13 May 2011

Being "Latino"

I created a Paper.li "newspaper" called Puerto Rico Now(ish), through My @gilthejenius Twitter handle. You can find it here.

Several days ago, there was an article about statehood for Puerto Rico, on the online magazine known as Being Latino. You can find it here.

I made a comment that took the article to task, with 6 links to Jenius posts dating back to 2005. (Should I point out that Being """Latino""", aside from using a nonsensical term in its title, is only 2 years old? Then again, I'm "The Jenius," right? Six years and counting...) The comment was rejected because the links were treated as spam. Website policy, as the editor Libby Vázquez pointed out to Me when I called them "cowards" for not allowing the comment. She clarified the rejection and invited me to submit a response. Libby even sent Me the submission guidelines.

I wrote My response by editing the 6 posts to fit within a 500-word limit and divided My piece into three parts. Going back to Being Latino, I noticed that a Ms. Mercedes Lebrón--a name that could ring a bell related to the town of Arroyo--had asked about My potential comment. I goosed the issue and received a response the next day, from Ulises Silva, via Libby Vázquez

The response is too long. It doesn't merit a three-part, three-week segment, especially since many of the things it raises are opinions. There's little substantiation of the claims and assertions being made, which makes the piece sound like a soapbox speech than a balanced response to Julio's piece. The claims need to be backed up with the right links to references. This could work if the response is shortened to one 500-word piece (as opposed to three), and if it includes more references.

My response?

Fair enough. I don't work for you, so I can take my words and work and place them elsewhere. Thank you.

Am I showing an attitude here? Good. I may be trying to become a "nicer, kinder Jenius," but the bottom line is I don't suffer fools, Fools or stupid ideas. At all.

So here's My distillation of previous posts, whittled to fit the 500-word limit Being """Latino""" endorses for publication on the site:

By Gil C. Schmidt

Bio: I lived almost 20 years in the U.S., spanning states from Nebraska to Texas to Mississippi. My appearance and name are those of a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the proverbial W.A.S.P. But I was born in Puerto Rico, a fourth-generation Puerto Rican and have lived on the island continuously since 1987. You can find more of my writings about Puerto Rico at Gil The Jenius: http://gilthejenius.blogspot.com

By Gil C. Schmidt

Understand this: the U.S. will not grant statehood to Puerto Rico. Ever. It is not a “right” Puerto Rico has earned, it is not a “debt” the U.S. has to pay and it is not their "obligation" to take on a nation (a concept many Puerto Ricans shamefully deny we have) as part of their republican federation because of a simple reason: it is their house and they can say who comes in and who doesn’t.

Statehood for Puerto Rico is not going to happen for three unimpeachable reasons: 1) Ethnic and economic differences, masked or open; 2) History has spoken and 3) Under domestic and international law, the ultimate decision is not “theirs”: it’s ours.

Ethnic and economic differences: The average American doesn’t know about or care a thing for Puerto Rico. But you can bet that their ignorance will quickly change to expertise based on a single issue: We are not like them. To the average American, we are not Americans. We are outsiders. Strangers. Parasites even. For though the U.S. was founded on humanistic ideals and principles, in fact, the ideals and principles are often expressed as “If you ain’t one of us, you don’t count and we don’t want you.” Ask Arizona.

For statehood, the procedure says that 38 States have to approve. It’s easier to find 38 States to vote against Puerto Rico. First off, none of the 9 Southern states (Louisiana to Kentucky/North Carolina) would approve. If you have to ask why, you’ve obviously never lived in those States.

Large Western states, like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are famous for having a strong sense of freedom, “America First” sentiment and an array of militia radicals. They’ll vote NO with nary a split-second’s thought. That makes 12, so Puerto Rican statehood is finished.

But to make the point clearer, take your pick of almost-certain “No” votes: New England states that are as ultra-conservative as the winter is long or some of the other 21 States that would see their comparatively small representation overwhelmed by Puerto Rico’s in the House of Representatives, where the number of votes is based on population, not State seniority.

Furthermore, unlike the Senate, which could rise to 102 Senators, Puerto Rico’s five "representatives" would be taken from high-population states, namely California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois or Pennsylvania. These states have high Hispanic minorities, but would these states allow one of their “voices in government” to be given to a fledgling state with a comparative poverty level that makes Mississippi look like Monaco?

And let’s not ignore the question of race. It matters. It matters a lot. Maybe 50 years from now, when the majority of the population of the U.S. is non-white, maybe it won’t matter as much. Or then again, it will, as the difference between “Them that have” and “Them that don’t” could very well make the race issue seem trivial by comparison. But for now, it’s a deal-breaker, whether it’s carried out openly (“English only”) or quietly.

