Published On: Tue, Oct 3rd, 2017

A letter to my ex-opponent, Mayor of San Juan

By Antonio Carmona Báez*

Amsterdam, 2 October 2017

Dear Mayor Carmen Yulín,

Mayor San JuanThis week Facebook reminded me that it has been a year since we first met. That was in the second public debate of mayoral candidates for San Juan in the 2016 elections, at the Museum of Puerto Rico in Santurce. I recall that you did not participate in the first debate, since that day coincided with the national electrical blackout and you had more important things to do for our people. You remain loyal to your trajectory, I see that you are more positioned than ever in the trenches to defend lives, our communities, and a sense of patriotism during and after the hurricanes have passed. I congratulate you and I join the voices of those who on the island and in the diaspora, repudiate the racist comments offered by the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and the denigrating and colonised posture of the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló.

I remember when, in between debates and newspaper columns, my comrades of the Working People's Party (PPT) advised me: we are not here to attack personally but to criticise the political programmes of other parties while presenting our own, the most radical and democratic. I would like to reiterate, my only problem with you during the campaign was your party affiliation. And now all this seems irrelevant, as hurricane Maria swept away not only the obsolete paradigms of the ancien regime and its custodial parties but the entire colonial apparatus of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as well.

I know that under these dire circumstances you are doing everything in your power to defend our people and keep the most vulnerable alive. Your tears are my tears. But the truth is that the situation requires a political response, nationally and internationally. The hour has come to call for mobilisation against the Jones Act of 1920, against the militarisation of San Juan, against the Fiscal Control Board, and against the colonialism that is killing us. Now I say to you: we have nothing to lose. You can even knock on the doors of Walmart and the likes to demand the millions they owe us.

Here in Europe, where I (like so many others) am in forced exile as a result of the budget cuts to the University of Puerto Rico, PROMESA, and the Junta, I am also placing my grain of sand for Puerto Rico, participating in public debates of the diaspora, raising funds for affected community projects, including and especially for the 8 communities of the Martín Peña waterway and Taller Salud in Loíza. Our wielding of media contacts here in northern Europe brought the continent to know Puerto Rico beyond the all time hit Depsacito. In November, the Puerto Rican community in the Netherlands will hold a benefit concert featuring five bands in which we find our Puerto Rican musical talent on the continent. Thousand of euros have already been collected. Our scientific talent is also mobilising to support agriculture back home, concentrating on agroecology for our food sovereignty.

It is interesting to see, from afar, that Puerto Rico is not alone. Around us there are other islands found under the same circumstances of debt, climate change, and colonial subordination. In Amsterdam we have come to know other diasporas, which are one in the same, from St. Martin, Antigua, Dominica, and the Virgin Islands. We are one. You are called by history, dear Mayor, to denounce colonialism not only in San Juan, not only in Puerto Rico, but throughout the entire region.

I support your calls demanding our right to receive help from wherever we see fit, including from countries like Venezuela who, despite having their own domestic problems, know so well how to extend their hand of solidarity. It will be these same nations whose aid and solidarity will be critical as we call for and exercise our self-determination..

En fin, my highly esteemed mayor, I confess that to speak of the present without considering the near future holds no logic. This unnatural disaster, post-Maria, must be politicised. There is no turning back, nor do we want to return to the normality that has brought us to the situation in which we find ourselves - dependent upon those who have subordinated us for centuries and those who continue to disregard our lives. Please send my regards to the Sovereigntists and to all the progressive forces who are willing to take advantage of this moment to build a national project. We can no longer speak of reconstruction, we must talk about reconstitution.

Yours sincerely,

Antonio Carmona Báez

*Antonio Carmona Báez was a San Juan mayoral candidate for the Working People's Party (PPT) in Puerto Rico's 2016 elections. He has taught International Relations and Development at the University of Amsterdam and University of Puerto Rico. He currently resides in Netherlands.

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