Welcome Home, Oscar

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I read somewhere that Oscar López comes home tomorrow. Not the home he left in San Sebastián way back in the day, but the home that made him a man. Humboldt Park, I mean.

After all, it was on Division Street that he learned to be an revolutionary. It was from Humboldt Park that flew all the way to Vietnam to fight for… where he learned about American imperialism.

I can’t help but wonder what’ll go through his mind when he’s back in HP, when he sees that not only has nothing change but in many ways it’s even worse than he left it. When he got pinched, back in May 1981, Congress still afforded Puerto Rico the right to vote. Now look at her — hollowed out, debt up to her mascara, carrying a noose around her neck while the rest of the world just sucks their teeth.

The Junta imposed by Congress is just about finished deciding how much to make Puerto Rico bleed for the crime of not being big enough or smart enough (or brave enough) to shake off colonialism like a bad dream. The people of Puerto Rico — here and there — are calling for a complete audit of the debt, much of which is suspected to be unconstitutional. (One prominent estimate pegs the loot at $37 billion, if not higher). Students have taken to the streets, refusing to return to classes in hopes of blocking a $512 million cut to the University of Puerto Rico’s budget by 2025.

Then there’s Trump, and, well, he’s no Jimmy Carter.

The disparities in death and income are much worse in Trump’s America than they were in Carter’s version. Granted Trump’s only been in office a few months, but still. I’m just saying. Chicago is about as racially and economically segregated as it ever was; CPD is still bashing in black and brown skulls like Whac-A-Mole. So you best keep your head down.

Chicago still has the parades though. The parks, the Bean. Even the “L” still has its charm. And the Cubs are World Champs — a surprising but happy change.

Still, poor Oscar. All that time locked away in a cage, a lot of it in solitary confinement, and for who? For us, bunch of ingrates that we are. He lost his freedom standing while the rest of us had long since rolled over.

Well, at least he tried.

Welcome home, Oscar.

A Chicago writer now floating on the edge of Las Vegas, Hector is the editor and publisher of Enclave, as well as a guest columnist for Chile’s Prensa Irreverente. He is the former deputy editor for Latino Rebels, as well as the former managing editor for Gozamos, a Latino "artivist" site based in his hometown. He has contributed to RedEye, a Chicago daily geared toward millennials, and La Respuesta, a New York-based site for the Puerto Rican Diaspora, plus a number of publications, including the Huffington Post. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his focus was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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