Puerto Rico: Never a State – Part Two                           [499 words]
By Gil C. Schmidt

Statehood for Puerto Rico is not going to happen for three unimpeachable reasons: 1) Ethnic and economic differences, masked or open, covered in Part One; 2) History has spoken and 3) Under domestic and international law, the ultimate decision is not “theirs”: it’s ours.

History has spoken: Oklahoma, 1907. New Mexico, 1912. Arizona, 1912. Alaska, 1959.  Hawaii, 1959.

Puerto Rico has been the property of the U.S. since 1898. Three States were added since the Spanish-American War to form the contiguous 48. The addition of non-contiguous states happened once, for Alaska and Hawaii, 61 years after Puerto Rico became war booty.

To complete the nationalization and permanence of the territorial limits in geopolitical terms, essentially, to make everybody belong to the same government, it made perfect sense to add Oklahoma (in the central portion of the country) and Arizona and New Mexico in the southwest (on the border with Mexico.)

Adding Alaska, a landmass equal to roughly 25% of the entire "lower 48", and Hawaii, a Pacific sinecure, also made sense, as both were long-held territories where American interests were ripe for development. In the case of Alaska, it turned into federal reserves; in Hawaii, tourism-related development.

So, if Puerto Rico were to ever become a State, it is clear that post-1898 decisions about statehood have shown what the basic criteria are for being invited:

1) Political expediency, i.e., the forging of a potentially stronger geopolitical unit, or…

2) Economic enhancement.

Do we satisfy either or both of them?


Are we being invited?

No and no and no.

By 1959, we were already being plucked by American interests and as they say in my neck of the woods: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? There's no doubt the U.S. makes tons of money off of Puerto Rico, so statehood is really not an economic enhancement for them and in fact, it is widely portrayed and considered as either a mistake that leads to carrying welfare freeloaders or a bottomless pit of economic rehabilitation expenses. Usually both.

So what about political expediency? Well, check out point #1 above. We're not Anglo-Saxons. Or Protestants. Or native English speakers. Or descendants of the same parts of Europe that they are. Toss out all that as a unifying factor. We are way south of the border, and unlike Alaska, we are tiny with no natural resources and unlike Hawaii, we don't occupy a strategic location under U.S. interests. We did in 1940; we didn't by 1945.

If Puerto Rico--in the eyes of its political owners--were deemed worthy of statehood, it would have been decided between 1912 and 1945, when our economy was nonexistent, the potential for American investment was very high, our strategic location could have been considered vital, our population small enough (and in their eyes, malleable enough) to absorb and the "lower 48" were a unitary done deal. That it didn't happen then means it isn’t going to happen at all. Ever.

Puerto Rico: Never a State – Part Three                        [500 words]
By Gil C. Schmidt

Statehood for Puerto Rico is not going to happen for three unimpeachable reasons: 1) Ethnic and economic differences, masked or open, discussed in Part One; 2) History has spoken, as per Part Two and 3) Under domestic and international law, the ultimate decision is not “theirs”: it’s ours.

3) The law says the ultimate decision is ours: During its 8th session, the U.N. General Assembly recognized Puerto Rico's self-government on November 27, 1953 with Resolution 748 (VIII). This removed Puerto Rico’s classification as a non-self-governing territory under article 73(e) of the U.N. Charter.

Puerto Rico held its plebiscite concerning a new constitution in 1950. The constitutionally-based commonwealth was inaugurated on July 25th, 1952. However, the U.N. recognized Puerto Rico's self-government in November 27, 1953.

Neither domestic nor international law recognizes a right to a plebiscite before a transfer of sovereignty. In short: In 1950 we weren’t empowered to choose our status.

Up until that day in 1953, we were not considered self-governing. Under domestic law (Supreme Court and Congress), we were “an unincorporated territory,” and as such, were not guaranteed anything by the U.S. So the process between the U.S. and Puerto Rico that led to the commonwealth "experiment" was not, as the pro-commonwealth party has always insisted, a deal between equals, it was merely a hand-me-down fait accompli between a sovereign nation and its territory.

Therefore, if according to international law we stopped being a colony in 1953, then we have to face up to certain truths:

--As a self-governing territory, it is up to us--and no one else--to make the focused effort to establish our permanent status. And by “us” I mean the Puerto Ricans who live, work and own property here, not “weekenders” waving our flag a couple of times a year during some New York parade.

--The only binding plebiscite the U.S. can offer—and never has--is a Congressionally-mandated referendum wherein Puerto Rico can automatically put into motion whatever ultimate status the voters choose. No such offer is being made now and won’t be: the fear of pledging itself to grant statehood to Puerto Rico is not something any U.S. politician wants to see looming ahead. Puerto Rico cannot force Congress to do this and Congress simply cannot be forced on this issue. History proves it.

