It has been suggested that my country, Boriken, renamed, in honor of pillage, Puerto Rico, or Rich Port, should raise its moribund economy from the dead by harvesting the organs of our young and selling them to rich foreign tourists in need of transplants. It has been suggested that those of our children who have been shot in the head during the day to day business of narcotrafficking and murder, leaving their organs intact, and those of our children who die, without being totally crushed, in car accidents, collisions of reckless speed, addiction and other suicidal residues of genocidal conquest, that our dead children be taken to processing plants, where experts will extract the red anones of their hearts, the pale and highly prized beans of their kidneys, the dark, cordillera slopes of their livers, their branching lungs like the cloud forests of El Yunque, the seashell corneas of their eyes, and market them to wealthy people whose own organs have failed. (In this business, organs travel from poor to rich, female to male, brown to white.)
In this scenario, the bodies of our children, slaughtered in the cross fire of colonial violence, are reframed as a natural resource. No longer are we to be sterilized to prevent our cluttering up our island with people. Instead, we should treat the high homicide and accident rates of Puerto Rico as a kind of agricultural climate suited to the farming of body parts.
To the uninitiated this may seem a new and shocking escalation of the atrocities of colonialism, but the fact is that the two empires that have held Boriken in their claws have made a habit, one way or another, of dining on our young. They have been raped, enslaved, sent away to boarding schools, drafted as cannon fodder, deprived of the basic necessities of life in order to enrich the dominant classes of Europe and North America and their local representatives, starved, overworked, exploited, exported, imprisoned, stripped of education, and targeted by the international trades in drugs, commercial rape, pornography, and guns. There has always been a market for our flesh.
The early European invaders corrupted the indigenous Kalinago word for person, karibna, into "cannibal" in the belief that the Kalinago ate people, a myth for which there is no substantiating evidence. But since Isabella II of Spain ruled that only people who were "better off under slavery" could be enslaved, and cannibals were thought to be improved by chains, whips and brands, there was a strong vested interest in defining the entire Kalinago people of the Eastern Caribbean as cannibals. The documented history of Christian crusaders eating Middle Eastern Muslim residents during their attempts to "liberate" the land they considered holy, did not, of course, suit them for enslavement.
The economy of my country is not collapsing on itself out of innate weakness, or, as one poster on Facebook wrote, because my people, whose labor has laid the foundations of fortune after overseas fortune, are too lazy to live. It has been bleeding to death for more than five centuries, from wounds deliberately inflicted by predatory parasites, part of the plague of vampires that infests our planet, and having drunk blood, sucks out the marrow.
Having drained the gold from our rivers, the nutrients from our soil, the water from our aquifers, poisoned our rivers with mercury, DDT, PCBs, and God knows what else, paved our pastures with shopping malls full of crap, bombarded the hills and beaches of Vieques with heavy metals, white phosphorus, and radioactivity, stripped our mountains of forests, ground our hills into cement, and privatized everything but the sun, the real cannibals have presented us with a bill for 72 billion dollars, and ask that we refrain from eating, learning to read, or going to doctors until we have paid them what they have decided we owe.
While the so called vulture funds circle, waiting to strip every scrap of meat from the bone, vampire pundits suggest that we would be well advised to sell them pieces of our dead children, so that people who can afford such things can buy themselves new livers, ventricles, lobes of lung.
For some time now, people have been being murdered for their organs: trafficked children, migrant laborers, summarily executed prisoners. Thousands of poor people who are not murdered sell parts of themselves in order to pay off debts as deliberately created as Puerto Rico's. Once organ tourism took root on our island, how long does anybody think it would take an enterprising entrepreneur to start seeing it to that one way or another, supply meets demand?
I don't have a problem with the voluntary recycling of organs. It's a miraculous thing, for a kidney to outlive the body that made it and go on to keep a second body alive. My rage is not about transplanting life. It's about stealing it. It's about inventing a debt and then telling us to repay it with our lives.
When the the enslaved people of Haiti rose up in fire and blade against the slave masters and made themselves free, the fleeing gentry declared that the new nation owed France a debt for taking back their own stolen bodies, and sent a bunch of gunboats to collect payment. They took payment year after year, for having lost control of what they had stolen to begin with. There was never any debt. There is no debt now. It's an invention of banditry, half a millenium of armed robbery. There is no debt. There is no debt crisis. There is just greed and plunder, plunder and greed.
Instead of taking our corneas, take this thought: if we share, there is enough for everyone.
If colonizers stopped colonizing, they would not starve. If the 1% gave back most of their loot, not one of them would die of it. If the vulture funds reimbursed us, if the banks refunded our money, if Spain gave back the gold, the sugar, the tobacco, the coffee, the slave trade profits, if the industrial revolution repaid it's unauthorized loans against the labor of three continents, if the U.S. bankers and sugar barons and pharmaceutical companies and oil companies and tourist developments and loan sharks repaid Boriken everything that they owed us, the crisis of greed would end, and we could go back to growing abundant food, restoring our seas and mountains, and building beautiful schools full of dedicated, talented teachers, and bright-eyed students full of curiosity and hope.
Then, instead of growing cadavers for spare parts, we could stop damaging everyone's organs with toxic, oppressive societies in the first place, and we could grow scientists, Puerto Rican women and men who could learn how to grow all the kidneys anyone could possibly need, without anybody having to kill somebody first or anybody having to die.
Aurora Levins Morales is a disabled and chronically ill, community supported writer, historian, artist and activist. It takes a village to keep her blogs coming. To become part of the village it takes, donate here.
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