Saturday, June 9, 2012

Along the Route: ¡Despierta, Borinqueño!

When one envisions a Caribbean island, one envisions palm trees, sandy beaches with clear ocean waters and a vibrant sunshine. A vacation on an island as such can be the escape from the mundane feeling, the stress and every day anxiety that work brings. A much needed vacation where one can relax, release and play.

It is there where one is devoid of the fact that just beyond the next palm tree lies unemployment, political deceit and a centuries old fallacy. That is the truth that befalls many Puerto Ricans that live on the island and are constantly infused with an American dream filled with promise. An American dream which makes one just capable enough to help run the machine's cogs and wheels but not to actually run the machine itself. Where the machinations of this society are in the hands of the money grubbing corporations which have politicians in their pockets.

Here is the deal. We are taught to believe that we can be as successful as the Gates and Zuckerbergs of this great society. But, like any society, there has to be a measure of control. Surely, this control has been occurring in Puerto Rico for well over a century under U.S. control. The U.S. has infused into the Puerto Rican psyche, even before the Jones Act, the dream of a Puerto Rico, USA. It is that dream that has created the political status dilemma that haunts islanders to this very day.The haunting takes shape in the psyche form that believes that without the U.S., Puerto Rico would fall into the hands a greater evil. That its very existence will be ravaged with greater poverty than currently exists. Yet, with a greater commonality or coexistence with the U.S. the belief that more can be achieved is envisioned on the other side of the coin. Within that exists the loss of a culture and identity. It continues as a belief that, without the ties that bind the two together, the island would cease to exist as a viable nation. There are many sides to the coin that make for a dilemma and either an American dream or nightmare, depending on where one stands.

Every attempt is made to assimilate into the American way of life. It is the copycat syndrome that the dream keeps alive. After all, it is said that you should follow your dreams. It is then safe to say that there is a thin line between dream and reality? The American dream is really more an illusion, a feeling of moving up from a lower social class, earning enough so your children can go to college and owning a home. It takes away the humility in the average man and replaces it with a greedy capitalists mentality. While the general population is busy keeping up with the joneses, corporate fat cats can run the country as they see fit. Just smart enough to maintain and keep the machine going but never having full control. Such is, the American dream.

A couple of questions, in Puerto Rico, then are, can it or can it not survive without the U.S. Are the people so heavily infused with an American dream that they are willing to assimilate to the point of cultural and identity loss? In the end, the answers lie within the people of the island and only if they awake from that dream and approach things on clear and concise footing.

¡Despierta, Borinqueño!

Along the parade route, as flags wave and multitudes of people adorn themselves with various trinkets of Puerto Rican  pride, we have to question where that pride leads us. We have to question the motives of the capitalist corporations that adorn floats in attempts to captivate the moment. The very same attempts which glorify the American dream across the globe. Can we continue to survive as Puerto Ricans solely on pride alone? Is that pride sincere or not? Can we carry that pride and convert it to truly preserving and enriching our fellow Puerto Ricans who are in the most need? Can we exercise our minds to learn more about the history and culture of our people?

Let us take the energy that fills our parades with pride further than the avenue routes and face that which divides us, both on the island and within every Puerto Rican enclave in the U.S. to a collective advent and confront the reality that is colonialism. It is with that, that we must find the energy to confront the stigma that affects the independent thought of a Puerto Rican dream.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Puerto Rico: Many Questions, Many Answers....

What will become of Puerto Rico?

In a recent conversation with a friend, I asked the question, "What are your sentiments toward the current Governor of Puerto Rico and where do you believe the island is going?" I asked this question because he was born and raised on the island yet currently lives and works in NYC. He owns a home in Puerto Rico and travels there extensively and his children are also being raised on the island.

I felt his reply was honest and heartfelt. He replied that he felt the Governor of Puerto Rico was no different than past Governors or politicians. That his motives were not of the people but rather self driven political aspirations. As for the direction the island is going, he would only reply, that if Puerto Rico were to become a state it would be an even greater opportunity for corporations, money grubbing realtors and the like to sink their teeth onto the island. It would be like a gentrification of sorts where many of the island folk would not be able to afford the very land that they have lived on for years and they would have to move on. For the people to believe that they would receive more assistance via statehood is absolutely absurd. They have been coached to believe that by constantly being provide with crumbs by the American government. That the identity of the Puerto Rican nation will, with time, become so minute that it will be nearly all but forgotten except by the truly ardent Puerto Rican.

Our conversation may have ended there but it remained in my thoughts. It is, after all, a year that revisits yet another plebiscite on the island. Where the politics of the island status has taken a seat alongside the gubernatorial election. I also wonder about the motives and aspirations of that Governor. Is it for the people or self driven? The bottom line is what will happen at the end. The tunnel that leads to the islands political status is dark and dank and has been for a very long time. There is no doubt that the people fear the light at the end of the tunnel. It is marred by the same repeated questions with many answers that lead to the same end.

It does lead me to other questions. Such as, what is the reason behind the U.S. Army Reserve investing heavily in Puerto Rico? What is really in the future of the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station site? With the Governor seemingly bent on higher Washington aspirations, is this all tied to an inclination toward a statehood coating of the cake?
Depending on which side of the political spectrum one stands, the answers are never easy to swallow. The frustration never seems to have an end. What will become of Puerto Rico?

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Rose in Spanish Harlem, by Alberto O. Cappas

A Rose in Spanish Harlem
Three Characters in One:
East Harlem - Spanish Harlem - El Barrio

© By Alberto O. Cappas

A Rose in Spanish Harlem
Hiding in exile until it becomes all clear
A community
Divided unto itself by itself with itself
While other cultures make themselves at home
We stay inside
Like Lobsters in a barrow
Managed by a social service over-dosed mindset
Cultural Centers keeping Boricua in the past
Preaching a strategy of outdated liberated emotions
Perpetuated by poets with words that erase
Possibilities of moving a new generation forward
Colonial chains still in full operation
A living electronic field of rappers and poets
Adding confusion to the meaning
A community consuming, not providing
Electing misguided egos into public policy positions
Cementing the fate with physical evidence:
Babies coming from babies
The young echoing the "N" word as a daily sweet diet
Tattoos carved on human bodies transformed into walking billboards
And slacks placed below the waist line as something very cool

As the poet
Pedro Pietri said,
It is time to visit
"Sister Lopez" again
"The number one healer"
And pray that the spirits
Would heal and guide us out of
Ignorance and bondage
Giving us the wisdom to build
A new Spanish Harlem
And Liberate the Rose

Rise Puerto Ricans
Rise Puerto Ricans