Statue of Liberty Statue of Liberty
Getty Images

A Look At "Independence" For Puerto Ricans Under U.S. Colonialism

This is what “independence” means to a 2016 colony, the last colony in the world, Puerto Rico.

On July 4, 1898, in the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, the Reverend J. F. Carson read from the Holy Bible, "And Joshua took the whole land, and the land rested from war." He sermonized that "the high, the supreme business of this Republic is to end the Spanish rule in America, and if to do that it is necessary to plant the stars and stripes on Cuba, Porto Rico, the Philippines or Spain itself, America will do it." That same night, in the Presbyterian Church of Fifth Avenue, the Reverend Robert MacKenzie prophesied, "God is calling a new power to the front. The race of which this nation is the crown . . . is now divinely thrust out to take its place as a world power." Senator Albert J. Beveridge also saw a divine plan. "God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing" he declared. "He has made us adept in government so that we may administer government amongst savages and senile peoples."

On July 21, 1898, the US government issued a press release stating, "Porto Rico will be kept. . . . Once taken it will never be released. It will pass forever into the hands of the Unites States. . . . Its possession will go towards making up the heavy expense of the war to the United States. Our flag, once run up there, will float over the island permanently." On the floor of the US Senate, Republican Senator Joseph B. Foraker declaimed, "Porto Rico differs radically from any other people for whom we have legislated previously. . . . They have no experience which would qualify them for the great work of government with all the bureaus and departments needed by the people of Porto Rico."

Note: “Porto Rico” is not a misspelling by the author of this piece. The United States in legal documents and in speeches referring to the island spelled the name wrong for much of the first 50 years that they controlled it.

This is what “independence” means to a 2016 colony, the last colony in the world, Puerto Rico.

People may be aware of the recent news that has been highlighting the Puerto Rican economic crisis, 73 Billion US dollars of debt hanging over the head of the Puerto Rican people. That is over 20,000 US dollars per person living on the island.

Currently there is a bill that was signed by President of Obama called PROMESA that was supposed to help with the restructuring of the debt for the people of the island of Puerto Rico. Here are some highlights of the bill:

–No clear path to restructuring the debt, no clear bankruptcy or restructuring protocol or procedure is outlined.

–The installation of a Financial Control Board of the island that can overrule any financial decision made and voted on by the people or governmental bodies of Puerto Rico.

–This Financial Control Board is allowed to receive “gifts”, no description on what is meant by “gifts”, on the bill though it is obvious this creates the inherent conditions for bribery.

–The people of the Financial Control Board are to be selected by the US Senate, where Puerto Rico has no voting representation at all, and approved by the President. Not a single one of these people have to have any ties to the island.

–The minimum wage of the island will be reduced to $4.25 for workers under the age of 25 on the island, a place where Cost of Living is already drastically higher than most other places in the US.

This bill obviously exerts the colonial rule of the US over Puerto Rico in 2016. But it doesn’t stop there. Other things are contributing to the miserable human and social conditions of the island.

–Puerto Ricans pay the same amount for Medicaid as any other state or US territory but they only receive 50% of the Medicaid benefits that other states and territories receive. This coupled with the economic crisis has helped contribute to the closing of hospitals and clinics throughout the island creating a health crisis on the island that is already experiencing the Zika virus scare and the possibility of poisonous gasses being sprayed on the island to kill the Zika virus at the detriment to the health of the Puerto Rican people. That gas spray is being protested by the people of the island.

–Schools are being closed and privatized due to lack of funds. University of Puerto Rico has raised its tuition again making educational attainment ever more difficult for people already struggling to meet high tuition costs.

–Public Beaches are being sold and privatized to pay for the debt. Obama also announced the “Promise Zone” which favors US developers to build resorts, entertainment, and high end real estate on the eastern part of the island.

