The Imaginary Nation

The Imaginary Nation

the imaginary nation

(for Rufina and Moises Santos and Lisa Sanchez González)

legal immigrant puerto ricans never needed
a green card or naturalization papers
based on the technicality of yankee colonialism
they never had to learn the pledge of allegiance
or salute the stars and stripes
until they were made citizens to fill the gaps
left in the trenches of two world wars,
the korean war and the conflict in vietnam
canon fodder immigrants with drafted second class citizenship
conveniently filed under the selective service negro regiments
dying in service to a country that allowed them
to fill two needs with one grave
that’s one less dead american and one more dead porto rican

puerto ricans never needed papers to come from a nationless nation
mocked by american billboards to lift themselves up
by their bootstraps in an operation to make them dependent
on the american made heel pushing down on their throats
it’s an effort to choke the dignity out of them
but all they ever spit up was broken american english
from the asthmatic factory sweatshop floors
careful not to get any spanglish on the pennies paid piece work
as they sat at a singer that sang a song of oppression
always catching that sweet but dirty puerto rican sweat
in the palm of their hand before it hit the white porcelain
toilet seats they cleaned or the pale tile floors they scrubbed

they never needed papers to be encouraged or coerced
to leave a country they couldn’t fully claim as their own
to come to a country that would claim them as unknown
this in-betweenness this not here and not here
and not over there either
this 500 year plus limbo and counting
this nationalist purgatory that requires an ongoing penance
this nation squeezed into the space of a colony
contained by a fake autonomy
this nationless nation smuggled across borders
in the minds and bodies of puerto ricans
this fractured indigenous european african passport
is unacceptable i.d. and so it must be fake
since it defies the social science mythology of race and nationality

papers? we don’t need no stinking papers
we carry an identity that defies classification
our papers are the deed to a current imaginary nation
looking to be a former colony
but the americans have camouflaged their imperialism
with puerto rican olympic teams pan american games
miss universe beauty pageants titles
and the classification of international flights to domestic territories
and holding opinion polls called plebiscites
rigged as american propaganda
while the world scratches its head trying to understand
how these americans have rewritten the old rules of imperialism
and risked allowing such facades
to be the glue for such political schizophrenia
never understanding that its spectacle for divide and conquer
never understanding that its port-o rican against puerto rican

then the americans hold up a defaulted bank note and say
you port-o ricans haven’t yet paid for the right to be decolonized
and puerto ricans hold up political assassinations and
political prisoners and fbi files and prisoners of war
as a receipt that the rent’s been overpaid by the tenants
who look to serve the absentee landlord of yankee imperialism
with an eviction notice but the paper for that is invalid
because there are no refunds on theft
and the eviction notice was written in a disappearing ink
because puerto ricans don’t need papers
to validate their invalidation
they come from a set of coordinates left in a racial geopolitical void
from a place that exists without definition
from a omitted chapter in history books
because they exist without a nation
they carry within their existence an imagined nation

they’ve lived like this for so long they’ve grown accustomed
to the contradictions of imagined nationhood
and on a sunday in early june they celebrate it
with a fervor unmatched by any real nation
they march that imagination up 5th avenue
driving it uptown against the traffic
while pulling a float of dancing girls
with a permit from the mayor and flashing police escort
waving a real flag for a symbolic nation
parading the pride of their imagination as evidence to the world
that they have found a visceral way to exist
within this ether of colonialism
without a tolerance for the absurd or a propensity for the surreal
or a sense of humor about the nakedness
of an empire that wears no clothes
puerto ricans would’ve been a past tense without a future

but this blessing is a difficult poison to swallow
when they ask you for the claim check ticket
for the imaginary nation left in a parking garage
that only puerto rican parking lot attendants have access to
when they ask who was your mother and who was your father
and where’s your grandmother
and show me on the maps of nations where it is you’re from
when they ask to see the invalid papers
they’ve forced you not to carry
to validate your unrecognized existence

– vagabond



6 thoughts on “The Imaginary Nation”

  1. Pingback: Efrain Ortiz Jr.
  2. Wow! That was very insightful…and I agree with it. After having lived on this island for twenty-two years, I believe independence is the way to go forward….but it is their decision…they, and only they, hold the power to change it. And they DO have that power…

  3. Much thanx for the kind words… And you’re right… If only more Puerto Ricans understood that they have the power to take their independence then Puerto Rico would be the better place that it should have always been…

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