Corazón


This is a fruit that’s called a corazón. Got it from my backyard, both literally and figuratively.  I found it to be useful to convey something about my homeland.

At this point, it’s an afterthought, but for what it’s worth, a recent op ed published by Progressive Media Project:

Obama’s visit to Puerto Rico lacked substance

By Ed Morales, June 16, 2011

In his visit to Puerto Rico, President Obama failed to address the major problems facing the island. At bottom, it seemed to be much more of an early campaign stop than an honest effort to grapple with these problems.

While Puerto Ricans were excited by the first official visit by a sitting U.S. president in about 50 years, Obama’s visit was cosmetic, not substantive.

He offered platitudes about striving local entrepreneurs and drew cheers by mentioning Puerto Rican national J.J. Barea, a player for the recently crowned NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth but cannot vote for president, yet they serve in the military, so Obama predictably praised Puerto Ricans in the armed forces.

The president did not go near discussing the serious civil rights violations and police brutality that have so marked protests on the island recently. Nor did he discuss Gov. Luis Fortuno’s pet project: a natural gas pipeline (called the gasoducto) that opponents claim will harm much of the island’s treasured ecosystem.

Obama did talk about stabilizing Puerto Rico’s economy, but he offered nothing concrete. And Puerto Rico’s economy has severe problems — high unemployment, lagging business investment, exploding crime rates — that can’t be easily compared to those of other U.S. states. The end of a longstanding tax breaks for corporations, combined with the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, has completely eroded the island’s income, and the local government has become the biggest employer.

Conservative pro-statehood Gov. Fortuno has imposed a heavy-handed solution for Puerto Rico’s fiscal woes: cut government jobs, privatize (and increase tuition costs at) the University of Puerto Rico and decimate the power of labor unions. These policies have accelerated a massive brain drain, as educated middle-class Puerto Ricans have emigrated in droves to places like Orlando, Fla. — so much so that Puerto Ricans living in the 50 states now outnumber those living on the island.

Which brings us to the underlying reasons for Obama’s visit. The increase of middle-class Puerto Ricans in Florida has created a kind of counterweight to the largely Republican voting bloc of Cuban-Americans in that state. A key to Obama’s strategy for re-election is to make sure that Latinos in Florida vote Democratic. In addition, any visible attempt to address Latinos, such as in his trip to Puerto Rico, helps to deflect criticism over his lack of initiative in bringing about immigration reform.

Obama’s main takeaway from his visit was the $1 million or so he put into his re-election campaign coffers from a fundraiser during the visit.

But the people of Puerto Rico were left high and dry. They deserve more than platitudes and promises. They deserve more than four hours spent as a political advertisement for an incumbent president’s re-election campaign. They deserve more than being a mere afterthought in the American political system.

This video, by PR rapper Siete Nueve (directed by Juan C. Dávila) and cameo-ing Tego Calderón, among others, goes a long way to define the current anti-colonial aesthetic on the island. It’s hard-hitting. Graphic. Seeing things in black-and-white.

Not sure what prompted them, but the paper o’ record enlisted Lizette Álvarez to do a feature on the rising violence down there. Of course the hype around this has been growing steadily, but it’s hard to brand this sensationalism. On my last visit it didn’t take long to be confronted with some anecdotal evidence, i.e., local Santurce musician describing a car-jacking of a mutual acquaintance and, up in la montaña, an emergency medical technician expressing his frustration about growing violence in Loíza, a town focused on in the Times piece.

[Update: 11:15 PM, 6/21. As of right now, this story is the 5th most e-mailed story on the Times website]

Don’t mean to be so dark. Somewhere in our waking dream we are all having a Medalla with ice cubes in it. Let me get a Henry Cole drum solo splashed with images of pleneros in the street, please.

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