Things That Matter

Tens Of Thousands Of Puerto Ricans, Including Bad Bunny And Ricky Martin, Call For The Resignation Of Gov. Rosselló At Massive Old San Juan Protest

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.

Credit: badbunnypr / Instagram

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.

Credit: badbunnypr / Instagram

“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.

Credit: elreycharlie / Instagram

“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.

Credit: @ricardorossello / Twitter

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.

Credit: @Jenniffer2012 / Twitter

“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.

Credit: @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

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.

Read: Here’s What You Need To Know About The Puerto Rico Uprising

Anti-Mask Tourists Are Traveling To Puerto Rico And The Island’s Residents Have Had Enough

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Anti-Mask Tourists Are Traveling To Puerto Rico And The Island’s Residents Have Had Enough

Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

Despite the pandemic that began impacting travel as far back as February, tourists never stopped coming to Puerto Rico. The island’s government has never restricted travel to/from the island and that has come at the cost of local health care systems and the safety and health of local residents.

This means that delusional anti-maskers from the mainland have been able to visit the island, disregard local rules regarding social distancing and face coverings, and put locals at risk. Now, as the island grapples with an explosion of Covid-19 cases, many locals are demanding the island shut down to nonessential travel.

Protesters in Puerto Rico are calling for an end to irresponsible tourism from the mainland.

In Puerto Rico, protesters have been calling for San Juan’s International Airport to shut down all nonessential travel, as tourists continue to vacation on the island despite rising Covid-19 cases and are often seen not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Ricardo Santos, who organized a protest and is a member of the Socialist Workers Movement, told Democracy Now: “We’re not backing down. We’re going to continue this caravan and this struggle, because this is a life-or-death situation, and this governor has not been addressing this issue. So, as we’ve done in the past, the people are going to take matters into their own hands.”

The move comes as many locals say that tourists come to the island with certain attitudes and disrespect local rules.

Whether it’s because they believe in silly conspiracy theories or complain that it’s ‘too hot’ to wear a mask, tourists without masks have arrived in droves to the island – where many locals see them as an extension of a long history of brutal colonialism. Many tourists to the island have little to no regard for the health or well-being of those who call the island home and they’re even less conscious of the fact that the island’s health care system is still in shambles since Hurricane Maria.

Although face masks are technically required in all public areas, few tourists seem to follow the guidelines. In fact, a fine of up to $5,000 can be slapped on anyone who isn’t wearing a covering on their mouth and nose. Not only are many tourists ignoring the rule, it’s often leading to violent confrontations.

A few weeks ago, a group of women visiting San Juan’s biggest mall allegedly retaliated against a Zara employee’s request that they wear masks by damaging at least $2,000 in merchandise.

Later in July, a man – a resident of the island but from the mainland – spat in the face of a grocery store worker who asked him to put on a mask.  In a video circulating online, the man said a security guard retaliated by hitting him with a golf club. The following day, a woman was reportedly physically struck after refusing to wear a mask in La Perla, the historic neighborhood that runs alongside Old San Juan, which has become a tourist destination since the 2017 video for Justin Bieber’s remix of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s runaway hit “Despacito” was filmed there.

Many local workers who serve the tourist economy said that visitors are irritated by the mandatory touchless temperature scan and hand sanitation policy. 

“They have attitudes when they get here,” one worker told the Daily Beast. “One said she was going to ‘die of retardation’ for taking her temperature. Another complained about the sanitizer: They said, ‘Ew, what is that?’” 

Tourism is big business for Puerto Rico – but many say now is not the time.

Credit: Jose Jimenez / Getty Images

Tourism in Puerto Rico is a $1.8 billion industry annually, and though the island never closed its borders, officials had announced a formal “reopening” date of July 15, when visitors were welcome to return. But thanks to rising cases of Covid-19, that ‘reopening’ date has since been pushed back a month to August 15.

To help facilitate the reopening, a new order will require all visitors show a negative Covid-19 test at the airport in order to enter the island, or be tested voluntarily at the airport by a National Guard team. The curfew, which was previously set to end on June 22, is still in place from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night. 

But for residents, none of this makes sense. Police have threatened Puerto Ricans with exorbitant fines and even arrest for being out past curfew. Alleyways that would usually be teeming with people dancing to live salsa were barren. Yet locals continue to see tourists step out the door of their Airbnb, hand in hand, no mask, to take in a sunset or grab something to eat. Locals feel like they’re on lockdown while visitors are on a worry free vacation.

Like many places across the U.S., Puerto Rico has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Ricardo Arduengo / Getty Images

As of July 29, the island has seen more than 16,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 211 people have died of the virus. These numbers have been rising in recent weeks as

Puerto Rico was initially praised for being one of the first U.S. jurisdictions to put drastic measures in place, such as implementing an islandwide curfew and banning cruise ships, as well as closing schools and all nonessential businesses, to avoid overwhelming the island’s fragile health care system in March.

But a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has coincided with Puerto Rico’s efforts to reopen nonessential businesses and tourist attractions. Over the past week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped by more than 1,000, while the number of probable cases increased by almost 1,300.

Puerto Rican Activists Are Leading The Fight For The Removal Of Colonial Monuments On The Island

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Puerto Rican Activists Are Leading The Fight For The Removal Of Colonial Monuments On The Island

Joe Raedle / Getty

As activists across the United States continue to rally behind the removal of Confederate statues and symbols of racism, many are doing their part to ensure monuments honoring those who led the genocide of Indigenous people are being toppled as well. In Puerto Rico, a similar call for the removal of such monuments are highlighting the current population’s fight to dethrone tributes to colonization.

In Puerto Rico (and other regions of the United States affected by Spanish colonialism) protests are pushing for the removal of colonial figures.

Statues, public plazas, and roads paying homage to colonizers like Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León can be seen all over Puerto Rico and areas of Florida. Historically both figures have been touted for being “explorers” but their cruel treatment of Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taíno people has only recently being examined. Historical evidence shows that, like other colonizers of the Americas, both men contributed to the near extermination of indigenous populations including Tainos. Columbus in particular is noted for having led a brutal regime that crushed and enslaved these populations.

Activists are speaking out about the statutes and monuments attributed to Columbus and Ponce De Léon.

“It is an act of violence to even have the statues in our homelands,” Elena Ortiz, chair of the Santa Fe Freedom Council of The Red Nation, explained in an interview with USA Today. “It’s not just the statue, but it’s what it represented: the celebration of our genocide.”

“[The conquistadors] brought with them not only these weapons of mass destruction but also the imposition of the Catholic Church and the imposition of a patriarchal government on peaceful matrilineal societies,” Ortiz went onto explain. “Those colonially imposed systems exist to this day, and have impacted generations.”

Across Puerto Rico statues of these historical figures have been toppled in protests responding to the current widespread call to end the support of police brutality and the oppression of minorities.

As USA Today points out, similar actions are taking place in Los Angeles and San Francisco where statues of Junípero Serra have recently been removed or destroyed by protesters. “Without liberation for all, there’s no liberation for any of us,” Ortiz concluded. “Every movement from Black Lives Matter, to defund the police, to tearing down these statues shows a deep, deep dissatisfaction with the state of the world right now.”