Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some Days this all feels........

Some days this all feels as if it is beginning to wither away. As if it is becoming a thing of the past. Do I question my inner self? Is it that I'm feeling less Puerto Rican today than I did yesterday? Is that desire to share my opinion, culture and history taking a back seat to the beckoning call of this pack rat society vested in keeping up with the  Joneses? Is my desire to convey my opinion, culture and history falling on deaf ears? So many questions that wander in the inner being and begin to nibble at its very core.

As I look back to a time when I questioned self, I realize that the very answers to my questions lie within myself. There isn't a two way street here but rather different paths to take. I realize that the questions only arise when I take a break on the side of the road. That the questions are merely the fuel needed to continue on.

I have chosen my path, I shall embrace it, build upon it and continue on my journey...

 I seek only to shed the old

Say goodbye to a last sunset

Wipe the dirt off my shoulder

Cheer on a new beginning

Improve on stagnant words

Prepare for a new sun on the horizon

and dig deep for words I yearn...

© Efrain Ortiz Sanchez

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Of the GOP, Luis Fortuño, Immigration, and Disneyricans: Why The HuffPost’s Political “Analysis” of Puerto Rican Voters Fails

by Julito Varela / December 27, 2011

The Luis Fortuño GOP VP Campaign Train is buzzing along, and The Huffington Post is the latest US media outlet to join on this bizarre public relations campaign to promote Puerto Rico’s Republican governor.

In a HuffPost piece entitled A Republican Primer on Latino Voters by Gretchen Sierra-Zorita of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, the author addresses the every-burning question of how the GOP can attract more Latino voters in the 2012 election. After the necessary disclaimer that current GOP possibilities like Marco Rubio and Susana Martínez would not make good choices for the GOP because of their anti-immigration rhetoric, Sierra-Zorita gets to the meat of the article and perhaps the main reason she wrote it: to inaccurately paint Puerto Ricans as the least vocal group about immigration and to promote Fortuño as a realistic VP option.

The author begins with her thesis:
Third, enlisting a Hispanic vice president could improve Republican chances of expanding their Latino base but only at the margin. Among the possible candidates, Governor Fortuño stands the better chance of winning over new voters.

Her reasons? Reason #1: Puerto Ricans are the most likely Latino group to vote for their own native son. She writes:
There are 4.6 million Puerto Ricans residing in the mainland. For them, immigration reform is a preference but not a priority because Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens. They mostly trend Democrat, but they would give the Republican ticket a second look if they saw a Puerto Rican in it.

Once again, the misperception of Puerto Ricans as being insensitive and ignorant towards immigration issues has propped its ugly head. We thought we had addressed this over the summer when the founder of The Tequila Party showed her lack of education about Puerto Rican history and how Puerto Ricans were a source of cheap migrant labor in United States ever since citizenship was imposed on Puerto Ricans in 1917. But it appears that Sierra-Zorita needs a quick lesson in Puerto Rican history, so we invite her to become a follower of this blog or just follow us on Twitter and we will keep her informed.
Nonetheless, facts and history aside, we know very few Puerto Ricans who think immigration injustice is NOT a critical issue in this country. In fact, some could argue that certain Puerto Ricans are at the forefront of the national debate.

Just ask Illinois Congressman and Puerto Rican Luis Gutierrez, who has been one of the country’s most consistent and effective voices when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform. Or ask the Rev. Sam Rodríguez, one of the country’s most influential Christian ministers and a Puerto Rican, who spearheaded a national pledge asking that all political candidates cease the negative rhetoric immigration.

So, Puerto Ricans DO care about immigration, and to imply that Puerto Ricans would be the first to vote Republican because they would easily trade in that issue before say, a Mexican American voter, is irresponsible and inaccurate.

On to Exhibit B, the Disneyrican defense. Sierra-Zorita writes:
The 848,000 Puerto Ricans who live in Florida, popularly known as Disneyricans, might be more receptive to a conservative pitch from Governor Fortuño. Disneyricans are considered independents, having voted for Obama in 2008 and for Rubio in 2010. Over 40 percent of them moved from Puerto Rico during the last decade, primarily for economic reasons.
 This paragraph is so wrong on so many levels. We offer these two observations:

The term Disneyrican is an invented media term that refers to the new migration of Puerto Ricans on the island to Central Florida in the last 10 years, specifically Orlando. This population is younger, more professional, more educated and quite likely left Fortuño’s Puerto Rico in the last three years because there were no jobs on the island, the island’s crime rate was spiraling, and the island’s standard of living was awful. Is there a correlation between a declining population on the island and a Republican governor whose policies have led to a stagnant economy that is being compared to Greece? Maybe so, and we believe the chances of these new Florida residents voting for Fortuño as VP are minimal to say the least. And we are being nice about that assessment.

