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