This was originally written after Maria hit with a link to a fundraiser to help my grandma. The fundraiser was successful and I was able to send her care packages and eventually visit her about a year after the hurricane. So, thank you very much if you read the original post and shared/donated. My grandma is alive because of your help.
Note: stroked through text is no longer applicable. I just did not want to delete it.
I had hoped my first post here would have been an introductory one, but circumstances have made it so this one is my first instead.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Puerto Rico (along with the USVI and other Caribbean islands) were devastated by Maria. Northeastern Puerto Rico was recovering from Irma which hit them two weeks prior. This time, however, all of Puerto Rico was hit.
You’ve probably never heard of Cabo Rojo. That’s because most people are only aware of our capital, San Juan, and the surrounding metro area. Which is understandable but in cases like these, Cabo Rojo and the rest of southwestern Puerto Rico get forgotten. Joyuda and Puerto Real are coastal communities in Cabo Rojo and many homes and businesses were wiped out due to Maria. Since Cabo Rojo is more rural and isolated some places are still without power, water and food is becoming scarce. Over 50% of Cabo Rojo’s wooden houses were destroyed.
My grandma lives in Cabo Rojo. After Maria hit, I didn’t hear from my family for almost a week. After what seemed like the longest 6 days of my life, I finally got through to my older brother. During the storm, grandma fell and broke her hip. She is 80 and in declining health. She needs surgery. Puerto Rico was already in a precarious situation before the storm and things for my family and many others will only get worse. I originally started the fundraiser so I’d have something to send once I knew what help was needed. However, now this money will go to medical bills as well. My mother is going to Puerto Rico to help and figure out what we’ll do. I suspect that grandma will need to come over here for her care. Our town is without power; the hospital she’s in running on a generator.
So, let me tell you a little about my hometown:
Cabo Rojo translates to Red Cape, its name derived from the reddish color of Las Salinas; the salt flats. According to local legend, our town got its name from Cristóbal Colón (you know him as Christopher Columbus). Cabo Rojo is home to the Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge and Los Morrillos Lighthouse , known locally as El Faro, which was first lit in 1882.
Some famous Caborrojeños include:
Ramón Emeterio Betances (April 8, 1827 – September 16, 1898)
Doctor, surgeon, abolitionist, poet and diplomat, he was called El Padre de la Patria and El Padre de los Pobres. Along with these he was also considered the Father of the Puerto Rican Independence movement, because he was one of the instigators of El Grito de Lares, the first revolution against Spanish colonial rule.
Salvador Brau y Asencio (January 11, 1842 – November 5, 1912)
Brau y Asencio was a journalist, novelist and sociologist. He was named Commissioner for the Provincial Deputation so moved to Spain to investigate more about Puerto Rico’s history. It was there he uncovered several writings concerning the Taíno people, their way of life and how harshly they were treated by Spanish settlers. Eventually he would be named Puerto Rico’s official historian by American-appointed governor William Henry Hunt.
Rebekah Colberg (December 25, 1918 – July 8, 1995)
One of my favorite historical women, Dr. Colberg broke barriers and won gold in discus and javelin throwing at the 1938 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the games celebrated in 1946 she won gold in softball. While attending Columbia University, she was part of the school’s field hockey and lacrosse championship teams. For her contribution to sports she would eventually be considered the Mother of Women’s Sports in Puerto Rico.
Cabo Rojo boasts many beaches, including El Combate (The Battle) so named for a fight between Caborrojeños and the people from the neighboring town of Lajas. It was in that fight that Caborrojeños earned the nickname “mata con hacha” (kills with axes) because they wielded axes as weapons. Along with El Combate beach, there’s Buye, La Playuela and my favorite Boquerón, among many others.
This is just a bit of my town’s history. And I hope you enjoyed it and the pictures I shared. I love Puerto Rico and I love my hometown, which while I wasn’t born there, I will consider my hometown or ciudad natal, over NYC. (Though technically I’m a Nuyorican, a Diaspora Puerto Rican born in NYC.)
Sería Boricua aunque naciera en la luna. I’d be Boricua even if I had been born on the moon.
They said the people who supported him were fringe elements, just a bunch of extremists without popular support. Rabble-rousers making up the audience of beer halls; a bunch of drunk fools getting into trouble. Just a bunch of children.
His book was a bestseller.
His explicit hate and racism was said to be just for show. Not genuine, but just a way to gain the masses trust and attention. Interesting how no one considered what the fact that such hate would gain the trust of the masses actually meant.
No one thought he would make it very far in politics. He was a joke. There was no way he would actually win.
