When the colony bites back
During the last weekend of September, President Donald Trump launched a tirade against San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz over the latter’s pleas for adequate and urgent federal help. Yulín criticized the speed of the Federal Government as to Hurricane Maria’s aftermath in Puerto Rico, causing some on the Island to criticize the mayor for “playing politics”, or more accurately, for daring to bite the hand that feeds. Setting aside the particularities of whether or not Yulín is right on her portrayal, the reactions surrounding this event are telling of Puerto Rico’s colonial mentality. Namely, the Yulín-Trump feud, juxtaposed with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s tone towards the President is an accurate portrayal of the colonial relationship/dominance with the US Government.
From the get go, let us not be naive. Aside from whatever merit Yulín’s statements may have, she is gearing up to challenge Rosselló in 2020. Yulín is no fool, and may actually be the most cunning and skilled politician the PPD has in office right now. Politics in Puerto Rico rarely occur in a vacuum, and while one cannot ignore that possibility, whatever political angle may be at play is not relevant for this discussion.
Many on the Island have been warped by centuries of colonialism to be wary of biting the hand that feeds (and beats). Speak, but not too loud. Complain, but be careful that we don’t get carried away. It took a dead soldier to mobilize the government against decades of bombing and military occupation in Vieques (credit which goes to Rosselló’s father, Pedro “don’t push it” Rosselló). Right now, this colonialist reaction is in full force. This reaction is not unique to a political party as it is shared through the spectrum (just as the opposite reaction also is).
Some on the Island have criticized Yulín for attacking Trump, fearing that Trump may retaliate and withhold aid or funds. In other words, “don’t hurt me master. Even though I am starving, your aid comes from your benevolence, not duty”. This is abhorrent, and Yulín is right to call out incompetence or delay on the part of the Federal Government.
If the Federal response is poor, we should say so. If Trump has been pathetic at his response (which he has), we should say so. While FEMA and the Federal Government have done much needed work and provided aid, but that doesn’t mean that it was handled correctly from day 1 or day 10 for that matter.
Colonialism and occupation in the Island has resulted in the current 3.5 million inhabitants being US citizens. This is no trivial matter. Puerto Rico should not get aid because it is lucky, it must get aid because that is the obligation of the occupying power who set their flag on our Island.
If the Federal government and its agencies do something right, let’s applaud as one would otherwise do. When they don’t, we should call them out on it. And when the President of the United States flat out lies and says “everything is great”, that Puerto Ricans are incompetent sloths who want everything done for them, and that they are politically motivated ingrates, then I will not fault anyone who gives them/he hell for it.
Gov. Rosselló has been more quiet as to Federal incompetence. While his role is different than that of a mayor, the fact remains that his tone so far has been near constant praise for Trump, perhaps fearing what may happen if he does not (or perhaps it is part of his non-confrontational personality).
In short, we aren’t biting the hand that feeds us, we are demanding the bread that we deserve.