–The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will no longer monitor water resources in Puerto Rico because the island’s government owes it $2 million

The slow death of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican people through an economic and colonial chokehold has gone mostly unnoticed and unchecked. The reason why it has gone mostly unnoticed is because most people don’t know how it got this bad or that it really is this bad. Until the debt crisis and PROMESA no one really knew anything about Puerto Rico outside maybe Jenifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. Many Puerto Ricans don’t even know the history of the island that led to these conditions. That is due to the incredible refusal of US media to cover things pertaining to the island and, until recently, a scarcity of educational resources detailing the progressive destruction and now, in my opinion, a guided gentrification of the island and slow murder of the Puerto Rican people. It would take too long for me to detail these things but if anyone is interested in taking a deeper dive read War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis.

The similarities between the current state of Black America and the trap used to subjugate black communities through economics, gentrification and disruption of black communities, and the use of the TRAP are eerily familiar.

Don Pedro Albizu Campos once said “[US] cares more about the cage than the bird.” Our cage is physical, mental, and spiritual. Colonialism has infiltrated our very veins through the 118 years of US rule over Puerto Rico. Now as the conditions have worsened for the people on the island to a breaking point independence movements and solidarity movements have begun to take form. It will be a long and difficult road but what more could be worth fighting and dying for than Freedom? Vive Puerto Rico Libre! Jesse 'SobreViviente' Cosme

This is an excerpt from an article originally published on DreamDefenders.org.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Sentenced To Life In Supermax Prison Plus 30 Years

After a three-month trial period, a Brooklyn judge sentenced Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to life in prison plus 30 years on Wednesday (July 17), CNN reports. The Mexico native faced 10 charges stemming from narcotic dealings that stretched into the United States, to other criminal activities including money laundering and murder conspiracy. He was once deemed the captain of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel.

Guzman will reportedly carry out his sentence at Colorado’s Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, a place that the news site deemed “the highest-security federal prison” in the United States. According to The Washington Post, Guzman believes justice wasn’t served in his trial. “When extradited, I expected to have a fair trial where justice was blind and my fame would not be a factor, but what happened was actually the opposite,” he said. “The government of the United States will send me to a prison where my name will never be heard again. I will take this opportunity to say there was no justice here.”

According to CBS News, Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District, said in February that the possibility of parole was unlikely for Guzman. “His conviction is a victory for the American people who have suffered so long and so much while Guzman made billions pouring poison over our southern border," he said. Guzman's attorney Mariel Colon said the legal team is weighing an appeal.

The government is also demanding that Guzman turn over $112.6 billion while a restitution fee will be solidified at a different point in time. The verdict arrives nearly two-and-a-half years since he was extradited to the U.S. from Mexico. While detained in the latter country, Guzman escaped from prison on two separate occasions before landing in captivity in the states.

Continue Reading
Gina Torres attends The Hollywood Reporter's Empowerment in Entertainment event 2019 at Milk Studios on April 30, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

For Gina Torres, The Mission Is Afro-Latina Excellence In Her New Series 'Pearson'

That’s what the formidable Jessica Pearson, a disbarred New York lawyer who enters Chicago’s dirty politics as a fixer, warns her new boss, the mayor, in the trailer for the forthcoming Suits spin-off series, Pearson.

For fans of the eight-season USA Network legal drama, Jessica’s tough-talk and self-assurance is par for the course. Exuding power from the top of quick-witted head to the tips of her pointy stilettos, Jessica isn’t intimidated by status. An opportunity to tell the man how it only bolsters her own vigor. She’s commanding, incredibly skilled and feared–and she knows it. She’s the kind of powerhouse woman Gina Torres, the Cuban-American actress reprising the role, has taken on throughout her lengthy career.

“I’m very fortunate to play strong, significant women,” Torres, 50, tells Vibe Viva. “It’s been an incredible blessing and one I didn’t see coming early on.”

The Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised Torres got her start on the soap opera One Life To Live but has made a name for herself bringing sci-fi badasses to life. Famously playing Zoë Washburne, an ass-kicking fan favorite in Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly, the Afro-Latina actress was also Nebula, a Sumerian princess and pirate in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; Jasmine, a demon who takes human form and devours people into her super slaves in Angel and woman warrior Hel in the two-season Cleopatra 2525–a role that won her an Alma Award.

