A Green Puerto Rico
I think a lot about the future of Puerto Rico. Especially after the hurricanes and recent earthquakes. Puerto Rico has been in a recession the last twelve years. It also has been plagued by corruption and the imposition of the Junta (financial control board) has just made matters worse.
By Darlene Elias
March 31, 2020
People are leaving Puerto Rico by the thousands in search for a better life. Now the amount of Puerto Ricans living in the United States has surpassed the number on the island. The population of Puerto Ricans continues to decrease with every major calamity. Something that has concerned me since I first learned about the forced sterilization of Puerto Rican women. My thoughts always bring me to the question of what can be done to improve the outlook of Puerto Rico. The answer I always arrive at is the United States has to cut with the purse strings and set Puerto Rico free.
So when I was invited by Dr. Ramon Nenadich, President of the Estado Nacional Soberano de Borinken (National Sovereign State of Puerto Rico — ESBN) to attend their first annual congress on February 8, 2020 on behalf of the Green Party Latinx Caucus I jumped at the invite. The ESBN is the group that maintains that the United States invaded Puerto Rico and took possession of the island illegally. They assert that the powers of government lie with the National Sovereign State of Puerto Rico and have filed for recognition with the United Nations. The congress was held at the Ateneo Puertorriqueno (Puerto Rican Athenaeum) in San Juan. There were approximately 30 Puerto Ricans in attendance and I was proud to be one of the ones to say presente!
The small number in attendance at the first annual ESBN congress did not phase me. The saying “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world” resonated with me. I also know that Ricans are leery of any public resistance despite thousands of demonstrators having recently ousted the Governor over the summer with #RickyRenuncia protests. The repression on the island is real and many still have history on their minds. This includes the potential of being arrested and sent to prison like Nina Droz, Ana Montes Belen, Oscar Lopez Rivera, and our recently fallen heroes Lolita Lebron and Rafael Cancel Miranda. Even so, I still was proud to be sitting among nationalist such as macheteros, independentistas, and some of the brightest intellectuals of Puerto Rico. There was no dispute amongst us that the political system of Puerto Rico is corrupt, broken, and needs to be replaced.
I brought to the congress a message of unity and pledged support of the Green Party. I warned of the most recent efforts to make Puerto Rico a state and the upcoming plebiscite. I remember a machetero rising from his chair to let me know that they have resurrected and will never allow this to happen. A sense of pride came over me as I envisioned Jibaros, Puerto Rican men of the campos, engaged in guerrilla type warfare throughout the Borinken with their machetes even if it was just symbolic. I also remember a well published intellectual and author of the book “Odious Debt” telling me previously that Puerto Rico per the Treaty of Paris has the right to self defense because it was invaded. The pragmatic side of me also comes to understand that this fight for freedom has to be just as much an intellectual one. After passionate pleas and introductions of why we were all present at the congress we moved on to define its mission and purpose.
The ESBN resolved to support economic development projects throughout the Borinken that focused on sustainable agriculture, the use of solar energy, building homes and establishing cooperatives. Participants spoke of projects underway such as planting seeds, growing coffee, and producing fish with the intent of stores being stocked by local products. Rebuilding homes and infrastructure was deemed very important. Tiny homes are also emerging throughout the Borinken. The congress in addition worked to develop a national structure. The leadership of the ESBN shared that Puerto Rico has 78 municipalities and a good portion of the municipalities are represented by the membership. The ESBN did not think it would be difficult to put together a delegation that will convene and celebrate elections at a National Assembly once a year. It was decided that a delegate would be elected to represent each municipality including five from the diaspora. The Latinx caucus will play a key role in determining who will represent the diaspora.
A sense of urgency loomed at the Puerto Rican Antheneum. Many cited the weak infrastructure of Puerto Rico and the government being dysfunctional. Further, the Junta was showing no signs of relenting to the needs of the people. The ESBN ultimately identified goals of eliminating corruption, the debt, financial control board and achieving decolonization. Lastly, the ESBN agreed to fortifying their relationship with the Green Party by utilizing resources such as the Green Party Alliance of Puerto Rico and working on our mutual decolonization efforts by establishing a committee of both Puerto Ricans on the island and the diaspora.
Surprising to me after the congress news shot quickly through the island that Darlene Elias was presente! I was very humbled by the kindness shown to me during my visit by my compatriots. Especially Jose Luis Fernandez, a mayoral candidate for Dorado, who made sure that I not only got food for the soul but I was safe by escorting me around. My week was marked with meetings and interviews with nationalist of all walks of life from activists, lawyers, college professors, book authors, politicians and candidates running for office. All of which unapologetically and proudly waved the independent flag of Puerto Rico when I spoke to them. Each and everyone of them assured me that Puerto Rico would not become a state and that the resistance was alive although not always visible and spoken about in public.
My appreciation also extends to David and Bette, retired college professors that not only were my host for the week but actually fed me with food, books and doses of spiritual enlightenment. I was particularly impacted by a premier showing in Hato Rey of the documentary “El Accidente Feliz” which depicts the life of renowned Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell who more than anything is a humanist and reminded me of why I am Green. Of course this amazing trip could not have been made possible without the ongoing support and belief in our party by our Latinx caucus compatriots, much love to you. Now to doing the work of the party and making Puerto Rico Green. Upward and onward y Que Viva Puerto Libre!