“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
– William Randolph Hearst speaking about trying to get support for the Spanish-American War so he can sell newspapers
“In the prosecution of war against the kingdom of Spain by the people of the United States, in the cause of liberty, justice, and humanity, its military forces have come to occupy the island of Puerto Rico. They come bearing the banner of freedom, inspired by a noble purpose to seek the enemies of our country and yours, and to destroy or capture all who are in armed resistance. They bring you the fostering arm of a free people, whose greatest power is in its justice and humanity to all those living within its fold. Hence the first effect of this occupation will be the immediate release from your former relations, and it is hoped a cheerful acceptance of the government of the United States. The chief object of the American military forces will be to overthrow the armed authority of Spain, and to give the people of your beautiful island the largest measure of liberty consistent with this occupation. We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves, but to your property; to promote your prosperity, and bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government. It is not our purpose to interfere with any existing laws and customs that are wholesome and beneficial to your people so long as they conform to the rules of military administration of order and justice. This is not a war of devastation, but one to give all within the control of its military and naval forces the advantages and blessings of enlightened civilization.”
– General Nelson A. Miles after landing in Guanica, Puerto Rico
“A splendid little war.”
– Ambassador John Hay, writing from London to Theodore Roosevelt, about the Spanish-American War
“I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” – Mark Twain
Very few people know that the US is a colonial power. Not a neo-colonial power, in some esoteric, behind the scenes, pulling the strings sense, as in Afghanistan or Iraq but in a very real and classical sense like in the case of Puerto Rico. The history of colonialism in Puerto Rico goes back 520 years to the Spanish landing of Columbus in 1493. Spanish colonialism in Puerto Rico lasted about 400 years. In 1868 a failed insurrection against Spanish colonial rule led to a more rigorous political decolonization process by both Puerto Rico and Spain. By 1897 Puerto Rico had successfully negotiated it’s independence with Spain.
On November 25th of 1897 an Autonomic Charter “Carta Autonomica” was approved by Spain. Puerto Rico had both political and administrative power over itself. A legislature was set up with a Council of Administration consisting of 8 elected members and 7 appointed members and that was countered by a Chamber of Representatives with a representative for every 25,000 Puerto Ricans. By Spring of 1898 Puerto Rico had complete autonomy from Spain.
In April of 1898, the US declared war against Spain in order to try to gain control of Spain’s colonies in the Caribbean. On May 12th the US navy bombed San Juan. In June the US set up a blockade in Puerto Rico and on July 25th General Nelson A. Miles led his naval troops into the southern coastal town of Guanica and began the invasion of Puerto Rico. By August the Spanish were defeated and on December 10th Spain relinquished Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico to US power. The US has been a colonial power in Puerto Rico ever since then…
The artwork i created today for the 115th year of US colonialism in Puerto Rico is of a record of of resistance to foreign imperialism. Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the world. In the center is the sketched figure of a Machetero holding two machetes. A machetero in Spanish is someone who works in the sugar cane fields cutting sugar cane but it’s also a symbol of cultural resistance in Puerto Rico. Throughout Puerto Rico’s rich rebel history of resistance macheteros banded together to fight against both Spanish and US colonial domination in Puerto Rico and in the process became the Macheteros, cultural symbols of Puerto Rican resistance.
