The people of Borikén have been chained down by colonial rule for as long as they have been labeled Puerto Ricans. Our identity has been shaped by spanish and now amerikan rule. The double-crisis of Hurricane Maria and overwhelming debt gives us the opportunity to step back to revisit how imperialist “aid” furthers the colonial relationship between our small island and it’s colonizer. Surprisingly we have received overwhelming spotlight from liberal media such as Samantha Bee who took time out her busy schedule to make a 1 hour special on The Great American Puerto Rico, with its white saviorism bleeding through every scene, the beginning is of the “spirit of Puerto Rico” coming to her in a dream with a song and dance routine pleading for her to make a special on the island. After the special she announced her decision to move T-shirt production to the island in an effort to provide jobs to our people and promote business. She has even went so far as to request other wealthy amerikan celebrities relocate T-shirt production to Puerto Rico alongside her.
Her announcement is being praised by Boricuas both on and off the island. The plan bears subtle similarity to the aftermath of yet another disaster which struck Borikén in 1899, only a year after the u.$. had invaded. Losing 90% of its coffee crop in one of the most devastating hurricanes ever seen on the island, the united $tates, newly charged with the administration of the island, was given the responsibility of responding to the disaster. They reacted to solidify their own colonial rule by outlawing all Puerto Rican currency, and reducing the worth of the island’s Peso (at that point globally equivalent to the u.$. dollar) to only sixty amerikan cents. They then introduced the Hollander Bill to levy new taxes on land in Puerto Rico, forcing many to seek mortgages with u.$. creditors. Eventually, due to parasitic lending practices and continuing economic hardship, many defaulted, and the land was then seized and concentrated in the hands of amerikan capitalists and their lackeys, with over half the arable land on the island being owned by their new ruler. Under these conditions, the once-diverse economy of Puerto Rico was transformed into a sugar-based economy in service of the united $tates. These changes were initially billed as “economic reconstruction” as amerikan capitalists acted to “rebuild the island and its economy” after the hurricane. Their “relief” would cement u.$. rule in Borikén for a hundred years.
Between the snap committees and economic commissions set up on the island to deal with the manufactured crisis of foreign-held debt and a rather unnatural disaster, the amerikan response has changed little since they first invaded. Our crisis is their opportunity, and the Samantha Bee’s, no matter how “humanitarian” they believe their actions to be, are simply the beneficiaries of this cruel system. She is not rebuilding the island, she is only expanding her business. On one hand, we can understand why her “relief” is welcomed by those who have been so defeated by consecutive crises on the island, many of them are simply hoping for a way to make it to tomorrow. On the other, we must realize that her plan only cements the unequal and parasitic relationship shared between the u.$. and Puerto Rico, and that the people’s belief in Samantha Bee is fed by the lack of hegemonic power held by revolutionaries.
What’s more, those so-called revolutionaries who endorse this plan simply on the basis that it is popular, are committing a grave and rightist error, tailing the masses rather than looking to lead them. Samantha Bee is only popular because we have not yet been able to organize the people for their own relief, and to assemble the embryonic organs of people’s power that would negate the desire for such imperial saviors. These crises may have doomed us to another hundred years of servitude if we fail to act. In the final instance I dare say we have no one to blame but ourselves as Boricua Nationalists and as Communists. Samantha Bee has mobilized, but have we? Thanks to our lack of preparation we have to be on the bench and watch as these events unfold without substantial means to counteract them. unless we move fast to further our struggle for self determination we are doomed to continue watching from the sidelines. We must both explain the dangers of this kind of “relief” and present them with tangible alternatives to the bourgeois and colonial stewardship of the united $tates and their neoliberal lackeys. This cannot be built overnight, but we must build them, and approach this task with the same seriousness of those revolutionaries who came before us.
1. Denis, Nelson A. War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror In America’s Colony. (New York, NY: Nation Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group, 2015), 30