Saturday, September 30, 2017

Bury my heart in Old San Juan

Hurricane María brought home that Puerto Rico played a special role in my life. Decades ago, that is where I learned what colonialism means -- not in a legal description or economic treatise, but on the ground, in real life.

Published in 1976
In the early 1970s, barely out of my teens, I was living in "Loisaida" (New York's Lower East Side) and visited Puerto Rico multiple times, including an almost continuous longer stay, interrupted by some visits back. I was working for a socialist newspaper sponsored by one of the largest left groups in the United States and also trying to build bridges between my group and the Puerto Rican independence movement.

That past made the coverage of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of María gut wrenching in a way I did not expect. Hearing the names of places once so familiar --Carolina, Río Piedras, Aguadilla, Ponce, Mayagüez-- brought back memories and feelings I didn't know were still inside me.

And talking about the island on the daily talk show I co-host on Radio Información more than once brought me to tears -- tears of sadness, yes, but mostly tears of rage.

I am learning again what colonialism means.

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