The drawing was purposely done on black paper with a light gray pastel crayon to give the feeling that it was scrawled on the wall of a prison. The Machetero figure is surrounded by 520 markings, 405 markings for resistance to Spanish colonial rule and 115 markings for US colonial rule. At the end of the 405th marking is the crossed out word España for the 405 years Puerto Rico spent as a Spanish colony. The next 115 markings are followed by the crossed out name of the United States for the past 115 years of US colonial rule. The space beyond that is left blank in hopes that the next set of markings will be a record of Puerto Rico’s self-rule…
Originally published on 7/4/10 and republished on 7/4/11, 7/4/12, 7/4/13 and in keeping with what has become a tradition… Republished today…
“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. “
– Fredrick Douglass
Summer 1898, during the Spanish American War a rag-tag volunteer force of machete wielding sugar cane working Puerto Ricans known as Macheteros fought alongside the Spanish to repel the US forces that invaded Puerto Rico on July 25th. In the center of the island just outside of the mountain town of Aibonito in the mountain pass of Asomante the Macheteros fought the advancing US military to a standstill and then to a retreat. It was the greatest victory for the Macheteros. But the victory was short-lived when the Spanish surrendered to the US and the fighting ceased a few days later. In the process the island nation of Puerto Rico went from 400 years of Spanish colonial rule to US colonial rule. The true shame of it is that Puerto Rico was on the verge of gaining it’s independence from Spain when the Spanish-American War broke out. On December 10th of 1898 the Treaty Of Paris was signed and the US officially took control of the Spanish colonial possessions of the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. The colonization of Puerto Rico is the adolescence of US foreign imperialism. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 2nd, 1917, the Jones-Sahforth Act made Puerto Ricans citizens of the US without any consultation on the part of Puerto Ricans. Two months after that 18,000 Puerto Rican men were conscripted into the US military to fight in WWI. The US military needed to swell the ranks of it’s African-American canon fodder with Puerto Ricans where they were put to fight in segregated regiments. Many of these Puerto Rican troops were sent to Panama to be human guinea pigs in US chemical gas experiments where 335 of them were wounded. The Pentagon and the War Department never kept data on how many Puerto Ricans were killed or wounded in the war. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
Post World War I the US government began a wide-spread program of population control in Puerto Rico. They began sterilizing Puerto Rican women. The sterilization of these women was done without their knowledge and consent or was done by misinforming the women of the permanence of the sterilization procedure. By 1965 one-third of Puerto Rican women were systematically sterilized. The imperial design of the US was that they wanted Puerto Rico but not Puerto Ricans. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
October 20th, 1935 the founder and leader of the Nationalist Party Don Pedro Albizu Campos gives a radio address in which he criticizes a program to “Americanize” the University Of Puerto Rico that is being instituted by US colonial interests. A group of students in support of the measure want Albizu declared “Student Enemy Number One”. On October 24th Albizu is declared “persona non-grata” at a university demonstration. Students supporting Albizu respond in protest. Four Nationalists are killed by the police on that day which becomes forever etched into the history of Puerto Rico as the Rio Piedras Massacre. Eye witness evidence of the massacre is ignored and the police involved in the killing are promoted. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
February 23rd, 1936 Colonel Francis Riggs who is the commanding officer of the police on the island is assassinated by Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp in retaliation of the Rio Piedras Massacre. The two Nationalists are caught by the police and executed without a trial right after the press takes their picture. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 12, 1937 Palm Sunday several hundred Puerto Ricans gathered in the city of Ponce to celebrate the abolition of slavery and to protest the incarceration of independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos on charges of sedition. Hours before the protest was to take place the Governor of the island Blanton Winship (installed by President Roosevelt) revoked the permit they had received from Ponce’s Puerto Rican mayor. In defiance to the revoked permit they marched anyway. Lines of policemen with rifles and machine guns were set up to meet the protesters in their defiance. The demonstrators would not be turned around by the threat of violence. They marched forward singing “La Boriqueña” the Puerto Rican national anthem. The police fired on the crowd then chased and clubbed them as they tried to escape the violence, 235 were wounded and 19 killed. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
June 11th, 1948 a law known as “Ley de la Mordaza” banned the display of the Puerto Rican flag, banned the speaking of independence and outlawed the struggle for independence. On October 30th in response to that and other indignities that Puerto Ricans suffered under, a woman named Blanca Canales led an armed uprising of Nationalists in the mountain town of Jayuya in an effort to free Puerto Rico from the clutches of US colonial rule. The uprising was put down and thousands of Puerto Ricans were rounded up and arrested and given long harsh prison terms. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