Sticking to the term Disneyrican, we would like to ask the HuffPost and Sierra-Zorita, who claims that this terms is a “popular” term, to name the other media outlets in the US (besides the HuffPost) that use the term Disneyrican to describe Puerto Ricans living in Florida? Very few articles, even in Spanish-language media, use this term.

As someone who actually has Puerto Rican family members and friends who live in Central Florida, I don’t hear people refer themselves as Disneyricans with boricua pride. This is just a classic case of a media outlet trying to create an invented sound bite buzz word to try and box a voting bloc. Sierra-Zorita should have known better, especially when earlier in the piece, she says herself that Latino voters are not one-dimensional.

Puerto Rican Republican Governor Luis Fortuño

Finally, Sierra-Zorita shows her complete ignorance about the US Constitution when she writes the following:
Ironically, as governor of a U.S. territory, FortuñoRubio who, as a Latino, mostly appeals to the Cuban Americans who are already part of the Republican base.
Yes, Fortuño is the ultimate outsider, so much so, that he couldn’t even vote for himself right now! Does Sierra-Zorita not realize that if Fortuño were to run, he would have to change his residency from the island to a mainland address (Virginia, most likely, where he used to lived) because right now, Fortuño can’t vote for President because he lives in Puerto Rico? How would the GOP explain that one to its base, the same base that once questioned the citizenship of President Obama? That is a hornet’s nest waiting to happen, and it makes no sense for any GOP leader to even think of this possibility.

But nonetheless, Sierra-Zorita shouldn’t be blamed for her lack of political knowledge when it comes to Puerto Rican politics. Her previous HuffPost piece was claiming that some obscure Puerto Rican investment bill would turn the vast majority of Disneyricans over to the GOP column. The GOP would win the Disneyrican vote, of that is no doubt, she argued. We respectfully disagree. Obscure bills that have done nothing to help the island’s situation will curry very little support in the end.

The GOP could win more of the Disneyrican, Newyorican, and Puerto Rican vote when it starts treating them as voters and respecting them. Leave the pandering, silly sound bites, and public relation campaigns to the pundits. You can get better advice just by paying attention to the realities that are happening in Puerto Rico and how most Puerto Ricans we know deeply care for the island to heal and for the POLITIQUERÍA to end.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Puerto Rico's Policing Crisis 


