The Winners of Puerto Rico

in Politics by

OK, so I lied.

About a month ago I heard that the latest half-assed attempt to solve Puerto Rico’s 100-year-plus colonial problem had died a quick and quiet death, and I fired off a tweet saying I’d never write another word about the status question.

But what am I supposed to do now that, exactly five years after María—to the week—Puerto Rico has once again been left powerless and underwater by yet another hurricane?

I may be cynical, but I’m not an asshole.

OK, so maybe that’s another lie…

Anyway, all the real, Grade A assholes are running Puerto Rico, or in Congress. A lot of them are working Wall Street, with knife and fork in hand, waiting for their little Junta down in San Juan to carve more pounds of flesh from the Puerto Ricans.

And some assholes still have the nerve to be pushing for statehood—those assholes are more full of shit than anybody.

I’m not saying statehood for Puerto Rico would be a bad thing. I do wonder though how so many people can still believe that an island that’s treated so badly as a colony has any chance of becoming an equal member of the United States.

That’s like a battered woman hoping the beatings stop after the wedding.

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico’s basically America’s bride-to-be, except that Puerto Rico’s been waiting for the United States to set a date for the wedding since FDR could walk.

A bit of advice for any brides-to-be out there: If the dude keeps postponing the wedding and treats you like dirt in the meantime, it’s time to give back the ring and bounce. You deserve better.

It breaks my heart to see my grandparents’ homeland practically washed away and left in the dark—again, and again, and again.

What human being, whether God-fearing or just people-loving, isn’t pissed at seeing a proud and awesome nation forced to wallow in mud?

Don’t think that shit isn’t personal too. You saw how fast the tears flowed—and the aid money—when the Ukrainians started calling for help. You’ve never seen so many Ukrainian flags in your life.

Yet, when the Puerto Ricans start begging for lifesavers on social media because they’re up to their necks in water and the food in their fridges is rotting, the decent people of this country, who legally have all the power in the world to make things right in Puerto Rico, rather watch the Brits bury an old bag who ruled over them by birthright.

Imagine that: U.S. citizens… watching a queen’s funeral with wet cheeks… while their colonial subjects in Puerto Rico cry for help with wet clothes and wet everything else.

America’s come a long way, hasn’t it? We fought those King Kissers across the Pond way back when, talking about “No Taxation Without Representation!” and how much we loved people’s rights, yet we ended up becoming just like our old masters.

I guess that’s what you get for founding a democracy on stolen land and slaves.

Plus America’s friends in Israel look like they’re itching to do to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them. So, you know, birds of a feather fuck with each other, or whatever.

I’m not even that mad about Puerto Rico—not really. Not like a couple years ago. Puerto Rico’s a colony at the end of the day, and shitty things happen in a colony.

You can’t name a colony in the entire history of the world where the people had it good. Sure, there might’ve been some at the top living like viceroys, but the bulk of humanity lived like dogs—the dogs in Mexico, not the pampered ones here with more privileges than most people.

Nobody colonizes a place to make it better than where they come from—not better for the people already living there, at least. It wasn’t better for the Aztecs or the Taínos when Chris and them showed up. It wasn’t better for the people of India, which was the richest place in the whole world before England came and started looting.

We better pray that if there really are aliens out there they’re not the colonizer type, or else they might zip down in their spaceships one day, plant their extraterrestrial flag, and start doing to us Earthlings what America has done to Puerto Rico.

If our history is any indication, these interstellar overlords might start by changing the country’s name to “Biff-Clack-Zork” or whatever phonetic spelling is easier for them than “United States,” while making theirs the official language of government, business, and schooling.

Then they might outlaw “The Star-Spangled Banner,” along with the flag itself, plus “America the Beautiful,” “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and any other song that’s even remotely patriotic.

Then they’ll force half the women to get their tubes tied.

Then they’ll hunt down any member of the pro-Earth resistance and slaughter them in cold blood or throw them in prison and torture the shit out of them with all kinds of experiments.

Then they’ll start using Earth for target practice, like America did with Vieques.

And then, just as a giant asteroid is about to slam into Earth, they’ll tweet that their thoughts and prayers are with us.

There’ll be plenty of paper towels for the survivors.

Then, with Earth utterly devastated and most of us Earthlings either dead or having fled to the aliens’ home planet, these imperial ETs will start buying up everything in sight.

“These stupid lazy Earthlings weren’t using their planet properly,” they’ll say. “A planet belongs to the species that knows how to get the most out of it.”

Even then, there’ll be plenty of our fellow Earthlings begging the Greys for equal rights, doing everything they can to look and sound like a Grey themselves, and attacking any Earthling that dares to badmouth the alien regime.

Sounds fucking stupid, right? Welp, that’s colonialism for you—always somebody hoping to hand over their homeland to the head honcho.

The United States is the most powerful country in the world, obviously, so the vendepatrias—that’s what they call traitors in Latin America… “country-sellers”… beautiful, isn’t it?—anyway, these country-sellers don’t see cuddling up to the U.S. as selling out. They see it as winning.

On Monday I caught the Season 5 finale of Cobra Kai on Netflix, and in it the asshole sensei Terry Silver perfectly lays out the asshole philosophy. (If you don’t know the Karate Kid story, 1) where have you been? and 2) Cobra Kai is the evil dojo and Miyagi-Do are the good guys.)

“Life isn’t a fairy tale… It’s a competitive sport!” says Silver. “Right and wrong—there’s no such thing. There are only winners and losers.”

Some people believe in what’s good and right, others only believe in power. Or as they call it, “winning.”

I wonder if these winners think Jesus was a chump for getting nailed to the cross like a loser, or if they think all his magic tricks made him a winner.

Either way, a lot of them gotta be part of the same dojo that backs Trump and the MAGA maniacs… Like Bukele’s fanboys in El Salvador, or the people who think God sent Bolsonaro to save Brazil from the losers.

Most statehooders I know or have met are this kind of asshole. A lot of them even look like Sensei Silver with the slicked-back hair and smug look on their faces, only they wear suits instead of the gi.

They see America as a winner—as THE winner, in fact, whether what it does is right or wrong—and they think siding with the winner makes them winners by association.

“Who cares if America don’t grant Puerto Rico statehood for another 50 years,” they say, “we’ll wait two HUNDRED years, or however long it takes, because without America, Puerto Rico will just be another loser, like Cuba or Haiti or Mexico or—”

They think all of Latin America is Loserville.

Studying Puerto Rico like I have, and watching it all these years—the economic depression, the colonial debt and the goon squad put in charge to collect, Hurricane María and the shitshow afterward, way worse than what happened to New Orleans with Katrina—and now LUMA charging up the nose to keep everybody in the dark, outsiders buying up everything, Fiona, the water…

I’m usually more of the Miyagi-Do type—always have been. But I swear everything that’s going on in Puerto Rico makes the Cobra Kai in me wanna crane kick somebody through a window.


Featured image: Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico and a leader of the Puerto Rican statehood movement (Public Domain)

Hector is the founder and editor of MANO as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and his writing was featured in 'Ricanstruction, 'a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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