Vieques

1.

If you were to ask my father why I trespassed onto the bombing range and got myself arrested, he’d tell you that everything I do, I do with all the spite I have for him clogging every square inch of my heart. And if you were to ask him what I hoped to accomplish when I went to Vieques to join what he’d refer to as my Little Army of Pipsqueaks and Pendangos, he’d tell you that I did it because making him regret he ever had a son is my utmost goal in life. “If it weren’t for me,” he’d say, “that little shit couldn’t even find Vieques on a map!” He’d go on to say that whatever political beliefs I believed I had were not in fact my own; and he’d speculate, no doubt, about the “little friends” who’d influenced me, none of whom he knew, and about how every evening what we did in Vieques was eat lobsters on the beach and then sit around a bonfire getting high, strumming our guitars with our greasy little hands, hands that had never seen a hard day’s work in their whole lives, the hardest work they’d done, in fact, was shuck those lobsters from their shells, and, of course, we hadn’t even done that right, we were so inept we’d surely overcooked them, and how we sat in front of our botched, rubbery feasts, singing whiny songs about the Puerto Rican revolution and hatching a convoluted plot to make him—Héctor Manuel Acosta Jr.—personally more miserable.

If you were to ask my mother why I went, she’d hesitate and then give you something vague about how she can neither condone my actions nor condemn them, but that’s all she’d have to say, she doesn’t believe in discussing politics with strangers, and besides, she’d add, as long as I was back by the second week of August, when I was due in Boston for freshman orientation, I could be off in Antarctica all summer, clubbing baby seals, for all she really cared. And if you were to press her with a follow-up, she’d raise her arms and say, “Why coño you ask me for, you think he tells me anything? I can read his mind? You want to know so bad, why don’t you ask him?

And if you’d done this, if you’d asked me at the time, I would’ve pointed out that not a single time in the history of humanity has an empire seized a colony and willingly given its people equal rights. I would’ve told you, as I told Bondy at La Pregunta the night before I embarked for Vieques, that there comes a time in a man’s life when he must rise and fight, and that after a century of American oppression this time arrived for me when, on April 19, 1999, during a military training exercise, a Hornet fighter jet dropped a five-hundred-pound tritonal bomb on David Sanes Rodríguez, a civilian guard manning an observation post on the outskirts of the range, a range that had been built on pillaged land, land whose inhabitants had been displaced and that, for over fifty years, had been poisoned by the US Navy with uranium and napalm and arsenic and lead.

Bondy smirked. “Right. So what’s her name?”

“What!” I said. “Vieques is her name! Borinquén is her name! La hija del mar y el sol, where I was born and raised!”

“Please.” He crossed his arms. “You really expect me to believe you’re not doing this for a girl?”

“Seriously, cabrón. How dare you?” I stood and walked away.

2.

Her name was Lara Lebrón Gautier. We met in May during an open mike at La Guitarra. I’d gone there with Gamaliel, who had a beard that put my chin to shame and an infuriating habit of making references to singer-songwriters of whom I had never heard and then chastising me for my ignorance.
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