Many community organizers in Puerto Rico, will agree that party loyalty will override any other conflicting loyalties you may have at election times. Whether you are trying to organize around environment, racism, labor rights, AIDS and/or LGBT rights. People will listen, maybe even understand and agree, but at the time of election, they will act like zombies walking into the electoral booth to vote according to their party affiliation. (There is a small number of mostly white elite people that will self identify as leftist, mostly in their young years, but as they grow old and become more conservative will end up being “melones.” Melones are leftists on the outside democrats at heart! (Their emphasis)
As one of the founding members of ACT-UP PR, party loyalty was one of the biggest hurdles to organize people. There are two ways how political parties tune into the people in Puerto Rico, most people are “born into their party” you are either born “penepé”(usually associated with Republicans) or “popular” (usually associated with Democrats) because your parents and your grandparents and their parents belonged to that party. The second way, is through employment (or the promise of one.) Governement of Puerto Rico is one of, if not the biggest, employer. Chances are that you, your dad, your mother, cousin, uncle, niece or cousin job will end up working for the government and you will fear for your/their job and vote to keep a party in power. You would be surprised as to the many ways in which these two different reasons are intertwined.
Activists and LG leaders in PR always struggle to keep partisan politics out of their work because they recognize that if they let it come in, that is the end to LGBT organizing in Puerto Rico. The ties to partisan politics are stronger than education, facts, numbers, friendship, etc. That is why even HIV/AIDS advocacy groups have been vocal, or not, depending which government or politician is being criticized. This is a fact, of every-day life in Puerto Rico and the best way to organize has been so far to walk around it. To continue to educate, and to not bite into it.
That is why it was very disturbing, but not surprising, the recent commotion after Cecilia La Luz, a well known lesbian activist, recently, and dare I say, unfortunately as well as irresponsibly, issued a solid endorsement of Luis Fortuño for Governor. This endorsement on spite of Fortuño’s clear alliance with the religious right and his long record of statements, supporting positions that are clearly prejudicial to the LGBT community in Puerto Rico. Cecilia, is a clear example of Puerto Ricans whose loyalty to their party colors is way above their own interests or worse, against the interests of those they strive to represent. Party loyalty for Cecilia (as well as to many, many Puerto Ricans) is more important, so much more, that Cecilia risks whatever credibility and good work she may have done in order to bring her party to power. Her integrity is at least, questionable.
It was refreshing to see other activists to quickly move to provide damage control by issuing declarations not endorsing any other candidate but certainly withdrawing, collectively, their support of Mr. Fortuño. You can read Olga Orraca here, and Pedro Julio Serrano here.
However, this is why the LG groups and LGBT community in Puerto Rico has failed to consolidate as a voting bloc and become a political force. Partisan politics in Puerto Rico has swallowed our reason, our integrity and like every other enabler, forces us every day to act, argue and negotiate against our own interests both collectively and individually.