By Liz Goodwin
A few weeks ago I was invited to join a media justice delegation to Puerto Rico with the Center for Media Justice, based in Oakland, CA. This organization’s mission is to “create media conditions that end racism, eliminate poverty, and advance human rights.” They work on issues of media access and ownership and intersect with progressive movements with communication strategy and action. Key initiatives further these goals like one of their main projects, MAG-Net, that focuses on the “critical use and transformation of media communication systems” with a local-to-local network of social justice, media and cultural organizations.
One of the objectives of the trip was to connect with local media on the Island. We met with one of the organizers for the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) student strike that recently ended and with Radio Huelga, the radio station established by the students to communicate speedily about the strike. The students at UPR said their main goals were to stop the Administration from privatizing campuses and from raising tuition. Their strike was unique, they shared with us, in that it was: grassroots, consensus-based, and submerged in technology. With constant stream of news and communication through Radio Huelga, as well as twitter, facebook and other social networks, they adopted the slogan: media not violence. They threw flowers at the police as they tried to squelch their demonstrations and rewired makeshift internet operations when the Administration attempted to cut off their access. They aired all day and night on the radio with everything from soap operas to latest news about the strike. They structured their large group by gates, representing fields in the University, like Humanities Gate, Communications Gate, etc. Each gate made decisions by consensus. In the larger assemblies, they voted democratically, by show of hands. At one point, the students shut down ten campuses across the Island and they won a long list of victories.
The rest of our time was spent at the beach, road tripping around the Island, attempting to find our way around, and tasting Puerto Rican food. Mofongo is just one example of the local food we tried – made with mashed plantains, garlic and pork cracklings. Delicious. Humacao was our home base, on the Eastern coast of the Island. It took just a few hours to realize that the Island is stunning – lush, green, magnificent in color and culturally unique. Even as I know Puerto Rico is unincorporated U.S. territory, that there is a rich revolutionary history, and an ongoing fight for independence, it is different to be there, talk with folks, see it with my own eyes.
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