The Puerto Rican Way

Have I told you about the time I missed the revolution by a week?

Is it possible you missed it too? The people of Puerto Rico just overthrew their government. Here is a good recap of what happened in case you need to catch up.

The thing is, I was just there! I was just in Puerto Rico. Days before the people finally said “enough!”

I had dinner with my cousin. She mentioned the brewing crisis. But I didn’t pay enough attention. “Our island is always in crisis” is what I thought.

So good to be wrong. So proud of my people. We won. And we inspired the world with the joy of our song of resistance. I wish I had been there. But it is a song that lives within my heart. Because that is where it came from. It came from the Puerto Rican heart. It has always been here.

“No tenemos miedo. Somos más.”

“We are not afraid. There is more of us.”

The media oversimplifies everything. A boatload of texts were revealed by the independent press. Lewd and callous private chats between the governor and his cronies. The elite’s disdain for the people was clearly and painfully revealed.

But this is not just about a texting scandal.

This is about the 4645 people who died after hurricane María. A government that would not acknowledge the dead. A botched recovery effort. A president tossing paper towels while speaking of us with disdain.

It is about women. And the violence against them.

It is about 15.5 million dollars funneled from public to private. From health and education to highly paid consultants.

These are just the ones that got caught. The ruling class is thoroughly corrupt.

This is about more than ten years of recession. About austerity measures. About closing down schools and erasing jobs.

It’s about hedge funds. About vulture capitalism. About profiting from crisis and debt.

It is about more that 500 years of colonialism.

It was about time we said “enough.”

Professor Pedro Reina Perez wrote in The Atlantic:

Puerto Rico’s political culture evolved in the decades after World War II, under an economic-development strategy of “industrialization through invitation”—of bringing in outside investment by offering large tax breaks. For companies, coziness with the island’s government has paid ample dividends. And for Puerto Rico’s governing class, control over private investment, public funds, and—much later—relief money has been a major source of power and enrichment....

The clear message to the public is that decisions about the island’s fate are being made by people who do not represent their interests.

I have always thought that Puerto Rico is a miner’s canary. A harbinger of what is to come. Corporate imperialism tries new strategies on us. I still think this is true.

What has happened in Puerto Rico is a pattern that repeats itself all over the world. It’s how the global extraction economy works. We have always been a colony. But the poor countries of the world are now neo-colonies.

We could only “grow” and attract investment by offering tax breaks to corporations and letting our elite play cozy with them. And today this is how corporate imperialism replicates itself all over the world.

But what is also true is that the multitude can rise up. Not just in Puerto Rico. But everywhere else too. In every place that is subsumed by Empire.

New movements are brewing. Movements beyond traditional parties. Beyond the binds of the state. There are young people , women, queer, trans and gender nonconforming people.

There are vibrant diasporas who have risked so much to find their way to the rich world.

You can find the excluded. We live under a system that excludes. The excluded are right here. Wherever you find yourself right now. And here there is something brewing. There are people in resistance. There are people organizing. Teaching. Building community. Developing strategies for survival.

They are here.

It is beautiful. It is real. And it is true.

And here we have music. We have art and we have artists. We have the possibility of mutuality and joy.

It is always easier to break something than to build it. Easier to take down a government than it is to build a democracy. But power resides in the people. And it is good to exercise it. To come together and learn how to use it. To find life in the very quest for freedom.

This is about so much more than Puerto Rico. We are committing ecocide. Fossil fuels are being extracted right now. Burning right now. We are extracting from the earth to exhaustion. To the point of total destruction. This will not stop all by itself. It is a voracious beast with it’s own destructive momentum.

It will take a global uprising to stop it. A clear and loud no to these ways of death.

If everything is fractal.

Then Puerto Rico just showed us the way.