An Open Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda

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Dear Lin-Manuel Miranda,

I am a fellow Puerto Rican—raised in the small town of Barceloneta, from two generations of pharmaceutical line workers. After shuffling boxes at the Frito Lay factory while in college, I am the first to break from the machine. Why would you listen to me? I am not a famous Manhattan socialite; nor a Harvard professor—I am a countryman, raised in a former pineapple plantation town overtaken by a cemetery; I am simply a walk on the barrio sidewalk who now experiences the silent fury of exile. Thus, I speak to you from the place of identity. You do not need to know me personally; think of me as the disembodied consciousness of all that was left behind, of the Boricua who lives in you.

I know that the situation affecting Puerto Rico hurts you. I know you feel it. Your pain is mutual and is shared collectively. No other Puerto Rican figure stands in the eye of the media to discuss what is occurring in Puerto Rico. You must be acknowledged. The pride that we, Puerto Ricans, feel about your accomplishments is unanimous. There is great trust in your word—especially because you raise your voice within important circles of power.

In life, if we walk with the privilege to fight for our dignity, there are circumstances in which we must consider the options that are placed in front of us, and on many occasions, when we are focused on success, we have to reject what is being offered; we must turn our backs and continue on our path. Often, rejecting life’s tempting offers is crucial in order to win the ancient game in which dignity is the sacred prize.

In Puerto Rico we are still dragging the chains of colonialism—a legacy that was not chosen. No form of colonialism is generous or benevolent; it does not benefit anyone. It only inflicts suffering. While we were at the precipice of breaking the shackles from Spain, the handcuffs of the United States arrested us. Meanwhile, colonialism survives from both the demagogue and the lie—from the distortion of reality.

The colonialism imposed by the United States is one based on the old, racist politics of the plantation. In this, they exterminate and marginalize those patriots who are committed to the homeland; the only one who rises above is he who sacrifices the people for the interests of the master. The master, in this case the U.S. Congress, maintains power through the practice of divide and conquer. Simultaneously, their grasp inflames the people’s desire for what is foreign and makes us reject what is ours once it is defined as inferior and undesirable. The insecurities reflected in many immigrant communities in the United States are rooted precisely in this dynamic of barriers that we face in the uphill battle of everyday life. No explanation is required. I know you understand what I am saying.

The oversight board of fiscal control that Congress intends to impose in Puerto Rico through the work of Rob Bishop, Sean Duffy, and Paul Ryan is the reinforcement of racist plantation politics. The imposition of the board is not an act of help; it is an act of aggression. On the other hand, the silence of the Democrats; their halfway rejection of the board with resigned approval constitutes, equally, a form of aggression. The oversight board is designed to inflict pain on the people of Puerto Rico. It intends to implement an abusive and inhumane method of securing the payment of debt to U.S. investors, while it awards plentiful power to sell the island’s patrimony, permanently impoverishes it, and deepens colonialism. The reduction of the minimum wage to Puerto Rican youth to $4.25 per hour pushes them to migration; those who stumble in their departure will have better chances than those who have no option but to stay and face the impending brutality. For those who stay, as is already the case in a great number of Puerto Rican youth, many will have no other option than to embrace violence to survive. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” will translate to “Move the Manteca, mi pana,” when heroin floods the streets and children’s stomachs are empty.

We must reject what is offered when we are already aware that under the conditions of the board, in a few years, Puerto Rico will look more like the South Side of Chicago. Then, we will see Bishop, Duffy, and Ryan giving their hypocritical speeches about law and order to imprison an entire generation of Puerto Rican youth while the prison industry joins the flock of vultures. Don’t be surprised that the migration of impoverished Puerto Ricans in the coming years will file directly into the prisons of the United States.

The crucial moment in Puerto Rico not only requires help, but a radical change. The two principal political parties in Puerto Rico who play the rhythm of the U.S. Congress (sending the country over the cliff) must collapse in the process. Aligned with Congress, they close the doors; they chain us; they impose limitations that starve us; they enrich themselves by pillaging the little we have. After months of legislating to create the board, Congress does not offer any alternative for economic development. Nothing is said of how the Jones Act of 1917 asphyxiates us. All of the alternatives that the American government proposes come under the premise that Puerto Rico will continue under the same colonial conditions. The referendums that are implemented to solve the problem of the status are designed to produce gridlock. The U.S. government pretends to be a mediator in a problem in which he himself is the aggressor.

Today, Friday June 10, The Board of Fiscal Control will surely become law with the approval of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. They already gave a punch in the teeth to their most fervent critics. It is confirmed that even the White House lobbied in favor of the project that they sarcastically called PROMESA (promise). The North American Government waited until the last moment to push the people of Puerto Rico off of a cliff, given that the government faces a massive default on the first of July. Congress seeks collective consent for their assault. Stated precisely, the implementation of the Oversight Board of Fiscal Control comes to Puerto Ricans through an act of domination—the last nail in the crucifixion of the people.