I think it is way past time that we moved beyond all this statehood fantasy. For deep down, it isn’t a matter of pride, heritage, history or anything equally lofty: it simply boils down to a matter of money. They have it, they know many Puerto Ricans want more of it, and they don’t want—or have—to share it. On that basis alone, the U.S. will continue to reject seriously considering any Puerto Rican request for statehood.

And they should. Because we can do better.

Except that most of us don’t believe—or don't want to believe—that.

Not becoming a state is not Puerto Rico’s loss; not knowing how to be ourselves is.

Opinion? A good part of it, yes. Soapbox? I'd say so, definitely. References are there, mostly of historical veracity. But does merely placing quotes around a statement that is largely opinion  suddenly turn it into fact? Example, from the Being """Latino""" article itself: “We want to offer a solution, because the bottom line is that no matter what the White House Report says, it still does not go far enough to deal with Puerto Rico’s ambiguous state,” (Rafael) Rodríguez added. “We want to highlight Puerto Rico’s economic status, once it is released from its current status that is hampering that potential. We want to send a clear message for folks to understand.”

Maybe I should resubmit the articles with quotation marks around certain statements, right? 

But why bother. Being """Latino""" is what it is. However, it will be interesting to note what direction this sterile (113 years and counting; Ulises can look up a reference himself) statehood "effort" takes within the nuanced pages of Being """Latino""". Maybe. 

Wake Me up if they make it to 6 years. And counting.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

[Update: 10 February 2012: For those pseudo-intellectuals that took Me to task for implying and stating that the "American" feeling for Puerto Rico was wrapped in racism, here's the Tea Party phrase of what statehood for the Island would be: "...a Trojan Horse for the Hispanicization of the United States." Read that phrase again and see if there's any positive angle, any form of acceptance of Puerto Rico or Hispanics at all. Then bite Me.]


Prometeo said...

You take your time to write one of the best analyses on the subject and they just dismiss it because it was too long. Envy or editorial censure?

Nice work. I learned something today.

juliorvarela.com said...

Gil, as the original author of that blog post, I am more than happy to run you post on my personal blog http://juliorvarela.com


Ms. Conciencia said...

Bravo! for you and Boo! for the "Being Latino" people. This post is a real most-read! in the political field in PR.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Prometeo, I understand publications have certain standards, or styles, and that they try to be consistent. I'm okay with that. They presented a quote-based article and wanted a quote-based or source-based article back. But I also now that if a publication receives FREE content, it can become the basis for big benefits (readership, eyeballs, etc.)

Now maybe Ulises thought My piece, though free, was not worthy of the website. Judgment call and I don't need them either. But notice the comment under yours and THAT'S the reaction I expected.

Julio, I have answered your invitation with a hearty "Yes," and sent you the post by e-mail. For those interested in a sober-but-flexible forum, check out http://juliovarela.com, where much more than politics is discussed in a very thoughtful manner.

And Ms. Conciencia, I think We can chalk one for Our side, right? Thanks for being on My side!

Raul Colon said...

I left a message earlier and it did not post so here it goes again. Being latino has a closed structured they are far from where they could be. The people managng it act like gatekeepers and try to act like snobbis bosses when you bring a different idea. I wrote three articles and decided that I did not need the fullt tme free gig.

Especially when the traffic that came to your site whas near to non existant.

Julito is like my cyber brother and you are someone i admire I am glad that you will be publishng on Julito's site yo will get better exposure on his site.

Great job on speaking up Gil and count with my support.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Thank you both, Raúl and Julio, for the support. There's definitely more to come from all of Us!

Kofla Olivieri said...

Very well said, excellent writing. Saludos!

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Thank you!

julito77 said...

OMG, Gil! I never knew about the original bs. I am no longer associated with Being Latino and the only reason I had written that original article was to expose the silly strategy of the statehooders. The purpose of it was to get people on the island pissed and it did. I would hope that you know that my blog covers the full gamut of Puerto Rico and you are one of my favorite fellow PRican bloggers out there. I don't even think we knew each other when I wrote this for BL! Raul just posted this out today on FB and I saw it. I would still like to run it as is on juliorvarela.com or latinorebels.com since it makes so much damn sense. Small world! LOL Abrazos, Julito

julito77 said...

By the way, Gil, I do hope you know that I had interviewed that guy as a journalist and let his words speak for himself. I thought he was a dolt and just wanted him exposed. How did I never see this post by you? It is awesome.

julito77 said...

Coño, Gil, estoy haciendo demasiado. Lo que haré es publicar los tres blogs en mi blog comenzando este fin de semana. Disculpa por no haber contestado antes. Lo de Fortuño como VP mi tiene loco.