Right now, political turmoil is unfolding in Puerto Rico that will, without a doubt, shape the island’s history.
Puerto Ricans have been protesting in Old San Juan and filling up the streets that lead to La Fortaleza, home of Governor Ricardo Rosselló, urging his immediate resignation after 889 pages of a private group chat with other government officials and members of his administrative staff were made public by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico.
This revelation gave light to vulgar comments and insults said by the governor and other members of the chat, including political aides and officials. Some comments were homophobic, including one attacking Ricky Martin’s sexuality, and misogynistic. Rosselló said an associate would do him a favor by shooting Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, and called politician Melissa Mark-Viverito a “puta,” which translates into “whore." Members of the chat also mocked people who died during Hurricane María, people living in poverty, local journalists, and even the weight of a man who posed in a photo with the governor.
» READ MORE: Puerto Ricans gather for massive protest
Some government officials who belonged this group chat stepped down from their positions, while others have been fired. Although members of his own political party have asked him to resign, Rosselló has only said he will not run for governor in 2020 and has stepped down as president of his political party. He still refuses to resign as governor. He has also sought forgiveness, but the people have not forgiven him. Based on the ongoing protests, they will not anytime soon.
Being from Puerto Rico, I am stupefied by the unfolding crisis — struggling to find the words to describe how the frustration and resentment of Puerto Ricans is intensifying. This frustration stems from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, which destroyed the island and forced people to live in uncertainty, without power or in some cases water, flee the island, and struggle to get federal aid. This resentment is also powered by the ongoing debt crisis, the economic recession, unfair oversight from the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, and news of the corruption scandal of government officials improperly steering $15.5 million that broke this month.
Puerto Ricans are tired of these problems not being resolved. Rosselló’s refusal to resign even though it would be best for the island has lifted this resentment to a peak. Now, Puerto Ricans are channeling our frustration into protest and calling for immediate change.
Protests have now continued for more than a week, with Monday marking 10 days straight. That day, more than 500,000 people shut down traffic in one of the island’s main highways, Expreso Las Américas, and others marched or stood in protest across the island, urging the governor to resign. Tension between citizens and the police has intensified, with police throwing tear gas on protesters.
Entertainers have responded, with Puerto Rican artists, such as trap singer Bad Bunny, Ricky Martin, rapper Residente, and actor Benicio Del Toro joining protests. Bad Bunny, Residente, and PJ Sin Suela have even released songs urging Rosselló to resign. The Puerto Rican diaspora has also mobilized, protesting here in Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Boston, Miami, and Jacksonville, Fla., among other cities.
Puerto Ricans at home and around the world are tired of suffering and fighting against political and economic issues, as politicians let the situation worsen. People’s distrust of the government is growing, and the governor’s ask for forgiveness is not enough to make up for either the inexcusable group chats or the island’s larger political turmoil.
Last Saturday, I joined other Puerto Ricans and supporters to protest amid a heat wave in Philadelphia. I was struck that even 100-degree Fahrenheit weather could not keep us off the streets to have our voices heard.
We waved our flags, held our signs, and chanted for Rosselló's resignation. In those moments, I felt like the Puerto Rican population is unified, pushing for a major change because we cannot accept anything less. We are united by momentum that goes beyond citizens’ socio-economic status, political beliefs, race, and gender.