A New Discourse
by Silverio Perez
Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell
In the same way that trees with even a single root still in the ground have begin to turn green again, those of us Puerto Ricans who are rooted in the hope for a new Puerto Rico must come to life again with a new discourse that can make what we preach a reality. By “discourse,” I mean the things we say every day, spontaneously, but also what we express in newspaper columns, public appearances, discussions and also, perhaps most importantly of all, the things we don’t say.
I am thinking particularly of the left in our country. It’s been some time since the terms “left” and “right” had any real meaning here; ever since the Cold War, to be pro-independence was the same as being a communist, although even among proponents of independence there are people with very conservative ideas. By the same token, supporters of statehood were branded as right wing, although we should also acknowledge that there are many who believe in statehood who are a good deal more progressive than many recognized proponents of statehood.
So, just so that we are clear, when I refer here to the “left,” I mean the entire anti-colonialist spectrum that spans across parts of the Partido Popular and the Partido Nuevo Progresista, and, especially, across the various recognized independence groups in the country. It appears that Maria has bitten off the tongue of this “leftist” sector. We hear nothing from them, neither in words nor in actions. I do not discount the significance of the acts of solidarity a handful of leaders have directed toward those affected by the hurricane, but in general terms, there has been a deafening silence.
That silence could mean that, if something isn’t about political content or adversarial issues, we have nothing to say on the matter. But now is the time to speak, to propose, to do! Maria has left us with a clean slate, a blank canvas upon which we have yet to trace a single creative, new, innovative or inspiring line, anything that differs from what we have grown so accustomed to doing and saying.
The colony has been left naked, the Fiscal Control Board demands even more anti-democratic powers, the United States government and congress have shown us unequal, contemptuous, discriminatory and offensive treatment, and the silence of a large sector of our country with respect to constructive proposals is terrifying. To speak now, in word and in deed, about what sovereignty truly means, not just in political terms, but also in alimentary, cultural, environmental and social terms, would give our people some options with which to fill the void that is now occupied only by despair.
We are being left without a country, the population is leaving in a great stampede, and unless we’re waving the Puerto Rican flag or singing “Verde Luz,” we have nothing more to say. The self-governance initiatives that have arisen in regions across the country, the interest the diaspora has shown, the proposals made by organizations such as the Center for a New Economy, by economists such as José Caraballo Cueto and Marcia Rivera, to mention only a few, should be part of the redesign of a discourse that would become the foundation for the Puerto Rico that we must rebuild right now.
Proponents of statehood and of autonomy have run out of arguments. Those in favor of statehood have latched onto the shower of federal funds as the only thing they can sell to the people as a synonym for statehood, although this would mean ending manufacturing in the country as already happened with the end of Section 936. Autonomists are in a cave, hiding their shame over the dismantling of the 1952 project. And a small, trifling group from the extreme left makes newly relevant Vladimir Lenin’s point about the “infantile disorder of left-wing Communism” –which they should reread in the Selected Works of V. I. Lenin, published in Moscow in 1948 by Ediciones en Lenguas Extranjeras – when they attacked the successful Puerto Rican playwright and actor, Lin Manuel Miranda, during his recent appearance at the University of Puerto Rico when he came to help his country by performing his musical “Hamilton,” and they denounced him for having been in favor of PROMESA. This protest for protest’s sake, this capacity to attack ourselves and divide ourselves up by differences of opinion, this demonization of anyone who doesn’t think like I do, is worse than Maria’s hurricane winds. We urgently need a discourse that builds bridges, that offers viable proposals, that constructs, that offers hope. If we fail to find such a discourse, we will be left with no country at all.
This is a part of a series of 24 chronicles that will be published weekly in English and Spanish, as a part of www.24weeks.us.
Read here Report on Puerto Rico's Food Post-Hurricane Maria