After taking home the team gold at this year’s Olympics and getting to meet Beyoncé at MTV’s Video Music Awards, 16-year-old Hernandez is now turning heads on this season of “Dancing With The Stars.” But as mainstream acceptance grows, Hernandez is getting flak for, of all things, not being Puerto Rican enough. As The Undefeated pointed out in a recent piece on Hernandez, this kind of criticism has followed Laurie since she entered the spotlight, and it’s the same kind of criticism many first generation Latinos face.
Writer Sarina Morales points out one of the main reasons for this kind of negativity: “Either you’ve integrated yourself too much or not enough.”
Like many first generation Latinos, Laurie’s parents did their best to make sure Laurie didn’t have to struggle integrating into U.S. culture. This meant that they focused on her English skills, rather than her Spanish. This doesn’t mean they turned their backs on their Puerto Rican heritage. All it means is that they were trying do what was best for their child – and with a gold medal under her belt, Laurie is doing pretty good, all things considered. For the record, Laurie can speak Spanish, just not as fluently as someone who grew up in Puerto Rico. When asked if she gets criticized for her Spanish, Laurie confirmed, saying, “Yeah, I do.” Then adding, “It’s kind of, like, ‘fake’ Puerto Rican.” This kind of prejudice is sad, but if her track record is any indication, Hernandez will rise above and come out a champ.
On Wednesday, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans shouted “Ricky, renuncia!” as they marched through the streets of Old San Juan in its fifth and largest protest calling for the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
Early in the demonstration, Puerto Rican stars like Bad Bunny, Residente, Ricky Martin, PJ Sin Suela and more gathered in front of the Capitolio, where they held large Puerto Rican flags and signs that read “los enterraron sin saber que somos semillas,” and encouraged a roaring crowd to not abandon their fight. As the artists stood atop a white truck in the midst of protestors, activist Tito Kayak, who famously placed the Puerto Rican flag on the Statue of Liberty’s crown in 2000 in protest of the US’ presence in Vieques, scaled the flagpole in an attempt to remove the American flag. The crowd erupted in cheers, chanting “Tito, Tito,” showing that the protest in the US territory extends beyond the people’s grievances with their local government.
Bad Bunny took to the streets of Puerto Rico with his fellow Americans to protest a governor they want out of office.
Protests erupted on Saturday after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages of a private Telegram chat between the governor and some of his officials. The messages included profanity-laced homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic comments about female politicians, celebrities and protestors and hard-hearted jokes about the victims of Hurricane María. For the people of Puerto Rico, who were just rocked by a money-laundering scheme by its education and health leaders and endured repeated neglect and abuse by both its local and federal governments following the devastating hurricane, the chats symbolized the final straw.
As darkness fell on Wednesday, some of the celebrities spoke out.
“This government has to begin respecting the people. We can’t stop protesting,” Residente, born René Pérez Joglar, said. Later, Puerto Rican singer iLe, Residente’s younger sister, sang the original, revolutionary version of La Borinqueña, with demonstrators, holding their flags and fists in the air, joining her in song, belting, “Vámonos, borinqueños, vámonos ya, que nos espera ansiosa, ansiosa la libertad.”
By la Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion, tension sparked in the mostly-peaceful protest in the late hours of the night. Demonstrators, some throwing bottles of water and fireworks, busted through a barricade. Police fired tear gas, dispersing the massive crowd and angering local residents who allege officers discharged on empty streets where elders and youth in their homes struggled to breathe as a result of the smoke.
Other areas of the old city looked like a war zone, with officers chasing and shooting rubber bullets at protestors, trash bags blazing on cobblestone streets and the windows of graffiti-laden establishments shattering.
According to authorities, at least seven protesters were arrested during the protests and four police officers were injured. There is also an investigation into an officer who forcefully grabbed a demonstrator alleging she was trying to jump over a barrier, though footage of the incident later revealed she was not.
Motorcycles also thundered through the city early Thursday morning, as a protest caravan of thousands of motorcyclists, led by El Rey Charlie and reggaetoneros Brytiago, Noriel, and Ñengo Flow, traveled from Trujilo Alto to Old San Juan in a journey that captivated the island.
People on the island are relentless in demanding that their voices be heard.
“We won’t stop. The oppression is over. The repression is over. Ricky, resign or we will take you out because the people put you there and we are ready to remove you. We want you out,” El Rey Charlie, a beloved motorist on the island, told Puerto Rican network WAPA-TV.
Outside of San Juan, groups around the island also took to the streets. In the States, the diaspora and their allies similarly demonstrated in Orlando, New York, Miami, Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio and more, while international actions occurred in the Dominican Republic and Spain as well.
Despite the massive uprising, Rosselló has contended that he would not resign. The governor, who previously apologized for his “improper act,” said that he believes he could win over the people of Puerto Rico.
