Gracias, Monica. We needed this.
With speed, aggression and grit, Monica Puig, just 22 years old and ranked 34th in the world, came out from under to win the Olympic gold medal in women’s singles and with one powerful slam of her racquet united all Puerto Ricans, who celebrated her victory with tears of overwhelming joy, including my own.
With baited breath, we watched from bars in Old San Juan, "marquesinas" and family rooms all over the island, living rooms in Brooklyn, patios in Spain and even hunched over bad internet signals in Laos, as Puig played her heart out. Puerto Rico stopped to watch our girl go for the gold. She promised to fight with the Borícua fire inside of her, with #PicaPower – the sheer will to win.
And she did.
Professional, poised and with the determination of a pit bull, Puig never backed down, her eyes firmly on the prize, beating two Grand Slam Champions on her path to victory.
She brought it home, becoming the first Puerto Rican woman representing the island to win a medal, and the first Puerto Rican ever to win the Gold. As an emotional Puig stood on the podium with her medal around her neck, the national anthem of Puerto Rico, La Borinqueña, playing out for all the world to hear, we watched as our flag rose above all others, and we just couldn’t believe it.
For months now, every time we turned on the news, opened a newspaper or logged onto social media, all we saw were stories about an island on the point of economic collapse, a nation stripped of its dignity, on its knees, with no way out.
Puig changed the picture. In that moment, standing there, with her eyes filled with the tears of a champion, she gave Puerto Rico much more than the win of an unseeded tennis player at the Rio Olympics. She gave us our spirit back.
My friends from London, Kosovo, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and the United States sent congratulations for a win that is entirely Monica’s. Yet it feels like it belongs to all of us borícuas, wherever we may be. That makes her victory that much sweeter.
Monica, you did it for us. You made us feel proud to be Puerto Rican.
You showed the world that we do not give up, that we fight, determined and unbowed, no matter how powerful the opponent nor how stacked the odds are against us. You gave us hope for the future and a place on the world stage we can be proud of.
Gracias Monica. A nation salutes you.