Perspectives

Willie Colon, Goya, Jet Blue and the few others: Please, Spare Us Your Hypocrisy!

By Jamie Estades -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Jun 6, 2017 - 3:24:17 PM

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If you feel that you should not support Oscar Lopez marching during the Puerto Rican Day Parade, don’t do it ... just don’t celebrate the 4th of July, three weeks later ... be consistent. If you are against Oscar, you must also be against George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, James Madison, George Mason and many others.

These American patriots, once called “rebels” (synonymous of “terrorists” then), declared war and killed for the freedom of their country. The only difference between them and Oscar is that Oscar never killed anyone and they did; he was only willing to die for his country!

Ironically, Goya and Jet Blue will invest millions of dollars in advertisements during the 4th of July celebration ... and don’t be surprised if you see Willie Colon playing the trombone in one of them!

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Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, center, marches in a small parade in his honor in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood, May 18. Lopez, who was pardoned by former President Barack Obama in January, was freed from house arrest after decades in prison. The one-time leader in the Armed Forces of National Liberation, was honored with a parade and a street-way named after him as relatives of those killed in FALN bombings in the 1970s and '80s have criticized the moves to honor Lopez and cast him as a hero. Photo: AP/Wide World photos
Allow me one additional comparison regarding these patriots’ character. All of the American Founding Fathers mentioned above (except John Adams and Alexander Hamilton) were slave owners. They—after gaining their own political and economic freedom through violence—continued to enslave others and deprive those persons of the most basic survival resources while lynching and killing them any time after they attempted to free themselves.

Without exception, the 19th-century men and women who fought for the independence of Puerto Rico also fought for the emancipation of slaves.  Please, research Emeterio Betances and Ruiz Belviz, and compare their records on freedom and slavery to any American patriot like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, just to mention a few. You will find out that the Puerto Rican patriots were exceptionally better than you think!

The double standard expressed in recent weeks by both Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans regarding Oscar Lopez’ participation in the National Puerto Rican Day Parade is immense and astonishing. The lack of the most basic knowledge of not only the history of this country but also of the country of their ancestors is shocking. This historical amnesia has supported the rise of a neo-fascist like Trump, who violated every moral cannon and potentially several federal laws to become President of the United States. However, if any Puerto Rican leader rocks the boat of injustice, just a little, he or she may end up facing a grand jury!

I don’t care much about nationalism if it perpetuates the exploitation of working people and the have-nots. You fight for independence to make a better country for everybody, not a few. We have had our big “independentista” “hiccups” like José de Diego, who romanticized about the independence of Puerto Rico in his poems while working as a lawyer for American corporations decimating unions on the Island.  I bet that if Jose de Diego were alive today as a board member of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, like some actual Board Members, he would mourn Goya and Coca Cola’s departure as a lost opportunity to continue to accommodate himself.

Corporations did not create the Parade—it was built by working class Puerto Ricans with the cooperation of small businesses in our communities. Corporations came later to take advantage of the thousands of potential consumers observing and participating in the Parade. Those companies care only about people buying their products, not about our culture, socioeconomic status or the pain of racial and national discrimination. They came to make money—that’s how business works.  However, they crossed the line when, as Howard Jordan recently wrote in The NiLP Report, that they began dictating, “who should be our heroes and patriots.”

As the well-acclaimed and prestigious American historian, David McCullough, stated about the American Patriots: “When they signed the Declaration of Independence they were literally signing their death sentence ... and they knew it.” I respect the sacrifice that many did in the 13 colonies that later became the United States. If you respect the courage of those American revolutionaries, you must equally respect the courage of Oscar Lopez and many others around the world who have signed similar declarations with their blood for their countries.

This coming June 11, 2017, I will celebrate Oscar Lopez.

Jaime Estades is a lawyer and adjunct lecturer at Rutgers University and the founding president of the Latino Leadership Institute. He can be reached at jaimeestades@yahoo.com. This column was distributed by the National Institute For Latino Policy (NiLP Report).

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