Life under colonial rule by the United States has come with a hefty price tag. The many failed U.S. policies has had a reverberating effect on the continual downturn of the Puerto Rican economy. One such policy was Operation Bootstrap, which gave corporations multi-year tax exemptions on net income generated on the island and then deposited into banks there but did not benefit Puerto Rico and it was not in their best interest. The U.S. firms did not incorporate Puerto Rican ones into their chains of production so revenue generated had a miniscule impact on the local economy. Instead, it entrenched Puerto Rico into a bankrupt model of dependent industrialization.
Colonialism is a perfect example of biopower (having power over other bodies), and it is in full display in Puerto Rico. Biopower benefits the colonizer—the United States—while enacting a structural and cultural violence against the colonized—Puerto Rico. Being a colony goes hand in hand with being subjugated to structural and cultural violence since the colonizer has different values over the colonized. Biopower helps shape many aspects in a society including how health interventions occur, how education is delivered, and how an economy is structured. A current example of biopower in action, is the U.S. financial oversight committee called PROMESA, which has extensive powers to bind Puerto Rico’s government, and is NOT subject to Puerto Rican control or oversight.
One cannot disregard the long-term impacts of colonial policies and hierarchies in Puerto Rico. Being a colony for such a lengthy amount of time has a way of conditioning society and its people into a false sense of belief that the current situation is something you just have to deal with. Partly, because previous efforts in the past to change Puerto Rico’s colonial status has not yielded positive results. When protests and dialogue do not work, people feel deflated by their fruitless efforts and without options. But there are options my fellow Puerto Ricans, as U.S. citizens living on the mainland, you have the right to take part in the American political process. For all of you who have reluctantly relocated to the U.S. after the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria, welcome to the U.S.A.! You can now vote! Not only can you vote but you can run for office! To quote the leader you were unable to vote for by being a resident of Puerto Rico, “this is huuuuge!”
Many of you did not want to leave Puerto Rico and have to uproot your family but the conditions in Puerto Rico made the decision for you. If you’re looking to gain control of your life again, help the remaining people left behind in Puerto Rico, and eventually move back to the best version of Puerto Rico, then you must get involved in the political arena. Now is your chance to create change for Puerto Rico. Change comes to Puerto Rico by changing the people in power in the United States. It’s time to use our strength of numbers and demonstrate that Puerto Rico is not just an island surrounded by “big water,” but rather by strong people with the power to vote in the U.S. The future of Puerto Rico depends on us, so let’s unleash our Puerto Rican power!