Political Protests of Summer 2019

Section Synopsis: In the summer of 2019, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans participated in a series of mass mobilizations across the island. These protests were triggered by the revelation of digital chats between the governor and his closest collaborators, that included mocking those who died in Hurricane Maria, misogynistic comments, homophobic slurs, and remarks reflecting class bias. Bad Bunny left his European tour that summer to participate in the protests, which resulted in Governor Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló’s resignation on August 2, 2019. 


“Puerto Rico’s Summer 2019 Uprising and the Crisis of Colonialism” outlines the events of the Summer 2019 protests in Puerto Rico. Pedro Cabán takes a look at the immediate and historical contexts of the protests while also connecting them to other uprisings around the world.  He also writes about the People’s Assemblies that formed across the island as a way to build participatory democracy in the wake of the protests.

This work tells the story of the political protests of 2019 through photographs. The photos show the scale of the protests while also including photographs of specific signs and people. The article also focuses on the backlash specifically to the homophobic content of the leaked text messages that prompted the protests.

“La Calle Fortaleza in Puerto Rico’s Primavera de Verano” tells the history of Calle Fortaleza, the street that leads to the Governor’s mansion, from its colonial roots to its role as a site of protest and renaming it to “Calle de la Resistencia” in the summer of 2019.  Aurora Santiago-Ortiz and Jorell Meléndez-Badillo write about how the protesters were able to reclaim the street as a space of community as opposed to a symbol of colonialism.

In this piece, Bárbara Abadía-Rexach writes about how the summer 2019 protests brought together people from all parts of what she calls “the great racialized Puerto Rican family.”  By including the word racialized, she challenges the cultural nationalist idea of “the great Puerto Rican family” as a harmonious mix of Indigenous, Spanish, and African cultures that denies ongoing systemic racism in Puerto Rico. Abadía-Rexach writes that a large portion of Puerto Rico’s population is racialized as non-white and those were the people who made up a large part of the participants of the protests.  She also highlights the work of different community groups during the protests.

In “Black Feminist Tactics: On La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción’s Politics without Guarantees,” Rocío Zambrana writes about how the summer 2019 protests drew on a history of feminist organizing tactics, specifically by La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción. This organization challenges the idea of the state as absent and instead frames the state as intentionally abandoning the most vulnerable.  They connect gender violence with racism, austerity, and other issues affecting Puerto Rico.

Yarimar Bonilla’s “Postdisaster Futures: Hopeful Pessimism, Imperial Ruination and La futura cuir” writes that as the ruination of Puerto Rico occurred, there was also increased visibility for queer and trans people.  The absence of the state led to fewer constraints on queer people.  She also explores the role of pessimism in post-disaster Puerto Rico as austerity politics destroyed infrastructure leading to the catastrophic disaster that was Hurricane Maria and the idea of hopeful pessimism which allows for hope in action while accepting the current conditions and not entertaining unachievable expectations for the future.

In this text, Cruz Garcia and Nathalie Frankowski the participation of Bad Bunny and the leaders of Colectiva Feminista en Construcción (among others) in the Summer 2019 protests to the role of lectores or “loudreaders” in Puerto Rican history.  In the early 20th century, the loudreaders would read out loud to workers rolling cigars, often reading anticapitalist and decolonial texts to the workers. Loudreading inspired rebellion among workers in tobacco factories.  Garcia and Frankowski connect the history of loudreading to the present use of social media as a rallying force during the summer 2019 protests.