Once upon a time, when I was brave enough to publish under my own name, I wrote an article straight after accepting a fellowship to graduate school in upstate New York.
I was fresh out of a relationship with a young, up-and-coming leader of the Independence movement (and party) in Puerto Rico. He knew very little English, yet he was the one to convince me to go big or stay home when it came time to apply to graduate schools in the U.S.
The published piece received mild attention. And for about half a day engaged me in a heated discussion as to what pro-Independence looked like and sounded like on the island and abroad. Needless to say, it was a stark contrast and a very unpleasant experience.
One or two people accused me of writing irresponsibly by portraying the independentistas in a harsh light. Someone called me naive, stating things were even worse on the mainland. Mind you, this was before Trump.
All of them were right. There are as many kinds of revolutionaries and idealists as anything else.
Also, I was pretty bitter on the subject (which I considered to be dripping in patriarchy anyway). My relationship with independentista boyfriend was abusive. Privately I wrote very bad fiction about bearded men swigging beers and quoting Marxist axioms.
I learned there was a word for a person like me, someone who didn’t fit into their vision of what a Puerto Rican woman should be.
I thought, acted, reasoned as a Feminazi, according to his expert knowledge of human and class struggles. Seemed like every time independentista boyfriend wanted to win an argument, he’d whip out this word he knew got me boiling.
Imagine my surprise when I learned Rush Limbaugh coined the term.
When I remember how he would squeeze me until I could hardly breathe whenever I wanted to walk out in order to “calm me down,” the word seems perfectly apt for him. It suited him. This suited a man who lived under a regime his whole life but had never bothered to learn its language or consume its contents in any conscious way. This is how many Puerto Ricans on the island live; a case in point for insularismo. Look it up.
There is another word used often in Puerto Rican political shit-tossing parlance. It’s Melon. Yes, as in the fruit. See, the Independence Party of Puerto Rico is green. Statehood party is blue. Red party just loves living in limbo and keeping things as they are.
The difference between them? None, really. Truth is, they’ve been uniformly sucking the common people of Puerto Rico dry, perhaps as much as the United States. No, you can’t change my mind.
The melon’s color arrangement, then, becomes a symbol for outwardly expressing pro-independence ideals but inwardly perpetuating colonialism with acts running the gamut from the more practical voting; to increasingly inane things such as reading a certain newspaper.
So here we all are, some of us suffering on the island, others suffering on the mainland or elsewhere. But still suffering, missing our homeland and creating a community wherever we can. Meanwhile our island’s future is decided by the very same political parties that have bankrupted, polluted, and sold off what is ours.
I say, pick a machete and hack at that melon. There is no political party that can stop what is happening on the island.
Mi gente, they are selling off our birthright piece by piece. It is time to stand up and claim what is ours. Work hard and help ourselves regardless of political affiliations, place of residence or language acquisition.
Everyone who cares enough can do their share. Enough with the silent complicity.
Keep those faces sharpened and look for ways to contribute instead of highlighting all those things that make us different. Division among ourselves is what those larger interests are counting on: so choose to not give them the pleasure.