Emancipatory Proposition

Beatriz Llenín-Figueroa

…j’écris en français pour dire aux Français que je ne suis pas français.

Kateb Yacine, 1966

Crisis life. Life crisis. Crisis of life. Life of crisis. Crisis on life. Life on crisis. Crisis below life. Life below crisis. Crisis in life. Life in crisis. Crisis beyond life. Life beyond crisis.

Because I have always struggled with English prepositions, I make all kinds of propositions. To experiment. To see what works. And what doesn’t. But, above all, to see what flees.

In Puerto Rico we have always been fleeing. But most of our fleeing is not the cool, postmodern kind. It’s tearing apart fleeing. Fleeing that does not come up in the news. Fleeing that does not count as asylum-seeking. Fleeing with citizenship. Fleeing without war. Fleeing from the evidence of our millenary subjugation. Fleeing against and fleeing from the fellow American, but fleeing that cannot be understood as such because those who care insist on the violence of fellowship as much as on the fellowship of violence.

I write this in English because languages escape power, or so I want to believe. At least, I write this sentence willing it to do what it says it will: rip the English language’s power apart. I know full well English is criminal. The thing is, though, Spanish is too. And in Puerto Rico, there is no fleeing such evidence unless you experiment and use the wrong prepositions and disturb fellow Americans with your emancipatory propositions and fellow Spanish-speaking people who say Puerto Ricans are the worst Spanish speakers because we fuck up the Rs. Such is the fleeing I seek, seeing as to the utter intolerability of the life empire made, and continues to make, for us, the colonial subjects.

You might think I am the sacrificial body. But the body of my blood, the flesh of my thought, will never be yours. Nor will they ever be in your debt. 

I am not your fellow American. The debt is yours. You owe me.

Such is my emancipatory proposition.


Beatriz Llenín-Figueroa’s research and creative work revolve around Caribbean literatures and philosophies, island and archipelagic studies, gender and queer theory, decoloniality, and street theater and performance. She holds a PhD from Duke University’s Program in Literature and is currently an adjunct professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. She also works as associate editor for the independent publishing house Editora Educación Emergente and is a freelance editor and translator. Her research has been published in academic journals such as Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Discourse, Caribbean Studiesand Sargasso, while her creative work has been published in digital platforms and magazines such as 80grados, Ahora la turba,Cruce, and Revista penúltiMa. The book Puerto Islas: crónicas, crisis, amor was published in 2018. She is currently at work on a book about archipelagic, decolonial futures for Puerto Rico, which includes a comparative analysis of past Caribbean confederation models. Through her work with the collectives PROTESTAmos and Taller Libertá, she is also an activist in defense of full sovereignty for the archipelago, debt relief and reparations, public education and independent art in Puerto Rico.

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