Rufina Santos Mateo Birth Certificate by vagabond ©

The Imaginary Nation

Rufina Santos Mateo Birth Certificate by vagabond ©

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 dirty puerto rican sweat in the palm of their hand

before it hit the white porcelain toilets 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 porto rican against puerto rican

then the americans hold up a defaulted bank note and say

you porto ricans have not yet paid for the right to be decolonized

and puerto ricans hold up political assassinations and prisoners of war

as a receipt that the rent has been overpaid by the tenants

who wish to serve the absentee landlord of yankee imperialism an eviction notice

but the paper for that receipt 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 misunderstood chapter in history

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 have 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 parked in a garage only puerto rican parking lot attendants have access to

when they ask who was your mother and who was your father

and where is 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 have forced you not to carry

to validate your unrecognized existence

– vagabond


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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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