November 1st , 1950 Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola made an attempt to assassinate President Truman. Griselio Torresola was killed in the attempt. Oscar Collazo was caught tried and sentenced to death. In 1952 the US renamed their colonial relationship with Puerto Rico a “Free Associated State” so that the US would not seem like an imperial power in the eyes of the world. Once again this was all done without the consultation of the Puerto Rican people. Oscar Collazo’s sentence was then commuted to life imprisonment, he served 27 years before an international people’s movement succeeded in freeing him and four other Nationalists. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 1st of 1954 four Nationalists Andres Figueroa, Irving Flores, Raphael Cancel Miranda and Lolita Lebron fired shots into the US House of Congress while it was in session. They unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and yelled “¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!”. The goal of the operation was to bring international attention to the fact that the US was an imperial power in Puerto Rico. Some 30 shots were fired and five congressmen wounded in the attack. They were caught and served 25 years in prison for fighting for the independence of their country. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 21, 1965 Don Pedro Albizu Campos the Nationalist leader dies of injuries he sustained from the radiation experiments that were conducted on him while he was serving a second prison term that held him responsible for the US House of Congress shooting. After 11 years of serving his sentence he is pardoned only to pass away a few months later in his home. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 4th, 1980 a group of 11 Puerto Rican members of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional – Armed Forces of National Liberation) a clandestine organization fighting for the freedom of Puerto Rico using military means and labeled by US law enforcement as a terrorist group, are arrested in Evanston Illinois. The 11 are brought up on various state and federal charges but are all charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. In their trials they choose to take prisoner of war status under the United Nations Geneva Convention. As prisoners of war they refuse to recognize the US as having any legitimate power over them and because they chose this status they refuse to take part in their trials other than giving opening and closing statements. They are each found guilty and are sentenced to long harsh prison sentences. After 20 years some are pardoned and released. So what is the 4th Of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 19th, 1999 David Sanes a security guard was mistakenly killed by the US military during a bombing exercise on the island of Vieques that the US military used as a live exercise training area since 1941. His death galvanizes a successful peoples movement and Puerto Ricans go out into the military bombing zone to become human shields to get the US military out of Vieques. Although the US military has left Vieques it has not cleaned up the unexploded ordinance that litters the island. Among that ordinance is depleted uranium. The cancer rate in Vieques is 50% higher than it is in Puerto Rico. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
September 23rd, 2005, Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios is assassinated by the FBI on a what is considered a national holiday to Puerto Ricans. On September 23rd of 1868 an uprising against Spanish colonial rule is fought in an effort to gain independence. Puerto Ricans remember and commemorate the uprising as the birth of the Puerto Rican nation. Filiberto Ojeda Rios was the father of the clandestine armed movement in Puerto Rico, he founded the Ejercito Popular Boricua the EPB, the Popular Puerto Rican Army affectionately known as Los Macheteros and labeled a terrorist group by US law enforcement. He had been a fugitive and one of the most wanted men by the FBI for fifteen years. When the FBI assassinated Filiberto they shot and wounded him but purposely decided to deny him medical attention as he bled to death for over 24 hours. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
This is only a select list of transgressions. This is only a random sampling of the wrong done to a people who have rightfully sought their independence as Malcolm said “By any means necessary”. This is only a small taste of the last hundred years of struggle in a nation that has fought for it’s freedom since 1493 when Columbus “discovered the Americas”. These are the fragments of a hidden history, of an ongoing struggle, for independence intentionally kept from us (both Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans alike) so that we can celebrate the independence of a nation that stands in the way of another nation’s independence. As a point of clarity we Puerto Ricans are not asking for our freedom. We are trying to take it in much the same way that the US took it’s independence. The difference is that the British Empire did not pretend to be an advocate of global democracy and freedom it was an openly imperialist nation. The US on the other hand preens and primps itself as a global bastion of democracy and freedom while in the same breath holding a colony and denying the self-determination of the Puerto Rican people for over a century. Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the Western hemisphere so again I ask you what is the 4th of July to Puerto Rico?
Check out MACHETERO my six time international award winning film on the violent struggle for Puerto Rican independence from an anarchist POV with a Pan-Africantist vibe. It’s on VOD and available TODAY as a digital download. http://vimeo.com/ondemand/machetero
A while back i illustrated a book of poetry called Last Of The Po’Ricans Y Otras Afro-artifacts. One of the poems in the book was called Trans-sister and it was about Puerto Rican Trans woman Sylvia Rivera and her fight for equality and justice… Sylvia Rivera was at Stonewall on that fateful day of June 28, 1969… With the ruling by the US Supreme Court that the entire US must recognize Marriage Equality i thought it important to remind people of that the modern day LGBTQ struggle for rights was born at the Stonewall Inn in NYC…
It’s good that the LGBTQ brothers and sisters have some equal ground to stand upon after so many years of pain and struggle and it’s a moment worth celebrating… At the same time we have to remember that homophobia, gay homeless youth, trans phobia, and the everyday violence that people face for being themselves is something that continues… So let’s celebrate this victory and use it strengthen the other work that must be done…
Oscar Lopez Rivera is a freedom fighter not unlike the most famous political prisoner in the world, Nelson Mandela. Oscar is 72 and has been in prison since 1981, that’s almost half his life. He was charged, convicted and sentenced to 70 years for the crime of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. Contrary to the lies and misinformation fed by the US government and the corporate media Oscar is not charged with killing or maiming anyone. He is charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government.
