This is how they become citizens. They turn 22 and move to Florida. Once they get a degree. Once they realize there really isn’t much to do with a degree around here that they couldn’t already do without one. Once they finally tire of preachers preaching damnation; of politicians relying on preachers’ counsel for policy making; of random, everyday acts of discrimination that occur with relentless impunity.
Randomness here means it’s systemic.
It’s no wonder then that we have yet to mourn them in the same dignified and moving manner that the international community has responded to their deaths. Puerto Rico is not really a part of the international community. It has no power—independent of the US Congress—to enact its own laws. At present, its people will be subjected to the whims of a seven-member fiscal oversight board, to be appointed by the U.S. President, with powers no elected Island official has ever had in the Island’s political history.
Power here means empire.
This is why they’ve been leaving in record numbers. They turn 22 and move to Florida, where they’re killed in record numbers, on account of the same wicked randomness they sought to get away from. Because at 22 in Puerto Rico they stand to make $4.25 an hour. Because at 22 in Puerto Rico the government really has no real interest in protecting them from domestic, everyday threats and no real power to protect them from imperial violence. Because at 22 in Puerto Rico they couldn’t really claim to be citizens, at least not in the same way their fellow citizens in Florida can claim it from birth. Now a National Tragedy has claimed them in a manner in which neither Federal law nor American culture has ever called on us to belong.
Tragedy here means empire as well.
As does belonging.
This is why we mourn them even when we are not really part of anything, domestic or international. We mourn them because our government failed to protect them. We mourn them because being 22 years old and gay on the Island is a dangerous enterprise if one rises every day to face the world with dignity.
In the colony, the “world” is often thought of as the U.S. After all, that is where you go if you want to be a citizen for real. But, in reality, the world in the colony is so tiny and beautiful and heartbreaking, it fits in a dance club.
 Rankine, Claudia