Puerto Rico, the Old Mistress

For my children, Alyssa Vera Ramos
And Wilfredo Ramos, Jr.

You were the brightest star in the Caribbean.
You enticed me with your beauty, with your place in the sea.
Perfect for our military base, what better place to protect the United States?
Spain ruled you, but I had to possess you. The Spanish American War?
That was for you.
When I blocked ships that carried food and medicine to you,
That was for you.
When my battleships bombed the beaches of San Juan and Guánica,
That was for you.
I sent the U. S. Calvary for you!
You know you wanted me as much as I wanted you.
When we invaded you in 1898, you met us at Guánica
And took us by the hand up the mountainous interior in the hunt for Spanish soldiers.
Spain gave you up in The Treaty of Paris of 1898.
Not even a good-bye kiss after four hundred years!
I would never give you up without a kiss.

Yes, I promised you freedom but that was just love talk.
Manifest Destiny! God given!
Besides, you had no experience in self-government.
I guided you! I was your teacher! I was your father!
The U. S. Constitution doesn’t apply to you.
Those promises are for others, who are not “Others.”
Who speak English not Spanish. Who think English not Spanish.
Trust me to know what is best for you like when I changed Puerto Rico to Porto Rico.
Trust me like when I bought your silver dollars for sixty cents a piece,
stuffed them into sacks, and shipped them to the United States.
It’s so nice when the coffers of the Treasury and the pockets of Americans are full.

Don’t blame me for your troubles. After everything I’ve done for you!
I made you part of my family in 1917! American citizenship for you!
Not because I wanted to send your sons to war or to America for cheap labor.
I changed your name back to Puerto Rico. See what I do for you?
I’ve driven away millions of Puerto Ricans from the island for you!
I’ve sterilized a third of the women on the island for you!
Don’t blame the U. S. Merchant Marine for your troubles!
You must have goods shipped to you, right? You must pay the price!
Why do you go on about how you
Had no debt when I came to rescue you from the Spanish?
You have debt now. Billions of dollars!
I didn’t do it all myself, I had help from island politicians.
Taxation without representation?
Why do you need representation? Don’t you trust me to make decisions for you?
I confess to confusion as to your ingratitude.
Why do you insist on Colony when Commonwealth is so much nicer?
You complain that you pay social security and Federal taxes, but can’t vote for president.
You don’t pay federal personal tax! See what I do for you?
Why do you need full Medicare coverage? The weather is so pleasant.
Why do you need jobs? Why do you need teachers? Why do you need doctors?
Sanitation? Electricity? Medicine? You want to restructure your debt?
That’s gratitude for you!
Your star has dimmed these hundred plus years.
Your physical attributes that first attracted me: the perfect climate, the unspoiled nature
That American companies spun into sugarcane plantations, no longer in service,
That American manufacturing replaced with factories, no longer in service,
Excite me less than the novel charms of Cuba.
But I will save you with PROMESA.
I’m your sugar daddy! I know what’s best for you.

Here speaks the daughter of Puerto Ricans
Forced into the diaspora, I am Boricua.
Trust me to know that I don’t need a daddy, sugar or otherwise.
I have mi madre patria, Puerto Rico.
Hear the song of the coquí? See my ancestors on my skin?
The heart and the pen prevail over might.
You’ve tried to erase me over a hundred years. Look around!
Soy Boricua.

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