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Rosie Perez Speaks Out On Vieques Controversy


October 6, 2000
Copyright © 2000 All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rican actress Rosie Perez lent her name and star quality to the growing movement against the U.S. Navy's occupation of the island of Vieques.

Earlier this year, Perez was arrested in an act of civil disobedience for the Vieques cause. Perez recently hosted the second "Stop the Bombs" concert at the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

Perez spoke before a young crowd for a rousing evening of hip-hop, free Vieques and Puerto Rican nationalism sloganeering. As to why she lends her name to the Vieques issue, Perez told "The Navy's still there. You don't start a movement then leave it hanging."

Perez, who will appear off-Broadway later this year and stars in the critically-acclaimed "Vagina Monologues" in Los Angeles later this month, opened the evening despite an apparent bout with the flu.

For the event, Perez downplayed her fame, saying that the "Stop the Bombs" movement should be the focus of the evening rather than her star status.

"You have the power more than anyone on stage," she told the nearly packed hall. "You don't need me. You don't need Ricky Martin and you sure don't need Jennifer Lopez."

Perez recalled being arrested earlier this year and said "she shook with fear" at the sight of the police paddy wagon. She along with poet Mariposa were among the handful of women taken into custody for protesting the Navy's continued bombing and target practice on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

"(Latinos) come out for premieres and ticket sales," said Perez. "We have to show up when our people are suffering."

Along with Perez, musicians Tony Touch, TKA, Puerto Rock, The Arsonists and Q-Unique as well as performance artists The Welfare Poets lent their talents to the Vieques cause. Early next year, the "Stop the Bombs" group will produce their first CD.

The walls of the Great Hall vibrated with bomba, techno and salsa. Hip-hop artists like Tony Touch and the Arsonists served as the main attraction and will also appear on next year's CD.

Throughout the near three-hour concert, Perez and other performers took a moment of silence to honor David Sanes, a security guard who died in April 1999 while on duty at the Navy base, a victim of a mistake by a Navy pilot who dropped two 500 pound bombs off target. Since then, the beaches on the target range have been occupied by protesters trying to put and end to the bombings in Vieques.

The late musicians Big Pun and Tito Puente were also honored, but it was Perez's presence that legitimized the evening. Musicians and audience members reacted positively to Perez hosting the event.

"I salute her. She's a representation of our cultural achievement," said Carlos Rovira of the Vieques Support Campaign.

"She's authentic and a very sympathetic woman," said musician and Spanish teacher Bruni Castro. "She's probably very busy but as a celebrity she used her popularity to make this movement popular."

Marinieves Alba called Perez's attendance "a blessing."

"She came to us, not as a celebrity paper doll but rather as a sister," said Alba. "Her power and strength doesn't come from celebrity, but community."

Solange Jorge, a dancer and recent New York University graduate, said she it was refreshing to see young people come out for a cause -- and to see a popular entertainer like Perez support a controversial movement.

"Rosie comes out and speaks her mind," said Jorge. "I really respect her. She refuses to be boxed in."

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