This Simon and Garfunkel song in particular was and continues to be one of my favorite songs since the difficult years of my youth, in a country where racism was king and war and greed were deemed normal consumer goods, as were rock ‘n roll and chewing gum. We had emigrated near the end of 1960 from a country that was newly liberated from the Batista dictatorship, a country subservient to the interests of the United States since its very beginnings, where racism, in the short 11 years of my life, was fully present, and we had arrived in the State of Florida to gangs of young white girls, incited by their parents, chasing us, all newly arrived Cuban girls, with lit cigarettes, so that we learned to walk in groups of three, and often even our teachers told us we were worthless and that we came from a third-rate culture and spoke a second-class language. I still have the spit from the mother of a classmate, who yelled that they didn’t want people such as me in “America.” That was the year I won the school spelling bee but lost the regional because of the word rye, which I had never seen; I spelled it wry!
The song was released to the world in 1964, and that year we had moved to the Dominican Republic; I remember that we lived in a rented house on Cayetano Rodríguez Street, and I remember the long lines of peasants and other poor people who would wander about looking for something to eat… babies and children with huge bellies filled with worms, frequently naked, with eyes that were filled with pain. It is hard to forget such things when they happen during that intense formative period for the work of life that is adolescence, and which I spent in three countries in the Antilles: Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
I remember the United States invasion of the Dominican Republic because of the countercoup in 1965, and the violence of those who had carried out the coup, supported by the United States and their eternal dollars. I remember the fervor of the people, the slogans chanted of Freedom or Death! We shall overcome! I remember the words of the priest with whom I had taken a retreat with my school mates, in tenth grade, which I later understood to be a liberation theology retreat… And I remember arriving in Puerto Rico in a US destroyer, the U.S.S. Ruchamkin, to the naval base in San Juan.
I remember the fervor of my fellow students at the University of Puerto Rico, where I was admitted at the age of 17 and where I studied in the Honors Program of the late Charlie Rosario, may he rest in peace… I had married at 18 to get out of my house, where the daily bread was capitalism, racism and counterrevolution. The year I graduated from the UPR, after a peaceful protest that was attempting to get the ROTC out of campus at the height of the Vietnam war, the president of the university, Jaime Benítez, called the police and upon leaving the university precinct, the police shot and killed a young girl, Antonia Martínez, who was watching the events from the balcony of her student lodgings… I remember that the chief of police said that the police “were not armed,” and somewhere I still have a black and white poster with those words in Spanish, and with a red thread of blood from the body of the murdered young girl. http://repeatingislands.com/2011/03/05/antonia-martinez-lagares-1950-1970/
I remember our graduation that year, all of us refusing to receive the medals and diplomas as protest against the damned collaboration between the administration and the state forces of repression… And Puerto Rico, which was in many ways my second homeland, today is completely bankrupt, because the United States of Avarice has scorched the country, the social institutions, everything…
Now in this country we are undergoing a completely corrupt electoral process, with two racist and capitalist parties that are the opposite sides of the same coin. In the Republican side the process is very much like a second-rate circus, where the clowns yell out racist epithets and incite their supporters to hatred and violence. On the side of the Democrats, the party long ago decided to crown their favorite candidate, who has a long history as a confirmed supporter of militarism, capitalism and racism.
And then there is the candidate of the people, Social Democrat, Bernie Sanders, with a long history as a decent man, a fighter, not corrupt, the only candidate who does not accept contributions from the large corporations, a man who has always opposed laws against the people , the poor, immigrants… the only one who has opposed wars, bombings, the imperialist policies of the United States, which has organized and supported so many coups, such as the coup against the government of Zelaya in Honduras, particularly supported by the other candidate to the presidency, Mrs. Hillary Clinton.
The process is completely corrupt, and even the press supports the political machinations and intrigues of Mrs. Clinton and her dirty electoral campaign, which should not come as a surprise for anyone who has been watching her, as this writer has been doing for lo too many years…
But the sounds of silence are forceful among all who should be standing against these electoral abuses… And for those of us who stand against these abuses, our cries of rage clash against this huge campaign to avoid the revolutionary change that is so needed in this country, where the chaos that is king attacks, as it always does, those who are most vulnerable among us, that 99% of the suffering population…
I refuse to be silent; I am too old to allow these sounds of silence to continue conquering all things.
And I share with you a very disturbing and magnificent version of that old song: Enjoy, and be disturbed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Dg-g7t2l4