After Maria, Puerto Ricans Cultivate Food Sovereignty . . .


In “After Maria, Puerto Ricans Cultivate Food Sovereignty While FEMA Delivered Skittles & Cheez-Its,” Amy Goodman and Juan González (Democracy Now!) speak with Naomi Klein and with Puerto Rican anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla. [Read full transcript and watch full show at Democracy Now!] Here are excerpts:

This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guests are Yarimar Bonilla, associate professor at Rutgers University of Caribbean studies and a visiting fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation, author of Non-Sovereign Futures. We’re also joined by Naomi Klein, who is now a senior correspondent at The Intercept, and we’ll link to her piece called “The Battle for Paradise.” [. . .]

YARIMAR BONILLA: Yeah, it’s really interesting, because there has been a shift, like you said. There was a time when the diaspora was discouraged from getting involved politically in the political status of Puerto Rico, in the future of Puerto Rico, and recriminated for not speaking enough Spanish and for not, you know, being Puerto Rican enough, in some sense or another. So there is a positive change in that sense, where now there’s people who don’t even want to talk about diaspora, they just want to talk about Puerto Ricans here and there and everywhere. [. . .]

NAOMI KLEIN: Katia and Jesús work with this wonderful organization called Organización Boricuá. They have been advocating for a very long time for food security, for a shift to—away from this extreme dependence on imports. Eighty-five percent of the food that Puerto Ricans eat is imported, and 90 percent of it comes through this single port, the Port of San Juan, which was in absolute chaos after Maria. And this is why a lot of people who I talked to in Puerto Rico referred sort of casually to Hurricane Maria as “our teacher,” this very stern teacher, but there were all of these lessons, carried by the storm, of what didn’t work and also some things that did work. So, what didn’t work, as I said earlier, was pretty much everything, this very centralized, import-dependent food and energy system. But there were also examples of things that did, including the model of agriculture, agroecology, that has been advanced by Organización Boricuá for a very long time. And we met them, thanks to a delegation coming from the U.S. mainland organized by the Climate Justice Alliance.

But the story that they were telling there is that on farms that use these more traditional methods of intercropping, so not planting a single monocrop, cash crop, that was just leveled by Maria, but using these seeds and these methods that protected against erosion, but also planted a diversity of crops, including a lot of root vegetables, that survived Hurricane Maria. So, some of the only people with food stores, after Hurricane Maria sent the whole system into chaos, were farms that had planted root vegetables, that were able to harvest them very, very quickly, and they had nutritious food. Meanwhile, FEMA wasn’t getting to remote communities for, in some cases, weeks. And then, when they finally arrived, they had boxes filled with Skittles and Cheez-It crackers. So, this is another example of what the reconstruction should look like, if we actually learn the lessons carried by Maria. [. . .]

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