Ah, poor Little Ricky Rossello. A scant three months ago he was threatening the president of the United States with a punch in the mouth. Now baying hordes of his own constituents are calling for the lefty pro-statehood Puerto Rican governor to resign because he took his big talk a tad too far.
As an individual of Colombian heritage I find this highly amusing, as we Latins all despise and loathe other Latin ethnicities with an overriding passion we only otherwise reserve for black beans and rice. We’re not supposed to admit that in front of Anglo-Saxons and the like. But I traded in my cultural membership card for Anglophilia a long time ago. Ergo…
When I (insert poignant yet witty story proving my point) was growing up in South Florida a pal of mine, a Cuban kid, was called to the deathbed of his abuelita, his grandmother, who was in her 80s. An hour before she passed she called him close to whisper something through her labored breathing. He thought it would be a reminder of her deep love for him or a final thought on life and death. He came close, put his ear to her mouth, and in the flickering moments of her time on this plane of existence said, “Ramon, promise me, you’ll never marry a Mexican.”
Welcome to Latin society.
This take-no-prisoners approach also extends to the three factors by which most Latins judge other Latins: power, money, and how they accumulate status. There is also sex. But that is the subject for another column.
My specific knowledge of Latin political culture is rather extensive, as I cut my teeth as a young geeky volunteer in the South Florida GOP of the 1970s and spent two decades as a political operative regularly advising various candidates on “the Hispanic vote,” which, by the way, doesn’t exist. Latins are not politically monolithic because we all disdain each other too much to vote alike.
But back to Little Ricky.
His prior line regarding clobbering the president was said after Trump wouldn’t give him all the hurricane relief moolah he wanted. To say “If the bully [Trump] gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth” may have seemed fashionably macho right after the latest sustained tropical downpour/wind tunnel. Though I’m hazy on how not giving somebody tax dollars, which the potential recipient will probably spend on cheap hookers and loud suits, counts as bullying.
He also said the president treats Puerto Ricans as “second-class citizens.” This after Trump okayed assistance for the island far surpassing, according to the president, “what Texas, Florida, and others have gotten” for their storm relief efforts. However, that was not enough for Rossello.
Once he got the verbal testosterone injections he went with the flow. Even grew a scraggly beard in the current beta male fashion. In his fun what did the amateur caudillo do to exercise the ire of his fellow islanders? He did what today is the ultimate crime. He hurt somebody’s feelings. Okay, he also cavorted and consorted with all manner of political reprobate and bottom feeder. But since that goes with the territory in any Latin political scene, people are more upset at his jibes.
In language that wouldn’t exactly make Peron, Franco, or the Blessed of Helicopter Memory Augusto Pinochet blush, he called an NYC female pol a “whore” and mocked Ricky Martin, patron saint of the island, for being gay. He further said, in clumsy phrasing lost in translation, he wanted to “shoot up” the mayor of San Juan and used, horror of horrors, a middle finger emoji in a text. This was all contained in encrypted Telegram app chats with eleven male cronies. The comically non-secure info comes from an 889-page report from investigative journalists in Puerto Rico that hit last Saturday.
In modern practice, the fact that six members of the island’s political leadership, including Rossello’s own people, have lately been arrested in a federal corruption probe (thus making the president’s trepidation at throwing added money down a venal rat hole all the more understandable) pales in comparison to the above-mentioned thought crimes.
So the usual professional victims have taken to the streets to demand he leave office because he is kind of a jerk when talking privately to his pals. Well hell, who isn’t?
That he was likely at the head of a kleptocracy that robbed his own people blind to maintain the garish and vulgar lifestyles so beloved of wannabe Noriegas? No big deal.
He may resign over the next week, once he has a new gig in sight, or just ride out the storm like his island has done after numerous deluges. Either way, nothing will change because Latin political culture, honed over centuries of incompetent repression and clumsy thievery, is not going to change.
If it did, what fun would that be?