Puerto Rican fashion designer calls for boycott in the wake of ‘Chatgate’
As protests against Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his cabinet continue on the island, Nasheli Juliana Ortiz González and other Puerto Ricans in Philly are mobilizing to respond.
Philly-based designer Nasheli Juliana Ortiz González and other Puerto Ricans in the diaspora are taking a stand, calling for the resignation of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló and the boycott of other top officials on the island involved in the chat group whose misogynistic and abusive language was revealed in leaks first published by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo on July 13.
According to Ortiz González, a small group of around 20-25 protesters gathered in front of the Providence Center in the Fairhill neighborhood of North Philadelphia the morning of July 16 to call for the resignation of Governor Rosselló, and demand further investigation into charges of corruption in his government — which include the recent FBI arrest of two of the administration’s former top officials on July 11.
Community activist and organizer Charito Morales and Philadelphia Poet Laureate Raquel Salas Rivera organized the protest to ensure that their "brothers and sisters on the island don't feel alone," Morales said.
"We are working together and we are not going to give up. [Rosselló] has to understand that the diaspora does not want him," Morales said.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Rosselló announced that he would not be resigning. But protests on the island have continued, with artists such as Bad Bunny and Residente expected to join a protest planned for 5 p.m. on July 17 outside of the governor’s house in the capital.
“It’s not something that is only a group of people calling for this resignation. It’s a whole country. You can see it even in the pictures, faces that are not your friends from activism,” Ortiz González said. “You see all the ages in the streets, you see old people, you see the young activists in the streets.”
The fashion designer and chair of the fashion department at Moore College said that though she and other Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia or on the mainland want to be present on the island at this time, they are conscious of the impact they can have making their voices heard from where they are now.
“We want to be there, but we also know that the diaspora is very important in this process. So we are trying to do our best from here to send our energies to our activists and people that are in the streets,” she said.
To that end, Ortiz González has spearheaded a campaign to boycott fashion and entertainment mogul Carlos Bermúdez, one of the officials on the chat group who has played a vital role in Rosselló’s administration as his public relations officer.
Bermúdez is the organizer of San Juan Moda, Puerto Rico’s fashion week, a biannual event started in 2013. Ortiz González said that in the hours since calling for a boycott of San Juan Moda, she and other designers have won support from marketers, some members of the fashion community on the island and off, and sponsors.They are looking to organize an alternative platform to showcase Puerto Rico’s fashion industry through the company 22 Studio.
“I believe that fashion has a huge power in the people. And Puerto Rico is an amazing industry, in construction, and we have amazing seamstresses, and we need to give the power to the people,” noted Ortiz González. “And if the person that is in charge of San Juan Moda...is not representing the people and taking care of them, we need to take the power from them.”
Ortiz González said that for her, it is necessary that Puerto Ricans “boycott everything and everybody that was on that chat.”
“Those on the chat do not believe in the LGBTQ+ community, they don’t believe in women, they don’t believe in any diversity. So they are not representing our country. And they are not working for our country,” Ortiz González said.
Ortiz González hopes that the movement will lead to change.
“In years I haven’t seen a movement like this...It doesn’t have a party, it doesn’t have colors, it’s just a country that is profoundly offended and tired of these people treating us like we don’t belong to our own country.”