Enjoy Colonialism 1493 and the RICANSTRUCTED logo both by vagabond ©

“Querer ser libre, es empezar a ser libre …”
“To want to be free, is to begin to be free…”
– Ramon Emeterio Betances


RICANSTRUCTED is a design company that i started that’s devoted to the independence of Puerto Rico. Throughout Puerto Rico’s history there has always been a culture of resistance and these designs are a reflection of that resistance. i started the company last year in an effort to popularize the independence movement of Puerto Rico. A lot of people will tell you that most Puerto Ricans don’t want independence but nothing could be further from the truth. This idea of Puerto Ricans not wanting independence comes mainly from the charade of plebiscites that are held every few years by the US government, “administered and overseen” by the puppet colonial government.

The idea of a plebiscite for independence comes from the guidelines on decolonization that were laid out by the United Nations as many colonized nations sought independence in the post WWII years. The plebiscites that are held in Puerto Rico are a clever deception  for the US to hold up to the rest of the world as proof that the bastion of democracy holds no colonies. Behind that deception is some dirty laundry that needs some airing…

The UN clearly states that colonized nations need to have total autonomy over their political and financial affairs for a number of years before a plebiscite can be held. This allows for a smooth transition to independence. This never happens when the US holds plebiscites in Puerto Rico. The US controls Puerto Rico both politically and financially as it has since 1898. How does the US control Puerto Rico politically and financially when there is a Puerto Rican legislature that runs the island’s affairs? In a few broad strokes, Puerto Rico is forbidden to trade with any other nation other than the US. Any law that the Puerto Rican legislature makes for itself can be overturned by the US congress. No matter what the outcome of the plebiscite the US congress will have a final say over the future of the island nation. In other words the will of the Puerto Rican people as it is expressed both within the local Puerto Rican legislature and in these plebiscites is non-binding. These are the classic symptoms of colonialism and these are some of the larger issues of US plebiscites in Puerto Rico.

The notion that Puerto Ricans don’t want independence comes from the results of these plebiscites. Usually there is an even split between those who choose the current status as commonwealth to the US, (a prettier name for colonialism) and those who want statehood. Independence usually never gets more than 5% of the vote. Why? Because most independentistas (independence supporters) don’t vote. They don’t see the point, it’s an exercise in futility, since the plebiscite is non-binding and the US congress has the final say on Puerto Rico.

Another problem with these plebiscites is that Puerto Ricans in the diaspora (those not living in Puerto Rico) are forbidden from voting. The first plebiscite was held in 1967 after a almost two decades of encouraging Puerto Ricans to leave Puerto Rico for the US in a US Federally funded program called Operation Bootstrap. Today more Puerto Ricans live outside of Puerto Rico than on the island nation. The US has made it a point to make living in Puerto Rico difficult for Puerto Ricans. (This is yet another symptom of colonialism.) The US wants Puerto Rico not Puerto Ricans and this has an unspoken affect on the plebiscites.

The other reason that Puerto Ricans don’t vote overwhelmingly for independence in these plebiscites is that they have never had the pleasure of knowing what it was like to control their own affairs. It like buying a car sight unseen or an arranged marriage to someone you’ve never met or being asked to your opinion on something you know nothing about. This is the reason the UN states that a colonized nation needs to have autonomy over its own affairs before a plebiscite is called. (i know… this whole colonization thing is a very tangled and messy affair.)

The plebiscites that the US holds in Puerto Rico is just one tool that the US uses to keep international attention away from the fact that the US is an imperial power in Puerto Rico. Attention to the US colonial relationship with Puerto Rico would tarnish that whole US image of “nation-building, harbinger of democracy” that the US uses an excuse to go to war in an effort to “free” people in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya. US colonialism in Puerto Rico is a sin of epic, biblical proportions. While it goes around calling out the spec in others eyes, it has yet to remove the log from it’s own eye. Check out my previous posts on this issue with A Rejection Of American Mythology (Part One) and (Part Two).

Among the tricks they use to confuse the world into thinking Puerto Rico is free, is allowing Puerto Rico to compete as a nation in the Pan American Games and the Olympics, and that flights to Puerto Rico from the US are considered ” international flights”. The US is undercover about their imperialism in the Caribbean. In my travels around the world and within the US most people are unaware that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US and even when it’s explained to them they are still confused.

The thing that Puerto Ricans fear the most is losing their identity as Puerto Ricans. Beneath the desire to have a stable government and a stable economy is a desire to hold on to their culture. The reason they won’t vote for statehood is because they see it as a threat to their cultural identity. Statehooders come out in droves in order to prove their worthiness to be a part of the US. The supporters of commonwealth (the status quo of the colony) vote in order to hold onto the cultural identity since colonialism by its very nature seeks to wipe out indigenous culture and many see the statehood option as the death of Puerto Rican culture. The commonwealth supporters also vote out of fear of what independence might bring (since they have no experience being independent). While most independentistas stay clear of the whole process seeing it for the sham that it is.

Organic RICANSTRUCTED T-shirts
Organic RICANSTRUCTED T-shirts

In comes RICANSTRUCTED. My own small contribution to the erosion of these imperial games. There is no way in Puerto Rico or in the diaspora to let people know where you stand on the issue unless you speak to them about it. Even then, some Puerto Ricans won’t openly admit their feelings about independence because of both the intense prosecution and persecution that independentistas have faced over the past century of US colonialism in Puerto Rico, which has been extensive.

i’m looking to to try and change that with RICANSTRUCTED. Designers have used T-shirt’s as billboard’s for their brand. With RICANCTRUCTED the idea is not to sell the brand but to sell the idea’s behind the brand. It’s in fashion that many people define themselves, why not let them define themselves in a way that is has something to do with them instead of the designer?

RICANSTRUCTED is all about getting people to go into their closet to get them “out” about independence. To get them to feel comfortable about their desire for independence. Those who believe in independence for Puerto Rico can declare their independence with RICANSTRUCTED. There are other designers out their trying to do the same with their own designs and they have my support. The more people who come “out” of their closets to declare their independence, the closer we get to independence.

In the near future i’ll be using this space to post some of the new designs for 2011 our second year in “biz-mess” and talking about the concepts behind them. So stay tuned… or better yet subscribe…

– vagabond

Related blog posts
A Record Of Empire
Enjoy Colonialism?
FALN – Struggle Until Victory


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