When we talk about the financial crisis in Puerto Rico, we should analyze the roles the Puerto Rican and United States governments played in the situation. We shouldn’t, however, write an insensitive and racist ditty that makes light of what’s happening on the island. Yet on Friday, a group of financial journalists dressed up in zarapes and sombreros (eye roll) and did just that. At the New York Financial Writers Association’s Financial Follies fundraiser on Friday, “a bunch of white people” mocked the financial situation in Puerto Rico.
Reuters journalist Nick Brown documented the moment on Twitter, where he criticized everything from what they wore to the insensitive lyrics of their song. To the tune of “Despacito,” the group sang, “We can help you with your little bankruptcito / we’re the brains, you’re the debtor in ‘el possessionito’ / words tun into Spanish just by adding ‘ito’ / when we’re in San juan we drink mojito-itos / & look out for the Zika from the ‘squitos.”
On top of being dehumanizing, this skit is an issue because the field of journalism continues being incredibly white. If these are the people who are documenting, analyzing, and writing about Puerto Rico, then how can they be trusted to deliver news that isn’t shaded by their own biases?
Update, November 12, 2018 at 5 p.m. ET: After backlash, the New York Financial Writers’ Association released a statement: “Some attendees of our Nov. 9 event took offense at certain parody songs that accompany the annual Financial Follies dinner. The NYFWA board wishes to make clear that was not our intention and we apologize for any offense taken. The NYFWA understands and supports the art and spirit of parody and satire which is, and has been, the 76-year tradition of the Financial Follies… It is an art form of nuanced messaging that must be taken in its full context, as must all forms of parody and satire. This year, that messaging included actors portraying sexist men in our “Me Too” era, and ignorant bankers who fueled Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Those were the intended targets of the skits. We regret any possible confusion that some in the audience might have drawn from the messaging; its intention was clearly to mock the perpetrators, not deride the victims.”