Sunday, 5 October 2014

When The United States Gets A Cold, Puerto Rico Catches Pneumonia: A Microcosm of a Larger Problem

I recently went to Puerto Rico on hiatus. And have taken the last week to decompress and process not only my own internal revelations but also what I learned from being there as it relates to the world. I have to admit, I was hesitant to write this for a few reasons. One because I don’t want to offend anyone and two, because I wanted to find the right way to say what I want to convey. I can’t keep my mouth shut for much longer so here goes my best attempt at being tactful with my message.

Puerto Rico is beautiful. The beaches were clean and the water was so clear and so blue; my favorite was the beach in Fajardo. I definitely want to go back. San Juan was also a good time, with the old Spanish architecture on some on the buildings, the stone roads and the vibe. El Yunque was great. I got the chance to take in the beauty of the rainforest; it was spellbinding. The energy in there was incredible, and the cold water of La Mina, one of the waterfalls in the rainforest. Even with all the great things about Puerto Rico, I could not ignore the other side of the coin.

One of my favorite expressions to use when someone is getting screwed over royally is, “You got fucked in the ass with no lube.” I know that’s a bit graphic but I would use that expression with what I saw and contemplated in Puerto Rico. The United States is fucking Puerto Rico in the ass with no lube. In many ways. For starters, the fact that Fortuno is the governor of the island is a problem. I didn’t know anything about him when I got there but his first impression on me left a bad taste in my mouth. He’s a rich Republican interested in privatizing a lot of things on the island, such as the UPR in Rio Piedras; I’m not completely sure where the status of this is but there were talks of privatizing the Luis Marin Munoz Airport near San Juan. Another thing that bothered me was the complacency to the conditions that I saw. I stayed in Rio Piedras, visited San Juan several times and spent some time out in Rio Grande, so I’m speaking from what I saw.

Rio Piedras was an interesting place. One of the things that gave me a bit of a shock was seeing junkies everyday on my way to Plaza de Mercado, which was a market for food, clothing and other things. Some of the buildings in the town were less than ideal, with paint chipping, graffiti everywhere and a sense that a lot of it was run down. Also, something else that bothered me. I don’t remember recycling at all when I was there. I asked when I was out once and was told to just throw my empty bottle of water in the regular trash receptacle. Oh and the post office in Rio Piedras, which is supposedly a U.S post office, was not in the best condition. It boggled my mind that they would have one employee taking care of a long ass line of customers when I went in there around lunch time. I also decided while I was there that I would refrain from complaining about New York City drivers again after witnessing the way Puerto Ricans on the island were driving. It was like the traffic lights and stop signs were merely just suggestions. It was a bit reckless for my taste.

Now, all of us here on mainland U.S have felt the effects of the economy’s current downward spiral. And while it sucks for us, I realized that our problems are much more magnified in Puerto Rico. A taxi driver put it in perfect words for me: When the U.S get a cold, Puerto Rico catches pneumonia. If there are tons of people in mainland U.S laid off from their jobs, double that number and you can get a picture of how people are living. To add insult to injury, money that could be used to create new jobs seems to be being used to build more hotels and gentrify places like Rio Piedras. From what I learned staying with a friend’s relatives is that most of the jobs that are available are either hotel jobs or random gigs that don’t pay much but when you have a family and have to support yourself, you take what you can.

If you know me at all, I rarely watch television. While I was in Puerto Rico, I watched a lot more television than I usually do. I kept up with the student strike at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, which was walking distance from where I was staying. I was angered by the actions the police took against the student. There are reports of police brutalizing UPR students and even a parent was reported to have been hurt by them. Here are some Youtube videos that show what I’m talking about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UMqiVkOou8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNSek6Tof4E&feature=related

Before you go and kill me for “nitpicking” at all of these things, let me finish and make my point. Puerto Rico is an example of what the United States has either done or contributed to in many countries. Witnessing all the aforementioned things made me even angrier with the United States. And made me think of all the actions and things the U.S has done over the years to the world. Let’s talk about how the United States has funded much of the weaponry that so-called “terrorists” in the Middle East currently use. To take that a step further, I still remember that our favorite fugitive Osama bin Laden was apparently trained by the CIA in certain skills. Another interesting little tidbit is that The bin Laden family is a prominent pillar of the Saudi Arabian ruling class, with close personal, financial and political ties to that country’s pro-US royal family. Read more here: http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/24198 and http://socialistworker.org/2001/377A/377A_02_BinLaden.shtml.

Let’s also remember Pearl Harbor and how our wonderful president FDR was aware that there was an attack coming and did nothing, just so that we could have the support of the country to enter World War II. Don’t even get me started on 9/11 and what a tragedy that was…and how that was not only orchestrated by the powers that be but was also used to start the war against the “terrorists”.

Let’s turn to current events. The B.P oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is insanely terrible. Our sisters and brothers of the ocean (fish, turtles, coral reefs, whales, etc.) are dying, and I’m sure this is affecting the lives of people whose livelihood is from the ocean. Why hasn’t serious action been taken against those responsible? Almost everyone I know is upset about it but why haven’t we stopped driving our cars and gone into the streets as a massive protest against not only B.P but oil in general?

Let’s talk about Hurricane Katrina and how poorly the U.S government responded to its own people. And while there was a huge outcry and outrage about it, how long did it take for the tragedy to be put on the back burner by many of us, as we returned to our shampoo-rinse-repeat lifestyles? And what about the gentrification going on in our own neighborhoods? Sure, I’m all for beautifying a neighborhood, but what about people who soon will not be able to afford living there? What do they do? Move out of their newly beautified neighborhood (which they probably were waiting years for that to happen) and find another shitty place in the city to live in? Let’s talk about the education system. Or what about Wall Street and the bail-outs? Where are the bail-outs for the working class?

So, finally, this is my point. My experience in Puerto Rico showed me that the island is but a microcosm of how not only the United States but the people in power, which are the wealthy people of this world, continually exploit countries abundant and rich in resources to gain monetary wealth. As I mentioned too, not only is the complacency of the Puerto Rican people on the island who are not really fighting what is happening to the island troubling me but on a larger scale, all of us as a people of this dysfunctional world are letting such atrocities happen.

It’s disgusting really. And I can’t sit here and pretend like I don’t have a hand in this too. While millions upon millions of people are starving, have no clean water and no shelter, I enjoy countless hours on the Internet, with the luxury of running water, air conditioning and a roof over my head. I truly never have to worry about food and hell, most people I know have a well stocked refrigerator and cupboard. We are rich compared to most people and it doesn’t even phase us. And would any of us give up our lives as they are, with their gadgets and gizmos and latest stiletto or pair of Jordans that we just HAVE to buy? Nope.

So this problem I saw in Puerto Rico is a large one on a huge scale. I just had to get all of that off my chest. We need to wake the fuck up y’all. And actually do something about all of this.

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