Machetero & Puerto Rico / "Colonialism is a fire that burns uncontrollably consuming life and devouring law ... and will eventually destroy everything in its path."

{ exclusive feature}

New Sons of Puerto Rico Make Songs and Slingshots in New Film
by Frederick B. Hudson (Guest Contributor)

In a world where the dominant form of arithmetic is subtraction--where the worker studies his or her paycheck to see how much has been deducted; where the employer analyzes spreadsheets to see how many workers' hours or entire positions can be eliminated comes a new character--Machetero.

Puerto Rican by heritage, United States by upbringing, he brings a new calculus of concerns: the perceived exploitation of his native island by a government, which does not offer human experience of culture.

A forty-four year-old New York writer and director who refers to himself with the one word appellation, Vagabond ("Nat Turner: Instrument of God's Vengeance". The Last Generation Of Black People: The Liberator Magazine #26, 2012.), has surmounted boulders of obstacles to screen a movie whose chief visual trope is a young boy alternatively staring at the Puerto Rican beach, then returning to the waves to refresh his memories of the womb fluid that blessed him.

Although the film, named after the central character, has won awards in six countries, ranging from South Africa to Ireland to Thailand, the tale has only achieved its first theatrical release in the United States this week with a one-week engagement at Kabavito's Theatre in New York City. The reason is obvious--it absorbs the vapors and fluids of the Puerto Rican liberation struggle--not just as history but also even in its casting. A former Puerto Rican prisoner of war who spent 20 years in federal prisons for sedition plays the role of mentor to the young revolutionary.

The main character is even given the name of Pedro in memory of Don Pedro Abizu Campos, the Harvard Law graduate who spent many years himself in U.S. prisons for his violent advocacy of liberation of his island. Campos himself was a controversial figure who only chose violent tactics after innocent demonstrators were killed, after a historic march in the city of Ponce. After Campos' death, his supporters were able to refute the denial of his claim that he had been radiated in prison by presenting witnesses who testified that they had seen the Geiger counter needle go to the extreme number when brought near the man's body.

Therefore, there is a history to this musical drama, which uses the rap idiom to elucidate the protagonist's angst and redemption:

Colonialism is a fire

that burns uncontrollably

consuming life and devouring law.

It turns bone to ember

and flesh to ash

and will eventually destroy

everything in its path

The inevitable rational analysis of the tiny island pitted again the armies of the most powerful military industrial complex in the world are handled with reference to the Christian Biblical tales of David:

the exile with a sling, a stone, and a plan

Then the exile, like Kafka's bug takes form as a roach which "retreats, disappears, then still there overruns the master's house."

Winning and losing aside, Machetero, is a direct descendent of the philosophical stance taken by the late Hebert Marcuse whose One-Dimensional Man was one of the instructional texts for activist Angela Davis. Marcuse spoke of the difficulty of media to portray the struggles in Machetero when he noted:

"While the people can support the continuous creation of nuclear weapons, radioactive fallout, and questionable foodstuffs, they cannot (for this very reason!) tolerate being deprived of the entertainment and education which make them capable of reproducing the arrangements for their defense and/or destruction."

It is ironic that the film's website hosts an interview with writer Sam Greenlee whose famous work describing how a black man who used his C.I.A. training to train ghetto youths to defend themselves and their community. Greenlee's film, The Spook Who Sat By the Door was forced by government officials to be taken out of theatres and almost all the prints were destroyed. Let us hope Machetero has a better fate.

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