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¡CAPICÚ! LET THEM EAT CAKE is a 2-day multimedia exhibition reflecting upon the political and economic crisis in Puerto Rico and its history as a colony of the United States.

Works by Shey Rivera Ríos + Anabel Vázquez Rodríguez, Puerto Rican artists and curators based in Providence, RI


This exhibit intends to shed light light upon the PROMESA bill that was passed in June 2016, which will establish a Fiscal Oversight Board that can override Puerto Rico’s government. This board will have authority to privatize public institutions, change labor laws, and act upon other matters that are seen as human rights violations by the Puerto Rican population. The existence of this Fiscal Oversight Board reverts Puerto Rico from a territory with autonomous rule (commonwealth), to a colony directly overseen by a board of individuals appointed by the U.S. Government. This is a place where 3 million U.S. citizens reside, who cannot vote on the Presidential elections and now cannot participate in the decision-making process that intends to restructure the 72 billion dollar debt that was created in the 80s by questionable legislation that deregulated business practices and gave extraordinary tax exemptions to U.S. businesses. 





Origin of terms:

“LET THEM EAT CAKE”: The original French is ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’, that is, ‘Let them eat brioche’ (brioche is a form of cake made of flour, butter and eggs). The usual interpretation of the phrase is that Marie-Antoinette understood little about the plight of the poor and cared even less.

“Capicú” – When the winning domino can play on either open end of the layout. Doesn’t apply when the winning domino is a double.


PROMESA and its implications [Notes provided by an activist collective]

PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act)  was created by the United States Congress to address the financial crisis in Puerto Rico and was signed as law by President Obama in 2016. PROMESA establishes a Fiscal Control Board (FCB) that will prevail over the laws of Puerto Rico and all regulations within it. The members of the FCB are chosen by Obama from a congressionally approved list and will have immunity. The law allows for the members to receive gifts. Once the FCB is established (January 2017), it will create their own regulations and hire a manager to implement them. The FCB will have complete control over the governor of Puerto Rico, who cannot monitor or review the FCB’s activities. The governor may not establish laws or policies that interfere with the regulations created by the the FCB. The FCB determines Puerto Rican expenses and supplies. The expenses of the FCB lay on the shoulders of the Puerto Rican residents.

The Fiscal Control Board will have the power to enforce laws in the territory of Puerto Rico and prohibit workers from participating in strikes if they are public employees. The governor, the legislature, and all government agencies must present to the FCB. The FCB has the power to reduce budgets, freeze accounts, and prohibit contracts. The FCB can introduce new ways to control governmental expenditures, review the structures of agencies, establish new taxes & fees for government services, review and alter retirement pensions, alter services offered by the government (eg., education, health, police), alter services offered by public or nonprofit entities (eg., to education, health and the police), establish government personnel evaluation based on production (with the potential to remove tenures), and privatize public entities, among other changes that directly affect the lives of Puerto Ricans. This includes changes to Labor Law, including lowering minimum wages of new employees under 25 to $ 4.25 an hour.

In short, PROMESA ensures layoffs, employment instability, privatization of public services, increased poverty, and closure of schools, hospitals and other services. Elimination of these services and contracts will produce a domino effect.

PROMESA prioritizes economic concerns over the needs of the people.

Why resist?

  • The FCB does not eliminate current issues that hinder economic development (eg., Sabotage Act).
  • There is no accountability for government corruption within the board.
  • The FCB is made up of people who are not familiar with Puerto Rico’s history, socio-cultural context, and infrastructure.
  • The FCB and its services will increase expenditures for Puerto Rico, which will have to be paid by the general population.
  • The FCB violates the universal right to self-determination and reverts Puerto Rico to a colonial status.



The denial of Puerto Rico’s right to self determination, and it’s continued treatment as a colony by the United States IS VIOLENCE.

The denial of Puerto Ricans’ right to fair labor practices IS VIOLENCE.

The denial of Puerto Ricans’ right to unionize IS VIOLENCE.

The denial of Puerto Ricans’ right to quality housing, education, and healthcare IS VIOLENCE.


Organizations against the Fiscal Control Board:


1) Concertación (“The Coalition”)

The coalition consists of 200 organizations united against the FCB. Prior to the first People’s Assembly, the committee met weekly to helm resistance. It was created in response to the misconception -and misinformation- that the implementation of the FCB will bring positive change. These 200 organizations cooperate with the goal of guiding and educating people about the true implications of PROMESA and its violations of basic human rights. The Coalition has brought together groups of diverse religious denominations, political parties, the San Juan Township (Capital of Puerto Rico) who presented a three-party agreement, community sectors, SICAP (collegial organizations), Congressman Luis Gutierrez, the Municipal Counselor of New York City, Melissa Mark Viverito, APU, and Puerto Rican citizens both living in the island and throughout its diaspora.

The Coalition has created a platform that allows for the articulation of information from different sectors. Within its structure, all member organizations are leaders and have mutual goals despite their differences. Together they have created informational materials, flyers, posters, and the People’s Assembly.

The Coalition works with various sectors to establish strategies and make decisions. The first People’s Assembly was attended by 4,500 individuals. The meeting was informative and presented on how the FCB will affect each sector. After the meeting, The Coalition met to assess the effectiveness of the assembly. It was agreed that The Coalition will  further promote civil disobedience and continue educational initiatives, will call on officials of the government to not cooperate with the FCB, and will create community guidelines, strategies for effective mobilization, and activate international forums of dissent.

Facebook Page: Puerto Rico against the Board and


2) Junte Contra la Junta (“Gathering Against The Board”)

450 people have established an encampment outside the Federal Court in San Juan as a direct action of resistance to the FCB. This occurred on the same night that the PROMESA Act was passed. Most of the participants are young people. Assemblies are convened daily, alongside educational workshops. “They fear us because we are not afraid,” read one of the posters displayed by the group.

This group claims that Puerto Rico’s debt arose illegally and that the law must be repealed as part of the decolonization process. The camp is made up of different committees. It holds participatory assemblies between 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm, three days of the week. And from 10pm onward, presents film forums, concerts, and other creative and artistic happenings.

Here’s John Oliver’s coverage of the situation:

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About Sheyla Rivera

Sheyla Rivera has written 37 post in this blog.

Escritora, músico y gestora cultural. Nació en Puerto Rico en la década de los 80s, entre el campo y la urbe. Completó un bachillerato doble en Psicología y Sociología en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, recinto de Río Piedras, y cursó la maestría en Medios y Cultura Contemporánea de la Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Se destaca en el manejo de organizaciones artísticas sin fines de lucro, cultura visual japonesa, estudios de género y teoría cultural.


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