No Thanks For Taking

No Thanks For Taking by vagabond ©
No Thanks For Taking by vagabond ©

“In effect, contentions over land usage and ownership have served to define the totality of US – Indian relationships from the first moment to the present day, shaping not only the historical flow of interactions between invader and invaded, but the nature of ongoing domination of native people in areas such as governance and jurisdiction, identification, recognition and education.”
– Ward Churchill from When Predator Came 

While we gather with family and friends to give thanks lets remember what was taken. Let’s remember that there are long overdue debts that that have accrued for over half an eon. Let’s remember that there’s action yet to be taken to repair the damage done. Let’s temper the thanks of what we have with the remembrance of what was taken. Let’s remember that there is no thanks for taking.

The idea of setting aside a day to give thanks is a good one. The idea of gathering with relatives and friends over a meal to spend some time remembering what’s important in life is a beautiful sentiment. The idea of taking time to give thanks for that is no small matter. But the American mythology that was built for this holiday was designed to white wash the atrocities committed in the genocide of Native peoples. Don’t let that happen. Give thanks for what you have but don’t accept the mythology of Thanksgiving. Remember the taking that went on after that first Thanksgiving, the taking of lives, the taking of land, the taking of history, the taking of culture…

With the recent Occupation movement sweeping this nation it’s crucial to remember that the beginnings of the rampant greed and voracious bottomless appetite for profit over people began with the genocide of Native peoples. The roots of modern day capitalism are deeply planted in the genocide of Native peoples. Wall Street was called Wall Street because a wall was built to keep Native peoples out. Modern day capitalism was also built on enslaved Africans.  It was enslaved Africans that built the wall on Wall Street. The first commodity traded, bought and sold on Wall Street was African slaves. So the beginnings of this holiday are not as pure as American mythology would have us believe.

Remembrance can be the beginning of resistance but only if we follow through with action to correct the past transgressions that have become the present transgressions that will inevitably become future transgressions. We can’t be held responsible for the past but we are responsible for the present. It’s our actions in the present, that can be used to make us accountable for the past, by virtue of having done nothing to change the affects of the past on the present and foreseeable future. If we do nothing to alter the affects of the Native peoples genocide that began hundreds of years ago and continues today in slightly different form, then we can be held accountable to a continuation of that genocide. In being responsible with the present we become responsible for the future and perhaps in some future Thanksgiving we’ll all be free of these past transgressions once and for all. That will be a Thanksgiving worthy of the ideal.


Arm In Arm With Arms: The Puerto Rican Uprising Of 1950

Blanca Canales Rifle by vagabond ©
Blanca Canales Rifle by vagabond ©

“Every man got a right to decide his own destiny
And in this judgement there is no partiality
So arm in arm with arms we’ll fight this little struggle
‘Cause that’s the only way we can over come our little trouble”
– Bob Marley from the song Zimbabwe

In the years that followed World War II colonized nations all over the world began actively seeking independence through the United Nations. The United Nations was forced to respond to these demands and so in 1946 a list of non self-governing nations was made. From time to time that list was revised.

Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the western hemisphere. It was a colony of Spain for almost 400 years and has been a colony of the US since 1898. Throughout that whole time Puerto Ricans have fought for their freedom. In the 1930’s the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party,  led by Don Pedro Albizu Campos, came to prominence by directly and openly challenging US authority in Puerto Rico. The US responded with increased repression against the Nationalists in the form of arrests, imprisonment and murder.

The situation between the Nationalists and the colonial Puerto Rican government was intense. In 1935 five Nationalists were killed by police at a demonstration at the University Of Puerto Rico in what became known as the Rio Piedras Massacre. In retaliation the Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp assassinated the Chief Of Police, Colonel Elisha Francis Riggs.  Rosado and Beuchamp were captured and executed without a trial by the police. Albizu Campos and other Nationalists were imprisoned for inciting violence. In 1937 the Nationalists held a demonstration in Ponce on Palm Sunday demanding Albizu Campos freedom. The demonstration turned into the Ponce massacre when the governor and the police responded by shooting into the crowd wounding 235 people and killing nineteen among them a seven-year old child.

Elias Beauchamp by vagabond ©
Elias Beauchamp by vagabond ©

The repression against those seeking independence did not end there. In 1948 it became illegal to display the Puerto Rican flag, speak of liberation, sing patriotic songs and fight for the cause of liberation. In 1950 the US Congress proposed making Puerto Rico a “Free Associated State” or “Commonwealth” of the US. The Nationalists saw this as a move by the US to keep Puerto Rico off the UN’s list of colonized nations and so the Nationalists planned a series of actions and uprisings to openly challenge the semantic game that the US was playing with Puerto Rico.

