BY: MARIAH ESPADA
Red, white and blue Boricua flags covered the streets of D.C. on November 19th as hundreds gathered for the Unity March for P.R., a rally that took place just two months post Hurricane Maria.
The mission of the march was to stand in solidarity as one against the "unjust laws that have been systematically oppressive and crippling to the people of Puerto Rico." As the island has been struggling to sustain life, the march was a force of action in the nation's capital set to uplift and support the struggling island.
The masses were in attendance to make political change, calling out higher officials for legislative reform, "We are not asking for something that we don't own. We have paid the price with Puerto Ricans. We go into the army, we fight with the armed forces, and we get paid less wages," said Representative Emilio Vasquez, a House of Representatives member for Pennsylvania. As a proud native Puerto Rican, Vasquez is working hard in the States to create legislative methods to repeal the Jones Act, a crippling law strangling their economy." They treat us like second-class citizens. We are Americans. We don't have to pay for that, we pay with blood."
Attendee Katilia Velez came from the Tri-state area to show her support, "Everything brought me to the march today. The cause is my heart, it's my soul, it's my people. It is something that I understand very deeply." Velez, along with the sea of other chanters, walked from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial while singing "que bonita bandera," spanish for "what a beautiful flag."
Two hours of marching later, the crowd of U.S. citizens from all walks of life surrounded the steps of the Lincoln Memorial-- a historic site to witness. Puerto Rican icons Rita Moreno and Lin Manuel Miranda were in attendance, speaking to the masses on the importance of not stopping their efforts now. All speakers vocalized a similar notion of the future being a time to continue prioritizing the often neglected island. It was then announced Hamilton creator's fundraiser song "Almost Like Praying" raised over $500,000 for Puerto Rico relief.
West Side Story actress Moreno took to the podium closing the event stating, "I believe in love. I believe love doesn't go away because it always seeks a place to stay. And that love has found a place in you for showing up. For showing up you now join the ages and the family of man, a great and honorable place to be."
For a better look into what went down at the Mall, take a look at this Blackprint exclusive video piece: