Two years ago I encountered Puerto Rico, a tiny corner of the Americas, that exists without a real identity or at the very least a confused one, an island and partial member of our country wherein years of divide-and-conquer policies from Washington within pro-independence activists, babies-for-money welfare policy, educational censorship and general neglect, globalization, consumerism and a dependency by design has destroyed a culture. Now that the revolutionary leaders like Dr. Pedro Albizue Campos (eventually died after being poisoned with radiation by US), Elias Beauchamp, Jose Coll y Cuchi, and Georgina Maldonado (7 yo girl killed in Ponce massacre), that once pinned the walls of the youth have been torn down, and today’s critics of Washington have been jailed, killed and weeded out by intimidation, repression and persecution, we now have a current generation of young adults preoccupied with everything America, nauseating levels of consumerism (like having the highest grossing Wal-Mart is a cultural success) and, a profane musical sub genre known as Reggatone in place of Salsa and more traditional Caribbean/Latino and African sounds. The Island would literally starve, again by design, without US basic foods in a matter of weeks, after neglecting agriculture for decades, the country is a canned based diet, where the citizens of San Juan believe farming for the Island is something that is below them. (food!)
June 22nd, 2006: It was just off the Oregon Coast, where the rolling hills meet the western cliffs that Reppard found himself in a moment of great complacency. Having just traversed two years of study at the University of California, Berkeley, there was a growing lack of color in his esteemed college days, a constant reminder of time, that anything so ingenuous, so unheard of as the fear of loosing control in life was absurd, however, as narrow-minded the thought was, no one could deny that there was an itch for something else. The testament to his two years at California began as a wild one with the bubbly freshmen, undergraduates with aspirations to sit on the board of the Daily Californian and embark upon Haas; both attempting to swing heroics and linguistics around until a natural impasse. The second year was spent with debutantes in dim-lit Greek sororities filled with fervor, blue and gold.
For the majority of the student body it was a struggle of identity, some professing socialism in an attempt to understand the lighter hearts of mankind, knowing that revolution has failed but has not been proven to fail while others entered a capitalistic whirlwind, dressed as mini-Gordon Gecko doppelgangers styling the newest edition of Quicken at seven AM sharp, even though most attended the morning lectures via a streaming source. It was an attempt to form a new generation amongst the ancestry and the marble in the vein of Rousseau, tinkering drafts of constitutions for the changing globe; goggled-eyed scientists, Bolsheviks, neo-cons and than the plebeian drunks whom figured that Fraternity Row was an excellent representation of an ancient Athenian academia. It was a tough year and it had finally come to pass.
Then in an anticlimactic moment California began to feel incredibly lonely until shortly after finals when he yielded to the invitation of an amazing uncle to spend a few evenings near the coastal towns of Brookings and Harbor, Oregon. However, a few evenings turned into an Oregon summer, a fabulous summer where he met Parker.
Parker was the first Oregon girl he had ever met. She portrayed a beautiful strength, an effervescent glow about her exposed her delightful originality and mysterious nature, a girl that he knew he did not deserve, well, a girl he knew that no man deserved and just as an ocean bonfire permits an immemorial bond between young romantics so she had done to his sentiments of the Coast. It was on the night they rode along Chetco River towards the Pelican Bay lamps where the river intertwined with the heavens that he left a piece of himself along the Coast and when he left it, he knew everything would be different.
“Is he going to be ok?” I was questioned after being approached by two men with obtrusive, dangerous eyes and rather inconspicuous weapons showing, both of whom were under the impression that it was normal to be standing in the simple surgery center with their guns half drawn. Even more surreal was that they believed I was going to be, an American, gringo medical student, the only one who could decisively dictate their next decision.
(In my mind I thought to ask, did you just stab/shoot this patient or are you here protecting him, seeking information and going to exact his revenge, but in the end it was just another day in the urban center of the state, where a code silver simply was no longer worth the time to call it) Thumbing through a conflict that as much as I have grown to understand I am even more confused about I knew the lines were to always be blurred. A conflict where invisible borders are drawn and destroyed constantely with the hospital receiving daily new stories written in blood and fueled by the 22 million drug using Americans.
I glanced down at my increasingly filthy white scrubs and newly bloodied shoes, all was strange but calm and only the beginning to the day. These patients are collateral damage in a society eroded by narco-capitalism, a free-trade zone turned free-fire zone. There is no Code Silver, there is just medicine and faith in doing what is right as medical staff and as a people in general.
Later the head doctor peering into the sloughed off face of the victim, pulled down his surgeons mask exposing his wide, brilliant smile to remind me, “get to work, have you never seen a gun before?”
Red Cross GDL
"My dreams reached malarial intensity. I dreamed of my wife and of running through the wheat north of Mosul where the falling Iraqi shells made the sound of bedsheets ripping and of Don Benito soaking his oak plow in the ranch well in the Sierra Madre. I dreamed of men I had worked with at sea, and where did you go, Edie Brickell, and of la vida loca.
During one of the midnight interrogations I spotted a small, spiky animal sniffing its way across the interrogation room floor. It looked like a hedgehog. I was light-headed with hunger. I had long since run out of things to say. I reached down from my chair.
“Don’t touch the hedgehog,” the colonel said.
I reached down again.
“Don’t—touch—the—hedgehog!” It was his pet.
I remember this distinctly: My face felt odd. It was my first smile in ten days.”
- Paul Salopek