Puerto Ricans of Philadelphia gathered on a sultry Friday evening to demand the immediate resignation of the island’s scandal-plagued governor, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.
At least 150 Boricuas, as Puerto Ricans are also known, and their supporters gathered for nearly two hours at Ninth Street and Hunting Park Avenue for an open-mic session accompanied by tambourines, drums, and güiros under a scorching sun, with a “real-feel” temperature of 106.
Ángel Medina, who lives in the city, considered the rally an expression of solidarity with islanders around the world, a "Puerto Rican Spring.”
“This is a worldwide demonstration of unity that tells Rosselló and the Trump administration that no one [messes] with Puerto Rico,” he said.
The island has been in turmoil since July 8, when the Center for Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico published 889 pages of messages from a private chat group conversation in which the governor and his administrative staff made vulgar and insulting comments about individuals and Puerto Ricans in general.
In one message, Rosselló called Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Puerto Rico-born former speaker of the New York City Council, a “puta” — Spanish for “whore.” In other messages, he expressed homophobic sentiments, some aimed at the pop star Ricky Martin. Others were misogynistic, racist, or both, or made fun of Hurricane María victims.
Kimberly Lamberty Torres, cofounder of Latinos en Marcha — one of the organizations that called the rally — said the scandal gives the Trump administration the “perfect excuse” to keep withholding federal disaster funds from Puerto Rico.
“The people of Puerto Rico gave him [Rosselló] a chance after Hurricane María,” she said. “Now we want to let him know that we don’t want him in that seat no more.”
In the same week the messages were leaked, the FBI charged six individuals — including former Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher — with 32 counts of money laundering, fraud, and embezzlement of $15.5 million in federal funding from 2017 through this year.
The scandal has energized the Puerto Rican diaspora.
Gilberto González, 55, of Kensington, waved a Puerto Rican flag and held a banner that depicted Rosselló with two devil horns above the words “Arranca pal ...” — a message that roughly translates as “go to hell.” Puerto Ricans have suffered enough, he said.
“There are thousands that are still affected by the aftermath of the hurricanes, and now affected by a government that isn’t representing the people of Puerto Rico,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Charito Morales, a member of the Philadelphia-Camden Boricua Committee, said she was outraged by the governor’s derogatory comments about Puerto Rican women in positions of leadership, the talk about “whores.”
“Rosselló and everyone has forgotten that these ‘whores’ also vote,” she said.