The sci-fi goddess, who also had roles in Hannibal, Xena: Warrior Princess, Alias and Westworld, says she, like many aspiring actresses, initially pined for the coveted girlfriend part in films and shows about the mundane life of some American man. But she was rarely cast as anyone’s sweetheart. Instead, she says, each snub guided her down a more fulfilling theatrical path.

“I got to play far more interesting roles,” she says.

For Torres, Jessica’s comeback in Pearson is an evolution of all the fierce women she has played in the past. Unlike in Suits, where the character, a former managing partner at New York law firm Pearson Specter Litt, is somewhat of an enigma, its spin-off, which sees Jessica as its lead, introduces viewers to the complexity of an influential woman of color who understands her might and value.

She is, to quote Torres, a “fully realized human,” who we see restarting her life in the Windy City, navigating the cutthroat, grimy political world as the mayor’s right-hand, grappling with relationship woes that stem from her controversial career transition and reconciling her incessant impulse to win by any means necessary with her drive to do the right thing.

“As I have evolved over the years, as a woman and as an actress, Jessica is a beautiful realization of so many roads taken and not taken. It’s why I think this character will resonate with a lot of professional women,” Torres says. “It shows the sacrifices it takes, the things you have to go through and let go along the way, the rewards and benefits you gain as well as the peace you have to make with it all.”

The idea for the gripping new series, where Torres will make her co-executive production debut alongside Suits veterans Aaron Korsh and Daniel Arkin, came to the actress while she was home watching the 2016 election explode on her TV.

Looking at the key players, their nasty tactics and the cult-like supporters they cultivated from her small screen got her thinking about her former Suits character Jessica and how she might move in this messy political landscape.

“I was perplexed by the different characters who inhabited this world, and I have to say on both sides of the aisle. I was looking at blind loyalty, true believers, people who just want to power grab. I was fascinated by all of that,” Torres said. “Jessica, as a character, I think was particularly interesting to people because she was a loyal, intelligent character who did whatever she had to do to keep her people safe and the firm together. So I started to think of her in this political arena, because she does have a specific skill set that can be seen in a different way, but she ultimately wants to use her power for good.”

She brought the idea to her agent, who told her she “had a show,” and Suits creators agreed. The then-unnamed spin-off was picked up by the USA Network in March 2018. The series casts Morgan Spector (Homeland) as Chicago Mayor Bobby Novak, Bethany Joy Lenz (One Tree Hill) as an ambitious city attorney, Eli Goree (Riverdale) as a journalist-turned-press secretary, Chantel Riley (Wynonna Earp) as Angela Cook, Jessica's cousin, and Simon Kassianides (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as the mayor's tough-guy driver.

As a co-executive producer with influence behind the scenes, Torres has taken the responsibility to drive diversity in the writer’s room. To start, she pitched the character and arc for Yoli Castillo, a DREAMer who is just starting her career in Chicago politics as Jessica’s assistant, who will be played by Puerto Rican actress Isabel Arraiza (Driven).

“Because it was my idea and I brought it to them, the powers that be have been incredibly open to my story ideas and respectful to my original vision of the show, which was to create and mirror Chicago as it is: a diverse world, socioeconomically, culturally and racially,” she said.

Being in the room where stories are created and decisions are made, an experience Torres calls “incredible,” also helped her make a lifelong career dream come true: playing an Afro-Latina character.

“I was very specific about reinventing Jessica’s mythology and making sure, for the first time in my life, I would actually be playing an Afro-Latina character,” she said, excitedly. “In the past, it was never an issue for me because I wasn’t in a position of power, but now, in this instance, I was, and I got to say, ‘this is who she is and we are going to reintroduce her to the world as a proud Afro-Latina character.’”

The Black Cubana, who has played multiple African-American characters during the span of her career, has long called out the mainstream media’s Eurocentric representation of Latinidad.

In 2012, she discussed how casting directors continuously passed on her for Latinx roles in NBCUniverso’s documentary Black and Latino, famously saying, “When I became an actress, I quickly realized that 'the world' liked their Latinas to look Italian and not like me.”

