The Ballad of Puerto Rico: On Representation
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The Ballad of Puerto Rico: On Representation

The Ballad of Puerto Rico: On Representation

During such a busy time in the world of American Politics, many of the current struggles of Puerto Ricans (as U.S. citizens) naturally tend to slide under the radar; the Zika epidemic, the unparalleled budget deficit, the increasing unemployment rate, and the massive brain drain are still very much 'alive and kicking' in Puerto Rico. Thankfully, there has been a large community of Puerto Ricans who have demanded their voices be heard in the media through outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, The Odyssey itself, and even The Huffington Post. This pleases me greatly, and I am myself honored to be a part of this movement. As a result, I try to read any and every article about Puerto Rico I can get my hands on: not only to be able to better understand our island's current situation but also to be informed on what is being presented to the masses and why.

One article I read was particularly impressionable to me. Published by none other than the Huffington Post, this article was a poignant critique towards the PROMESA bill, which in one clause pitches the idea of lowering the minimum wage of Puerto Rican workers aged 25 or lower from $7.25 to $4.25. This critique was made evident from the beginning with the article’s title:

PROMESA: Puerto Rico’s “Restructure” at $4.25 an Hour

(Here’s the link: I encourage you to read it)

A few weeks ago as I was reading through my newsfeed, these bulky bolded words stood out to me, and I immediately clicked on the link. The author was Puerto Rican, as well, and I was glad that I could read another native’s thoughts and concerns. As I continued scrolling however, I became more concerned with every sentence I read; aside from having an alarming amount of grammatical errors, the article contained substantial misinformation, stereotyping of Puerto Ricans, inappropriate and demeaning language, and harsh blaming towards other Puerto Ricans. Not only was I disheartened that this was the quality of writing that was being published by the Huffington Post, but I was also legitimately upset that the readers of this article were being led to what I believe is a grossly misinformed and ignorant conclusion about the situation of Puerto Rico.

Allow me to explain myself:

Firstly, I understand that English is a hard language. With Spanish being the first language of almost every Puerto Rican native, learning how to write, speak, and read in English is not an easy task. Naturally, grammatical mistakes are bound to occur every so often. However, basic grammar rules such as subject-verb agreement and parallel sentence structure, as well as the rules of apostrophes, quotations, and punctuation marks were almost entirely lacking in this article. Through proofreading and editing, these honest mistakes could have been fixed easily, and the appearance of a slapdashedly written first draft (which I’m sure would have a coffee stain or two had it been written on paper) could have been altogether avoided.

I am not meaning to be critical… but then again, maybe I am. I believe that as Puerto Rican writers, it is a duty and a privilege to write on behalf of the island; however, with this comes the responsibility of representing Puerto Rico respectfully and professionally. Puerto Rico has already been clouded with centuries of racism and bigotry; it is up to us fight against this. Writers, of course, can write about whatever they please, but I do think that along with writing about a serious and important topic that affects Puerto Rico comes the expectation of being informed and deferential.

Grammar errors such as putting periods after quotation marks, using adjectives in the place of adverbs, adding unnecessary commas, and expressing thoughts in incomplete phrases instead of complete sentences were unapologetically sprinkled throughout the entire writing piece, but perhaps the most comical grammatical mistake was the following: “This is the only provision in PROMESA’s bill that requires the governor of Puerto Rico to directly sing on.” Unless the Legislature is playing some twisted form of karaoke, I think it’s safe to assume the correct word usage would have been ‘sign.’ What this shows, frankly, is a blatant disregard for professionalism… but I digress: these mistakes happen --- just not in a published product.

On a more serious note, I was truly disconcerted by the superficial and frankly demeaning analogies presented in the writing. “People talk about the financial instability of the islands of Puerto Rico, as much as they used to dance the Gasolina of Daddy Yankee, or Livin’ La Vida Loca from Ricky Martin.” All these ignorant comparisons are only indulging the gross stereotypes so many people already have of Puerto Ricans, and they only get worse throughout the article.

“But most people in the United States and in Puerto Rico accept the narrative of the 72 billion dollar debt as they would accept Medalla beer or a Malta for those who don’t drink.” Need I say something about comparing a crippling and debilitating national debt to an alcoholic beverage (or a non-alcoholic one, for those who don’t drink)? Another mention of alcohol appears a few sentences later: “Some people talk about an ongoing humanitarian crisis, but the real humanitarian crisis is going to come when seven business men come to Puerto Rico to elaborate an economic plan as they get drunk on Barrilito in the beach of the San Juan Hotel.” This, I believe, is unnecessary; I could see a person saying this at a bar to a good friend as they blow off some steam, but reading this in an article that is supposedly talking about a humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico seriously blows my mind.

“Sources say that the Senate will try to pass this like Steph Curry on a fast break ahead of Puerto Rico’s next bond payment in July 1st.” This may be a stylistic preference on my part, but I really do not see the necessity of a rudimentary analogy that does not in any way, shape, or form lend to the understanding of topic at hand.

“The last time hourly wages were this low was about 20 years ago. Gas, tripletas and condoms are more expensive now.” As a Puerto Rican hoping to return home after college, I can attest that ‘tripletas’ and condoms are not exactly on the top of my list of priorities when I think of the insufficient income I may potentially face.

Clearly, there is myriad of issues I have with this article.

Thankfully, there are prominent voices speaking out for the sake of Puerto Rico, and they are doing so in a much more professional and sincere manner. An example can be our very own Lin Manuel Miranda (who, coincidently, was critiqued in this very article), who has given much time and effort to help the island, on top of already using his self-earned fame to bring light to the Puerto Rican situation.

I could continue discussing this article, and maybe I will in a future article, but the fact is these are only snippets of a seriously degrading article that itself is only a snippet of a much larger issue. It is crucial to inform and educate the masses correctly about the struggles Puerto Rico faces as an island and as a U.S. territory.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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