In this new installment of Epistemic Unruliness, James interviews Jason Ortiz, president of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda, to discuss the recent #RickyRenuncia Uprising in Puerto Rico. To place these protests in their long historical context, Jason and James transport the listeners to the island of Borikén, home of the Taíno Rebellion of 1511, and condense over 500 years of anticolonial movements in Puerto Rican history to a 90-minute conversation. The pair details the various iterations of U.S. colonialism that have ensnared Puerto Ricans in global political economic confrontations over the twentieth century as the Caribbean formed a microcosm of Cold War statecraft, with Puerto Rico and Cuba figuring as proxy theaters for Washington and Moscow’s war games. As the Iron Curtain fell and the new millennium dawned, Puerto Rican colonialism entered a reconfiguring phase with the near-collapse of global financial markets during the Great Recession of 2008 and the subsequent neoliberal austerity regimes it catalyzed. Hurricane María’s devastating landfall in September 2017 served only to amplify the material and political precarity of Boricuas caught in the dual maelstroms of the American Empire and the Anthropocene.
When a team of investigative journalists released a cache of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s homophobic, misogynistic, and classist chat messages in July 2019, Puerto Ricans seized the 500-year moment once again and initiated the #RickyRenuncia/#RickyResign Uprising. Nearly a million Boricuas took to the streets of San Juan, (and many more in la diaspora), staring down police tear gas canisters as they banged their pots and danced perreo to reggaeton and trap music, giving new life to the adage of Emma Goldman lore, “if I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution” (Si no puedo perrear, no es mi revolución).
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Full 889 page cache of Roselló documents from the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo
The New York Times interview with Colectiva Feminista en Construcción who organized the initial protests of the Uprising
Fernando Tormos-Aponte’s Jacobin article “Puerto Rico Rises”
Sandy Plácido’s historicization of Caribbean anti-imperialist movements in The Washington Post
Video montage of “Perreo Combativo” dance protest, July 25, 2019A