The Big, Fat Lie About Puerto Rico

Aug 25, 2015
12:00 PM

This past Sunday morning, as if to spit in every Puerto Rican’s café con leche, the New York Post ran this cartoon:

Puerto Rico welfare


Michael Ramirez, the Tokyo-born, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist behind this gem, is known for his conservative, often controversial depictions. In 2000 the Los Angeles Times published his cartoon showing two Jews praying at the Western Wall with the word “HATE” etched into it. Ramirez titled it “Worshipping Their God”:

(Los Angeles Times)

(Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Times stopped running Ramirez’s cartoons in 2005.

In 2007 the Columbus Dispatch published a Ramirez cartoon in which Iran is depicted as a sewer with roaches swarming out of it:

(Columbus Dispatch)

(Columbus Dispatch)


Admittedly, there’s some truth to Ramirez’s cartoons, but the truth is glossed over for the sake of hyperbole. Of course not all Israeli Jews are hateful, not even most. But one can’t argue that there aren’t some Jewish extremist —those settlers trying to uproot Arabs in the West Bank— who are fueled by religion, politics and history to hate anyone who dares suggest the land does not belong to them. And while the vast majority of Iran’s people are decent and peaceable, the Iranian theocracy does fund Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The same is true of Ramirez’s Puerto Rico cartoon. The island is undoubtedly stagnant and indebted, but it isn’t from the Puerto Ricans gorging themselves on America’s welfare system. Quite the contrary.

“It is the corporations that are receiving welfare in Puerto Rico,” Nelson Denis, author of War Against All Puerto Ricans, writes on his blog. “Corporate welfare dominates the entire Puerto Rican economy. It is the Puerto Rican economy.”

Puerto Rico, lest anyone forget, is a colony of the United States, and has been so for over a century now. The people of Puerto Rico did not ask to become a colony of the United States; in fact, Puerto Rico was fighting for its independence from Spain when U.S. troops liberated (conquered) the island.

Most Puerto Ricans fully expected Uncle Sam to grant Puerto Rico its independence after the United States defeated Spain, believing it to be an impossibility that that a republic born from a struggle against colonialism would itself, in little over 100 years, become a colonial power. But the United States kept the island captive, as it always intended to, using it as a foothold in the Caribbean for the U.S. military and an open trough for U.S. business interests.

Since then, the United States has waged a perpetual war of misinformation against Puerto Rico, blaming the Puerto Ricans themselves for all that is wrong with the island in order to steer attention away from the grotesquery of American imperialism.

The U.S. media has been an eager accomplice, either willingly or by virtue of its own ignorance. All the while, Puerto Rico has had to deal with the sexualization of its women:

Rear view on parade

…the criminalization of its men:

…the disenfranchisement of its citizens:

…and the dislocation of its land:

The truth is that labeling Puerto Rico a “welfare state” is a double lie. Residents of the colony pay federal income taxes and pay into Social Security, but they are excluded from receiving Supplemental Security Income, the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit. And whereas no limits are placed on how much Medicare and Medicaid funding a state may receive from the federal government, Puerto Rico is capped. For instance, Puerto Rico is twice as poor as the poorest state, Mississippi, though Mississippi receives more than twice the funding.

So unless that mountain of flesh lying on a Puerto Rican beach is supposed to be a Wall Street banker, for his next cartoon might I suggest that Mr. Ramirez make a more apt comparison—perhaps by depicting an emaciated jíbaro, with two teeth marks in his neck, and the Stars and Stripes jammed into his back.

(H/T Nelson Denis)


Hector Luis Alamo is a Chicago-based writer. He is also Latino Rebels’ Deputy Publisher. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.