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A handout distributed by Philly Boricuas at a fundraiser for Puerto Rico earthquake relief on Friday, Feb. 28. The flyer details each Democratic presidential hopeful's Puerto Rico policy and promises. Photo: Michelle Myers/AL DÍA News.
A handout distributed by Philly Boricuas at a fundraiser for Puerto Rico earthquake relief on Friday, Feb. 28. The flyer details each Democratic presidential hopeful's Puerto Rico policy and promises. Photo: Michelle Myers/AL DÍA News.

We Live in Philly. Our families and roots are in Puerto Rico. We are tired being pandered with the promise of statehood | Opinion

Why Mike Bloomberg isn't the answer for Puerto Rico.

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On February 4th, 2020 Rep. Angel Cruz published an opinion piece on the future of Puerto Rico, and we want to set the record straight regarding various popular misconceptions surrounding Puerto Rico that perpetuate the colonial problem between San Juan and Washington, D.C. 

First, we agree with Rep. Cruz on the uniqueness of Puerto Rico and how proud Boricuas are of their culture and traditions. However, despite this strong collective sense of self, citizenship was imposed on Puerto Ricans in 1917. Throughout the years there has been a narrative referring to the island residents as “Americans in Puerto Rico”, which has regained popularity in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the suboptimal response from the federal government.

While there are plenty of reasons for public outcry on the mediocre response and support from the U.S. towards P.R., using this phrase can become a vehicle of modern colonialism that diminishes the identity of Puerto Ricans and toys with the dangerous idea that Puerto Rico was simply and providentially inhabited by U.S. Citizens with customs and culture exactly like those of the U.S mainland. Furthermore, this narrative exposes a colonial mentality that perpetuates power dynamics between both nations and prevents U.S. politicians from reflecting and coming to terms with its colonial treatment towards P.R. 

Second, Rep. Cruz describes Puerto Rico as merely a territory. Although Puerto Rico is classified as a Commonwealth Territory under the U.S. Constitution, the narrative that Rep. Cruz uses is extremely problematic. For example, it erases Puerto Rico’s centuries-old heritage and unique Caribbean traditions that have survived decades of political, economic, social, and cultural interventions.

Additionally, it dismisses the undeniable reality that Puerto Rico has been a Nation long before English settlers founded the United States of America and, undoubtedly, before it was invaded by the U.S military in 1898.

Third, although statehood is an alternative to the current colonial status quo, Rep. Cruz intentionally or not, failed to mention national sovereignty or independence as a very possible alternative to colonialism. 

After the havoc and devastation caused by natural disasters (i.e. hurricanes and earthquakes) coupled with political disaster and the negligent responses from the federal government, Puerto Ricans have learned that they can be their own saviors. Puerto Ricans demonstrated they don’t need to rely on the federal or local government and the people will always look after themselves. This movement towards self-management, self-reliance, and sovereignty cannot be ignored.

Furthermore, the statehood option that Rep. Cruz embraces, along with his endorsement of long time Republican (and recently turned Democrat) Mike Bloomberg, has been constantly supported by the most radical & right-wing extremists in Puerto Rico.

The New Progressive Party (PNP, for its acronym in Spanish), is still in power after the resignation of disgraced former Governor Ricardo Roselló, and continues its staunch anti-labor, pro-austerity legislation. Legislation that takes away from Puerto Rican workers because they have conceded to the Fiscal Oversight Management Board’s, imposed under the Obama Administration, budgetary demands. The PNP also courts the conservative-evangelical Christians that oppose women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, and the separation of church and state.   

As members of Philly Boricuas, we know Mike Bloomberg’s policy for Puerto Rican statehood would require the approval of both the U.S. Congress and the states' legislatures as stated in the United States Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, clause 2.  Furthermore, we are skeptical of policies created in an effort to qualify for post-primary elections which solely serve to pander to Puerto Rican voters. We know the track record of the United States Presidential candidates promising statehood and Bloomberg's promises are no different.

Puerto Ricans need to vote for a candidate that has Puerto Rico’s best interest in mind. This includes a candidate who supports auditing and canceling the debt as well as repealing the PROMESA bill which is the reason Puerto Rico has an unelected & federally imposed Fiscal Management Board. We also need a candidate that does not have a record of funding the campaigns of politicians who have voted against legislation that would help Puerto Rico. 

For example, Bloomberg funded Senator Pat Toomey’s campaign for US Senate in PA. Toomey, in turn, recently voted against the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief bill. That is why we do not believe Michael Bloomberg is the presidential candidate to best represent or support our community. 

Philly Boricuas is a grass-roots organization working to end colonialism in Puerto Rico and activate Puerto Ricans and allies to build a more resilient future for the island-nation and the diaspora living in Philadelphia. Many of us grew up on the island but were forced to leave due to the crumbling economy after decades of austerity encouraged by the U.S. government.

 

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