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Puerto Rico: Uproar Over Blogger's Story

The first post on the FemiLista blog [es], titled  “Bájate de mi carro, puta” (Get out of my car, whore) was published at 3:44 am on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. In it, the blog's author and creator – who goes simply by the Internet handle of “Yuyu” – narrated the unfortunate events that led to its creation.

As Yuyu explains in her blog [es], a night out socializing and partying with friends (and friends of friends) ended up with her catching a ride to a club with three fellow Puerto Ricans – men she had just met, but trusted enough to get her to where the rest of the group was convening. During the ride, the car's driver, one Mr. Eduardo Hilera, Legislative Assistant to Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Washington, turned hostile toward his newly met passenger while questioning her manner of speaking:

Empezamos a conversar: de dónde somos, qué estudiamos, las preguntas de rigor. De golpe, el joven que va manejando me dice: “¿Qué problema de autoestima tu tienes que hablas así?” […] “Pues no me gustan las mujeres que hablan así. Tengo mucho respeto por las personas que hablan simple”.

We started a conversation: who we were, what we studied, the usual questions. Suddenly, the driver asks me: “What self-esteem problem do you have that makes you speak that way? […] I don't like women who speak that way. I have much respect for people who speak simply.

The conversation turned to politics, with Mr. Hilera insisting several times to know her opinion about Puerto Rico's current Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, who unbeknown to Yuyu at the time, was and is still his employer:

Bueno, pensé, a la tercera va la vencida: Pienso que no sirve para nada tener un tipo que tiene voz pero no voto en el Congreso. Sabía que había cometido un error.

Well – I thought – the third time's the charm: “I think that there is no real use in having a guy that has a voice but cannot vote in Congress.” I knew I had made a mistake.

Mr. Hilera, who has been under employment at his current position since 2009, proceeded to unleash a slew of insults on his female passenger, identifying himself and another one of the men as employees of Pedro Pierluisi. She was then told to exit the car – “Bájate de mi carro, puta” (Get out of my car, whore) – and left alone in the streets of D.C.

The account spread through the Internet via email, the blogosphere, and social networks, where it reached local media outlets and well-known reporters, such as Rafael Lenin López, President of Puerto Rico Journalists’ Association or ASPPRO [es] who sent out the following tweets with links to FemiLista later that evening via his @LeninPR Twitter account:

@LeninPR: Un relato que si es serio deben despedir a alguien. Si es broma…un buen cuento de una noche en DC http://t.co/0l2VVqK

@LeninPR: An account that if true, should result in someone being fired. If a hoax, then a good story of a night in DC http://t.co/0l2VVqK

Followed by:

@LeninPR: La autora del blog me reafirmó lo escrito. Quiere mantenerse anónima por represalias. Mañana a las 6am en @radioisla1320 http://t.co/0l2VVqK

@LeninPR: The blog's author confirmed her account to me. Wants to stay anonymous for fear of reprisals. Tomorrow at 6am on @radioisla1320 http://t.co/0l2VVqK

The next morning, as promised, Lenin asked the Resident Commissioner during his morning radio show on Radio Isla about the FemiLista blog's account of Mr. Hilera's behavior in Washington.

Pedro Pierluisi had this to say, as reported by local newspaper El Nuevo Día [es]:

Sí me dicen que hubo un incidente mi equipo de trabajo… Yo no he hablado con Eduardo Hilera. Él está en Washington, yo estoy acá en Puerto Rico. Y lo que te puedo decir es que si hubo algún tipo de insulto en ese incidente… porque la dama se haya expresado negativamente en cuanto a mi persona o lo que yo hago… Yo rechazo cualquier insulto. Esa no es mi manera de ser… Eso lo saben todo mis empleados y ellos deben reflejar como yo me comporto y lo que yo hago. En su momento me sentaré con Eduardo y le llamaré la atención si es que ocurrió tal insulto […]

I've been told there was an incident with my staff… I have not yet spoken with Eduardo Hilera. He is in Washington, I'm here in Puerto Rico. What I can tell you is that if there was any type of insult during the incident… because the lady expressed herself negatively in regard to my person or what I do… I condemn any insult. It is not the way I am… All my employees know that and they must reflect the way I conduct myself and what I do. In due course I will sit down with Eduardo and I will scold him if it turns out that such an insult ocurred […]

