Buy this shirt: Nao confundas artesanais com artes anais shirt, hoodie, tannk top and long sleeve tee
A senior in high school at the time, Valentín was right there every night, protesting alongside her mother. “My mom would not allow me to go if I was not there with her keeping me safe,” she recalls. “Ironically, the only time I went without her was the time I was gassed and pepper-sprayed.” She adds, “Honestly, I look at that time very fondly. That was a very particular experience because I was so filled with this genuine outrage, and this anger, and I had all the resources to actually express it. I felt empowered to express it. And I feel like a person that lives in a colony, it is very rare the day that you feel empowered to take action over your circumstances. That was when I truly realized the power that people have over leadership.”
She continues, “Especially after moving to the United States, I’ve found that the best way is to be a platform that people can bounce your ideas off of. Instead of just listening you [think], ‘Okay, how can we elevate that into action? How could I help you change these circumstances?’ Asking these questions can make people feel comfortable, and empowers them to uplift their voices.” The lack of adequate response from Ricardo Rosselló, the governor at the time of Hurricane Maria, as well as the federal government more broadly, contributed directly to the deaths of thousands of people. (The official death toll was later determined to be 2,975 people, a marked difference from Rosselló’s initial claim that it had only been 64.) In the summer of 2019, after chats on the Telegram app between the governor and other officials where the participants mocked the dead were leaked to the public—and after entire containers full of water were found abandoned during a time of urgent need, among other shortcomings—nightly protests broke out in front of La Fortaleza for 11 straight days, demanding Rosselló’s resignation.
“Most of my [and my] friends’ organizing has been [about] listening to people speaking, and allowing them to organize their communities, and just offering my support and resources,” says Valentín. “There are so many people that have been yelling and screaming [about the injustices they’ve been facing] for decades and no one’s been listening. So it’s my responsibility to speak when no one is speaking, but it’s also my responsibility to hold the microphone over those that have been speaking for decades and facing systematic oppression.”
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