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The San Juan Star

When An Extremist Minority Influences International Opinion

By Arturo J. Guzmán

March 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The San Juan Star. All rights reserved. 

For the past few days there has been ample internet commentary and considerable media exposure to an article devoted to Puerto Rico published in this month’s issue of the National Geographic magazine and originally featured in its website. I previewed it on the web and like others also sent my comments on-line without paying much attention to the site’s on-line statehood poll, evidently invalidated because it permitted unrestricted multiple voting and manipulation of the results.

As a long-term Geographic subscriber it did not surprise me that the magazine would publish such a demeaning, manipulative, inaccurate, biased, racist semblance. Other than admiring its extraordinary photography, for many years I have often detected similar misdeeds directed at other countries and geo-political regions with which I am extremely familiar and as such enabled to discern factual information from propaganda or downright disinformation or misinformation.

I refuse to attribute these false portrayals and interpretations to the ignorance, superficiality, or unfamiliarity of the authors with the subject matter. Instead, as a reputedly "prestigious and serious" intellectual publication, National Geographic is often utilized to advance the viewpoint of groups that want to portray images, photographic and written, that respond to pre-conceived agendas. Who commissioned this article? Who has the most to loose or the most to gain? What if any has been the Governor’s reaction?

Regardless of the answers, I am not as surprised about what was published as I am surprised at the extent of the reaction that has been extracted from what appears to be the majority of its critics who accurately claim that by the nature of the people interviewed, National Geographic is trying to pass the viewpoint and image of an extremist minority as the prevalent viewpoint and attitudes of the majority of Puerto Ricans.

Immaturely, Puerto Ricans as a people are notorious for the inability to encourage and accept self-criticism no matter how constructive or realist it may be. We are beyond blame or reproach and must always seek a scapegoat as long as we are relieved, to our own understanding and acceptance, of our collective and individual responsibilities. This time the scapegoat happens to be the National Geographic magazine, and it invites to ask where have these critics been for the past twenty years during which too few of us have been warning that by our complacency and silence we were allowing extremist minorities to portray us as a people for what we were not?

The National Geographic is only guilty of shortchanging its readership by ignoring proven reality and fact and substituting it for propaganda, but we as a majority are even guiltier because it is our neglect, absence, and indifference of many years that have permitted unscrupulous journalists and writers including the overwhelming majority of our own local press and media to portray us collectively based upon the definition, ideology, and agendas of the minority.

Where have these critics been since Rafaél Hernández Colón began fomenting this modern era of local nationalism? Where have they been all these years, during which a considerable segment of our population has been brainwashed into the deceitful notion that Puerto Rico is a "nation" and that we have a Puerto Rican "nationality" and "citizenship"? Did our brains and consciences far precede us into exile?

The National Geographic outrage, only mirrors the message we’ve been sending or allowing our elected, civic, social, business, and religious leaders to send on our behalf on the prostituted issue of Vieques, and on our loyalties and allegiances to the nation that gifts us with our American nationality and citizenship-and our federal grants. It is the result of the scarce mentality of the single flag, the single anthem, and the single language, and in essence the result of crass and seemingly massive ignorance, arrogance, and ingratitude.

This article is only the reflection of the vociferous intolerant minority that we have allowed to take over and prevail because, except for a dismal few, we in the majority seem to have no purpose, will power, or convictions. Or worse, we don’t want to be perceived as "controversial" or "politically insensitive or incorrect". God forgive that we stand and fight for what we believe, lest it affect our pocket, yet we have the audacity to complain at the direct results of our own cowardice and attitudes!

I refuse to commiserate. Instead join in doing something about it while there remains and opportunity and be reminded that charity begins at home. Correct and denounce those in the local press and media that are intent on promoting these false images not once but each and every day. Begin with the "smaller" things that jointly help create the larger picture. Next time someone reports on a local as a "national team", broadcasts news about the United States as "international news", refers to statehood advocates as "annexationists", or incur in any of the hundreds of daily factual or historical lies used to promote extremist and minority political agendas be aware that this is precisely what creates the impression we are conveying and what is sculpting our image as a people in national and international public opinion.

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