By Ed Morales / December 6, 2011/ Published on The Nation (

On June 30, 2010, as part of a lesson in democracy, Betty Peña Peña drove with her daughter, Eliza, from the town of Caguas to the Capitolio building in Old San Juan, which houses the island territory’s legislature. They had been to several demonstrations before, particularly those organized by Puerto Rico’s teachers union, of which Betty is a member. This time they intended to join a coalition of university students, community organizations and labor unions at the Neoclassical Revival structure overlooking the Caribbean.
It was the last day of the session, and on the agenda were final arguments on legislation to carry out budget cuts designed to address what right-wing Governor Luis Fortuño had proclaimed a fiscal crisis. The session had been plagued by controversy surrounding the decision by Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz, who belongs to Fortuño’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), to prevent the general public and independent media from entering the viewing galleries. The imposition of this unconstitutional restriction, coming after months of protest against the government’s harsh austerity policies, brought political tensions in Puerto Rico to a boil.
When Peña arrived with her daughter, the crowd, as many as a thousand or more, was singing and chanting slogans. As if sensing the wet gust of a wind that signals an impending tropical thunderstorm, Peña felt the atmosphere deteriorate quickly. “Suddenly a helicopter came over the ocean, really close to us, and we moved toward the students, who were by a row of parked cars, surrounded by a wall of police, the riot squad and mounted police,” she recalls.
Then a police officer, using a megaphone, ordered the crowd to disperse. In seconds the tactical operations unit—in actions that prefigured many of this fall’s evictions of Occupy Wall Street—began to viciously attack the demonstrators with batons and pepper spray. “They were just hitting people, and then my daughter, Eliza, was on the floor, and they hit me,” she says, beginning to sob. “But the blow didn’t hurt as much as when I saw her on the floor and I saw the police were on top of her.”
“The party in power wants Puerto Rico to be a state, but they don’t know the first thing about American democracy,” says William Ramirez, executive director of the Puerto Rico branch of the ACLU, which is suing the Puerto Rican police on behalf of the Peñas.
The brutality of police conduct that day was the culmination of a wave of violence that, while a problem for many years, has accelerated under the Fortuño administration. It drove Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez, a Puerto Rican who attended the University of Puerto Rico, to rail against Fortuño on the floor of the House last February. “This year the people of Wisconsin took over the Capitol in Madison; they had 100,000 people there,” Gutierrez told me later. “But they didn’t send in the riot squad! They didn’t close down the Senate. Here, people march to the Senate and what did they do? They called the riot police and they pepper-sprayed, and I’m wondering, why isn’t anybody saying anything?”
In Washington the president and Congress remained silent, but in Puerto Rico people had been speaking up for quite a while. The efforts of Ramirez, along with those of another lawyer named Judith Berkan, helped to spur a three-year investigation of the Puerto Rican police by the Justice Department, the results of which were released this past September 8. Announced at a San Juan press conference hosted by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Pérez and Fortuño, the report found that the Puerto Rico Police Department—the second largest in the United States, with 17,000 officers—had engaged in a “pattern and practice of: excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; unreasonable force…designed to suppress the exercise of protected First Amendment rights; and unlawful searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
The report details how these violations were systemic, “pervasive and plague all levels of PRPD”; and that there is a “staggering level of crime and corruption” among police officers. It also documented abuses of Dominicans, who tend to live in segregated neighborhoods, as well as a failure to investigate domestic crimes against women and violence against the LGBT community. And the ACLU has documented a decades-long history of abuses of poor Afro–Puerto Ricans. “The Puerto Rico police department is broken,” said Pérez, who promised to transform this report into “a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform” by continuing to work with and engage “stakeholders” like the Fortuño government, the police department and the larger community.
But the next step for the Puerto Rican people, its government and the police department is unclear. The DOJ has two choices: initiate a lawsuit and force the PRPD into a consent decree, which is a court-ordered settlement, or settle out of court and enter into a memorandum of agreement. How much cooperation the DOJ receives from the department—and the rest of Fortuño’s administration—in these early stages will determine which of these solutions will be implemented.
“This is the first time ever in our history that an investigatory body has said, ‘Not only do you have a corrupt police department but they engaged in criminal behavior, they violated human rights.’ If nothing else comes out of this report, just getting that is historic,” says Ramirez, a Bronx native who taught at the University of Puerto Rico and is now a permanent part of the island’s political fabric.
Like Ramirez and Luis Gutierrez, Judith BerkanPuerto Rico has had plenty of issues, which is at least partly due to their being a quasi-military unit to support US interests in Puerto Rico,” says Berkan, a Brooklyn native who has been litigating cases of police misconduct for thirty-five years. “If you look at the last eighteen years, in fourteen of those the police department has been run by someone from the FBI.”
In the mid-1980s Ramirez began working with residents of the poor San Juan neighborhood of La Perla,where everyone understands the pattern of police impunity. “If they go into my neighborhood to look for a drug dealer, they don’t knock my door down; they just go to the suspect’s house,” Ramirez says. “When they go to La Perla, they break down every door and wreck your house, and possibly beat you up.”
It was a barrage of lawsuits from Berkan’s office—most notably regarding the case of Miguel Cáceres, a father of three who was shot to death by an enraged officer and left to die on a street in a small town—that helped spur the four-year DOJ investigation in 2007. The killing of this unarmed man was a Rodney King moment for Puerto Rico; someone videotaped the shooting, showing it to be a clear case of police abuse.
The Cáceres killing was a textbook case of the systematic problems in the police department, as Berkan laid out in her lawsuit against PRPD officials. The lawsuit revealed that repeated violations of conduct are ignored, that protocols are ignored, that there is no systematic record-keeping or analysis of police shootings and that there are excessive delays in the disciplinary system and no redress for civilians who are victimized.
Enter Fortuño and the State of Emergency 

