“Somos más y no tenemos miedo”: A Look Into Our Summer of Revolution

September is at its midway point yet the memory of the summer cannot be forgotten. The collectives PROTESTAmos (Profesorxs Transformándonos en Solidaridad Tornada en Acción), APRUM (Asociación de Profesores y Profesoras del Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez) and Movimiento Estudiantil, welcomed the student body to an open dialogue about the events that transpired in Puerto Rico over the month of July, led by guest speaker Yarimar Bonilla, professor at Hunter College and Graduate Center of CUNY. The conference took place at the Figueroa Chapel Amphitheater and sparked an interesting and productive conversation about citizenship, the Revolution of 2019 and what comes after. 

The speaker, Bonilla, was invited to the campus by the collective PROTESTAmos but it wasn’t her first time in the UPRM. Last semester, she was part of a forum titled: Raza, Crisis y Bancarrota. Bonilla is a scholar who specializes in the fields of political and historical anthropology and Caribbean and Latinx politics. The columnist and 2018-2020 Carnegie fellow is currently researching the political, economic and social effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Bonilla is also the co-founder of the Puerto Rico Syllabus, a web project that compiles information on Puerto Rico’s economic crisis. Ultimately, the syllabus aims to educate its users, and initiate an ongoing, public discussion by facilitating access to information about the debt crisis. 

As soon as we entered, we noticed a colorful slide projected onto the amphitheater’s white screen; it read: “Somos más y no tenemos miedo!: La Revolución del 2019 y sus Implicaciones”. After being introduced, Bonilla began her presentation by defining the word ‘revolution’, so the audience could be aware of what a revolution entails. Using the term cemented many of the impacts the manifestations had, not only politically, but socially as well. She continued by pointing out the many names the 2019 revolution had: Revolución del chat?, Revolución de María?, Revolución de la Crisis?, Revolución de la generación “Yo No Me Dejo”?

Bonilla also explained that the Revolution of the Summer of 2019, was already happening even before the TelegramGate scandal had taken place. The Puerto Rican population was already dissatisfied with the government due to the cutting of federal funding from its public health and education. Hurricane María only furthered that dissatisfaction because much of the humanitarian relief the government promised, didn't reach most of the Puerto Rican people. The TelegramGate scandal, then revealed that humanitarian relief was withheld from the population in order to further the governor’s political agenda. As a result of that, an estimate of between 2,000 and 4,645 people died. For most of the Puerto Ricans who were protesting, the last straw was the governor and the participants of the chat making fun of the deceased that were accumulating in Puerto Rico's forensics labs, as a result of Hurricane María and the rise in crime rate in Puerto Rico. 

(Photo taken by Ámbar A. Pumarada Gamboa)

 Profesor Bonilla explained that, as time went by and more people protested against former governor Ricardo Rosselló, he became a symbol of everything that was wrong with Puerto Rico; from the rampant political corruption, to the crisis of gender violence which was unacknowledged throughout his term. As well as, the fact that the wealthy, elite class, were never held accountable for their actions. 

(Photo taken by Ámbar A. Pumarada Gamboa)

Once her presentation ended, the Q&A session began. Many stood up to ask her different questions and to offer their opinions about the town assemblies, the revolution’s effects on the 2020 elections and where she thought we’re heading. They also spoke about how we could reach agreements as a community and the role the arts had taken in the revolution.

Profesor Bonilla explained, that Puerto Rico is in a time of transition, moving from what she called macro assemblies, such as “La Marcha Nacional” where, according to, Mechanical Engineer DJ King Arthur,  nearly 1 million people marched against Governor Ricardo Rosselló, to micro assemblies; where different communities are gathering to discuss the issues that are plaguing the nation and what they can do to remedy them. As for the revolution’s impact on the 2020 elections, Bonilla believes that this is potentially the death of the two party system in Puerto Rico. Younger generations no longer trust the political parties that currently run the government. Many of the protestors Bonilla spoke to had the same opinion.They are tired of the corruption in the government from the New Progressive Party and Popular Democratic Party, and they have had enough. However, the true results of these protests won't be known until after the voting process and the elections have happened.

 

(Photo taken by Ámbar A. Pumarada Gamboa)

When asked what she thought of the conference, Professor Lissette Rolón, member of PROTESTAmos, said this was an excellent opportunity to hear from one of the people who has been thinking about the political processes in Puerto Rico, and, in particular, what transformations have been occurring in these political processes, and the change in positions Bonilla has taken in regard to those processes. Professor Rolón explains how several months ago, Bonilla was asking herself why we weren’t protesting. Now, she recognizes that the Summer of 2019 was a revolutionary process, and that she is now making important declarations in regards to the future and what these revolutionary processes imply. Professor Rolón commented that it is an extraordinary way to start the semester and an even better way to start thinking about what is happening and where we want to go from here. 

This event was sponsored by the members of Movimiento Estudiantil, (or the Student Movement). After the conference, one of its representatives explained that it’s very important to have discussions over what is happening right now in the university. She explained that she believes these conversations are crucial because they help us as students to become a part of these protests, and recognize our right and duty to partake in them.

(Photo taken by Ámbar A. Pumarada Gamboa)

One of the last and most interesting topics Bonilla spoke about, was how the arts had pushed the protests forward. From the t-shirts and graffiti, to the memes, the artists helped communicate our message in diverse and creative ways. Bonilla also discussed the frequent use and combination of three flags: the official Puerto Rican flag, the black-striped Puerto Rican flag, and the LGBTQ+ flag. The merging of these three emblems represents unity and the ability of coming together to defend what we believe in. In unity, we find strength. Throughout the summer, we witnessed how a unified nation creates a change. Let’s partake in our town assemblies, let’s speak about issues that concern us, let’s keep starting discussions. Together, we make history. 

If you wish to follow up on more activities by the Movimiento Estudiantil. click on the link to their Facebook page: Movimiento Estudiantil UPRM

If any students wish to attend assemblies happening in your communities,  use #AsambleaDePueblo on Facebook. According to one of the members of the Movimiento Estudiantil, most of the assemblies in Mayaguez will take place on Mondays in the Plaza Colón. To find out more about PROTESTAmos activities, or if you’d like to watch Bonilla’s conference, visit their Facebook page:  PROTESTAmos UPRM.