Puerto Rican artists living in the mainland criticized President Donald Trump's recent derogatory expressions targetting Puerto Rico. When tropical storm Dorian was threatening the island, according to initial weather forecasts, Trump turned to his favorite social network - Twitter - to complain about Puerto Ricans not being grateful for the federal assistance following the catastrophe caused by Hurricanes Irma and María in 2017, and shared his annoyance with the fact that another storm was threatening to impact Puerto Rico.
Trump recognized the work of FEMA officials and repeated that Puerto Rico "is one of the most corrupt places on Earth."
One of the first Puerto Rican artists to respond to the president was Marc Anthony, who published his reaction in Trump's Twitter account.
"Wow Mr. whatever you are. We all just read your DEMENTED tweet about my beloved Puerto Rico. Coming from a gruesome individual like YOU it makes perfect sense. Filled with corruption and incapable of managing a fully staffed HOUSE," said the artist who has always lived in the mainland, but recognizes the island as his homeland.
According to Trump, the U.S. Congress has already allocated $92 billion for Puerto Rico´s reconstruction and recovery after Hurricane María. However, local authorities estimate the amount that arrived on the island at $14 billion.
Precisely, singer-songwriter Tommy Torres reminded Trump yesterday of the $14 billion in his response on Twitter. Luis Fonsi also responded to the attack on the President's account. "So now you are you blaming Puerto Rico for hurricanes? You are an embarrassment," said "Despacito" singer in a tweet.
Others who analyzed the President's behavior toward the island were actors Ivonne Coll, Esaí Morales and Modesto Lacén. The three, based in Los Angeles, agreed that any derogative expression by Trump reflects a person plagued with racism, classism, and xenophobia that, in turn, represents and comes from a sector in the U.S.
Dismayed and indignant
Film and TV actress Ivonne Coll expressed deep indignation at Trump´s tweets about the island. She is also dismayed that there are Puerto Ricans in his party.
"It's an insult to all Puerto Ricans to suggest that it's our fault that hurricanes pass through the island. I bet you don't dare tweet something like that when a tornado passes through Kansas. I'm shocked that there are Puerto Ricans who are Republicans when that's the party of racism; it´s like rendering homage to white Americans who have no interest in Puerto Rico. I've lived in the United States for 45 years and I know what racism, ignorance, and rejection are. If Puerto Ricans vote for Republicans, they should be ashamed, because no matter how much you try to join them, you're never going to be part of them. How can you lower yourself trying to be accepted when our culture is older and richer than theirs," she says.
For Coll, Trump's attention to Puerto Rico through social media serves two purposes.
"All he knows is marketing and he knows how to sell controversy and divert attention from other problems like the ridicule made of the global climate issue. It's also to talk to the people who support him, the white Christian movement that voted for him because he promised them the conservative judges they wanted. He repeats the lie that he sent $92 billion to Puerto Rico when it doesn't even reach $14 billion. So, if we're such a big problem, let us go, give us that freedom, get out of here. You tie me up with the Jones Act and the Cabotage Rules and then you accuse me of being dependent. Several generations in my family served in this wars waged by this country. We gave this country more lives than any state. I went to sing for the Puerto Rican soldiers in Vietnam and saw the conditions in which the soldiers were there. It was a horrible thing."
However, given the political scenario between the island and the United States, the artist says the Puerto Rican people have to show wisdom.
"That Puerto Rican youth movement has inspired me so much. They haven't had the advantages we've had in previous generations and they've taught us a lesson in courage. They did it with conscience and pride. However, it is important to control emotions, to be logical to lead the island toward the best. We can't stay in the dance. We have to go over that and think beyond demonstrations. We cannot settle, we can change, and let me be clear that I am not a communist. I'm not interested in that system for my country. We can be democratic and independent, a capitalist and socialist society in terms of health and education because it's for my country and my people," says the artist, who is eager to come to the island to participate in the "people's assemblies" that take place after Ricardo Rossello's resignation as governor.
Esaí Morales won't get down to Trump´s level
Actor Esaí Morales, born in New York to Puerto Rican parents and with more than 35 years in film and television, both in the mainland and on the island, sees in the attacks, an opportunity to "elevate us as people with class, with spirituality and inner strength. I don't attack Trump because I'm not going to go down to his level. We Puerto Ricans can't let ourselves be provoked so easily. We have to focus on the renaissance of the political culture that Puerto Rico is experiencing, in which people have to take a close look at the intentions of those who are running for office, who want to honestly serve the people and not move their own interests. It is an opportunity to prepare for all types of hurricanes and to shake off insults. We are going to rise above what others say about us."
Morales, who is also the founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and a recognized leader of artists' unions in the mainland, added: "I don't want to spend energy on attacking Trump is already in disadvantage... because there are Puerto Ricans everywhere. What I fear is that a person with no character, who is not in full possession of his mental faculties, uses Trump's words as a reason to attack us Puerto Ricans in different ways."
Reflection of Trump's classist vision
Loíza actor Modesto Lacén said that "the President's behavior toward Puerto Rico is just another reflection of his racist, misogynist, classist, homophobic and xenophobic view of the world. And this is no small thing because it translates into public policy and an increase in discriminatory actions against minorities in the United States. As long as our politicians continue to ignore and diminish the value of his insults and disrespect, they will never live up to our people who this summer have taught a worldwide lesson in dignity."
For Luis A. Miranda Jr., a Puerto Rican activist living in the U.S. and founder and president of the Latino Victory Project in Washington, the tweets repeating false information about how much money was sent to Puerto Rico for recovery after María are not mere impulsivity, but part of a strategy of his re-election campaign.
Trump's attack on minorities
"Trump is the President of the nation and leader of the free world, but his re-election campaign is based on dividing the people, reviving the racist mass that makes up his support base. It's the people who follow him no matter who he attacks and what he says. He has to give them food, he has to feed them with hatred and with fear that the American society will become more open and pluralistic. The rest of the population keeps an eye on the nation's economy; if it remains stable they stay calm. But he goes on with the rhetoric that we're being financially supported, that we're looking at federal funds, and he tells his people, 'that's going to stop with me.”. That creates a sense that the economy is destabilizing. He has to keep attacking minorities even if they are his citizens. We Puerto Ricans and the mayor of San Juan have become part of the group he feels he has to attack."
Miranda Jr. is concerned about the possible consequences of Trump's tweets on the growing Puerto Rican diaspora community.
"This increases discrimination against us. It's what causes, for example, that a racist shot the Latino community at a Walmart in El Paso. That Trump is feeding it. For the average American, there's no difference between a Puerto Rican citizen or a Hispanic immigrant; we're all in the same pot."
He added that "when he attacks Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans on the island, he attacks us all, even if we are residents of the states. It makes us the target of radical racism. That's why in the diaspora we have to convince our people to go out and vote to get this villain out of the presidency. If the millions of Puerto Ricans who live in the states go out to vote, we can make history, we can change the electoral map."
However, the father of award-winning actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda knows that there are Puerto Ricans in the Republican Party. "To those Puerto Ricans who are Republicans and who are part of Trump's team, I can only say, 'shame on them.'"
However, the activist sees a change. "When you have Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, who belongs to Latinos for Trump, responding to Trump for attacking Puerto Rico in the middle of a hurricane emergency, you know something is very wrong."