"The `2020 Plan' will mean the virtual destruction of the Puerto Rican Nation. It envisions the construction of eleven military/industrial parks, strip-mining the center of the island, and elimination of most of the island's population. This is genocide." So read a circular distributed in San Francisco by the New Movement in Solidarity With Puerto Rican Independence.
This sounded so far out, so sensational, that I decided to go directly to the source of the organized action against "2020." The Taller de Arte Y Cultura in Adjuntas is located in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, whose beautiful scenery could well be in jeopardy if their claims were true.
A gathering assembled in the Palenque Bookstore of Adjuntas to greet us, and to share their concern for the exploitation of their area's countryside. Alexis Massol, civil engineer, unfurled a large map copied from one discovered in the governor's office. Eleven circles pinpointed the industrial parks planned to process minerals mined in the interior. Tinti Deyá de Massol explained to us the significance of the program, scheduled for completion in the year 2020. Her husband speaks little English, but Tinti, an eighth-grade English teacher, could communicate with us fluently.
Tinti and Alexis Massol, as directors of the Taller de Arte Y Cultura, spearhead the protest against open-pit mining and the whole "2020" concept. Speaking at colleges, high schools and churches throughout Puerto Rico, they attempt to arouse Puerto Ricans to the threat of a military/industrial take-over of their country. They see the plan already in progress, with twenty- four dams planned, in addition to the huge one already in construction in a suburb of Ponce. Pipelines have already been constructed to provide water for the mining and processing of minerals.
We were taken by jeep up into the mountains on a scary roller coaster ride over steep, one- way dirt roads into areas where we could see exploratory shafts. We met with an elderly rancher, whose thirty acres richly planted in fruit trees and coffee could well be taken up by Amax or Kennecott, as was the neighboring ranch. "Where would you go?" we asked him, and he shook his head sadly. 37,000 acres have already been purchased, waiting for the appropriate time to begin mining, we were told. In the 1960 explorations, seventeen deposits of copper, gold and silver had been discovered in the Adjuntas area. In other areas, cobalt, nickel and chrome have been discovered, strategic minerals for atomic weapons.
It is interesting to note that there is a greater decline in population in the mountains than in other areas; also, that land in the mountains can no longer be subdivided and sold. It would appear as if the land was being deliberately cleared, so that the mining industries could move in.
The Taller de Arte Y Cultura has been a natural center of concern. Founded for the defense of cultural, natural, environmental and human resources, it serves as an educational center. Tinti and Alexis own the Palenque Bookstore, which is stocked with Puerto Rican literature. But their educational work extends beyond Puerto Rico. Both have been on lecture tours in the United States, and have addressed the United Nations Decolonization Committee on the "2020" issue. Their book, De la Deformación Y la Destrucción, is a "scientific-patriotic analysis of the proposed project of exploitation of minerals in Puerto Rico."
The petite Tinti is a fighter, in her quiet way, not only for the preservation of the Puerto Rican mountains, but for the independence of her country. Influenced by her father, and by readings and meetings, she was won over to the cause. As a teacher, she deplores an educational system that encourages cultural and economic dependency upon the United States. Books used in the schools, she tells us, are censored by the United States Department of Education and carry little information on Puerto Rican history and culture. She resents, also, the admission of military recruiters into the schools to entice students into military service for United States wars.
Even in the event of independence, Tinti would choose to protect the beautiful mountain scenery from the scars of mining and encourage alternate, replaceable resources such as flowers for perfume, wood for houses and crafts, land areas for the production of food. "Natural resources belong to all Puerto Ricans," she tells us. "We must protect the soil, the air, the water, so that future generations can share this beautiful land. Imagine," she muses, looking out over a spectacular view, "a mine there, 2,000 feet deep and a mile wide!"
A recent activity sponsored by the Taller de Arte Y Cultura was the planting of a maga tree, the national tree of Puerto Rico. This act symbolized the creating of alternatives which, instead of despoiling the natural environment, will enrich it.