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Update on the Viequenses of Puerto Rico

Update on the Viquenses of Puerto Rico

May 2003

By Sonia Ivette Dueño*

The story of David and Goliath is frequently used to exemplify the struggle of the Vieques people over the last sixty years.

David the Shepard was anointed to be king by Samuel yet the anointment was not sufficient for David to become king. He underwent numerous trials to prove he was worthy. King Saul even tried to have him killed a few times but at the end David is given the kingdom.

David conquered Goliath not dressed in armor as Goliath was or the armies were or even as King Saul wanted him to be dressed as but dressed with the love of God. As David told King Saul, “The Lord has rescued me from the claws of the lions and bears, and he will keep me safe from the hands of this Philistine.” David knew the best means are always the simple direct ones. In this story, we see how the heart as the center through which Spirit rules embodied in David conquers Goliath (material) who represents aggressive domineering ideas that brag about their power and through fear and might try to keep us in a submissive state of acceptance and compliance. The story of David and Goliath is the story of the mastery of the Spiritual over the material.

In the case of Vieques, the people of Vieques have an apparent hard fought victory because the United States Navy certified it was ceasing military training and left May 1st . Many claim this the final victory and think the battle has ended. For 60 years the Viequenses were subjected to bombing with live ammunition. They were and are squeezed into living in 1/3 of their island because the other 2/3 was occupied by the US Navy and rented out at the tune of $80 million dollars a year to foreign armies to come on over and practice bombing there, too. Now the Navy leaves stating an “unfriendly atmosphere” in Vieques. It was the civil disobedience that brought this first class naval force to its knees. It wasn’t the Viequenses dressed in armor, it was the Viequenses sheer force of will and belief that God was with them and they, in an active nonviolent way went forth courageously, with confidence, with international and national support and stopped the Navy.

Is the battle over? This one, yes, but the war has not been won. As we see today, the Viequenses are still living in only one third of their land. The Navy has left but those lands are now occupied by a sister federal agency, the Department of the Interior thereby still limiting the Viequenses use and access to their lands. Yes, Goliath was conquered and the Navy left. Now we must work to win the battles of the contamination, cleanup, restoration and return of the lands, the battle for the health of the Viequenses, which has been devastated by the toxic chemicals used on the island, depleted uranium, napalm, heavy metals and the battle for the development of a sustainable livelihood. The consequences of the bombing won’t end just because the Navy left.

We seek peace, the Viequenses seek peace. The Viequenses have inspired many to maintain faith in themselves and in their struggles. They did not succumb to intimidation and instead fought back fear with action.

Despite our governments desire to keep us frightened into submission to its unrighteous reign, we as a people want peace. Let us gain strength and renew our faith as millions of people throughout the world in almost every single country have shown in their pursuit of peace. Nations will not be at peace until the individual consciousness in each country is at peace, a lesson well taught by the community of Vieques, Puerto Rico but still to be learned by our governments.

(* Sonia Ivette Dueño is the Coordinator of the Fellowship of Reconciliation Washington, DC Office on Vieques.)

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