“I recognize the challenge that I have before me because of the recent controversies, but I firmly believe that it is possible to restore confidence and that we will be able, after this painful process, to achieve reconciliation,” he said in Spanish. “I have the commitment, stronger than ever, to carry out the public policy.”
The governor is desperately trying to get people to forget about the unacceptable and offensive conversations he was involved.
As Rosselló insists he would not step down, the president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, Carlos Méndez Núñez, has already appointed three lawyers to investigate the contents of the leaked chats to determine whether an impeachment process can begin.
Additionally, Puerto Rico’s non-voting delegate to Congress Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, who is a member of the governor’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party, has called for a meeting among her PNP colleagues.
There is no shortage of corruption that people want to get rid of right now.
“There must be an urgent meeting of the directory of @pnp_pr to discuss everything that is happening,” González-Colón said on Twitter.
President Donald Trump also took the opportunity to lambast the embattled governor as well as criticize the island, including the mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz, for corruption.
President Trump weighed in on the matter and used it to attack an island still recovering from the hurricane and the mayor of San Juan.
He continued: “This is more than twice the amount given to Texas & Florida combined. I know the people of Puerto Rico well, and they are great. But much of their leadership is corrupt, & robbing the U.S. Government blind!”
But for many protesters, the marches aren’t just about sending a message of indignation to Rosselló, but rather to all corrupt politicians on the archipelago as well as the colonial federal government. Protest posters illustrate Rosselló with Trump’s hair to compare the two abhorred leaders, while vandalism on concrete walls screams for the resignation of the governor, the fiscal control board and the island’s colonial ties to the U.S.
Today and tomorrow, the people say, the uprising continues, with demonstrations planned across Puerto Rico and its diaspora in the US and worldwide.
In 2016, a group of five young athletes went to the Summer Olympics in Rio Janerio with big dreams. There, the Olympians competed to be named the best in the world in their individual and group categories. Nicknamed the “Fab Five,” the women went on to earn silver and gold medals at the international games; proving that the gymnasts were the best of the best.
That same year, Laurie Hernandez — a member of the five — also earned gold on the TV dancing show, “Dancing with the Stars.” The athlete then focused her attention on the literary world. In 2017, she published her New York Times bestselling memoir, “I Got This,” and, in 2018, released her children’s picture book, “She’s Got This.” Hernandez even has a new hosting gig on “American Ninja Warrior” to keep her busy.
It seems that with every challenge she takes on, she succeeds.
Now the gymnast has her eyes set on 2020 and her next shot at Olympic greatness.
Twitter / @LaurieHernandez
Recently, Hernandez sat down with REFINERY 29 and shared her thoughts on power. Specifically, the Olympian explained what makes her feel powerful and what she does in those occasional times when she’s left feeling a little bit powerless.
Unsurprisingly, the athlete explained that she feels most powerful when moving and active. She discussed her workouts, saying:
“Sometimes it’s just gymnastics, but sometimes it’s doing other things, too — like cycling. But just testing how my body works makes me feel most powerful.”
Hernandez went on to elaborate that — to her — power isn’t just about physical strength. The Latina believes that power also lies in having a strong spirit and mind. She added:
“Gymnastics can be more mental than physical sometimes. So throughout training, going through different tests — whether that’s competing with a lot of people or just with yourself can build your mental strength. So, just learning how to calm myself down; I think that’s pretty powerful.”
The Olympic medalist admitted that it’s her relationship with her parents that brings her back when she’s feeling less than powerful.
Twitter / @Variety
Hernandez explained that even though she and her family are living on two separate coasts, her mom and dad are still the people she goes to when she needs a pep talk. She admitted:
“The first thing I do is reach out to my family and close friends. Sometimes I feel like they know me better than I know myself. Especially my mom and dad; they’ve been supporting me since day one. I feel like they have all the answers. Right now I’m training in California and my family is in New Jersey, so there’s a lot of FaceTime going on.”
Not only do her parents help her when she’s feeling powerless, but they are also her role models when it comes to strength.
Twitter / @OKMagazine
The Latinidad is very family-oriented so we can relate to this. Hernandez doesn’t just look to her parents to revitalize her when she feels powerless. She also considers them her examples when the athlete thinks about what power looks like. After asking if she could pick her mom and dad as her power icons in the interview, Hernandez continued:
“My icons are my parents. After having to raise three kids, they’ve gone through a lot of different struggles. My siblings and I have been able to do so much in our lives because we had a really good foundation. There’s only so much your parents can give you, and yet it feels like our parents really gave us the world.”
She went on to explain that the example that her parents provided her and her siblings early on setting them up for the rest of their lives.
“I think without that foundation and without the things they taught us when we were little, we wouldn’t be where we are today. They’re so kind to other people, and that’s something that I want to follow their lead on. So, they’re my power icons.”
Hernandez ended the interview by saying that her power anthem is Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Know” and it only seems too fitting because it looks like nothing can stop the Latina athlete from achieving her dreams. We will be rooting for more gold for the gymnast in her return back to competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
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