Long before Fortuño’s rise to power, electoral politics in Puerto Rico had become a game of musical chairs, with ineffectual governance and corruption scandals. But when Fortuño took office in 2008, his PNP party took control of the legislative and judicial branches as well as the executive. And Fortuño used the recession—which had begun in 2006 on the island, at least a year before it hit the mainland—as an excuse to implement what he argued was a mandate for extreme change.
Previously the island’s resident commissioner, or nonvoting representative in Congress, Fortuño is a prominent member of the Republican National Committee and has extensive GOP connections. His former campaign consultant, Annie Mayol, currently his government affairs adviser, worked for Karl Rove during the early years of the George W. Bush presidency in the controversial Office of Political Affairs.Fortuño has been praised by Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich, who featured him on his website the Americano, and has been the subject of a glowing profile in the right-wing webzine Newsmax. While the PNP has usually been conservative, few Puerto Rican politicians have so stridently connected with the far right on the mainland as Fortuño. “Republicans are pointing to his extreme government-budget-slashing priorities as an example of what they’d like to do when and if they regain control in Washington,” says Puerto Rico Senator Eduardo Bhatia, a member of the rival Popular Democratic Party (PDP), which supports commonwealth status.
As soon as he entered office, Fortuño pushed through the infamous Law 7, whose full title is Special Law Declaring a Fiscal State of Emergency and Establishing an Integrated Plan of Fiscal Stabilization to Save Puerto Rico’s Credit Rating. The declaration of a state of emergency allowed the government to implement austerity measures, including the layoff of some 20,000 government employees. Less noticed was that because of the “emergency,” the government could take extraordinary measures to “protect the life, health and well-being of the people.”
“The layoffs start, so what begins to happen is that people begin to protest, and on May Day in 2009 we had 30,000 people marching,” says Ramirez. The first demos were peaceful, but Ramirez and others were concerned, because Fortuño had named José Figueroa Sancha as police chief. As deputy FBI chief in Puerto Rico, Figueroa Sancha had been involved in the 2005 extrajudicial killing of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, leader of the militant pro-independence group Los Macheteros. Ojeda Ríos’s killing was widely perceived by Puerto Ricans, regardless of their views on the Macheteros, as an improper FBI incursion into local governance. Months later, during a series of FBI raids designed to gather information about Machetero sympathizers, agents stormed a San Juan building. When a crowd of journalists showed up, the FBI pepper-sprayed them, and then hit them with batons whilethey were on the ground writhing from the effects of the spray. Figueroa Sancha was at the scene as deputy FBI special agent in charge.
Three months after the massive 2009 May Day strike, the police used batons to strike bystanders in the off-campus tavern area of the University of Puerto Rico, and one officer shot a female student with a tear-gas canister, causing a gaping wound. In 2010 a coalition of UPR students—alarmed by the intention of the board of trustees, which is packed with Fortuño acolytes, to increase tuition fees—decided to strike. On May 20 the police attacked a group of about 200 students, union leaders and public employees who were protesting Fortuño’s appearance at a fundraising event in a San Juan hotel. Video cameras caught the images of officers pepper-spraying directly into the faces of protesters, some of them middle-aged women. “The tear gas that they were using was a highly toxic form of CN gas,” says Ramirez. The gas is prohibited by many mainland police departments.
* * *
By the time of the Capitolio incident, there was mounting discontent over these incidents as well as the banning of the public from the legislature’s observer galleries. “You have to understand,” says journalist and lawyer Oscar Serrano, who is former president of the Puerto Rico Journalists’ Association, “the Puerto Rico Constitution was written after the International Human Rights Declaration of 1948, and it explicitly states that all legislative activities must be open to the public. And the people know this.”
The violence started inside the vestibule, where independent journalists were sitting in to demand access to the galleries. Connecticut native Rachel Hiskes, a UPR graduate student, was sprayed, violently pushed out the door and sent flying down the Capitolio steps after officers kicked an Amnesty International observer who was taking part in the sit-in.
Carmen Yulín, a PDP representative in the House, was also attacked. “I took my badge out,announcing that I was a legislator, and I was pepper-sprayed all over,” said Yulín. “I was thrown across a folding table and had ligaments torn in my rib cage. I was in a half-cast for six weeks.” What most frightened Yulín was that the attack was apparently not accidental. “When I was in the lobby, one of the security guys said, ‘This is for you, Carmen Yulín,’ and they started to hit me. Later I was told by a member of the administration that they weren’t going to rest until they cracked my head at the rally.”
The day after the rally, police superintendent Figueroa Sancha showed no remorse, insisting that he would do the same “today, tomorrow…and next month.” Fortuño accused students of bringing pepper spray and rocks to the demonstration and of not respecting the views of others. He also accused a group of “socialists” of planning to take the Capitolio by force. PNP leaders like Senator Roberto Arango and Fortuño’s chief of staff, Marcos Rodríguez Ema, strongly supported the riot squad’s actions at the Capitolio.
“The government clearly decided that they were going to make it very uncomfortable for you if you demonstrate against their policies,” says Ramirez. “If you show up at a march, you’re going to get beat up and pepper-sprayed. In constitutional law, we call that a chilling effect.”
Immediately after the Capitolio incident, Fortuño announced there would be an investigation, but the results were never made public. Two weeks after the incident the Puerto Rican Bar Association issued a 133-page document detailing police violations, testimonies of victims and its recommendations. This report predictably fell on deaf ears—a year earlier, when the bar association had accused the police of abusing their powers during the 2009 incident in the university off-campus bar area, it was met with open hostility by PNP officials and PNP law firms, which filed a flurry of suits designed to weaken the association.
Ever since membership became compulsory in 1932, the bar association has inspired frequent attacks because of its function as a forum for civic debate. But the attacks from right-wing Fortuño supporters intensified after he took office, even though its membership contains partisans from all three of Puerto Rico’s major parties. “In 2009, now that the PNP had taken control of both houses of Congress, along with the executive branch, the legislature passed two laws seeking to destroy the bar association,” says lawyer Berkan.
The association was accused by one dissident member of “violat[ing] the law and promot[ing] disobedience,” and the legislation eliminated compulsory membership and cut crucial government funding. “They also imposed a series of draconian restrictions on the Bar Association and prohibited it from engaging in expressive activity related to any political or religious ideas,” says Berkan. This legislation culminated many years of litigation initiated by rightist statehooders, who as “dissidents” within a compulsory bar had argued that they should not be compelled to buy its $80 annual life insurance. In 2006 the firm Indiano & Williams filed a class-action suit arguing that the mandatory insurance program was unconstitutional. Even though the association ended the program two months after the suit was filed, the court found in favor of the plaintiffs in 2008 and assessed more than $4 million in damages. Since the bar association has historically been a forum for political and legal debates in Puerto Rico and is perceived as a cultural institution, many considered this an attack on the cultural heritage of the island territory.
While the attack on the association has been orchestrated primarily by the rightist leadership of the PNP, it shows the unorthodox ties the party has occasionally had with US Democrats. Andrés López, a major fundraiser for the Obama campaign in Puerto Rico and among US Latinos, was a key participant in the class-action suit, and registered Democrat Pedro Pierluisi, the current resident commissioner, led a campaign to discredit Luis Gutierrez’s remarks in Congress.
The Future of Police Reform 