After i designed the image above Benjamin asked if i knew anyone who could print some posters and postcards. i reached out to the worker owned union shop of offset printers, Radix Media. i worked closely with Lantz Arroyo and he was able to print a run of 11″x17″ posters and 4″x6″ postcards of the image…
Some of the posters will be used as media to help spread the word about Oscar and some will be for sale with the proceeds going towards Oscar’s commissary. If you’re looking to try and get one let me know and we’ll work something out. i imagine Oscar will use some of those funds we raise to get art supplies since he is a painter. Check out some of Oscar’s work here…
The international campaign to free Oscar Lopez Rivera is asking people to call both the White House and demand that Oscar Lopez Rivera be released unconditionally. Call President Obama at 202-456-1111 and leave a message! Let him know that Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in prison for too long and deserves to go home!
Sample Message for your phone call:
President Obama, I ask that you free Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera. Since 1981, he has been in jail for fighting for Puerto Rican independence; he never committed a violent crime and has been a model prisoner. I ask that you follow in the foot steps of Presidents Truman, Carter, and Clinton, who freed other Puerto Rican activists, and set Oscar free!
For more info on Oscar Lopez Rivera the video below is from Democracy Now and gives some more detailed information on both Oscar and the campaign to free him…
In my last post i spoke about the loss of a best friend… Mya… and the devastating affect it had on me… Mya taught me a lot of things and i didn’t want those lessons to go to waste while i wallowed in sorrow… Mya taught me that it’s about today… It’s about the right now… When we first got Mya it was a challenge for all of us, me and my girlfriend Resister and Mya… But we got through it… And a lot of beauty came out of that struggle… Mya went from being an abused puppy with an aggression based in fear of other dogs to finding a best friend in my brothers pitbull mix Cheyenne…
In the last year of Mya’s life my vet got a dog that was rescued by a good samaritan but didn’t belong to any organiztions that would take her out on adoption events… She was in a way twice abandoned… Her name was Cha-Cha and they kept asking me to take her, telling me she was a perfect fit for me… But Cha-Cha was a puppy and Mya was old and sick… Mya just wanted peace and quiet in her last days and a high energy puppy wanting to play and goof around all day seemed like a bad idea…
When Mya’s body started to give up on her (her spirit kept fighting but her body couldn’t hold her spirit) and i was forced to put her down i thought about Cha-Cha… i needed some time though… In a strange way i didn’t want to disrespect the memory of Mya… But after a month or so i realized that it wouldn’t be disrespectful to Mya’s memory to take on Cha-Cha but in a way would be honoring Mya’s memory…
My girlfriend and i are fortunate… we have a house, a yard, dog beds, relationships with vets and we’re good with dogs as our experience with Mya proved… So it makes sense to take Cha-Cha on… i called my vet to see how she was doing and they told me that she still hadn’t been adopted and that she had been at the vet’s living out most of that year in a cage… That broke my heart… The staff at my vet’s office love Cha-Cha and they do what they can for her but they have to divide their attention among a host of thousands of other responsibilities…
i secretly arranged to have my girlfriend and Cha-Cha meet and when they hit it off it was obvious that we would have to take her on… We took Cha-Cha for a weekend to see how she would fit in with our busy life… We took her on tour to meet family and friends to she how she would settle in… That weekend has turned into a life long commitment now…
Cha-Cha is a character… She got her name from the way in which she wags her tail… She’s so happy all the time that her tail is constantly wagging and she wags her tail so hard that it shakes her whole ass and it looks like she’s dancing… So the people who rescued her called her Cha-Cha…
So this is for Cha-Cha… And her predecessor Mya who taught us that it’s about today, not yesterday or tomorrow… See, taking on Cha-Cha and getting her out of that cage and making her life better is something that’s about today, not about yesterday and not about tomorrow… Today…
