Feeling a Case of Puerto Rico ‘Bailout Blues’

The Puerto Rico ‘bailout blues’ are brought on by always having to explain what Puerto Rico is about. / Maria Padilla

I’m experiencing a case of the Puerto Rico “bailout blues” after a recent conversation with a friend went like this: “Well, you guys want a bailout but you don’t pay federal taxes and you can’t have it both ways.”

Pause.

After the rant dust settled down, I concluded: Must we always start from scratch?

Must Puerto Ricans everywhere always start from scratch when it comes to the subject of Puerto Rico? Are we doomed to a relive a Groundhog Day set to 1898? Are we forever to shout, “Remember the Maine!” – even to the President of the United States whose Twitter rant about Puerto Rico this week was woefully wanton?

Low on the Radar

It must be disconcertingly so, for knowledge is not required for opinions to be formed or uttered. But it doesn’t always have to be this way.

Trump tweets 1 and 2:

Puerto Rican Parade

All of this serves as a perfect backdrop to Saturday’s Puerto Rican Parade through Downtown Orlando,  preceded by busloads of Puerto Ricans returning from a Tallahassee tour earlier in the week.

The events serve three purposes – to remind the Orlando community of our presence, to build up our self image and self esteem, and to entertain ourselves. I worry that the third purpose may cast the longest shadow.

The ‘Ask’

“Don’t forget ‘the ask’ ” – shorthand for, what do you want? – I reminded a participant of the Tallahassee tour. Make sure you ask for what you want. What do you want?

What if the bomba y plena signifies nothing? What is the cost of a failure to launch? What is the point, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, of walking loudly and carrying no stick?

Here’s the stick Federico de Jesús of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration is using to help secure up to $900 million in Medicaid funds for the island’s deep-in-the-hole health care system as well as to beat back Trump and likeminded pols:

“If (Congress) includes extending current Obamacare funding under Medicaid for Puerto Rico, that wouldn’t be a bailout to the Commonwealth, it would actually be saving money for state and federal taxpayers who would otherwise face an even more massive influx of Puerto Ricans moving to the US [boldface mine], where health care is 3 to 4 times more expensive than in the Island,” said De Jesús.

El Cuco

In Spanish this is called summoning “El Cuco” or ghost or nightmare, as in your worse ghost or nightmare is coming – hordes of Puerto Ricans at your doorsteps! Be afraid.

But doesn’t this paint Puerto Ricans as being unwelcome, unwanted, unwashed? And … aren’t there already more Puerto Ricans in the 50 states, mostly Florida and New York, than on the island of Puerto Rico? More or less 5 million versus 3 million?

Couldn’t the numbers be leveraged for better effect or result? Wouldn’t it be more empowering to state, “Over 5 million Puerto Ricans live in the states. All are citizens and each can vote – for or against you. Take your pick” ?

Wouldn’t it be more powerful for busloads of Puerto Ricans to go to Tallahassee in January or February before the Florida Legislature is in session, when committees meet and bills are being drafted?

No More Puerto Rico ‘Bailout Blues’

And wouldn’t it be great if people like the Rant Woman and Trump were better informed so Puerto Ricans wouldn’t have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous comments?

Here’s the thing. We have no control over the Rant Women and Trumps of our times. Sure, they are ignorant and disheartening. I won’t look at Rant Woman the same way again.

I opted to move past Rant Woman. I unshackled myself from 1898. I remember the Maine even if she doesn’t.

If the Puerto Rican community minds its politics and business, whatever that may be, the know-nothing Rant People of the world would sit up and take notice when the results start marching in. Which they will. Guaranteed.

It doesn’t have to be 1898 all over again.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

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