by Silverio Perez
Translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell
We have to move past #hashtags, slogans, pretty, but empty stock phrases, the copy and paste mentality and everything else like it. This is a time for us to be positive, but in a responsible way, because if not, all we do is feed superficiality, the lack of reflection and analysis that we used in the past to construct the fictitious island that Hurricane Maria revealed in one fell swoop.
Puerto Rico will rise, but the question is how. Not with the cheap politicking of before. Not through contracts with our bosom buddies, either. Definitely not with partial, secret, obstructed information. And never through greater future dependence. Puerto Rico needs to start over from zero, taking advantage of the opportunity Maria has given us.
We have been living in denial for decades, a showcase to the world solely in the interest of Cold War objectives, and we believed the story. Economists predicted that we were headed for collapse, and we didn’t believe them. And the collapse arrived and, with it, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, but even then, we went on as though it was the same country as before, ignoring the present reality. It took the arrival of Maria, the destruction of everything, for us to hit bottom and recognize ourselves for what we are: an island with a fragile infrastructure, dependent on those who come to us by boat or by plane, and at the mercy of whatever current administration sits in Washington.
There’s nothing better than hitting bottom, since there’s nowhere lower to go from there. When we hit bottom, we can propel ourselves upward to the surface. And we will! But we must do it right. Let’s not just patch things up; let’s build. Let’s not restore; let’s redesign. If we go back to doing things like we did before, we’ll get the same results as we did before.
What can we grab onto to pull ourselves up from the bottom? Two things, clear and unequivocal: our natural world and our values as a people. Let’s turn to nature and receive the message she is sending us. The trees are turning green again, but a more intense, alive, happier green than before. Take a minute to look at them. The trees did not pick up their dry leaves and paint them green. They didn’t gather up their fallen branches and try to stick them back on. No. They unfurled new leaves, more beautiful than the ones before. They grew new branches that will, in time, be stronger than those that succumbed to the hurricane’s winds. And here’s something really important: they did it with their roots planted in the ground, even if it was only one small, weak root. Knocked to the ground, but holding on by their roots.
Our roots are the collective values that have flourished in the face of adversity. We’ve been generous, compassionate, unified. Let’s not lose this. When the moment required it of us, we demonstrated impressive courage, saving lives, going in to help in places where the government and the military still haven’t arrived. At intersections with non-functioning streetlights, with few exceptions, we have been civilized, kind, obliging. Faced with hardship, we have been patient. It’s with these values that we will build the new Puerto Rico.
Let us not look away from our island’s naked body, from the Puerto Rico we are today. Let us study our vulnerability in detail and with care, and let us learn how to make ourselves strong in the future. Without fear. Fear paralyzes; love makes us brave. Let us speak the plain truth of things, with tenderness and without subterfuge. Lies never served before, they do not serve now, and they will not serve in the future. In order to build a true Puerto Rico, we must tell the truth about what we are and what we aspire to be. Only in this way will Puerto Rico rise up, beyond the hashtags, the slogans, the pretty stock phrases, and all the copying and pasting. With responsible positivity!
Puerto Rico will rise in excellence; Puerto Rico will rise productive; Puerto Rico will rise self-governing; Puerto Rico will rise in sustainability; Puerto will rise without guilt; Puerto Rico will rise with neither a sense of superiority nor one of inferiority to anyone else; Puerto Rico will rise with self-love and self-esteem. That is how Puerto Rico will rise! That is responsible positivity!
This is the first of a series of 24 chronicles that will be published weekly in English and Spanish, as a part of www.24weeks.us.