Isla del encanto
Land of arroz con habichuelas y mofongo
Exporter of Marc Anthony and Rita Moreno
We’re well-known for what we give, aren’t we?
But, what about what has been taken from us?
The Spaniards, our first colonizers, murdered the Tainos, and through violent indigenous rape, eradicated them from our present reality.
They forced their foreign tongues down our throats and balked when we didn’t like the taste.
Spain did the same to my African ancestors, denying their humanity, refusing to set them free.
They claimed ownership of the black body, through slavery and forced intimacy.
Thus, a Puerto Rican came to be.
Puerto Rico. Tiny island, somewhere in the Caribbean
Not sure what their government’s like
Not sure if they can vote in our elections
Wait, aren’t they Americans? Why?
Why. This question turns in my head often
Why Puerto Rico has never been free.
Black bodies passed from Spanish hands to American hands
Different linguistically but still pale and cold hands.
Autonomy has never been known to the Puerto Rican.
Liberty to choose an identity was never for us.
So, yes, we are Americans. By force.
We became one of you in 1917, right when WWI was heating up.
The U.S. military has used Puerto Rican bodies for their wars
And yet has consistently denied us our freedom.
Freedom to think, to protest, to fly our flag.
Freedom to have babies when we want to, or even at all.
During the 1950s, “la operacion” became a household word
Amongst the tragically ignorant housewives in Puerto Rico.
A promise was made: better family size; more money.
And women were cut: they were sterilized against their will
By the U.S. government.
Scratching and clawing at this situation,
Like a tourist’s bad sunburn,
We wanted to resist, to peel it,
And let our natural, sun-kissed skin grow.
Pedro Albizu Campos led this resistance.
A Harvard-educated man, he was a polyglot
And his linguistic capital gave him the ability
To feverishly speak to anyone who could help Puerto Rico become free.
This fiery passion would become his downfall.
Much like MLK or Malcolm X, Campos became a threat.
Independence. Our own flag. Women’s rights to their own bodies.
The U.S. wasn’t ready to talk about that during the 1950’s.
Pedro Albizu Campos was murdered, through medical experiments and torture.
The U.S. channeled the Nazis they had just vehemently fought against
In order to subdue this “angry Puerto Rican man.”
The independence movement flickered out, with embers still aching to be noticed.
During this movement, my grandmother was one of the many women who fled Puerto Rico
To avoid sterilization, and she found herself in the projects of downtown Brooklyn.
Here she raised almost ten children on her own, without any man.
Nueva York seemed to be the land of opportunity for so many like her.
But that opportunity came with terms and conditions,
That my grandmother couldn’t read, let alone sign.
If you don’t speak English, your future in this country is dim.
Citizen or not, Spanish, at that time, did not get you far.
And so she remained in downtown Brooklyn,
Feeding her children using food stamps,
Hoping that one of them would leave this place
And fulfill the dream she had had, as a twenty-something coming to the mainland.
Puerto Rico was and is unable to promise the growth that New York does.
Much of that is because the U.S. created Puerto Rico to be what it is.
It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?
And one feels shame, begging the oppressor for better opportunities, knowing that their hand has always been closed to you.
But, this country was not for my grandmother. No one rooted for her. She learned little English, despite her best efforts.
Literacy was completely unknown to her. She could not advance in life, so one of her children did.
My mother, from her childhood, knew that she wanted more than this life
Of simply eating government cheese, playing on the needle-ridden streets, going to dilapidated schools, and waiting to die, in Brooklyn, the borough that has become so hip lately.
Through her tenacity and fierce commitment to her education,
My mother was able to leave the projects
And when the time came for her to choose to have children,
She had two and raised them in Upstate New York’s quiet suburbs.
I stand here as a creation of God and a reflection of my island’s past.
The U.S. has hurt Puerto Rico immensely and continues to do so
With its disgusting response to the island’s cries, post-Maria.
Lares esta gritando and this isn’t the first time.
I must openly speak what is true, while I have this platform.
Americans love to dance to “Despacito” and swoon over our women,
Yet most of you do not know that Puerto Rico is a colony of the U.S. and that we have been citizens for a century.
You love to eat our food, move into our neighborhoods, and visit our island’s resorts,
Yet you know next to nothing about our history, our pain and how it affects us today.
Puerto Rican history is American history.
If you neglect this part of your ancestors’ past,
You are bound to repeat it.
My people will suffer from your lack of knowledge.
The U.S. government and its citizens have deeply wounded Puerto Rico.
In all honesty, I’m not sure we can totally recover.
But what has to happen, is an attitude change, a heart shift.
Begin to see the Puerto Rican as your fellow citizen, your fellow human,
And you will become righteously indignant.
Speak up for us, because when we speak, Washington, D.C. chooses not to hear us,
Even though we speak the language they forced on us.
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – I John 3:18
How to Help Puerto Rico: