by David Galarza
Word that a New York City tabloid had smeared the Puerto Rican community yet again with an offensive depiction of our annual parade came as no surprise though the immediate outrage and indignation from the parade’s board was, at the very least, comforting.
In recent years, the Puerto Rican flag has gone from causing controversy when Coors printed it on their beer can and challenged Boricuas to “Emborícuate” to now being emblazoned on the buttocks and breasts of women who were apparently not Puerto Rican or anywhere near the parade.
And while I welcome and encourage this outrage, indignation and the demand for an apology and respectful use of our flag and parade coverage, I’d also like to urge my fellow Boricuas to be wary of distractions.
Indeed, just examine for one minute the distraction caused by the pseudo-Black former head of the Spokane NAACP, Rachel Dolezal. All of sudden no one is talking about the bikini-clad girl who was brutally assaulted by a cop in Texas, or for that matter anything having to do with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Please don’t misunderstand me, IT IS righteous and justified to become indignant and disgusted about a tabloid’s wanton disregard and disrespect for our parade and culture, but can we also channel some of that indignation, or more of it, toward the current state of affairs in Puerto Rico?
This may sound alarmist, but at the rate things are going in Puerto Rico, in the not so distant future, we may still have a parade but no patria.
- A historic and gargantuan migration is underway as thousands leave the island on the “guagua aérea” monthly fleeing a deepening economic crisis.
- The colonial government has rolled out the Act 22 red carpet for millionaires and billionaires looking to be the ultimate tax evaders.
- In a public healthcare system fraught with massive deficiencies and reportedly near collapse, the Federal government seeks to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in vital Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
- The U.S. Navy continues to drag its feet and shirk its responsibility to properly clean up Vieques or to compensate those who suffer the deadly health effects of over 60 years of bombing.
- The community of Caño Martin Peña faces a devastating environmental crisis.
- The town of Arecibo plans to build a massive, toxic ash and soot producing incinerator.
- Hundreds of thousands sweat the summer with periodic water shutoffs due to a drought exacerbated by mismanagement.
- President Obama still refuses to release the longest held political prisoner in the U.S., Oscar López Rivera.
Yes, a picture of Puerto Rican-flag painted nalgas is distasteful and disrespectful, but if this sordid list of critical issues and concerns in la Isla del Espanto don’t get you just as riled up or more, then we need to start doing some serious reflection and political education within our respective families and barrios.
Frankly, it was refreshing to see several floats and contingents at the parade this year dedicated to many of those issues mentioned above. Most notably, Capicu Cultural Showcase highlighted the anti-incinerator movement in Arecibo with several dynamic artists from the island. SEIU 1199 reminded the President and future candidates that voting boricuas in Florida would remember cuts to healthcare in Puerto Rico and several contingents demanded the release of López Rivera.
Sure, McDonald’s, JetBlue and other corporations had their floats too, but unlike the scandal-plagued parades of the past, there was indeed more culture, more consciousness, more respect for the roots and traditions upon which this institution was founded, which is why that salacious tabloid photo has rightfully caused such an uproar.
But again, let’s also focus our collective anger toward those hell-bent on destroying our little piece of paradise in the Caribbean. It’s no wonder that Nelson Denis’ book War Against All Puerto Ricans was such a hot seller and took the island by storm. People are and have been literally dying for lack of the information contained in his book.
Later this week, the United Nations will once again convene its Special Committee on Decolonization. And once again, the vast majority of countries will support decolonization for Puerto Rico with the exception of the U.S. and Israel and maybe one or two other lackey countries. This is another perfect opportunity to express your indignation. Please get involved and join similar efforts.
I congratulate the new board of the parade and I hope they continue on the same path of restoring the pride and passion it merits. I also applaud the board for condemning this stereotypical media assault, for demanding an apology and organizing a rally. It would be prudent to demand consistent coverage of Puerto Rico as well. But I would also call on the board to continue directing their attention and ire at some, if not all of the issues I briefly noted.
In a sense, I couldn’t help but to draw some comparisons between the women with the flag painted on their bodies and the island. In both instances, they are being preyed upon. The women by a crude photographer and tabloid, the island by vulture capitalists. The photographer gets to sell a photo and the tabloid a few extra papers that day. The vulture capitalist rapes, destroys and extracts untold profits, or this time may just buy the country out from under us.
I guess it seemed only fitting that I started that morning of the parade on the same block as the famous Andrés “El Jíbaro” Jiménez and then saw him again in the evening at Camaradas, (whose owner , Orlando Plaza, has played a huge role in revamping the mission and vision of the parade and its board). El Jíbaro’s lyrics need to ring as loud today as ever: “¡Coño, despierta Boricua! ¡Defiende lo tuyo!”
Over the last 20 years, David Galarza has had the honor and the privilege of working alongside brilliant activists and community leaders on some of the most compelling issues and concerns facing our communities in New York and Puerto Rico. Currently the Communications Specialist for the largest public sector union in New York State, he was also a founding member of NY Contra El Gasoducto, where he worked in solidarity with Casa Pueblo de Adjuntas and the people of Puerto Rico to defeat a costly, unnecessary and destructive 92-mile long gas pipeline.