Naomi Klein's new book, The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (Haymarket Books, 2018), is a compelling read and a fascinating story. It is also short! Everyone who cares about creating a just society based on mutual respect, real democracy and true equality of opportunity should read it without delay.
Also important: All royalties from the sale of this book in English and Spanish go directly to JunteGente, a gathering of Puerto Rican organizations resisting disaster capitalism and advancing a fair and healthy recovery for their island. For more information, visit http://juntegente.org/.
Of particular interest to members of the LEARN network is the inspiring story of Mercedes Martínez, "the indomitable head of the Federation of Puerto Rican Teachers." In the wake of Maria, the Puerto Rican government appears determined to drive its own residents from the island so that it might be rebuilt as a playground for the rich. One way it does so is by closing local schools, which it simultaneously under-funds and then condemns as "under-performing."
Martínez is helping to inspire the resistance. "Our job is to motivate people," Klein quotes her as saying, "to know that it's possible to resist things so long as we believe in ourselves." Thanks the the efforts spurred on by her and others like her, two dozen schools slated for closing have been kept open. On March 19, 2018, teachers across Puerto Rico staged a one-day strike against the plans to shrink and privatize the school system.
Next week, you will also have an unparalleled opportunity to hear from Klein herself. On Thursday evening, September 27, from 6 to 7:30 PM at the Trenton Public Library, she will be talking with Rutgers anthropology professor Yarimar Bonilla about the on-going efforts of Puerto Rican activists to rebuild the island after last year's devastating storm. The event is hosted by Labryinth Bookstore of Princeton.
Then on Friday, September 28, Rutgers is hosting a conference entitled "Aftershocks of Disaster—Puerto Rico a year after Maria" at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick (35 Seminary Place) from 9 AM to 5 PM. The conference is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. The program includes a theatrical performance by the Puerto Rican theater troupe Teatro Rodante of ¡Ay Maria!, "an interactive play that portrays with both poignancy and a dash of humor the experience of the storm and its aftermath; three panel discussions featuring prominent Puerto Rican journalists, artists and activists; and a keynote conversation by Klein and Bonilla.
(Professors Klein and Bonilla, actually, as Rutgers has just named Naomi Klein the inaugural holder, for the next three years, of the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies.)