More than 150 people gathered under a cloudless sky enjoying a cool breeze in the courtyard of Polytechnic University in east Orange County to hear author Nelson Denis talk about his new book, “The War Against All Puerto Ricans,” a provocative title for a book about the early years of the United States’ presence in Puerto Rico, from 1898 through about 1950.
Many guests came clutching the 379-page hardcover, which has sold 35,000 copies in the states and Puerto Rico, seeking an autograph. Readers clearly wanted to hear more stories and Denis didn’t disappoint, telling the crowd of Puerto Rican community leaders, organizers and activists tale after tale and sometimes tales within a tale.
“There’s a little bit of the island right here,” Denis told those gathered, who also were feted to a horn rendition of “La Borinqueña,” the island’s national anthem.
Denis broached the subject of Puerto Rico’s fiscal emergency head on – the island has $70 billion in bond debt that it cannot repay, a topic that is much on the minds of many Puerto Ricans in Florida and other states with a large Puerto Rican diaspora. Talks currently are underway to attempt to resolve the issue.
While Capitol Hill was focused Friday on the marathon Benghazi hearing with Hillary Clinton, a Senate hearing was taking place tucked away in another area of the Capitol concerning Puerto Rico’s financial crisis.
The author and former newspaper editorial director took a dim view of any positive outcome or relief, saying the federal government’s heart wasn’t in it and bond holders aren’t interested in a debt repayment.
Instead, he alleged, bondholders covet the underlying collateral or assets, which he said is in keeping with a long history of exploitation of the island, a running theme of the book.
“People talk a lot about how Puerto Rico needs the three Ps: public-private partnerships. I think they want 5 Ps – a public-private partnership to plunder Puerto Rico,” he said.
Denis ended the evening on a note of warning: “What’s happening in Puerto Rico is a template for what can happen elsewhere,” he said, alluding to any one of the 50 states.
˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor