Vieques is a small island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico that was used for decades by the US military as training ground. For 200 days out of the year war games were played in Vieques with live ammunition much to the consternation of the over 10,000 Puerto Ricans who call Vieques home. In 1998 the NYC based Puerto Rican Hardcore Punk Band RICANSTRUCTION was invited to play a Kick The US Navy Festival Out in Vieques, Puerto Rico. i decided to bring a camera along to document the trip but had no inclination to make a documentary.
When we got back from Vieques we found that many people really didn’t know what was happening in regard to the destruction of the environment, the pollution, the depleted uranium shells, the unexploded ordnance, the high cancer rates, or any of the other long list of abuses by the US military in Vieques. So we decided to look at some of the footage i’d shot to see if a documentary could be put together. At the end of March 1999 we finished a short 25 minute punkumentary and decided to call it RICANSTRUCTING VIEQUES. A few days later on April 19th David Sanes Rodriguez, a civilian Puerto Rican guard was killed in an accidental bombing. A F18 fighter jet dropped a 500 lb. bomb too close to his guard post. His death sparked a global movement to end war games on the island of Vieques.
The people of Vieques led a protest in which they occupied the bombing ranges of the US military effectively becoming human shields. International media began to pay attention to the plight of Vieques and semi-permanent encampments began to spring up in the bombing zones. Celebrities and politicians began to take notice of the struggle and began to lend not only their voices but their bodies to the movement. Famous Puerto Rican singers Danny Rivera, Robi Draco Rosa and Ricky Martin, lent their support, Puerto Rican boxer Félix “Tito” Trinidad, writers Ana Lydia Vega and Giannina Braschi, actor Edward James Olmos and Guatemala’s Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú supported the cause, as did Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Al Sharpton, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Even Pope John Paul II mentioned that he wanted peace for Vieques.
After many years of protests, occupations of the bombing zones and violent skirmishes with law enforcement, the US military relented and pulled out of Vieques on May 1st of 2003. Today marks ten years since the US military pulled out of Vieques but the struggle is far from over. The unexploded ordnance and depleted uranium and other environmental damage has yet to be cleaned up and the land that was once used by the US military is still off-limits to the people of Vieques.
This May Day is the ten-year anniversary of the US military leaving Vieques. In honor and remembrance of that struggle i’m re-releasing RICANSTRUCTING VIEQUES on the internet so people can begin to have an understanding of how destructive the US military was in Vieques and how it continues to be with the lack of clean up. As i write this i’m back in Puerto Rico and heading out to Vieques this May Day once again to try to document the ongoing struggle to get the US government and the US military to clean up the mess it left behind, so stay tuned for the follow up and in the meantime check out the punkumentary RICANSTRUCTING VIEQUES…