The report gave way to commentaries by Puerto Rican bloggers such as Puerto Rico Indie contributor Sandra of Sand(r)eces [es], who recognized in Hilera's insulting phrase a profoundly antidemocratic sentiment [es]:

[A]quél que vota no puede tener ningún tipo de opinión sobre el votado ni su gestión ni tampoco puede involucrarse en la gestión política más allá del voto cada cuatro años. El cargo político, una vez alcanzado, se cubre de una impunidad que le permite al que lo ejerce disparar a diestra y siniestra frases machistas, racistas, homofóbicas, etc. sin ningún tipo de consecuencia.

The electorate can't have any opinions about the elected nor his performance, and also can't get involved in politics besides voting every four years. The political office, once reached, covers itself in an impunity that allows its holder to spit out phrases that are sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. without any type of consequence.

She goes even further, linking Hilera's desire to silence Yuyu with the role of Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner in Congress:

Reproduce también la ironía del cargo: elegido democráticamente en la isla, va allende los mares (¡de domingo!) a gestionar de la forma más antidemocrática: sin voto. Lo que se le niega al Comisionado es lo mismo que se le niega a Yuyu, la traductora. Y esto es lo que la infortunada frase de Hilera esconde: una hilera de prejuicios y una hilera de políticos bajándose del carro.

[The insult] also reproduces the irony of the office [of Resident Commissioner]: elected democratically in Puerto Rico, he crosses the ocean to work in the most antidemocratic way: without a vote. What is denied to the Commissioner is the same thing that is denied to “Yuyu.” And this is what the unfortunate phrase by Hilera hides: a history of prejudice and of politicians told to get out of the car.

Fellow Puerto Rican blog La Acera had a different take [es], volunteering the following advice to FemiLista‘s author:

En momentos como ese, es mejor decir una mentira positiva, que la realidad negativa. No conocías a esa gente, y estoy seguro que con un “me da igual” llegarías hasta tu hogar sin humillación. Tristemente, fueron tus palabras que prendieron este fuego.

It's times like these when it is best to say a positive lie than a negative truth. You didn't know these people and I am sure that with an “I'm indifferent” you would have gotten home without any humiliation. Sadly, your words lighted this fire.

But it's clear that Yuyu would rather let her opinions be known, writing on FemiLista:

Este blog será dedicado a denunciar actitudes y comportamientos misóginos por parte de nuestros políticos, periodistas y pensadores. Asimismo, destacará temas de interés en torno al movimiento por la igualdad de género. Espero que esta página sirva como un espacio para reunir a mujeres y hombres con el valor de decir “¡basta!” en la tierra del eterno “ay bendito”.

This blog will dedicate itself to denouncing the misogynistic attitudes and behaviors of our politicians, journalists, and thinkers. It will also highlight related themes of interest to the movement towards gender equality. I hope this page will work as a space to unite women and men with the courage to say “Enough!” in the land of the eternal “oh well” (“ay bendito” [es]).
  • Esto es pura propaganda de izquierda!

    • Carlos, thanks for commenting on the post. The issue at hand is much broader: it is about verbal assault, freedom of speech, and the impunity with which some government employees conduct themselves. The event was confirmed by Pedro Pierluisi, who promised Puerto Ricans he would meet with his employee regarding the issue.

  • Pastor Helion Cruz

    Sadly, Carlos’ comment is the Puerto Rico’s ruling party’s answer to anyone or anything that smells contrary to the party line. The New Progressive Party, PNP in Spanish, is the Puerto Rican style Nazi Party, except that under the American flag they can’t go to the extremes Hitler went. It is sad that instead of really going deep and stopping the man who treated this lady in such a stupid manner; probably, he will get a “don’t do it again”, meaning “don’t get caught again”.

    • tere alvarado

      I think this is beyond politics. I’m sure Eduardo Hilera was drunk and probably very ugly and with no class at all. What is this guy doing in DC with so many decent unemployed guys looking for a job? OMG

  • Rev. Helion Cruz

    It is true, Tere, that what happened to the lady in the story is way beyond politics. However, my comment was about the attack Carlos had made against her as if her story was just a machination against the PNP. Sadly, that is their way of doing things.

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