In the aftermath of the DOJ report’s release, it’s clear that Puerto Rico faces a long, difficult road to achieve real reform, and that the efforts of the government appear inefficient, if not downright duplicitous. At the press conference announcing the report, Fortuño insisted that his government had begun taking steps toward reform soon after the 2010 Capitolio incident. While the ruling party produced no report on a par with the one produced by the bar association, in October2010, after a new scandal involving the arrests of more than seventy officers on drug charges, the governor issued an executive order creating a monitor to oversee the police department and issue a report. Fortuño contracted a former PNP judge, Efraín Rivera Pérez, to compile the report, at a cost of $300,000. The result: a skeletal twenty-one-page missive with no statistics or historical data.
After filing it this past June 30, on the anniversary of Capitolio, Rivera Pérez left to become president of the Puerto Rico Lawyers Association, a new rival to the bar association. No new monitor has been named. “The police monitor’s office in Puerto Rico doesn’t exist right now,” says Ramirez.
On July 2 police chief Figueroa Sancha resigned, citing pressure arising from the island’s crime rate, which has skyrocketed over the past two years. In his place Fortuño named retired National Guard Maj. Gen. Emilio Díaz Colón. In August Díaz Colón made headlines when he denied at a press conference that there was a federal investigation. The next month, days after the DOJ report was issued, Díaz Colón said the PRPD was so fiscally strapped it would be hard to implement change. While this could be taken as an excuse to do nothing, New York–based ACLU researcher Jennifer Turner agrees. “They have very little money allocated outside of payroll, and it’s going to be difficult, for example, to create a computer system to track repetitive conduct by abusive officers.”
Ever since the DOJ report’s release, Fortuño has been on the defensive over the disclosure that his government spent $1.7 mil-
lion to hire former White House deputy drug czar Robert Warshaw, whose firm consults with and helps rehabilitate police departments in trouble.
Another disturbing development has been the police violence during a second strike carried out by University of Puerto Rico students, from December 2010 to March 2011—just after Fortuño said he was committed to reform. The government ordered the police and riot squad to occupy the campus, and “violence became like a daily event,” says student leader René Reyes Medina. When students engaged in civil disobedience, police, including high-ranking officers, dislodged them using pressure-point control tactics on the neck and eyeballs that in at least one case caused a student to pass out.
Adriana Mulero, another student leader, was sitting in on campus when the police used these techniques on her. “The policeman who tried to move me applied pressure on my neck, and I felt an intense pain I didn’t expect, and I began to have difficulty breathing,” she says. “Afterwards I was handed off between officers, and they grabbed me by my breasts and thighs. I made a public statement denouncing that as an attack on women. During my second arrest, several of them attacked me by squeezing my neck, saying, ‘This is the one who complained about grabbing her breast!’ and they called me a whore. That hurt even more than when they hit me.”
While the release of the DOJ report would seem to put the police under a microscope for the foreseeable future, the ACLU’s Ramirez is still concerned about violence. “I have no doubt it’s going to happen again,” he says. “The governor uses code words to justify violence against certain groups.”
“In the spring we had a meeting with government officials there,” says ACLU researcher Turner. “And [Fortuño’s chief of staff] Marcos Rodríguez Ema kept stressing that we needed to include the violation of the right of students to study by other students. The attorney general, Guillermo Somoza Colombiani, actually said they were allowed to arrest someone who cursed at one of the officers. He said it was a felony! That’s constitutionally protected speech. You can imagine what the police officers think.”
Rodríguez Ema is widely recognized as the member of the administration most prone to violent and provocative statements. Five months after the governor claimed he’d begun the process of change, Rodríguez Ema was quoted in the press as saying the police should remove student protesters from university grounds by force—a patadas—“and those bandit professors who are inciting them, too!” The day after the DOJ report was released, Governor Fortuño offered this assurance to Puerto Ricans that he was working on reforming his broken policing system: he named Rodríguez Ema as the point man to monitor the overhaul of the police department.
“It’s not my role to tell the governor who is on his team,” said Assistant Attorney General Pérez. “Our role is going to be to attempt to translate our findings into an accountability document. I hope we’ll be successful, and I’d rather fix the problem than fix the blame. If you can’t fix the problem in a sustainable way, we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action in court.” Those sound like comforting words, but the ACLU’s Turner is concerned. “Because police abuses are continuing in PR, we feel it is important for DOJ to take action as quickly as possible,” she says. “We feel that any agreement between the DOJ and the PRPD needs to be court-monitored…. If it is not subject to court enforcement, the PRPD would fail to deliver on promised reforms.”