When he did, the whole world looked at the electors in shock, confusion, and a sense of horror. No one thought he would win.
Even after he won, no one thought he was really a threat. No one believed that he would actually manage to achieve his horrifying promises. It was all just rhetoric they said. He was too incompetent. He was too weak.
When armed resistances started up, protesting and threatening violence against any who spoke against him, it was excused as the childish antics of angry young men. Not a representation of what they really thought, but just a manifestation of the anger they felt at being disenfranchised by bad economic times.
The rise in vandalism and violence was excused as childish antics and not an indication of how they really felt.
The world mocked him. Comedians at the time drew attention creating caricatures of him as a bumbling angry clown with a funny appearance.
Thinking back to high school, it was not uncommon for students to ask “Why do we have to learn this? When am I ever going to use it?”
It’s not an unfair question. In Ontario, every university degree demands a grade twelve university level English credit as a pre-requisite. If you are planning on studying mathematics, what’s the point in reading Shakespeare? How do the works of Charles Dickens or Jane Austen assist someone who plans on spending their whole lives working in a lab? Or a cubicle?
In the last few months, in the torrent of emotions being experience in regards to the events of the US election and it’s follow up, one of the most frequently encountered is disbelief. In the face of all the denial of the primaries and later the election proper, everyone is trying to process how this could possibly have happened.
Laments are taking place on twitter, on Facebook, and other social media. People are trying to parse how deal breakers have suddenly stopped being deal breakers. How certain words, behaviours, and symbols have suddenly become commonplace when we remember when they were once considered vile and worthy of disgust.
On the one hand, I understand the shock, the disbelief. It’s one thing to know that things are not as great as they seem, to know how much bigotry is insinuated into the society we live in, grow up in, gain our morals in, but it is another to face the glowing orange symbol of it. On the other hand, however, there is a part of me that wants to yell at all the people crowing their disbelief: “We tried to warn you! We fucking told you this would happen and you mocked us and called us children.” Continue reading “We Tried to Warn You: We’re Still Trying”→
Every day seems to bring a new terrifying development in the Orange PEOTUS’ Cabinet of Horrors. Between white supremacists being appointed to important positions by a man calling for the registration of minority religions, climate change deniers being appointed to oversee the environment, and anti-vaxxers being put in positions to determine the safety and implementation of vaccine regiments it can be overwhelming in trying to decide which problem to address first.
Meanwhile different factions are calling for the Cheeto-in-chief’s detractors to tone down their opposition in the interest of cooperation.
I’m scared, and I’m not the only one. Even as I do my best to draw attention to the terrifying rhetoric and the distressing similarities between the events leading up to the holocaust and the current events, I hope that I’m wrong. I spend much of my time wishing for me to turn out wrong. But even as I desperately hold on to the idea that maybe it won’t be as bad as we fear, there is one area in which I am already being proven right.
The next four years are already showing themselves to be potentially fatal for one specific vulnerable population: the disabled.
It didn’t start with the concentration camps. It didn’t start with gas chambers and the ovens.
It started with existing racism. Anti-Semitism was widely pervasive in Europe, North America, anywhere where Jewish people existed really before the Nazis came to power. Even after they did, many countries refused Jewish refugees the right of entry. Many established restrictive quotas regarding how many Jews would be allowed to enter the country in a given year. This included both Canada and the United States.
When Hitler was rising in the political wing of his party, he seized onto that existing racism to propel him into power. He used the fear of the stranger, the fear of the other and the unknown. He used Jewish people as a scapegoat for all the misgivings and problems felt by post-Great War Germans. There was all sorts of propaganda spread around, including rumors that Christian babies were kidnapped and used to make Matzo. Rumors of how they used their access to gold to corrupt governments and control institutions. Access to gold that was granted to them when money lending was deemed an unchristian profession and best left to Jewish people. Continue reading “It Didn’t Start with the Camps”→
For as long as people have been talking about social justice online, there have been people, trolls really, who make a point to argue, harass, and otherwise engage in actively hateful and bigoted behaviour. This has been the case in every online community I have been involved with: the feminist community, the atheist community, disability community. There is always someone prepared to defend the vilest behaviour you can think of. If you are a representative of these communities: a Person of Colour, a Trans Woman, a Disabled Person, if you are a member of some minority, the number of people who target you in particular escalates.
The sheer number of people committed to spreading hate has made places like the comment boards on Youtube a place to be avoided. Many magazines and blogsites have closed their comment sections. More than one writer, activist, organizer, and so forth has been forced off the internet as a result of death threats, threats of rape and violence, dealing with a constant barrage of slurs and hatred, and even having their private information released to the public.