One last note about Cha-Cha before i wrap this up and about the picture above… My allergies were acting up a few weeks ago and i had a bad headache so i went to lie down on the couch to try and rest… Cha-Cha grabbed her toy and jumped up on top of my chest as i lay on the couch (first time she had ever done this) and proceeded to wedge herself between the back of the couch and me to snuggle up against me… We took a nap like that for about an hour… i got up afterwards feeling like a Cha-Champion…
On Friday, January 23rd i lost one of my best friends… Well, to be more specific i was forced by her health to put her down… She was 13 years old and i had known her for almost 9 years… She was my pitbull Mya… It was the hardest thing i have ever had to do in my life…
“…love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kabil Gibran
i’d spent the last year of Mya’s life trying to make her life as comfortable as possible… it was grueling… i lost a lot of sleep and expended a huge amount of time and energy to make her old age as graceful as possible… Carrying her up and down the stairs, picking her 20 to 30 times a day up when the arthritis in her legs weakened her and caused her to fall… i gave her a regiment of supplements, anti-biotics, pro-biotics, pain meds, fed her by hand, put diapers on her and cleaned up after accidents… It was almost a full time job and one that i didn’t want to stop doing… But Mya was in a lot of pain and i couldn’t get her to eat for the last four days of her life, which meant i couldn’t give her pain meds or supplements… She wouldn’t even eat my French Toast with real organic maple syrup which was a favorite of hers…
i called a vet who specialized in putting animals down in the comfort of their home… The last few times Mya went to the vet she was scared, more scared and uncomfortable than usual… Mya was used to going to the vet… She survived breast cancer, two soft tissue sarcomas on the her leg and a brain tumor just to name a few of the issues she had struggled with… So putting her down at home on the couch in her favorite spot in the house where she would curl up was something that made it knew would be easier on her and on us…
“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.” – Mark Twain
The hardest part about putting Mya down was that she was a fighter… She only knew how to fight… Even unto the bitter end she wanted to live… Her spirit was so strong that it pushed her body beyond what it could handle… i made the decision to put her down because her body was giving out on her… She had an extremely serious urinary tract infection, arthritis pain that made it hard for her to walk, laryngeal collapse, a third soft tissue sarcoma developing on her leg and her stomach was no longer processing food properly by pushing it into her intestines… It was her inability to eat that was the final blow… If she couldn’t eat, i couldn’t manage her pain…
“Dogs…do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value they have to bequeath except their love and their faith.” – Eugene O’Neill, from his Dalmatian, Blemie’s, last will and testament
It was hard letting her go… It’s still hard… At the oddest times i would suddenly feel the lump in my throat swell and the pain in my chest explode and the tears would come rolling as i grit my teeth and shook at the lack i felt… She left a huge hole in me… i felt hollowed out and empty… Her death was like a vacuum that sucked out pieces of me… And for the next few weeks i was haunted by the chasm i felt with all the things that reminded me of her…
It’s only recently with a new development in my life that i’ve been able to put the pain of her loss in a context that allows me some peace… But that’s another story for another time… This is for Mya…
i took Mya everywhere whenever i could and she was a presence that everyone felt… Here she is at a recording session i helped produce a few years ago… She was the best… A good friend, a good companion… the best…
In July of last year Mya had a quick little cameo in this very short film i did… i will miss her for the rest of my days…
“To take you back, I was born in 1898, during the climax of the Spanish/American War. I say 1898 because that was the year that the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico, the year when they colonized us. Now, I was born again in ‘44 to my mother in Ponce, Puerto Rico and again in ’47, at the age of three, when my folks migrated to New York City through the epic of Operation Boot Strap. We’re all part of the casualties of the Inquisition, the American Inquisition.
