A report by Guisell Gomez for Be Latina.
In recent times, Puerto Rico has been going through a drastic political shift. People are demanding more from the government and they’re getting more vocal about it. Throughout this shift, various women’s voices have been inundating the island with their thoughts on what Puerto Rico’s next steps should be. In fact, Puerto Rico is currently encountering an era in which many women are in powerful positions for once. However, this doesn’t mean that opposing views don’t exist, even within the different female voices in Puerto Rico. Aliana Bigios is someone who has been vocal about the situation in Puerto Rico and what all these changes means to all the communities of the island.
Aliana Bigios is a Puerto Rican feminist and aspiring politician that is making sure her voice is being heard. She does this through her social media accounts, with her handle “Con Sentimiento,” by voicing her views to her vast following.
Bigios has always been political. Though her views don’t always align with everyone around her, including her families own views, she presses on with her message. She’s someone who believes feminism and politics can’t exist without each other, which is why she focuses on both these subjects simultaneously. Her bread and butter is grassroots and she feels that there’s nothing better than meeting one-on-one with the community. In her spare time, you can even find her giving workshops in different schools. Undeniably, Bigios is coming at full force and with fiery passion — just what the island needed.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Aliana Bigios not so long ago. Read on to learn more about her thoughts.
How did you come about with your name “Con Sentimiento”?
“Con Sentimiento” started right after I started college. I never had any education whatsoever on what was feminism or what even was consent. I remember I had a class in college, just like a workshop about healthy relationships. When I heard what consent meant, I was blown away by the word. So, I was like I want to talk more about this and expand it. I wanted people to view it not only in sexual relationships, yourself, family, friends, and the ongoing conversations that it offers. It just started this way. That and in Spanish, the phrase “Con Sentimiento” means to do with passion. My mom always says to do things with passion or don’t do them at all. It was like a play on that word and what it meant to be in my awakening in my feminist activism. I’m very political, too. I just wanted to blend all of this together and create a space in social media where these conversations happen, especially in Puerto Rico’s context.
What do you think about the movement “Generación Yo No Me Dejo” (Generation I Won’t Let You)? Do you feel part of this movement?
Yes, I believe that I am. It’s something that I can thump my chest proudly for. I have a lot of pride to be part of this movement. I also think that it’s not so much of a choice — I think they left us with nothing. We have to be that if we want to stay here because there’s no promise. The reality is that we don’t have secure jobs. Our island is in the worst condition it has ever been and I think we need to take a stance. There’s a saying at the moment: “If we allow it, we leave.” That’s actually the mentality of the young people currently. But I don’t want to leave for the United States and well, no one really wants to leave for the United States. There’s a promise that says if you want to prosper, you must leave the island, and then come back. We don’t want that. We want to prosper here, work here, have our families here, and die here. We want to have an island that is capable of giving us dignified lives for everyone here. So, “Generación Yo No Me Dejo” is a challenge to the status quo and saying that I’m not going to let anyone drive me out of my home. It’s difficult, but it might be more difficult for others who aren’t as privileged as me. Being part of this movement does not only work towards my security on the island, but for the security of others as well.
How have you combated the challenges that brings with you being young?
People are saying all the time that I’m immature, that I’m going through a rebellious phase, and that this is going to be something that I’m going to forget. People are also constantly telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I think this is always going to come, especially being a woman. Also, being told that I’m just a “cute little, dumb girl,” is something that is thrown at me continuously. However, I’ve managed to look past that. I know what I know. So, I’m constantly proving myself, sadly. I have to and I don’t mind it. I know where I want to be, I know what I want to, and I’m very sure of it. Honestly, the majority of the politicians have less education than what I have right now. I feel empowered by everything that I’ve gone through. Not just academically, but by what I’ve learned in the streets through the movements. For example, we’ve learned a lot about organization recently when we’ve traveled to the south. This was all without even studying it, so that says a lot about our dedication and my dedication overall. I think that I don’t have to prove myself so hard because my actions have spoken for me.
How do you maintain your credibility?
I always verify my sources. I provide the facts that back me up. Of course, I have opinions, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But for example, when someone tries to come for me, I give them the articles they can read and whatnot. I also know how to recognize when the government does good things, which is seldom, but at least I can acknowledge it. I’ve managed to move my way in these spaces. I feel like the adults are seeing that we are stepping up and they’re starting to feel the pressure of accountability. And having that for the first time in Puerto Rico, so actively, is totally worthwhile for this movement.
What do you recommend for any young person trying to provide information like yours?
