25 August 2006

Poverty Unseen

There is no poverty in Puerto Rico.

The house sits alongside a winding back-road. Slim trees surround it like a gap-toothed fence. The size and shape of a residential trailer, the house is made of wood, perched on short stilts. The wood is gray, untouched by anything other than water and wind. Warped, uneven planks give the illusion of being able to see inside.

The door has a diagonal cross-plank made of a different wood, a lighter, newer piece of scrap wood. At night, the door is closed and no hint of light peeks through the gaps. Under the rain, the house sits, a stiffened cat afraid to shrug.

There is no poverty in Puerto Rico.

A man lives in the gray, gapped house. He stands about five foot six, with a slight paunch and a full head of whitish hair. Several times a week, late-model cars park alongside the narrow winding road in front of the house, creating a traffic hazard. On those days, the man can be seen standing in the doorway, framed by a skewed rectangle, his visitors on the outside step, speaking earnestly or gazing away from the house.

There is no poverty in Puerto Rico.

Sometimes, the door is open and no one is parked outside. On those days, the man is often seated in a faded armchair, that once may have been yellow, beige or brown. On those days, in the two seconds it takes to drive by, one can see objects in the house, shapeless, nameless things that are neither furniture nor appliance. No light ever shines. No antenna or dish dot the roof. It seems as if metal were yet to be discovered.

There is no poverty in Puerto Rico.

The man may be mentally ill or emotionally disturbed. Judging by his visitors, he may be the latter, for he seems to dominate the small chats that pockmark his days. His skin is ruddy, but pale, the skin of an outdoorsman shrinking to shut-in. He never glances at the car that passes, he never leaves the house. None of the neighbors are sure of his name. Not even the Post Office knows what his address is.

There is no poverty in Puerto Rico.

Over the past decade, I've heard five people say that, without sarcasm, irony or shred of naivety. They mean it. They firmly believe that Puerto Rico has achieved the ideal state of sans poverty, the utopia of abundance for every man, woman and child becoming a reality in Our little corner of heaven.

The gray house a minute's walk from cement-laden $400,000 homes is thus an isolated exhibit of poverty, a tiny gallery of what once was, but is no more. An example of the past. A showcase of what We have overcome. A living diorama of nostalgic tragedy.

The gray house sits by many sides of many narrow winding roads, alongside paved streets in cities and towns, amongst farmlands and fields, near rivers, on lots owned by the government, in abandoned apartments, on the streets themselves and in places too awful for the overly-sensitive or willingly-blind to see.

There is poverty in Puerto Rico. There is too much of it, so much that even the most egregious examples are marked by indifference, if not outright denial. The gray house shelters a man Our system hasn't helped. Maybe it can't. Maybe it doesn't want to. Maybe the man would rather it didn't and the system--mysteriously--does his bidding.

Poverty exists, it is real and We can't deny it and make it not be. Some of Us try. None of Us should.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Decir que en PR no hay pobreza es muy similar a la afirmacion del presidente Bush cuando, luego de un ligero vistaso en Jet, pregonó a la comunidad internacional: "Mission Accomplished". Todavia soldados estan cayendo como moscas en el "teatro" de una mision disque exitosa que no parece tener fin.
Muchos de nosotros pasea de igual manera por la isla, por sus autopistas y carreteras principales con el atrevimiento de decir que "aqui no hay pobreza"

Para el año 2000 el censo calcula que en Puerto Rico un 48.2% de la población vivía bajo el nivel de la pobreza. Esto es digno de reobsevar: No un 10; no un 20 ni un 30... un bendito 48.2 porciento (WAAAAOOOO)!!! Eso es practicamente la mitad de la poblacion borincana.
Con esto Gil, no me refeiro solo a quienes que viven en condiciones infrahumanas, deposeidos a un nivel extremo, sino a aquellos otros que viviendo en ella, alegan con toda seguridad q NO son pobres.
Sí, tienen dish network -robao del vecino- un buen carro -que deben hasta el tuetano- y todos los años cambian los muebles -le deben el alma diablo-. Viven con un pie en la casa y otro en la calle, casi el borde del deshaucio.Seres que prefieren irse a quiebras o valerse de algun otro tecnisismo legal para mantenerse. Impera una mentalidad de "puedo coger cupones o alguna otra ayudita del gobierno".
Este es otro alarmante ejemplo de pobreza que los 'economistas' de cartón obvian al decir que la probreza en PR no existe. Quiza por que forman parte de esa patetica colectividad misma: Muchos vivimos de cheke en cheke, en trabajos donde se 'deja el pellejo' por un sueldo minimo(o cercano a el) y condiciones laborales no muy favorables que digamos. Estoy muy de acuerdo en que "Aqui no hay pobreza" es una frase basada en un falso concepto de lo que ella implica... urge expandir nuestra definiciones.