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Ed Morales' most recent informal speculation about Governor Fortuño's future (of course denied in a recent press statement):

Friday, November 18, 2011

For a Moment... Autonomy and then 'Subjects'

The year 1897 brought about the promise of autonomy for Puerto Rico. Over 400 years had past since Christopher Columbus had come upon it shores with an illusion of promise to the indigenous when in reality it was in assertion to the Spanish Crown that "the island would belong to them." During its 400 plus years of Spanish rule, Puerto Rico (Boriquen) suffered through the devastation of its indigenous population, slavery and disease.

From this devastation arose some prominent and revered figures such as Marianna Bracetti Cuevas, Segundo Ruiz Belvis, Ramon Emeterio Betances, Jose de Diego, Luis Munoz Rivera, Jose Celso Barbosa and Eugenio Maria de Hostos. These individuals, along with many more, challenged the Spanish Crown along the lines of slavery and autonomy. Slavery was abolished in 1873 and, in 1897, an Autonomic Charter with the Spanish government was granted to Puerto Rico. An opportunity to form local power, to frame a budget, fix import and export and have several elected representatives in the Spanish Cortes.

A very important clause in the Autonomic Charter to ponder was "it could only be modified by legal means, and at the request of the Puerto Rican legislature." The Autonomic Charter and that very clause have been a source of argument on whether the United States violated any laws or not when it invaded the island in 1898. The charter was there but never went into full effect due to the Spanish-American War.

This leads us into the quagmire state that Puerto Rico has lived in since its invasion in 1898. It was the U.S. passion for imperialism, the belief in American expansionism, Manifest Destiny which led it on it quest to acquire land. Unfortunately, for Puerto Rico, the idea was dead when it was invaded, hence, it became a U.S. colony, only to be stuck in a state of experimentation with its inhabitants as subjects of U.S. imperialism.

Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, "..Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.." This hasn't changed and it still applies, regardless of the simple fact that in 1950, Law 600, allowed for Puerto Rico to draft it own constitution. While approved by the U.S. Congress, in 1952, the constitution of Puerto Rico is still superseded by that of the U.S. constitution. Again, the U.S. Congress has plenary power over its property.

I have reiterated that part of the U.S. Constitution on several posts due to its importance in understanding the current state of Puerto Rico's status debacle. To fully understand the nature of the Puerto Rican, to understand the current state of the island and the many years in a state of limbo, one must delve into the many aspects which have brought it to its current state.

From its invasion in 1898, when it served as a perfect strategic ground for U.S. military forces, to the use of the its men as soldiers in wars, to the experimentation of it people, Puerto Rico has served the U.S. as perfect grounds for experimentation and its inhabitants have undoubtedly served well as its subjects. Is it no wonder that today it suffers socioeconomic strife among its own?

In a country that has seen the evil that imperialism is, it is no wonder that embedded in the psyche of the people, is the very fear that imperialistic damage has done in over 113 years. That brief moment, in 1898, when change for the better seemed so possible and within arms reach, was forever changed. It is but a mere 'what if'. A mere taste of the autonomic apple that has been left to rot.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Luisa Capetillo: Art/Agitation/Anarchy! by (Not4)Prophet

Luisa Capetillo: Art/Agitation/Anarchy!

by (Not4)Prophet

“When there is no longer the need to steal a roll of bread, for lack of food; when private property no longer exists and we all begin to view each other as brothers and sisters, then and only then will the prisons and useless, destructive churches disappear. Misery, hate and prostitution will cease to exist. Free trade will exist because all frontiers and borders will be abolished and then true liberty will reign on this planet” – Luisa Capetillo

"I believe nothing to be impossible; nor do i absorb myself in any particular moment or new discovery. For that reason I find no idea to be utopian. The essential thing is to put each idea into practice. To Begin!" - Luisa Capetillo

"The institution of slavery no longer exists, but as long as there are masters, there will be slaves" - Luisa Capetillo

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Standing Tall...Affirms Ignorance

The years pass and the stories of his travels and discoveries are fed into our minds as those that we should continue to celebrate. Our educational system as faulted us and continues to do so in the telling of Christopher Columbus' story. We should continuously be asking ourselves not only of his supposed discoveries but of his transgressions toward the indigenous people once he settled beyond their shores with an offer of false friendships. In a society that champions the freedoms of nations across the globe it should be of no surprise to know it hypocrisy. One of its hypocrisies lies not too far from its own shores. That hypocrisy is in the form of a colony called a commonwealth to disguise the truth that befell it back in 1898.

It is quite puzzling, the level of ignorance, that a colonized people have been so cleverly misguided to believe that a man's supposed discovery should be so celebrated. We can sit and argue whether this was a discovery or not. The focus here isn't about discovery but rather the celebratory nature by which we approach the life of a man based on those highlights that praise his life. The truths omitted would make any civil human being cringe and quickly change views. Realistically, his supposed discovery was a premise to the near extinction of indigenous societies. For this reason, Columbus initial voyages can be viewed more like a surveillance process.

Again, it is then safe to say that history is told from the viewpoint of the conqueror. Was there little or no history prior to Columbus voyages to these lands inhabited by the indigenous? Well, there obviously was. The problem isn't necessarily in the teachings of history but rather the omissions of negative truths and the addition of text that makes what is taught so outstanding. 

Photo: FoxNewsLatino
A statue of Christopher Columbus has been making a voyage since roughly 1994. This statue, created by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli and selected by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, was created to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Western Hemisphere. It has made its way through Florida, New York, Ohio, Maryland and finally Mayagüez, Puerto Rico (where it sits in a warehouse awaiting to be erected in Arecibo). Once again, Columbus shall rise in the very land he arrived on back in 1493.

Indeed, if it were up to history, it would say otherwise.

From History to Statue

For the record, a discovery is defined as that which one gets knowledge of, learns of or gains sight of such as something previously unseen¹. Hence, Columbus did gain sight of that which HE had previously unseen, at the same time, to say Columbus discovered America is in itself saying that history is indeed one-sided. Thus, the lands Columbus' supposedly discovered were very well know to the indigenous people of that time, the real discoverers.

