Power Concedes Nothing Without A Dance | Puerto Rico’s Creative Protests
When 900 pages of incriminating documents were leaked linking Puerto Rico’s Govorner Ricardo A. Rosello to countless acts of corruption, not even the most optimistic activist could have predicted his political career had 12 days to live.
But they could imagine it.
Inspired by this imagination, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans mobilized - as if automatically - to form one of the most inventive, creative and musical revolutions of all time.
It could also go down as one of the most effective.
This historical event was fermented in the unavoidable context of Hurricane Maria, which caused $95 billion in damages and forced over 200,000 people to move to Florida alone.
It claimed 3,000 lives.
With insufficient aid from mainland America combined with a cumbersome recovery effort, their leader’s deceitfulness was too much to bare.
Rather than give into the despair, the people harnessed positivity.
Rather than be destructive, they got creative.
Rather than succumbing to an armed uprising, they had a party.
And all but one was invited.
In the most Puerto Rican of protests, they summoned the creative talents of their greatest artists, as well as igniting the Creative Spirit of the entire population.
In so doing, they proved exactly what the island’s leadership was missing.
Were Rosello to look out onto San Jose Bay from the Governor’s Residence during the 12 days of protest, he would have seen he was surrounded by a peaceful armada.
The peasants weren’t just revolting - they were Kayaking, Paddle-Boarding and Surfing. A new meaning to a wave of protest.
He’d find no respite on the internet either. Thousands of side-splitting memes were circulating like wild-fire.
At night, the voices of protesters would be joined by the thunderous cascade of a motorbike parade.
24 hours a day, the the banging of pots and pans made sure that a good nights sleep would only be earned when the wicked were put to rest.
Quite simply, he had to stay off the streets he governed.
When you are cordially uninvited to the street party against your honour, you’re in trouble.
You are proved to be an Emperor with no clothes.
Because creativity, in all its forms, when used in protest, has a peculiar effect.
Not only does it prove an individuals innate freedom, it also reveals the shackled potential of the people.
It’s this human capital that remains Puerto Rico’s greatest resource.
Under-utilize at your peril.
Because fundamentally, all that the people of Puerto Rico wanted was the right to smile.
And if they were not going to be supported in that pursuit, fine.
We’ll make ourselves smile.
We’ll share in each other’s happiness.
Free of charge for the incorruptible.
The sheer breadth of the decentralized creative action was something to behold.
According to Marina Reyes Franco of Art News:
“Countless people provided creative input in organizing calls for protest, producing hundreds of flyers, T-shirts, posters, and videos, and even coding. Satire, humor, anger, mourning, and righteous indignation have been echoed publicly, mixed with expressions of joy. These events feel eminently cathartic.”
Puerto Rico’s most flexible performed aerial acrobatics - in stark contrast to the moral gymnastics displayed by their leaders.
Group Yoga sessions raised the collective consciousness, one down dog at a time.
The deeply Christian society called upon public prayer, showing the power of asking the abyss for guidance.
Yet no revolution is complete without a soundtrack.
The streets were filled with people singing old folk songs like “En Mi Viejo San Juan” and “Preciosa.”
Even their most famous pop export, Ricky Martin, showed that Living La Vida Loca can mean Fighting For Your Right To Party.
Indeed, nothing is more liberating than dancing like nobody is watching.
There’s something uniquely unifying about choreographed dancing with strangers - like a real life musical.
But what sums up the inclusivity and diversity of the protests was the incessant banging of pots and pans.
Not everyone has the ability to acrobatically fly through the air, paddle-board or sing.
But everybody has a pot and a pan, and knows how to make noise.
Creative participation and acknowledgment from everyone, everywhere.
A decentralised ruckus that says “You can’t ignore us.”
By the 24th July, the Governor had announced his resignation.
Cue the after party in Puerto Rico.
While Puerto Rico is still suffering from the revolutionary hangover - mainly, what to do the day after - the solution is in the protest.
Poets and painters are never asked to portray, design or form the future they envisioned.
Though it’s exactly the creative and collaborative nature that afforded the opportunity for rebirth that should outline the road map for what’s to come.
The rigidity and exclusivity of the old protocol has proved itself unimaginative and incapable of the task of curing the misery of the island.
Dancing is the solution.
Music is the revolution.
Yoga is the collective.
Prayer is the protest.
Creating is the answer.
Imagination is the truth.
Removing the puppet is the easy part.
Dethroning the puppet master and rewriting the script requires a whole other level of inspiring vision.
But no revolution is completed over night.
While power concedes nothing without a demand, the people of Puerto Rico had the loving grace to remind us of something far more special:
Power concedes faster with a dance.