On October 30th of 1950 a Puerto Rican woman by the name of Blanca Canales led an uprising in the mountain town of Jayuya. Under her leadership the Nationalists took Jayuya and Blanca Canales declared Puerto Rico a free republic. At the same time in the town of Utado Nationalists were fighting the US National Guard and other Nationalists were attacking “La Forteleza” the governors mansion in San Juan and the Federal Court House in Old San Juan.

Blanca Canales and the Nationalists were successful in holding Jayuya for three days until the US military bombed them from the air and sent in ground troops. In Utado nine Nationalists were captured and summarily sent to be executed without a trial. Five of the nine survived in what would become the Massacre of Utado. In San Juan the attack on “La Fortaleza” and on the Federal Court building in Old San Juan failed because the Nationalists were betrayed by one of their own who warned the government of the attacks. The betrayal of the attacks led to the deaths of four, the wounding of two and the arrest of six Nationalists.

The next day on October 31st the police were tipped off to a cache of weapons in a barber shop in Santurce called Salon Boricua owned by Vidal Santiago who was a Nationalist and the personal barber for Albizu Campos. The police shot and bombed the barbershop fearing that there was a group of Nationalists in the shop. However the only person in the shop was Vidal Santiago who only had a pistol and used it to defend himself against the police aggression. After a three-hour firefight Vidal Sanitago was shot five times, once in the head, but he survived and was arrested. There police found no cache of weapons in the barber shop.

On November 1st of 1950, the assault by the Nationalist Party continued as Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola (who was the brother of Balnca Canales) attempted to assassinate the President of the United States, Harry Truman. The assassination attempt took place at the Blair House. The White House was under renovation and Truman was staying in Blair House when Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attacked the guards in an attempt to get into the house to kill the president. Oscar Collazo was wounded while Griselio Torresola was killed along with another policeman in the gun battle that took place just outside Truman’s bedroom window.

Two Puerto Ricans Shot Down by vagabond ©
Two Puerto Ricans Shot Down by vagabond ©

Some three thousand Puerto Ricans were rounded up and incarcerated for their role in the Nationalist uprisings of 1950. Among those who served the greatest amount of time in prison was Blanca Canales who served seventeen years in prison for her role in the Jayuya Uprising. Albizu Campos was arrested and sentenced to 80 years. Oscar Collazo was sentenced to death but Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison and he served 25 years there before being pardoned in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.

Although the Nationalists uprising of 1950 did not succeed in freeing Puerto Rico they did succeed in catapulting the colonial situation of Puerto Rico onto a world stage. The US could rename its relationship with Puerto Rico as a “Free Associated State” or “Commonwealth” all it wanted but colonialism by any other name is still colonialism. No matter what the US did now, the world could no longer afford to see a Puerto Rico as being a “Free Associated State” as the US wanted it. Puerto Rico was not free to be associated with the US or anyone else… The Nationalists may have failed to free Puerto Rico but they succeeded in keeping the US from hiding it’s colonial possession with semantic Orwellian double speak like “Free Associated State”… The Nationalists succeeded in making it be known all over the world that Puerto Rico wanted to be free and was willing to fight to do so…

To commemorate and honor the great Puerto Rican heroine Blanca Canales, RICANSTRUCTED, the design company dedicated to the supporting independence for Puerto Rico, has issued two Blanca Canales T-shirt designs… The first shirt design is reminiscent of a baseball T-shirt design. The NATIONALISTS are the team that Blanca Canales places on. The number 50 is symbolic of the 1950 Jayuya Uprising that Blanca Canales led.


The second design is of Blanca Canales herself with a Nationalist Cross design element on her face. The back of the shirt also features the RICANSTRUCTED logo.




Vimeo 1080P

Ok… ok… ok… this is an off the dome rant… One that can be seen as a selfish weak ass piece of shit but it’s how i feel sometimes… A lot of times… Most times… To be honest all the time… For those who give a shit about true politically and artistically radical independent filmmaking the price of my film MACHETERO is dropping on this Grito De Lares from $5.99 for a 48 hour rental to $2… and from $10 to download and own to $5… So now the price should be a smaller hurdle to get over… This is an experiment for me to see if people are actually interested in this kind of filmmaking, story, artistic experimentation, politic, etc… etc…

Maybe the price is a problem… Maybe it’s not… Maybe i’m bad at marketing and promotion… Maybe i need someone who is someone, to say that i am someone, for you to believe that this is something you should watch… Maybe it’s some of those things or a combination of those things or none of those things or all of those things…

If just one person a day rented MACHETERO at the original price of $5.99 i would make $5 a day which is about $150 a month… If one person a day bought MACHETERO at the original price of $10 i would make $9 a day which is about $270 a month… If both those things were to happen a day i would make about $420 a month… $420 a month comes out to about $5000 a year… MACHETERO cost $16,000 to make… A rental and purchase a day at $420 a month comes to about $5000 a year, which means the film can recoup its cost in approximately three years and three months… After another three years at those rates of rentals and purchases i could afford to give $1000 back to all of the key personnel who worked for free to make the film… And none of those people are expecting to get paid… so how nice would it be to get a thousand dollars for a film you worked on six years ago for free…?

