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> Remembering Blanca Canales: Musings of a Tuesday Morning in Camuy, Puerto
> Rico
>                                      by Olga Jimenez de Wagenheim*
> Today, as I sat on my terrace planning to read a book on how to prevent
> Alzheimer's and other brain diseases (by Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai) I
> heard gunshots.  (No, I don't live in a drug infested urban area. Actually,
> I live in a quiet, semi-rural, middle-class development, in a sleepy town,
> surrounded by retired and young professionals.)  Yet, I distinctly heard
> gunshots not far away and I became intrigued.
>      As a retired historian I am prone to fanciful associations.  In this
> case, I recalled the words of Blanca Canales, the Jayuya rebel who took a
> leading role in the Nationalist uprising of 1950.  She said years later
> that she and her young followers "used to train for the revolution by the
> river's edge [in Coabey] under the pretext that they were hunting for
> pigeons."  But since Coabey lays in a valley, surrounded by mountains, "the
> shots echoed and alerted the neighbors."
>      That memory led me to fantasize that maybe another Blanca might be
> training in nearby Camuy (where coincidentally the cry for independence was
> to be given in September of 1868).  Perhaps, I thought, the island is
> already fighting for its liberation from the colonial yoke imposed by the
> United States in 1898.
>      A free island, I went on, could negotiate with the producers of the
> materials we need to build storm shutters before the next hurricane season
> is upon us.  It might even be able to bring down the cost of solar panels,
> batteries and other gadgets required to install the solar systems many of
> us want to install in order to keep our refrigerators and lights on,
> regardless of what happens to the AEE (the local power company), which is
> bankrupt and now threatening to privatize part of its services. Meanwhile
> the local overworked and underpaid workers promise to protest the
> privatization.
>      Imagine, an independent Puerto Rico, I continued, might decide to
> revive its agriculture and spare us having to depend on imported, limp
> produce from the United States, along with over priced plantains we now buy
> from the Dominican Republic or Central America.
>      It might also decide to stop using fossil fuels for its energy and
> begin to use the island's abundant sunshine and wind power to energize our
> homes, hospitals and businesses.  It might also try to encourage and help
> struggling local entrepreneurs instead of trying to keep hoping to lure
> foreign ones with tax and other incentives.
>      It might even try to reform the island's public education system in
> order to better prepare the young for the jobs of the future. It might try
> to decolonize their minds, by rewriting the island's history and in the
> process recognize the men and women who have struggled so valiantly to make
> this island a better place to live for everyone.  It might try to encourage
> the young to find  solutions to the looming health crisis and other social
> and economic issues.
>      It might help the inhabitants to remember to recycle and clean up the
> beaches and roads now littered with garbage.  It might possibly remind some
> urban dwellers that it is not a good idea to sweep the debris from their
> sidewalks into the sewer if they don't want the streets to flood the next
> time there is heavy rain.
>      It might start a campaign about the dangers of driving and texting
> and other life-threatening practices encountered on the island's roads.
>      It might reassure the population that no one will be left to "starve"
> once the meager aid from Uncle Sam is removed.  The same independent
> government might try to encourage the inhabitants to choose healthier
> foods, instead of settling for the quick meals purchased on the run at the
> multiple fast food chains that dot this island.  It might also remind them
> that  intelligent food choices will reduce the incidence of obesity,
> diabetes and other ills so common in present-day society.
>      A phone call from my brother-in-law brought me back to reality.  I
> asked him if he knew the reason for the shots I was hearing.  He replied:
> "Ah si, there is a shooting range on the other side of the mountain where
> you live, and folks go there to practice.  That seems to be a new sport
> here these days. What you are hearing are the echos of those shots."
>      On that sober note, I remembered it was time to put in a load of wash
> and get back to my book on how to prevent Alzheimer's.
> *Olga Jiménez de Wagenheim, a native of Camuy, recently moved to Puerto
> Rico with her husband Kal Wagenheim.  She is the author of El Grito de
> Lares: sus causas y sus hombres (Huracán, 1984) and several other books.
> Her latest is: Nationalist Heroines: Puerto Rican Women History Forgot,
> 1930s-1950s (Markus Wiener Publiers, 2016).
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