I also say I was born in 1949, because that’s the day I went to the first theatre with my grandfather, who felt deceived by Operation Boot Strap and committed hara-kiri, but I don’t think it was suicide. He was killed by the system that deceived him, the system that made him sell his land in Borinquen. What happened was the disillusion. The voices in his head were of the Central Intelligence, compelling him to sever his jugular vein. Think about his friends. There’s nobody to talk to, nobody to communicate with, and there’s nothing to go back to, but the industrialization of the island that had deceived so many people. So, that was the first theatre I went to, at Monje’s Funeral Parlor, in a brown suit. Actually, that was my first teaching, or my first awareness of Puerto Rican history. Puerto Ricans die and go to a Puerto Rican funeral parlor. And Monje was a ghoul; he looked like a ghoul. How you going to have the name Monje, and be a proprietor of a funeral parlor? You’ll scare the customers away, but he didn’t scare us away. ”
– Rev. Pedro Pietri Source La Prensa San Diego 6th, Feb, 2004
Who the hell is Rev. Pedro Pietri? Rev. Pedro Pierti was one of the original Nuyorican poets. Who were the Nuyorican Poets? The Nuyorican poets were a rag-tag bunch of Puerto Rican who became poets at the literal barrel of US colonialism’s gun. They emerged from the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s living a schizophrenic existence in exile in the mean streets of New York because Puerto Rico is and continues to be a colony of the United States. Schizophrenic because Americans didn’t want them because they were Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans didn’t want them because now they were Americans. The result of that dual schizophrenic existence became the Nuyorican experience. But because Puerto Ricans are good with a blade these poets carved out a space with words and defined the unreality of what it meant to be Puerto Rican outside of Puerto Rico. In the process of doing that the Nuyorican poets grabbed poetry by the ankles turned it upside down and shook the change out its pockets.
No other poet captured the zeitgeist of the Nuyorican experience like Rev. Pedro Pietri. The proof is in the recipe of his 1974 epic poem, Puerto Rican Obituary. That poem was written in the El Barrio (East Harlem, NYC) apartment of Dylcia Pagan a former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner and prisoner of war. Puerto Rican Obituary took the schizophrenic unreality of Puerto Ricans in the ghettos of New York living in between two worlds while simultaneously living in both and wholeheartedly claimed the validity of it, in all of it’s absurdity rather than rejecting it, in all it’s impossibility. In claiming to be in – and – from two different places at once Puerto Rican Obituary led the charge to fuse the fracture of a split existence. The idea of being in – and – from two places at once is a part of the psychological fallout of colonization. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898 and was a colony of Spain for almost 400 years before that. What Rev. Pedro Pietri and the other Nuyorican Poets did was painfully, playfully and poetically work through the fracture of being colonized and fuse together a mismatched unreality to recreate what it meant to be Puerto Rican within a fractured colonized existence. Check out this excerpt of Rev. Pedro Pietri reciting Puerto Rican Obituary…
Rev. Pedro Pietri’s poetry could be described as surreal dadaism from the streets. His poetry is filled with resolving the conflicting unreality of living here and there at the same time and in the same space. He flipped the polarizing effects of opposing ideas and made them attract. He used what seemed like nonsense to make sense of a world that’s never made sense. To understand what i’m talking about here is a poem from Rev. Pedro Pietri called Traffic Misdirector from his book Traffic Violations…
the greatest living poet
in new york city
was born in Puerto Rico
his name is Jorge Brandon
he is 70 years old
he carries his metaphor
in brown shopping bags
inside steel shopping cart
he travels around with
on the streets of manhattan
he recites his poetry
to whoever listens
& when nobody is around
he recites to himself
he speaks the wisdom
of unforgotten palm trees
the vocabulary of coconuts
that wear overcoats
the traffic lights
of his poems function
without the boring advice
from ac or dc current
book stores & libraries
are deprived of his vibes
to become familiar
with this immortal poet
you have to hang-out
on street corners
building stoops rooftops
fire escapes bars parks
subway train stations
iglesias pawn shops
card games cock fights
funerals valencia bakery
hunts point palace
pool halls orchard beach
& cuchifrito stands
on the lower east side
the admission is free
his presence is poetry
In 2004 the good right Rev. Pedro Pietri died of stomach cancer which he felt was attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange when he was drafted into the Vietnam War. He may have flipped over to the flip side of life but his vibe and his influences can still be felt on this side…