Last week my wife and I visited a neighbor’s home and ran into a friend, a culturally nationalistic Popular Democratic Party (PDP) member who has always contended that, in her “heart,” when the time came to “decolonize” –she says lowering her voice to an audible whisper– she will choose Puerto Rican sovereignty over statehood. Naturally, she rejects the vision of New Progressive Party (NPP) annexationist ideologues that have attempted to demean Puerto Rican culture by characterizing it simply as local folklore. Yet she is content with the manicured version propounded by PDP high priests of culture. She is candidly resigned to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, government television programs exulting in the achievements of Puerto Rican artisans, and broadcasts of officially sponsored magisterial lectures by prominent Puerto Rican and other Latin American writers within the confines of the University of Puerto Rico. These, to her, make for tolerable limits of cultural life under the present status.

Thankfully, my friend no longer believes that “commonwealth will stop statehood,” as she did a decade ago. In fact, she is convinced that there is nothing to stop. The status discussions that took place in Washington during the 1990s evidently enlightened her and other voters frightened by an alleged annexationist conspiracy. As fellow columnist, Juan M. García Passalacqua documents in a recent analysis (STAR, April 25), the now defunct “Puerto Rico Political Status Act of 1998,” known then as the “Young bill,” massacred any hopes for statehood that NPP leaders might have had.

Contrary to the PDP propaganda of fear, the Young bill, far from a statehood bill, was what Hollywood’s Quentin Tarantino today would have called a “Kill Any Bill” for statehood. García Passalacqua recalls that a proposed “Hispano state” in which Congress would guarantee the preservation of the Spanish language was defeated 406-12 while amendments designed to remind us of congressional power to force our linguistic assimilation prevailed by overwhelming majorities. Our nationality is the poison pill that makes statehood impossible for the U.S. to swallow; but in reality, PDP leaders feared the bill’s provisions that officially unmasked commonwealth as still an “unincorporated territory” under the sovereignty of the United States and the plenary powers of Congress.

Although back in the year 2000 my PDP friend acknowledged the greater merits of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) platform on health care, crime prevention, the environment, economic development, a constituent status assembly, and almost everything else, she felt “duty bound” to vote for a woman as governor. Not even the (now confirmed) doubts raised by the PDP candidate’s ominous statements about status having been resolved in 1952 dissuaded my friend from stifling her unquiet heart’s longing for decolonization. She voted for the status-stagnation song of the siren.

The evening’s pleasant conversation predictably led to politics. Now, sadder but wiser, our friend admitted that banality and incompetence are gender-neutral. At first she claimed to be undecided regarding the upcoming election. She could not vote for Pedro Rosselló, not so much because of his pro-statehood ideology (which she would not be voting for, anyway) but because the former NPP governor defrauded voters by incompetently surrounding himself with robbing hoods that stole from the people to give to the rich. Neither was she overly excited by PDP candidate Aníbal Acevedo, her party’s resident commissioner, because of his “obsolete vision” –as she called it– of commonwealth as non-colonial and non-territorial; and because (even at the time of this writing) he still didn’t know what, exactly, he did with an undeclared $20,000 donation allegedly used in connection with PDP lobbying efforts against the Young bill while he was both party president and minority leader in Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives in 1999. To her, both candidates have become “equal-opportunity incompetents.”

That evening our friend once more acknowledged the greater merits of PIP positions, especially in light of the mudslinging of the past 12 months that has side stepped serious discussion of national issues. She acknowledged PIP electoral law-abiding honesty and cleanliness in the use of public funds. She admitted that PIP candidate Rubén Berríos has consistently done what he has said he would beyond “momentary electoral convenience:” she recalled his 120-day federal prison sentence for a misdemeanor committed in peaceful civil disobedience after the 2000 election, to continue the pressure to rid Vieques of U.S. military abuses. And although things could change, she said she believed Berríos’ chances to be elected governor were still, unfortunately, a long shot.

However, before the evening ended, she admitted to having signed a PIP voter’s commitment card for this election because –she said– she refused to play the melodramatic role of the soap opera character that confesses in tears, “I killed, but I did it for love.” She now believed that the only vote that really counts is out of principle –not to become an “accomplice to government-by-felony.”

