Writing ourselves into the narrative

I’m obsessed with Hamilton. If you’ve listened to it you’ll know why and if you haven’t I urge you to. I didn’t anticipate it would have such an impact on me, usually not liking musicals or caring much about one of America’s founding fathers. But having a POC cast makes this part of history, this story, much more palpable and enriches the message we’re to take from it. 

I’m not talking about that, I’m certain dozens of articles already have. Let’s talk about the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda is Puerto Rican and wrote about a young kid that migrated from the Caribbean to the mainland with the strength of his writing paving his way. That shit hits me home like you wouldn’t believe. The soundtrack resonated with me so much that I spent a good couple of hours reading lyrics and their analysis on Genius. It’s interesting how a lot of the lyrics and themes have ties to current events. And yet, not a single mention of Puerto Rico that I could see. (Please, scourge the lyrics for your own enjoyment but tell me if I missed something.) One song, in particular, seems to be pretty on the nose about it.

“My Shot” starts at about 1:14, but seeing them perform live and the pure joy and energy they have compels me to share this version.

The parallels in the relationships between US/England and Puerto Rico/US are hella abundant. There is no other quantifier that can grasp how poignant it is. Let’s look at the lyrics:

“…we are—meant to be…

A colony that runs independently

Meanwhile, Britain keeps shittin’ on us endlessly

Essentially, they tax us relentlessly

Then King George turns around, runs a spending spree

He ain’t ever gonna set his descendants free

So there will be a revolution in this century!”

Do I need to go into the Puerto Rico debt crisis? Probably, but go read Lin-Manuel Miranda’s article on it instead. Sales tax recently increased to 11.5% on the island. Islands are already inherently more expensive because of shipping costs. I could go into this for too long but an entry on Genius caught my attention: “Apparently Lin-Manuel Miranda finds spending sprees particularly unsavory since he pooh-poohs them in In The Heights’s “96,000,” too.” Gee, I wonder why?? Let’s set aside the fact that his heritage, his blood, his patria has been exploited for profit since 1493. The dismissive wording of this analysis as if spending sprees at the cost of thousands of people’s livelihoods is no big deal pisses me off. Not to mention the complete lack of acknowledgment of the “He ain’t ever gonna set his descendants free” in relation to America’s future, and still ongoing, colonization of Puerto Rico.

Further down the song another few verses get me excited and make me think, this guy’s spitting some serious reflections here.

“And? If we win our independence?

Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?

Or will the blood we shed begin an endless

Cycle of vengeance and death with no defendants?”

Descendants seems to be the key word here. Again, the analysis has zero mention of Puerto Rico. It does, on both occasions, draw comparisons to slavery and the #BlackLivesMatter movement which is obvious, especially given the time period this was set in and events happening right now. No doubt he wanted to allude to this. But once again, much like in the mainstream news and media, Puerto Rico is nowhere to be found. This is ridiculous when the correlation is so in your face. Puerto Rico is the descendant, (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to endure the lazy 30-year-old child metaphor) and we are caught in the same position America was. Only this time they’re the ones shitting on us. We are quickly losing our defendants, the independence movement barely keeping afloat and thousands of families are migrating from the island yearly. I write this from my dorm room in West Virginia a year after moving myself. The irony of finally finding my sense of pride through distance isn’t lost on me. I stare at the flag in my room often. I think often.

It makes me angry how little people know. It makes me angry how little people care. The invisibility is not only annoying to explain and difficult to endure, it’s literally killing us, increasingly sapping away at us. So the fact that the debt crisis has been a trending topic a couple of days is a big deal. Having presidential candidates discuss debt restructure is a big deal. Hamilton is a big deal.

Right now, it’s April and it’s snowing. The wind outside my window is insane. I know that me writing these things so far away from home might seem lazy or hypocritical. I’m one of the ones that left after all. But it affects me, in more ways that you could even grasp. It stings at my core. So here I am, taking a page out of Alexander Hamilton’s book and using my writing, the only thing I truly have, to do my part.

When is my colony gonna rise up?

 

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