I would say to not be scared because of your age. I don’t think there’s a perfect time. I don’t think that we will ever feel ready. I’m even sad that I didn’t start “Con Sentimiento” sooner because I was waiting for the right time. I would tell myself that I should wait for my [bachelor’s degreee] or to become a lawyer. But I realized that shouldn’t have been my motivator. We have so much access to information. If you really have the right intention and something in your heart is telling you to do it, then go for it. You’re never going to feel completely ready and that’s okay. We are never going to be the perfect activist or whatever. At the end of the day, our future depends on how much we act, speak, and involve ourselves. So, we have to just do it. We have to go out there and use social media for something else other than posting about pictures of food and hangueos, which is cool too, but we need to take control in other senses.
What do you think about the female voices in Puerto Rico’s politics at the moment?
I think there’s definitely been a shift in how we view it. I think that we also have to be very careful with romanticizing the female voices because having many women in politics doesn’t mean progress for actual women in real life. I think we have specifically seen that in Puerto Rico. We have women everywhere in high positions — we have the Governor, Secretary of State, Secretary of Justice, and more. After seeing these women in these powerful positions, many people were like, “Oh, look at all these women!” But what are they doing for women in reality? We need to be careful with that and see if they’re really representing us or are they just participating in politics. I feel like we need to see up close and see who these women are and for who they are speaking. I think that’s the most important thing to do. It’s really popular now for the members of the different parties to claim thay’re feminist, but it doesn’t mean anything if we see that they don’t put in the work for it. I think we must be careful with that. There’s also a lot of women who are doing great work for women in Puerto Rico. So, while they’re there and continue to truly represent us, then bravo. But we also don’t want them to meet quotas, we want actions that reflect and that will better the community of women.
What are your future plans regarding politics?
I’m going to study law. I don’t want to be a lawyer in an office, but I want to have the legal knowledge to defend myself in these spaces. I also feel that everyone should have access to legal information one way or another. This is why I want to use “Con Sentimiento” to promote all the information I’ll learn during this process and make it more accessible. Honestly, it doesn’t mean anything to speak about all of this information in the university and not use it in the real world. I want to use my experience in law and share it with my people. All I know is that Puerto Rico is my one true love and everything that I’ll be doing will be aimed at Puerto Rico. I don’t know how Puerto Rico may need me or how I’ll need Puerto Rico, but I’m going to make myself available for whatever arises.
Would you tell us about the voting challenges in Puerto Rico?
Rene from Residente Calle 13 recently came up with a new challenge called #SácalaChallenge and from that I started my own challenge, which is #VotaConsciente. #VotaConsciente basically means to vote, but to vote mindfully. In Puerto Rico, we used to practically be forced to vote for everyone that made part of your political party. However, this didn’t allow the voters to actually know the candidates, which was dangerous. So, now we’ve realized that there needs to be an informed voter. We all just need to go out and vote. I think the turnout of November 2020 is going to be historic. I’ve never seen all the commotion I’m seeing right now to remove the candidates we have now. Now our job is to motivate people to get their electoral card and to actually go vote for something new. Puerto Rico has always been stuck between two political parties for as long as I can remember and they’ve both led us to where we are right now. They’re both equally guilty. So, right now there’s a lot of hope and I feel like voting is another form of protesting. We have senators and representatives who have been there for at least 10 years in office and that’s all they know. These people think that they’re so secure there, but I want them to know that we hear the message that we can get them out of there whenever we want. That’s going to completely change Puerto Rico’s story.
Any final words you’d like to leave for the BELatina’s audience?
Stay on top of everything happening in Puerto Rico. Stay informed. I feel there’s often misinformation on what exactly is Puerto Rico, who lives here, and what our needs are. It’s time to stop viewing Puerto Rico as a caribbean paradise. There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made urgently for Puerto Rico’s future and to ensure that the “Generación Yo No Me Dejo” can actually stay. All I know is that change Puerto Rico is coming.
To learn more about Aliana Bigios’ views, you can go check her out on her Instagram. She posts many videos speaking out about current events, especially those pertaining to Puerto Rico. She doesn’t censor her thoughts and that’s exactly how it should be. If anything, she walks her talk better than other politicians in Puerto Rico. So, for those who want to stay informed with Puerto Rico’s news, make sure to follow her.
Though it would’ve been ideal to compare her views with other female politicians in Puerto Rico, we weren’t able to. We reached out to Wanda Vazquez’s, Carmen Yulin’s, and Alexandra Lugaro’s teams, but they didn’t get back to us.