It’s a bittersweet moment in San Juan this summer as the pressure mounts on the island to pay a debt that was near impossible to avoid, on the backs of the poor and working class, since the middle-class mirage of the ’60s and ’70s has all but ended. There is a depopulation and disinvestment syndrome here that in some ways recalls the bad old days of ’80s New York, when the middle-class fled, and high-rolling Wall Street vultures swooped in to speculate on everything from real estate to the price of black market methadone on Avenue C as a small swarm of artists and punks scraped together something called Downtown.
These days there are plenty of artists in San Juan, and the taverns are filled with underaged post-millennials swilling everything from Lagunitas Night Time to Arrogant Bastard on draft. Yes there is Pride, where everyone is finally out with it, embracing it, and talking openly about their brothers, sisters, cousins, co-workers, best friends whom they had known all along were waiting to be seen and heard, and everyone agrees that it’s time for Oscar (López-Rivera, patriota) to be free. Across the island in lechoneras and clandestine pitorro puestos alike, the people are still celebrating their quotidian vidas, jugando sus numeritos, and knowing the next morning will bring esa brisa que no se encuentra en ningún otro la’o, the one that makes you feel alive in a way that only paradise knows how.
It also helps when you can step out into that breeze on a Saturday night and catch the continually expanding Viento de Agua plena contemporanea experiment, giving you that desperately need despojo, the cleansing that you can’t get when you spend most of your time living a hundred blocks or so from Wall Street.
For the record, my latest newspaper-friendly account of the Puerto Rico Debt Crisis is here
In case you missed it, more detailed piece on Jacobin.org is here
And finally, I’m re-posting my hourlong conversation with Pacifica Radio Washington DC’s Latino Media Collective: