Hola mi Gente,
Most people are unaware, but my ancestral island, Puerto Rico, is on its way to one of the largest debt defaults in history, right up there with Greece and Argentina. As a solution, it has been proposed to do to Puerto Rico something that would make Flint, MI look like child’s play. Aside from Juan Gonzalez [here], there’s hardly any mention on how Puerto Rico’s economic “Death Spiral” is tied to the legacy of colonialism. You should read up on this because, aside from the fact that we are fellow United States citizens, what is happening in Puerto Rico today might be coming to your neck of the woods tomorrow.
Today… a poem by a Puerto Rican.
* * *
The Flamboyán tree
Cultural Silence; or, How To Survive the Last American Colony
by Kevin A. González
Stop at a kiosko in Luquillo, Puerto Rico.
Brush past a table of tourists, cameras hung like medals
from their sunburnt necks. The bartender
will move to the salsa that pours from a small red
radio, rust on the lone speaker like static, Behind him, a sign
will warn patrons: PROHIBIDO HABLAR DE POLITICA
& in front, everyone at the bar will be silent, as if politics
were the only thing anyone knows in Puerto Rico.
Outside, the country road, a stray dog will not resign
himself to hunger as the tourist fork lobster medallions.
Above him, the branches of the Flamboyán will sag, red
as the blood of patriots you can’t mention at this bar.
When a man proclaims Cuba Libre, notice the bartender
mixing Don Q & a Coke: how he ignores the politics,
how he squeezes a lemon & stares at you, his eyes redolent
of the O’s in PROHIBIDO. You will want to order a Puerto Rico
Libre, though that is not a drink. Settle for a Medalla,
the national brew, its golden logo’s design
suggestive of treasure. The tourists, who can’t read the sign,
will begin to praise the expansionist president. The bartender
will say nothing as he flicks the can of Medalla
to make sure it’s not frozen. to him, POLITICA
means only one language. You are a tri-colored bead, Puerto Rico,
in an island-necklace: ocean-blue annexation, Flamboyán-red
status quo, & mountain-green independence. You are a redundant
stalemate machine fueled by misperception. Know that no sign
will ever prohibit these thoughts. Every day in Puerto Rico,
you perch your arms like surrendered weapons atop the same bar;
every day you come home to the same stuffed politics
steaming from the table. When a tourist looks up from his medallion
& tosses an ice cube, the dog will bite it, that hollow medal
of charity, & bark for more. Here, you will want to speak of
Here, you will want to drop your own politics
like an egg crate. Don’t. Instead, glance once more at the sign,
clutch your beer & drop two bills on the bar,
that mecca of sedatives: Barcardi, Barrelito, Palo Viejo, Ron Rico.
Drive off into rural Puerto Rico, sip your Medalla
& remember belief can never be barred. Plunge into the red
speech of the sun. Forget all the signs. Let cool be your politics.
* * *
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…