Harry Velez

Black Panther is Undocumented

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Harry Velez

Seattle, WA

My story, I want to think, starts in 1898 when the US invaded Puerto Rico, a self-governing island part of the Spanish Crown. I would not be born until 1960 but what happened in 1898 is important to me still today. Puerto Ricans were made US citizens by an act of Congress in 1917, just in time to be drafted to fight in WWI. To this day hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have served in the US military. Growing up Puerto Rican has meant having to reconcile the invasion, its brutality and unfairness, the current situation of an island in which status, identity and nationality are endlessly and heatedly argued, etc. It has also meant moving to the US and earning higher education degrees at Washington University and Harvard. It has meant living in Seattle since 1990, a city that I am happy to call “home”. Being an American is a process, a decision, a commitment. It is never simply a “fact”. Thus, I support civic engagement, social justice and immigration reform. Being American is bigger and much more difficult than it may seem. It is also more beautiful and it is or should be open to those who have been at the receiving end of our country’s self-serving and cruel interventions all over the world. Mexicans who saw half of their country gobbled up by the aggressive neighbor up north between 1846-1848 are among those. Central Americans in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua who saw murderous and genocidal regimes installed and backed by the US, deserve that chance as well. The same goes for Cubans and Puerto Ricans. What should we say about thousands of Iraqis and Afghan citizens whose lives our nation upended in our misguided “War on Terror”? It gets better though from 1898 to the present… but we need to work harder to make it even better. That means opposing unwarranted military interventions abroad and working for social justice, inclusion, immigration reform at home.

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