Hispanic Heritage Month: Natalia Cintra Almanzar
Natalia Cintra Almanzar is a medical imaging major pursuing a Spanish minor, who was born in Puerto Rico to Dominican and Cuban parents. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, she moved to Hazelton six years ago in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated the northeastern Caribbean.
Almanzar stays active on campus as an honors student, a resident assistant, and a member of the Student Organization of Latinos.
“As a Boricua living in the United States, I feel proud of my “raices” (roots) that were passed down to me,” Almanzar says. “A favorite aspect of my culture is how much love and support we give to one another. We’re always smiling and looking at the positive side of things through dark times. Even in the aftermaths of Hurricane Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico continues to smile and show resistance and love to our culture.”
Almanzar adds that in Puerto Rico you’ll find many entrepreneurs and small businesses with amazing food (mofongo with shrimp, pinchos de pollo, pasteles, sorullitos de maiz) and a great taste in music, such as reggaeton, bomba, and plena.
“One thing about my Hispanic culture that gets overlooked is the myth all Puerto Ricans are lazy, not smart, and that we want everything done for us,” Almanzar says. “I always hear people saying we’re uneducated and lazy and that all we want are aid and benefits from the United States, but we’re not that. If you ask me, Puerto Rico has many intelligent and hardworking people who want to succeed, get an education, and better themselves.”
According to Almanzar, being a resident assistant has enabled her to become more closely connected to the campus community, which has given her many friendships. Getting involved with the Student Organization of Latinos and the Multicultural Center has helped her find her place.
“In residence life, I’ve found amazing support that’s allowed me to meet new people with the same backgrounds as mine, helping me get out of my shell,” Almanzar says. “Coming from Hazleton, a predominantly Hispanic town, I felt out of place during my first semester at Bloomsburg. SOL and the Multicultural Center helped me feel comfortable with my identity and to be myself. I learned to express myself and embrace my culture and what makes me unique. I met people with similar stories to mine and found a place that enabled me to share my experience.”
Almanzar says telling her personal story is very important because as a minority and a first-generation college student, she often felt scared because of her accent and not knowing many of the resources on campus.
“I want to help every minority to express their Latino pride and to celebrate their roots and culture,” Almanzar says. “The biggest thing I’ve learned about myself since I have been in college is to embrace every part of myself and to not stress about being perfect. Along with the TRIO SSS program, I’ve learned to discover parts of myself, to embrace who I am, and to get better each day with new habits.”