Young Boricua & Proud

Date: 

Mar 6 2016

Location: 

Puerto Rico

Boricua artist Castorillo discusses the crisis, diaspora, and the enduring significance of the Young Lords Party for Puerto Rican social movements today using illustrations:

For the past couple of years, Puerto Ricans have been leaving the island and going (mainly) to the U.S. in search of jobs and possibilities. Choosing to stay on the island is a privilege that few of us have. Getting a job in Puerto Rico is very difficult, and when you have a job you are not compensated like you deserve in comparison with the work done. Work benefits are nothing but a dream for most part time workers. These conditions have once again created a phenomenon of mass migration to the States. It is very common that empires, in our case the U.S, exploit all the resources that they can from their colonies, whether they be economic, natural or human . The most academically prepared youth are often the first in line at the airport gates.

Recently, a Puerto Rican company started a public campaign focusing on the people that are still on the island called #yonomequito ( I don’t quit). Many people on the island have adopted this slogan as a call to stay on the island and innovate or as a moral imperative to nation build. To some, this is just another campaign of individual and not collective solutions. It’s not that people are quitting, it is that an unjust economic system is making us leave our land. And it puts us boricuas on two sides: those on and off the island. From the beginning of U.S imperialism on the island, migration has been a part of Puerto Rican’s lives. Various generations have gone to the U.S. and come back. My parents did that with their family in the 1970’s and because of that me and my sister were born in New Jersey (like The Boss) -- a fact that shocks a lot of the pro-Statehood people I know (I don’t know why, but whatevel).

The “Young, Boricua and Proud” series of illustrations I have created is a study of the people and aesthetic behind the Young Lords and their movement and I see a lot of parallels between their struggle in U.S. cities in the 1960s and 1970s and what young people on the island are trying to do today. From the beginning they caught my attention because of their campaigns. One of their most famous campaigns, “the garbage offensive,” included picking up the trash in their community that the municipality neglected to collect and then dumping it at city hall. I was also taken by their efforts to help poor boricua families being displaced from their homes by the government and developers. This is something that resonated with me here on the island because poor areas on the coasts and San Juan are facing this problem right now thanks to the colonial government preferences for the wealthy and foreign developers.

The Young Lords organization was based on the needs of their people and not on what they thought the people needed (something that we as a movement in Puerto Rico often fail to understand or don’t have the patience to do). Their occupation of Lincoln Hospital and free breakfast programs for children provided solutions to the problems Puerto Ricans in the U.S. faced as a result of poverty and exclusion, something that the comedores sociales (social lunchrooms) on the island are doing right now. Comedores sociales is a project that started in a couple of University Of Puerto Rico campuses as a way of feeding the students that couldn’t afford food or wanted a healthier option than the fast foods chains that the university offers. They exchange food for work, money, or bringing supplies for the next meal. For more information about the initiative: http://www.cdpecpr.org/#!inicio/mainPage

Learning about the Young Lords, I found it very beautiful how these young people, most of whom haven’t been to the island, felt this kind of pride and love for a place where they were not living. My series "Young, Boricua, and Proud," tries to capture my respect and admiration for this group of young Puerto Ricans in the diaspora and the lessons they continue to teach us about social justice and what it means to be boricua.

Here on the island we have politicians and big interests that are constantly destroying our nature, economy, and spirit as boricuas, and seeing the devotion for their people that the Young Lords Party and other diaspora organizations embody is empowering and inspiring. During the last couple of years, I’ve met comrades who have been politically active in the diaspora most of their lives and I see the same love and passion for the progress of Puerto Rico that I have. So maybe Corretjer was right, we are boricua even if we are born on the moon.

Full version of blog entry: http://latinostudies.duke.edu/arroba/pedro-lugo-3-16

Posted by elefanteblanco on

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