Puerto Rico needs an international mediator. Puerto Ricans have made this claim at the United Nations for decades, like the refrain in a perpetual musical, but singing songs of horror. The U.S. government sits watching, but pretends not to hear.

In life, we examine the options that we have in front of us to make decisions. I know that to get to your position in life, you took many risks and rejected some opportunities. This time, it is the moment to reject and dissent. Many politicians must be giving you a standing ovation after reading your column from El Diario in which you state that there is no other option than to accept the board of fiscal oversight. You are not the author of that theatrical production. The standing ovation that your people wait to give you will come after the solemn soliloquy that protests and denounces injustice, oppression, and colonialism.

Pedro M. Anglada Cordero

Spanish version

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9 comments
Greg Medina
Greg Medina

@AlbertoMedina ...just read your letter and I can only say that there is NOTHING "poor" about it.  Thanks for saying what needs to be said again and again and again.  


The only caveat I offer in the form of a reality check is that it will take a LOT of work in terms of public relations, world awareness and the court of public opinion.  


The "Celeb-Riquenos" who do have the resources to put this issue in the faces of the American public have made it clear that they are not interested in "jeopardizing" their careers as Hollywood token generic "La Tinos" (gotta pay for all those mansions, Bentleys and tattoos).  So I am not inclined to further pursue them as a venue of support.  


I have written to all of them and the silence I have received back is an echo chamber of self-serving indifference.  And I can say that I for one will not spend one dime to line their pockets ever.  


With regard to Lin-Manuel, while I know that he can and should do much more because of his "fame" at this moment, I am sure he recognizes that his "fame" like everyone else's on the  Broadway/Hollow-Wood gravy train, is fleeting and that next year, he could wind-up playing a brown-faced illegal in a Mexican soap opera, being yelled at for not polishing the Maserati fast enough for "el jefe". 


What I particularly want to see is (I can't believe I am saying this) a FaceBook campaign spreading the word of Puerto Rico's TWO major crises:


1. The "Debt Crisis"...(self-induced punishment as it is).

Having reached a level of remedy in this matter, we will be free again to address...)


2. The matter of Statehood or Independence.  No need to include the "Status Quo" option. We have a century of disgraceful retrospective and damning one-sided (US) policy that has told us resoundingly that "Status Quo" is of no value (if it ever was) to Islanders.


Again, thanks for your letter.  Please feel free to contact me via FB, we can discuss more specifically courses of action that are do-able.  For now...


P.S. And what is particularly disturbing is the total absence of our "academics".  I personally KNOW dozens in universities from the Ivy League to the Big 10 to the West Coast Ivy Wannabes and that their voices are mute is absolutely INDEFENSIBLE!  But again, they don't want to jeopardize their all-expenses-paid conference junkets to every "La Tino" dog and pony show from coast to coast and of course there are all those Love Boat Cruises out of Miami to consider.

Greg Medina
Greg Medina

@Kg1981 ...your smugness is only exceeded by your ignorance.and shallowness.  Get back on the Taco Bell drive-up window line for more of your insightful observations about something you know, care and couldn't care less about...typical internet maggot. Ankle biters like you aren't worth kicking at...such a sad little person and he refers to himself as "we"...that really is precious.

Kg1981
Kg1981

This is hilarious, on one hand you have someone saying this post is a poor mans version of a post he wrote prior, devaluing the words within... And on the other hand you have someone diminishing the impact of Miranda because using a national stage on multiple occasions wasn't deemed enough from someone whose only contributions to further any movement seem to be rambling responses in obscure comment sections.

Since both of you are so critical, please illuminate anyone who reads with a list of the strides you have taken to better the situation, that don't involve a keyboard. We'll wait

Kg1981
Kg1981

Exactly the response I expected. Juvenile insults with not an iota of achievement to back up any claim you've made while still bitter at the success and action of others.

People like you are the problem. All talk and no action. In your case it's all type and no action which I respect less, because anonymously you swipe at Titans whilst wallowing in your own intellectual filth thinking you're doing something. You're a joke and your opinion is worth less than the cost of the bandwidth it took to transmit your cliche uninspired trite of a retort.

Greg Medina
Greg Medina

@Kg1981...says the internet troll with 2 initials and his birthdate as identification.  Troll heal thyself and you can start by taking fewer selfies and owning your identity.  You have not one leg left on that 2-legged stool you're wobbling on.  Your "opinion" has the impact of a mosquito fart in a hurricane and as much significance in the course of relevant discourse, for which your "talents" are quite insufficient. And let me know if you need me tell you this in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic or 2-syllabled "English" for your grasping enjoyment.

