I would like to apologize in advance. I was up all day and night anticipating camping out in a hurricane at the Campamento. My work may suffer for it as I try not to doze off.
On the 29th of July, the Campamento celebrated 30 days of holding space. That is 720 hours of 80 degrees in the rain weather, organizing actions, sign and shirt making, three-hour assemblies, workshops on everything from civil disobedience to origins of PROMESA, heated debates around racism and patriarchy. 720 hours of disrupting traffic in the financial district. 720 hours of documenting pickets and feds patrolling with dogs. The day was celebrated with a picket, cake and some music performed by comrades.
How much sleep has anyone gotten in that 720 hours is hard to say but my impression is not much. I myself get six very unrestful hours a night at best. In no way have I been the best participant or contributed the most or have worked the hardest. I do struggle with the balance of doing my job as a journalist and as a participant in resistance against colonialism and capitalism.
I have been planning this project for months. Days before I had even boarded my plane PROMESA was passed and the occupiers moved into the intersection of Chardon and Hostos. It took a few days before I approached anyone in the camp. I took some time to follow it on the local news. It was the minimum coverage of the mainstream media that gave urgency to my desire to go to the camp. Besides, I came to document resistance and there it was. My story had set up camp in the middle of the financial district, right in front of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
Boriken has a long history of government programs, such as COINTELPRO, where activist have been falsely imprisoned, tortured, killed. Some dude, that no one knows, with fancy audio recording gear and says he is from a radio station in Portland, Oregon that no one has heard of and speaks Spanish with a funny accent is going to look suspicious. I had to be open to rejection and make sure I asked for consent. Freedom of speech is cool but it only protects you from the government and it is not a license to be an asshole. Your subject could always tell you to fuck off and you may not get your story unless you fabricate from snippets of truth and your own hurt ego.
I had been treated nicely considering just the day before some guy with a similar story but none of the credentials waltzed and then suddenly disappeared. Still has not been back so who know what his deal was. If you take time to study the local history you may become just as paranoid. The federal government loves dirty evil tricks and the democrats like to make you feel good about it. Fascist have the advantage of access to people with marketing and advertising degrees. They can make you get over the fact that your taxes paid for the bombing of schools and hospitals, or that agent orange was tested on the people that make all the world's Tylenol.
The space was only a week old and it was very organized and coordinated. No one seemed to be in any specific organization or just were not sharing that information with the press. Part of an organization or not, there was organizing happening before my eyes. There was a kitchen, it was clean and the food is on time and taste great, dishes get cleaned by everyone. There was a system that fell into place and expectations are constantly communicated. Sometimes I'll jump into the sink just to wash everyone's plates because I got time to kill and waiting for news is boring work. I'll get busted eventually and someone will ask to take over and share the labor.
There was one person I recognized when I started staying at the camp and became embedded with my subject. She was a poet I knew back when I used to read at poetry slams and poetry was my hustle to supplement my diet of lentils, chorizo and movie rentals. We spent the whole day working together and I was not sure if they had even recognized me. At the end of a long day of building revolution she shared with a group of us how she knew me from where we both would do open mike. She later confided me that she used to hate me with a passion. She reminds me of that every few days. It may be a way of saying, “Oh boy did I hate your fucking guts but gosh you're one swell comrade!” It is a lot nicer than it stings. I am sure I deserved rancor. My popular work from that time was never the work I was proud of and would not dare duplicate now.
I have gotten involved in some organizing of projects around the camp. With an effort not to dominate, I have learning how to motivate, coordinate and mobilize with others. With maximum effort some of us put a proposal together to form an Intersectional Collective for people from marginalized demographics. Very broad but we got it passed and we are one step closer to balancing out the distribution of power.
The morning before the hurricane we got our hands on a newspaper and spent much of breakfast and part of lunch reading the paper out load and discussing current events. Even if you're using a mainstream capitalist piece of media, group discussion can help separate the bullshit from the real shit.
Later we started to prepare for the storm and secure books and tie down tents. At 3pm I saw no sign of the storm getting impressive so I retired to my tent. I woke up at 8 am to find everyone huddled under the tarp in the kitchen having discourse and playing chess. Someone made a quiche/pizza concoction. I am not selling it well but I promise it was delicious.
Inclimate weather was not enough deterrent to drive us away. The gods would have to do better. Palante, Siempre Palante!
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