In his nearly 40 years on earth, Puerto Rican artist Cosculluela has evidently learned little history about his home of Puerto Rico—in terms of the archipelago’s demographics and how they came to be, at least.
A clip surfaced this weekend in which Cosculluela reveals not only his lack of knowledge about black Puerto Rico, but also shows indignation for the Black Lives Matter movement, period.
“Dark-skinned [Puerto Ricans] aren’t black,” he says. “Black people are from Africa. The ones here aren’t from Africa.”
There’s more, but the runaway train of thought has to first stop here, where we correct the inaccuracy of what Cosculluela says: The Caribbean and Latin America were very much a part of the slave trade of the 17th through 18th centuries. Historically, it was a universal institution.
This 2-minute clip from Slate shows where black Africans were forcibly trafficked to and from during the period of 1560 to 1860.
It was not until 1873 that slavery was outlawed in Puerto Rico—the result of el Grito de Lares, an uprising against Spanish colonial rule, the year prior.
The abolitionist movement in the U.S. began gradually in the early 1800s and continued through the 1850s until finally, in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, making slavery illegal. Still, Jim Crow laws and segregation followed, then as those laws were struck down, the country evolved to oppress black people in other, technically legal ways (media representation, the prison industrial complex, employment discrimination, targeting by police and much more).
We know the U.S. is still very much affected by its history, and that anti-blackness remains rampant. Why would Puerto Rico be an exclusion to this? Latin America also has its issues with anti-Blackness, too.
Yet Cosculluela implies that the kind of systemic racism of the U.S. does not exist in Puerto Rico (or other Latin American countries, we’re assuming), and he delivers this sentiment in a nasty, violent manner.
“You know, that’s a racial problem they have over there. Let them kill themselves over there. That affects the economy bien cabron,” he says.
We can’t even say that Cosculluela is leaning on the falsehood of Puerto Rican as a specific race, a combination of indigenous Taíno, Spanish and African heritage, that he’s just denied Puerto Ricans’ African heritage altogether.
People say “negrito means love” in Puerto Rico. That’s not untrue. But it does not invalidate the fact that anti-Blackness does exist in the archipelago.
And there’s no way Cosculluela has never heard of Loíza, an east coast town in Puerto Rico founded in the 16th century by formerly enslaved Africans—right?
Just before the clip cuts off, Cosculluela scratches his head in thought. But obviously, we know there wasn’t actually much critical thinking happening there.