The following year, she told Latina magazine that despite the film industry needing to “figure it out and catch up,” her view of herself never changed, adding, “I know who I am. I’m Cuban American.”

For a Black Latina trying to make it in an industry that not only didn’t understand her but operated to erase her from the popular imagination of Latinidad, self-awareness was survival.

“They didn’t care about the Latina part of me at all because I didn’t look like the Spanish, Eurocentric standard of what Latina women were supposed to look like. But the way I counteracted that was by hiding in plain sight, never pretending to be anything but what I was,” she told Vibe Viva.

Years after Torres criticized the media’s whitewashing of Latinidad, we are seeing more Afro-Latinx characters on TV. On FX, the drama series Pose, which follows the lives of trans and queer African American and Latinx young people in New York's ballroom scene in the late '80s and early '90s, Afro-Puerto Rican actress Mj Rodriguez and the nonconforming Puerto Rican-Dominican-Haitian performer Indya Moore both play lead trans Afro-Latina characters. In the streaming space, even wider representation of Afro-Latinidad is prevalent, with Black Latina main cast members in Orange is the New Black, The Get Down and On My Block.

“We’ve always been around, Afro-Latinx people, gay people, indigenous people, we’ve always been here. Dealing with immigration, diversity, LGBTQ rights and inclusivity isn’t new,” Torres said. “The fact that there has been such a stranglehold on acceptance and inclusivity really boggles the mind. All of our contributions through time are significant, and so what this, [having women of color behind the scenes], brings is a point of view, a truth to what life is, a truth to how society functions.”

While there have been gains for Afro-Latinxs in film and TV in recent years, Torres’ anticipated role in Pearson marks another feat: it’s among the first hour-long, primetime network drama series to have an Afro-Latina lead, alongside FX’s Pose. While social media has been abuzz, praising the legend actress for the triumph, and Torres, too, understands its significance, she also recognizes that representation, alone, is never enough.

“My hope is that people watch the show and enjoy it because it is a great show and the performance is wonderful. I want people to get sucked into it because the success of the show means that I get to be on television for other girls, boys and women like us,” she said. “It’s not always about what you see, but about excellence and creating excellence. So often we are told our stories don’t matter or the talent pool isn’t wide enough, so we need excellence and success for this to last.”

If there’s one thing we can expect from both Torres and Jessica, it’s Afro-Latina excellence.

Pearson airs on the USA Network starting July 17, 2019.

Continue Reading
Cardi B departs from court after being arraigned on misdemeanor assault charges at the Queens Criminal Court on June 25, 2019 in New York City.
Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Cardi B Rightfully Slams Lawyer For Obsessing Over Her Courtroom Attire

Cardi B responded to criticism from celebrity defense lawyer Joe Tacopina who is turned off by the entertainers designer duds. In an interview with the New York Post, he went on to say that the entertainer treats her courthouse visits "like a runway show."

Tacopina is representing sisters Sarah and Rachel Wattley, the alleged victims in the rapper's strip club assault case.

"Here's a woman who got indicted by a grand jury with charges, and appears to only be concerned about what she's wearing," the celebrity defense attorney said. pointing to moments where she wore a Barneys pink pantsuit and other luxury items.

"There's going to be a 'Come to Jesus' moment with her, because it's not consistent with someone who's taking this seriously."

Billboard reports that the 26-year-old rapper posted a series of since-deleted Instagram videos, which have resurfaced to YouTube, to chime in on Tacopina's comments on Sunday (July 14). "I don't dress inappropriately when I go to court. I dress like a young f**king lady," she said "Where am I supposed to get my suits from, H&M? Why are you worried about the way I dress?"

The "Rodeo" artist continued to explain that she appeared in court looking opposite of her put together runway-esque self, without wearing makeup or brushing hair. "That just goes to show you that y'all do this s**t for press. I went to court six times already for a f**king misdemeanor," she said.

She is currently facing two felony counts and a list of other lesser charges that were followed by an indictment in June.

View Cardi's full response above.

Continue Reading

Top Stories