Kg1981
Kg1981

Lol another waste of time. I bet it kills you inside, angry at the luminaries of our time for their success wondering why isn't it you who achieved something more than the self perceived esteemed title of "key board warrior"

Use all the ill worded childish analogies that you deem to be clever, but aren't, that you want. It's obvious you're so full of yourself you couldn't see reason unless you swallowed it, that's how far your head is up your own ass. Reply or don't, it's irrelevant. I'm diverting my attention to more important things than your opinion, like flies swarming around a pile of dog shit.

Get well key board warrior

Greg Medina
Greg Medina

@Kg1981 ...better yet...get the courage of your cyber convictions by using your own name, coward...you are an internet plague that gets worse by the nano-second...now get back to those selfies before you become totally irrelevant on FaceBook with all your BFFs.

Greg Medina
Greg Medina

Pedro...your intelligent, insightful and informative epistle is timely, terse and intellectually taut and ethically tight. I cannot thank you enough for the time and effort that you took to share your wisdom with us. Thank you again.



And (you’ll enjoy this), as someone with extended family in the very same town you come from, Barceloneta, (Barrio Garrochales) with family surnames such as Medina, Reyes, Susoni, O'Ferran, Olmo, Duran, Zamot, Oliver, Amador, Von Kupferschein (Cofresi) to name a few, I almost burst when reading what you have written here and that we shared geographic historical coordinates and possibly tangled genealogical roots. Again, I am very, very proud of you for doing this. There were moments when I read your words that I felt I was being channeled through your soul.  Just amazing.



It has been a very long time since my great-grandfather took me for walks on Sunday mornings in La Plaza or past La Clinica Susoni decades ago before the tropic sun heated the concrete below my little white shoes as we walked briskly to get me a neon-turquoise-colored "piragua" that I promptly turned my crisp white shirt, shorts and little clip-on tie into a sugary, tied-dye disaster. I was perhaps 3, 4 or 5 years old and so "Don Barolome" just looked down and smiled and told me and my brother Radames Sebastian in Spanish..."deja que tu madre los vea”. 



And so it is no small thing for me to say that I do agree whole-heartedly with your every word and sentiment.



I have written here over the past year some very harsh and critical commentaries about our "Celeb-Riquenos" and so I do understand your every syllable at a visceral level. 



And what I have come away with after all the academic, intellectual, personal and dare I say cosmic prisms I view our "Celeb-Riquenos" through,  is that if it is not in their "interests" financially and “professionally” on an immediate level, "it" will not find its way into their soul or state of being. 



Your lovely commentary was soooooooooooo gracious and way more generous than mine ever are.  And the reason for my short-fuse with Puerto Ricans on the US Mainland is very simple.  I have lived many, many years in the US Mainland in various states and have met many, many Pseudo-Ricans who are more inclined to hang a “banderita” in their BMW convertible, than they are to even begin to grasp the very real plight of their brothers and sisters on the Island.  Puerto Ricans of convenience are not where I ever look to for camaraderie of any kind.  I have been disappointed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many times to allow myself that foolish luxury. 



And while I admire your skillfully-crafted "indirecta" at Lin-Manuel, I also understand that the spiritual lobotomization that US Mainland "Celeb-Ricans" have been subjected to, is at this point virtually complete. And why shouldn't it be? They have breathed the air in the Master's house, in the Master's basement and even on the Master's porch where they are invited to dance, sing, ghetto-rap, shake their "Bon-Bons" and perform any entertainments that Master wishes to "allow" them to do for him.



Lin-Manuel is only the hottest ticket on Broadway at this moment and we all know how fleeting that 4-letter word "fame" is, but like all others before him (Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno, J-Low, Ricky Martin, Rosie Perez, to name a few), he (as they) will soon realize that when their particular variety of "payaseria" or “tonteria”  falls out of vogue, they will be doing gigs on game-shows in Tokyo, Taiwan and Teaneck, NJ.  And they KNOW this. So they will strut down the red-carpet in the finest gowns and tuxedos and continue to pretend that they are NOT really the butt of political disdain of most Americans on the US Mainland.  The confetti and glitter is very effective in blinding their deluded view.



So, in short, please know that I appreciated with all my soul your incredibly brilliant narrative.

If only the "leadership" of the Island and of our “Celeb-Riquenos” on the US Mainland could embrace a shred of your cultural and spiritual integrity, we might not be in the political schizophrenic conundrum that has poisoned our very souls and minds.

My Mallorca-born great-grandfather used to say often…

”mi’jo cuando el hombre pierde la verguenza, no hay nadie que se la devuelva”. 

He only had a 3rd grade education, but was a beacon of intelligence, integrity and industry to me.  My memories of him still live in my soul and I cannot even begin to imagine what he would say today, if he were to see the degradation of his Island nation.


In “his day” which was at the very end of the Spanish colonial rule of the Island in the 1890s, before the US invaded and stole the Island, he loved nothing more than his Island home and the futures he envisioned for all of his off-spring. 


Pedro, thanks again…you are truly a beacon of inspiration in this rising ocean of corruption, mediocrity and passivity.