“History is written by the victors.” -Winston Churchill


Saturday, October 1, 2011


Occupy Wall Street, occupy, occupy and continue to occupy. What shall we occupy next? Let's face the truth while we are still firmly grounded, while those who can head off to work, do so, oblivious to what is going on around them, for the mere peanuts earned. While that is still enough to satisfy a hungry belly, it is only a matter of time before the peanuts become less and less. Complacent with what little they have and with being pissed on by America's corporate bigwigs. The very same bigwigs that laugh, enjoy their lavish surroundings, million dollar clubs and million dollar homes.

Is it just a fad? Is everyone, just merely, jumping on the bandwagon to create a stir? Or are people starting to really get fed up with the greed that is ever so present in our daily lives? Government officials continue to fail those that maintain the big machine. America is no longer a democracy nor a republic but a country that is essentially run by corporations with government officials as their representatives.

From the internal to the external policies, America is at the edge of crisis. With government expenses that ballooned to $121 million on conferences in fiscal 2008 and 2009 to bailed-out Bank of America's (U.S. taxpayer bailout) announcement about charging a monthly fee for the use of debit cards for purchases to their unfair foreclosure practices, we have to ask, "when is enough..enough?" Personal salaries remain stagnant and the hands of corporate America continue to make their way into our pockets and purses.

Some things become more apparent as time goes on. Its evident that corporate America and American politics are sleeping together. What we need now is to #OccupyAmerica and demand that Congress get its act together, take the leading role away from the corporations and begin to fight for what is right. That they begin to fight for the people. That fight needs to include the 4 million residents of the colony of Puerto Rico.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Franky Benítez....Breaks it Down

What Puerto Rico Can Learn from President Obama’s Policy on Palestinian Statehood

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Chupacabras Thoughts On National Hispanic Heritage Month by Papo 'Swiggity' Santiago

In response to a question asked by George 'Urban Jibaro' Torres:
''Are special months like Latino Heritage Month helpful or confining to us as Latinos?'

My dos centavos:
Usually around concepts like this, we hear comments like " I am Latino all year!" or "I am Black all year!" and I get that... I really do. I hate that we have to bottleneck our accomplishments through the space of 4 weeks. But that's indicative of a much larger issue around the fact that we still don't control enough of the media (B.E.T. ain't even black-owned anymore, and there's no large scale networks catering to American Latinos in the mainstream, they still treat us alot like we're all of one culture OR another- like we speak English OR Spanish by some old world dichotomous notion that we can't be rich in bicultural qualities... we are in fact at every level of the American social, political and economic strata while many simultaneously maintain ties to our countries of origin, but this is a story for another day). With the exception of George Lopez's sitcom that showed Latinos in a middle class home environment (though oddly still tied to factory work), alot of America  believes the Hollywood hype that we are uneducated, oversexed, drug crazed and gun crazy as an entire people. If you had to judge us solely by how we are portrayed on TV, what other conclusion could you come to? Seeing this over and over, some of our own have come to internalize the hegemony and believe it. Worse... promote it.

So here's my take on the issue at hand. We celebrate these "Heritage" months to celebrate our historical contributions in American society, and yes, show them off to the mainstream. Why? Identity. So many kids go through a period of identity issues, questioning externally and internally... this is universal but it gets even more complicated when it comes to children of color who want and deserve a real idea of who we were, how we came to be in this society and where we stand today, so that they can lead the conversations about where we will go tomorrow. The information isn't out there like that- it ain't in the public classrooms.  You have to know where to find it and often that means you have to be lucky enough to have someone in your life aware enough to let you know there's even something to find. This has always been true... how many of our own folks that we know (they may even be our parents and grandparents) do not appreciate their own people because they don't have a thorough understanding of our accomplishments? They see their own communities as a negative, as a hurdle to be overcome to get that nice house in the white part of Queens. They were never taught the success we are capable of,  that we can be proud of. In fact they were systematically socialized to believe the exact opposite- that we are IN-capable.

As we know, an accurate account of our own history is not reflected in mainstream classrooms and culture, so these months allow us an opportunity for corrective reframing of our significance in American History. Usually Heritage Month events are run by leaders of the community... we get the mainstream spotlight to highlight our cultural happenings and heroes who often still "don't appear on no stamps" (shout out to Public Enemy!).

Do I wish we didn't need them? Yes. But...

Until the country adopts true transformative educational programs that embody stark real facts about the local Black (African-American), Native American and immigrant cultures within the framework of American culture, Heritage months are important for pedagogy and posterity.

PaPo Swiggity
The Nuyo Chupacabra
Capicu Poetry & Cultural Showcase