our readers, viewers and listeners up to date on the Puerto Rican Salsero, Victor Cruz.
Since Victor's first touchdown this season where he demonstrated his Salsa steps to commemorate "Hispanic Heritage Month" he has become a New York sports icon and a the pride of the Puerto Rican/Latino community.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet this rising star for the first time and I have to tell you that Victor is a real Boricua that reminds me of the millions of youngsters who were not born on the enchanted island. Many of them like Victor from only one parent of Puerto Rican decent, but when you ask them, "What are you? They answer Puerto Rican.
My own granddaughter, Yasmeen like Victor Cruz was born to a Puerto Rican mother and an African American father. Unlike Victor she was born in Germany. Like Victor she was raised here and she does not hesitate to say she is Puerto Rican if and whenever she is asked. This identification with a territory, in this case, Puerto Rico by so many youth who were not born there has to one of the most uncommon social issues that would make a great study for some school of psychology.
I met Victor unexpectedly as he was leaving the weight room. It was a quick, almost bumping to each other introduction thanks to our Giants reporter, Andrew Rosario.
I had learned that Victor and his mother were Roberto Clemente fans so I decided to take Victor a present for his mom, a collectible Clemente Beanie Bear and a commemorative post card of Clemente's 3000th hit for Victor. I also included several Retire 21 stickers for both. Victor was very down to earth and it was refreshing to meet a young man that has received the recent publicity that he has and about to play in the biggest game of his life and still be so warm and giving of his time. He was very grateful and thanked me for my thoughtfulness.
I saw Victor again later in the afternoon by his locker where several other reporters and news organization were also waiting for him. Being the first there we allowed the reporter from the Spanish language channel, Univision to interview him first. I was interested to hear the questions from the Spanish dominant reporter. To my surprise he conducted his interview in Spanish and to my bigger surprise Victor understood and answered all his questions in Spanish. Like a Nuyorican (Puerto Ricans born, or raised in New York, also applicable to other states) Victor used a mixture of some English words to describe a thought, but the majority of the interview was in very good Spanish. In fact he spoke much better than many other Puerto Rican's who were born here and do not speak Spanish at all.
After the many questions and interviews were over I went back to Victor to ask him about his salsa experience. Being a Salsero myself I was interested in learning if Victor just danced the steps as a gesture, or was he really into our music? I asked him if he had a favorite Latin band, or musician, he surprised me again. He did not mention the conventional ones, like Marc Anthony, or Eddie Palmieri, or El Grand Combo he mentioned Frankie Ruíz the Mayagüez Salsero that like the great Hector Lavoe died prematurely at the height of his career. He said that was one of the musicians that he heard a lot at home and it stuck to him and that is why he likes Frankie Ruíz.
He also told me that he last visited Puerto Rico last May and that his roots are from the towns of Bayamón and Arecibo.
When we see Victor Cruz this Sunday and if he scores a Touch Down and does his Salsa dance remember that this is a real down to earth Boricua who recognizes his roots and is proud of them.
Buena Suerte Victor. This Sunday many Boricuas here and on the island will be rooting for you and the New York Giants.
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