Why should i try and make some money off a revolutionary film that calls for the ouster of the us colonial government in Puerto Rico…? Because we live in a capitalist society and as much as i would love to give my film away for free that doesn’t help me survive within this capitalist structure… It doesn’t help me to make another film which i have to make… Why?

Because i didn’t choose to make films or be a filmmaker… Filmmaking chose me… How do i know this…? Because i’ve tried to quit time and time again… Like Michael Corleone said in Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in”, thats me and filmmaking… i love making films… and i could give a shit if anyone likes them or the saw them… But the nature of capitalism is that you need to make money off of what you love and so this is where i fail miserably… And maybe, purposely because i’m an anti-capitalist… So maybe this boo-hoo, woe is me, cry me a fucken river bullshit rant is just all my own fault and has nothing to do with anyone else… i can’t take the blame for it, but i can take the responsibility for it… There’s a difference but i’ll let you tease that out…

Anyway… this is an experiment… Let’s see what happens… It’s obvious i’m not in this for the money… i just dropped the price of the rental and purchase price of the film… No one would do that if i they were in it for the money… Shit with the hours i work making a film i could make more money working minimum wage at Mickey D’s… So let’s see how it all shakes out… Fuck it… if nothing comes of this it won’t be because i tried… and failed… and tired again… and failed… and tried again… and failed… and tried again…

And now a word from our sponsor… This bullshit whine fest is brought to you by MACHETERO on Vimeo On Demand… what’s that mean…? It means Vimeo is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, Playstation, X-Box and Roku if you want to watch on your TV at home (which as a filmmaker i highly suggest since it’s the closest you’ll come to a theatrical experience)… Vimeo is also available on your phone, tablet and computer…

And to those who have rented or purchased MACHETERO already i thank you for your support… It means more than you can know… And it goes further than you can imagine…

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Trans-sister by vagabond ©
Trans-sister by vagabond ©

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…



The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©
The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©

A few weeks ago i was asked by Benjamin Ramos of Pro-Libertad, an organization dedicated to the freedom of Puerto Rican political prisoners, to design a poster for US held Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera. For those who don’t know Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898. For more on that whole situation check this out… Ever since it’s colonization there’s been a resistance movement to liberate Puerto Rico from the US to quote Malcolm X “…by any and all means necessary”. Some of those means have included armed struggle which is the right of colonized peoples in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples under UN Resolution 1514.

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…

Puerto Rican Mandela posters
Puerto Rican Mandela posters

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…




a stroll in the french quarter

the air becomes almost solid here

feels like you can cut it with a knife

it’s all thick sweat dripping slow and heavy

the clouds hang low and the city lights up the sky

trying to portray a forced happiness

fueled by hurricanes and grenades in plastic cups

but if you look down and not away

you’ll see where the weight of this almost solid air

fell those too exhausted from the race

lying on the streets of the quarter

shell-shocked by the empty failure of it all

watching the bourbon run out into the street

eye lids weighed down by moisture in the atmosphere

fading to black as the air solidifies around the dream

– vagabond ©



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…



Me & Mya
Me & Mya

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…

Mya & Resister (my life partner)
Mya & Resister (my life partner)

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…

Mya 12•24•01 - 1•23•15
Mya 12•24•01 – 1•23•15

For other stories about Mya







All Spit And Piss In The Wind

with enough time you too will be forgotten by vagabond ©
with enough time you will be forgotten by vagabond ©

all spit and piss in the wind
(for earth day)

in the race to destroy the planet
the human race will destroy itself
it’s a race we win by losing
mama nature will be fine

we posture hubris that we’re powerful enough to defy her
but it’s all spit and piss in the wind
we may do some heavy damage
but we’ll suffer more than she will

after we’re gone
after we’ve killed ourselves
for black numbers on white profits sheets
after we’ve squandered the riches
she’ll take her time and heal herself

we worship too much at the
altar of technology  and engineering
and place too much faith in the now
thinking this is permanence

i know this because
fragile weeds
crack through concrete sidewalks

moss thrives
on top of and in between
cobblestones in your streets

vines crawl across mortar and brick
and wind their way up
the sides of walls and into window sills

the air oxidizes around
the steel girders of bridges
allowing rust to get under the paint to peel it

roofs cave in
from the accumulated number
and weight of snow flakes

building foundations sink
in ground erosion
from the saturation of rain drops

and skyscrapers must be engineered to
give in the wind
or be taken by it

because we didn’t know how to live
on the earth
we’ll spend eternity
beneath it

all this time your pride led you to believe
that it would all endure
with enough time you too will be forgotten

and it makes me sad to think
i won’t be around to see the silence
or to  hear the grass grow
over your cities

– vagabond


less than ideal art and ideas for a less than ideal world…


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