When I shared this experience with Berríos at a meeting early this week, he simply smiled

Last week my wife and I visited a neighbor’s home and ran into a friend, a culturally nationalistic Popular Democratic Party (PDP) member who has always contended that, in her “heart,” when the time came to “decolonize” –she says lowering her voice to an audible whisper– she will choose Puerto Rican sovereignty over statehood. Naturally, she rejects the vision of New Progressive Party (NPP) annexationist ideologues that have attempted to demean Puerto Rican culture by characterizing it simply as local folklore. Yet she is content with the manicured version propounded by PDP high priests of culture. She is candidly resigned to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, government television programs exulting in the achievements of Puerto Rican artisans, and broadcasts of officially sponsored magisterial lectures by prominent Puerto Rican and other Latin American writers within the confines of the University of Puerto Rico. These, to her, make for tolerable limits of cultural life under the present status.

Thankfully, my friend no longer believes that “commonwealth will stop statehood,” as she did a decade ago. In fact, she is convinced that there is nothing to stop. The status discussions that took place in Washington during the 1990s evidently enlightened her and other voters frightened by an alleged annexationist conspiracy. As fellow columnist, Juan M. García Passalacqua documents in a recent analysis (STAR, April 25), the now defunct “Puerto Rico Political Status Act of 1998,” known then as the “Young bill,” massacred any hopes for statehood that NPP leaders might have had.

Contrary to the PDP propaganda of fear, the Young bill, far from a statehood bill, was what Hollywood’s Quentin Tarantino today would have called a “Kill Any Bill” for statehood. García Passalacqua recalls that a proposed “Hispano state” in which Congress would guarantee the preservation of the Spanish language was defeated 406-12 while amendments designed to remind us of congressional power to force our linguistic assimilation prevailed by overwhelming majorities. Our nationality is the poison pill that makes statehood impossible for the U.S. to swallow; but in reality, PDP leaders feared the bill’s provisions that officially unmasked commonwealth as still an “unincorporated territory” under the sovereignty of the United States and the plenary powers of Congress.

Although back in the year 2000 my PDP friend acknowledged the greater merits of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) platform on health care, crime prevention, the environment, economic development, a constituent status assembly, and almost everything else, she felt “duty bound” to vote for a woman as governor. Not even the (now confirmed) doubts raised by the PDP candidate’s ominous statements about status having been resolved in 1952 dissuaded my friend from stifling her unquiet heart’s longing for decolonization. She voted for the status-stagnation song of the siren.

The evening’s pleasant conversation predictably led to politics. Now, sadder but wiser, our friend admitted that banality and incompetence are gender-neutral. At first she claimed to be undecided regarding the upcoming election. She could not vote for Pedro Rosselló, not so much because of his pro-statehood ideology (which she would not be voting for, anyway) but because the former NPP governor defrauded voters by incompetently surrounding himself with robbing hoods that stole from the people to give to the rich. Neither was she overly excited by PDP candidate Aníbal Acevedo, her party’s resident commissioner, because of his “obsolete vision” –as she called it– of commonwealth as non-colonial and non-territorial; and because (even at the time of this writing) he still didn’t know what, exactly, he did with an undeclared $20,000 donation allegedly used in connection with PDP lobbying efforts against the Young bill while he was both party president and minority leader in Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives in 1999. To her, both candidates have become “equal-opportunity incompetents.”

That evening our friend once more acknowledged the greater merits of PIP positions, especially in light of the mudslinging of the past 12 months that has side stepped serious discussion of national issues. She acknowledged PIP electoral law-abiding honesty and cleanliness in the use of public funds. She admitted that PIP candidate Rubén Berríos has consistently done what he has said he would beyond “momentary electoral convenience:” she recalled his 120-day federal prison sentence for a misdemeanor committed in peaceful civil disobedience after the 2000 election, to continue the pressure to rid Vieques of U.S. military abuses. And although things could change, she said she believed Berríos’ chances to be elected governor were still, unfortunately, a long shot.

However, before the evening ended, she admitted to having signed a PIP voter’s commitment card for this election because –she said– she refused to play the melodramatic role of the soap opera character that confesses in tears, “I killed, but I did it for love.” She now believed that the only vote that really counts is out of principle –not to become an “accomplice to government-by-felony.”

When I shared this experience with Berríos at a meeting early this week, he simply smiled