I Do Not Exist Politically

Puerto Rican flag-painted face at Occupy Puerto Rico protest in San Juan (Dave Lobby/Flickr)

Puerto Rican flag-painted face at Occupy Puerto Rico protest in San Juan (Dave Lobby/Flickr)

I do not exist politically.

The anger exceeded me that early spring. We had marched. We had protested. Many of us, juanxs del pueblo, knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. Yet, on March 19th, 2003, the Bush administration went ahead with the invasion of Iraq. The anger I felt exceeded any anger I have ever felt.

The sense of indignation is not just mine. I was only three when the Cerro Maravilla case occurred in Puerto Rico. The governor then was Carlos Romero Barceló, one of the most anti-labor governors in the history of the island. Two young pro-independence men, Carlos Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado were ambushed by the police and killed in cold blood. According to the police, those two were going to blow up a communications tower in the name of independence and when the news hit the governor that fateful July 25th, 1978, he celebrated the quashing of “terrorism.” What ammunition, if any, was found on the alleged terrorists? Cigarette matches. At ages 25 and 18, Soto Arriví and Darío Rosado were silenced for their political leanings.

For some political players, Puerto Rico simply does not exist, or it only exists when it is convenient for some nefarious endeavor.

Republicans in Congress now are for the Junta de Control Fiscal, a board to “reconstruct” Puerto Rico’s debt by people who will not be (s)elected by the people of Puerto Rico. Its goals will benefit creditors not the local economy. Puerto Ricans, apparently, cannot think for themselves. Being a colony, some welcome the Junta with open arms.

Puerto Ricans do come together —even beyond party lines and what the leaders tell them— to stand up for their rights every now and then. That happened in 2012 when the vote was to keep the right to bail when convicted. And thankfully, there is no death penalty in Puerto Rico.

I continue not to exist, politically.

Because of my convictions, my experiences, my observations, I have come to realizations and conclusions, and actions. Should I disavow them? Should I not question a vote to authorize the war in Iraq? We are talking about war, something that exacerbates humans rights abuses including violence against women and girls. Should I not question that the same presidential hopeful who has said she is “sorry” for young people not doing their “research” campaigned in Puerto Rico in the 2008 primary season with Romero Barceló next to her? Should I not disagree with her current support of the Junta de Control? Should I not even consider a candidate’s stance on the death penalty?

Why cannot it be accepted that the questioning of this candidate was happening already in my mind and many others’ regardless of who would run against her in the primary and regardless of their gender?

It is not that because a candidate is a woman that I am voting or not for her, neither it is that I support another candidate because they are (or not) a man.

I could mention that I too feel uneasy about a presidential candidate’s ties with Wall Street and fossil fuel industry donors and what that means in terms of conflicts of interest. A climate change crisis, like war, will most definitely intensify social conflicts, including violence against women and girls. Am I not allowed to bring up these concerns?

Am I to suspend critical thought about critical issues? If I did suppress my mind, some would say: of course she’s blinded, she’s a woman! If I think about these issues and raise my concerns, some would roll their eyes saying I’m being “too cerebral” (in the best case scenario) or “asked by a campaign to attack” (in the most ridiculous scenario).

I know I run the risk of being labeled because, in some contexts, I do not exist politically. In some, I certainly do, which is a privilege. And I must check my privilege too, because too many–trans people, refugees trying to survive, to name a few–are clamoring to exist, be recognized, and be treated as people.

One truth is that we do exist politically: me and my circumstances. I am a woman, a Latina, with global concerns whose mind won’t be denied.

***

Nancy Bird-Soto has a PhD in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has published Put Together: A Minne-Memoir with Editorial Trance (New York, 2014). Her first novel in Spanish, Aries Point o el viaje de Pleione, will be published in print this spring by Isla Negra Editores (San Juan and Santo Domingo). You can follow her on Twitter @nancybird75.

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