Rally in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November 2019.

By RUWAN MUNASINGHE

A string of femicides has caused popular outcry in Puerto Rico. On Sept. 28, it was confirmed that 20-year-old Rosimar Rodriguez Gomez had been murdered after being kidnapped on the 17th. Two days later, on Sept. 30, Michellyn Vargas, a trans woman, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds in the head.

Public outcry began immediately after officials announced that Rosimar Rodriguez’s body had been found in Dorado, P.R. The group Collectiva Feminista organized an emergency action held in San Juan that night to protest against gender-based violence and the disappearance of young people in Puerto Rico. They say that 35 people have had their lives taken from them due to patriarchal violence so far this year. Their demand for a declaration of a State of Emergency against sexist violence on the island was reiterated, and they condemned Wanda Vasquez, governor of Puerto Rico, for inaction.

Two days later, news surfaced of Michellyn Vargas’s murder in San Germán, P.R. Vargas was a medical student at Ponce Paramedical College. She is the sixth trans person to be killed in Puerto Rico this year.

Michellyn Vargas.

Femicides and disappearances of women are ongoing issues. Puerto Rico has one of the highest femicide rates in the Western Hemisphere. The issue of gender-based violence and transphobia calls attention to the consequences and contradictions of Puerto Rico’s experience of imperial subjugation and its current status as a colony of the most formidable imperial power on the planet.

Women and queer people played a leading role in the 2019 protests against Gov. “Ricky” Roselló when revealed chat messages showed sexist and anti-LGBTQ+ remarks from the former governor. Pride flags were a ubiquitous sight every day of the mass demonstrations last year. In a contradictory way, women and LGBTQ+ people are often at the front of the struggle for Puerto Rican independence in spite of their encumbered position and severe oppression. By extension, they also play an important role in having the potential to radicalize workers in the mainland U.S. and across Latin America as the influence of the Puerto Rican struggle spreads to the people of the oppressing colonizer nation and beyond Puerto Rico’s regional neighbors.

The recent indignation over gender-based violence in Puerto Rico came during the week of International Safe Abortion Day (Sept. 28). Demonstrations took place across Latin America, including Puerto Rico, for this occasion. The green tides of working-class women and marginalized genders across Latin America remain an important example for the feminist movement and the movement for abortion rights in the United States.

Socialist Resurgence supports the immediate cancellation of all imperial debts. We demand reparations for Puerto Ricans and all colonized communities. We fight for an end to the colonial domination over Puerto Rico by U.S. imperialism!

We support the struggles of specially oppressed people under capitalism. We understand the importance of the ways in which national oppression, gender oppression, and transphobia develop under specific historic and national situations. Often it is these social peculiarities that open up the possibility for explosive political opportunities.