Puerto Rico natives talk oppression and solidarity

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Considering the political inequality and corporate dominance in Puerto Rico, constitutional lawyer and political activist Jasmine Gomez sparked conversation at the Community Church of Boston on Sunday through her talk, “The Continued Colonization of Puerto Rico.”

Through a brief lecture session, poem-writing activity and the accompaniment of Boston based pan-latin ensemble Sol y Canto, Gomez explained how the colonization of Puerto Rico relates to numerous aspects of inequality.

“Puerto Rico isn’t a complicated situation,” said Gomez in an interview with The Suffolk Journal. “You don’t need to know the exact policies, you don’t need to know the exact dates, you don’t need to know the exact names in order to be dealing with this, you don’t need to have gone to school.”

Since 1898, Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States. Since then, the U.S. has used the island for their own profit. The U.S. government instilled a government in Puerto Rico, made up entirely of U.S. officials with no Puerto Rican representation, according to Gomez. This continues today as Puerto Ricans, despite being U.S. citizens, are not able to vote for the Supreme Court.

The oppression of Puerto Rico contributes to intersectionality. Varying identities allow for different connections amongst others, making issues such as Puerto Rico similar to experiences in the U.S., explained Gomez. Some examples included the increased incarceration of people of color and the crisis of water and supplies in Flint, Michigan.

The event began with Sol y Canto and their rendition of what was referred to as, “the unofficial national anthem of Puerto Rico.”

Gomez then gave a brief history of Puerto Rico. She explained how the U.S. colonized Puerto Rico and the people who originally lived there by replacing their government with U.S. political officials.

“Puerto Ricans [are treated] as second class citizens through laws, policies, lack of political representation [through] systems of white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism and the patriarchy,” said Gomez. “The laws and policies that are being created for the people living on the islands of Puerto Rico align with those same systems of oppression also harming people here in the United States.”

Julio Cesar Villegas, a junior media studies major at Emerson College, enjoyed Gomez’s style and how she was able to pass on necessary information to people of all backgrounds.

“I’m Puerto Rican myself and for these important points in the Puerto Rican socio- economic history and the colonial identity of the island to be presented to [someone who does not know about the subject] helps them to have a piqued interest in which they can go research and expand on these points on their own accord,” said Villegas in an interview with The Suffolk Journal.

Villegas explained the importance of having public forum discussions about how the mistreatment of Puerto Rico can bring awareness to those not directly affected by the brutalization of the island and their people.

“It is the realization of the intersection of identities and that there are oppressions within identities and how they overlap,” said Villegas. “It is not solely one factor, it’s how one aspect of your identity might contribute to the oppression of another and who benefits the most from that.”

Virginia Pratt, a member of the Community Church of Boston, commented on how the world should reflect interpersonally.

“[I ask myself] How can I, in my day to day living, show support of solidarity to people who are standing up for justice. I think that’s the challenge,” said Pratt to The Suffolk Journal.

In order to better explain what can be done for citizens in the U.S. to stand in solidarity with those living in Puerto Rico, Gomez initiated a poetry activity for the group. She encouraged groups of three to pair up and create a poem with words that equated to solidarity to them. Once each group completed the task, a member read the poems out loud to the entire group.

“Coming to this space and verbalizing [the information] and different learning styles; people learn more when they are interactive and engaging, I think it’s necessary to have this information be spread as widely as possible,” said Gomez.

“I also feel like it’s really necessary we don’t charge people for their information,” said Gomez. “Generally, it’s very vital and important that people are paid for the labor they are doing, but we are not charging people to gain education.”

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