Published On: Wed, Jun 17th, 2015

“Sir. The Puerto Ricans Are Here. And They Look Pissed.” The Anatomy of Institutional Failure at the Daily News

“Sir. The Puerto Ricans Are Here. And They Look Pissed.” The Anatomy of Institutional Failure at the Daily News

By Rich Villar

Disclosure: Rich is a member of #TeamCapicu, the official social media team for the 2014 & 2015 National Puerto Rican Day Parades



This past Monday, our good friends at the New York Daily News kicked off its coverage of the Puerto Rican Day Parade with a photo that captured the pride, spirit, heart, and resiliency of the Puerto Rican people.

That is: if by pride, spirit, heart, and resiliency, you are actually referring to butt cheeks.


Page 8 of the NY Daily News on June 15th, 2015 (Image credit: Puerto Rican Flags Up)

Let’s ignore, for the moment, the very real possibility that neither of these women gave their consent for their asses to be in the Daily News. Let’s ignore the exploitative aspect of putting female bodies on display for public news consumption. (Granted, they chose to wear panties in public, but it’s doubtful they chose to be the lead image of the Puerto Rican Day Parade.) Let’s also try to ignore that this photo was not taken at the parade at all, but rather in Times Square, and not even on that particular Sunday.

What does this tell us about the intentions of the editorship of the Daily News? During a year in which Rita Moreno was the grand marshal, when parade organizers have been making a well-publicized effort to steer the parade away from crass commercialism and tackiness, when community-based business and arts organizations such as The Loisaida Center, Capicu Culture, and Camaradas were able to march side by side to give voice to our history and our cultural traditions, the Daily News opted to pull a file photo of two scantily-clad rear ends to lead their coverage of the parade. A parade, mind you, for which the Daily News happen to be a co-sponsor.

It takes a special kind of institutional jackassery to fail so miserably. And since we don’t yet have a full explanation as to what happened, we’ll simply have to imagine it.


Imagine you work for the Daily News, and your job is to edit and assemble the photo coverage for the parade. You’re at your desk. You’re working hard. Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say you’re rushing for the deadline.
First, you have to pull the lead image. Then, you have to decide that this is the image you actually want to use. This requires you to use your value judgment. You think to yourself, “Golly! I have a dilemma. Should I lead off with this photo of Rita Moreno? Or shall I choose these two butts with the words ‘Puerto Rico’ and ‘Boricua’ on them?” Inexplicably, you decide for yourself—and the readership of your employer—that the Puerto Rican Day Parade is, indeed, all about the booty cheeks.

Make no mistake. At this point in the day, you have utterly failed at all your life choices. Even a rushed monkey pauses before he hits his typewriter with a hammer.

But behind every aggressively bad idea, there is—you guessed it—another aggressively bad idea.

You keep working, and you start to worry about certain things:

1) Placement of captions. Mustn’t cover the cheeks, of course. I mean, that would be tragic.

2) Text of captions. Something good. Something clever and cultural, like “Rear View on Parade.” (Wait, what??)

3) Fact checking of captions. Like, for instance, if you’re going to say, “sights galore on Fifth Avenue,” you might consider a photo taken on Fifth Avenue.

Let’s recap. You have chosen to run with a ludicrously bad idea. You have properly formatted and captioned that bad idea, and placed it as the lead image of your story. Then, only after you’ve already failed at your job spectacularly, another editor, presumably one with more expertise than you, signs off on your spectacular failure of a bad idea.

None of the other editors, none of the people around your bosses, and apparently none who might possess tact or taste or conscience, decide to raise an issue with the fact that your article’s visual tone might offend somebody. Someone has presumably read through the entire paper, and he or she has signed off on your questionably placed, incorrectly sourced and captioned asses. And bang, the paper hits the press. You may have actually congratulated yourself on making the deadline.

By four o’clock the Tuesday, there are Puerto Ricans under your window. They are not happy. They seem to be shouting.

If you have the nerve to be surprised, the monkey at the typewriter will be over shortly to smack you.

We, the Puerto Ricans under your window, the ones holding the flags and chanting united, would be forced to ask the following to the editorship of New York Daily News:

1) Exactly what value do you place on a sponsorship arrangement with the Puerto Rican Day Parade? Do you view your participation in the event as a believer in the Parade’s mission, or do you view it as an opportunity to sell Puerto Rican female bodies to your readership as bait?

2) How do you view the Puerto Rican members of this city? Do you see any of the war veterans who fought for you? The artists and writers you’ve consulted regularly on Puerto Rican culture? The politicians you’ve covered? The icons we revere? The parade themes we provided to you in multiple press releases? Can you truly sum them up in the picture you chose to lead your story?

3) Were you deliberately trying to stir up our people into being outraged at ourselves? Did you give in to the easy cycle of controversy creating clicks and conversation? Did you sit back and laugh while we huffed and puffed about the colors of the Puerto Rican flag?

Despite what you seem to believe about us, we’re willing to offer you redemption. It’s easy to believe that an image of exploitation sums up what we have to offer. For years, that was the narrative presented to you. That was the narrative assembled in the media, exploited on Seinfeld, broadcasted on camera the year the cops stepped in.

Here’s a new narrative: educated Boricuas will fight you on your foolishness. Every time you dehumanize us, we will demand our humanity. Every time you force a negative image onto our social media feeds, we will respond with poems by Boricua poets. Every time you try to sell newspapers with controversial uses of our national flag, we will meet you outside your offices with that same flag flying. Did you know that it was illegal to own one in Puerto Rico until 1957? It’s a symbol of resistance. That’s why we fly it as much as we do. That’s why the parade exists. You could have read about it, if you didn’t know. Either way, you’re about to find out.

We’re demanding a full apology on the front page of your paper, hopefully one that is vetted more thoroughly than the photo you used to represent us last Monday. After that, we’ll talk about how you decide to cover us in the future. And we’ll decide how we’re going to cover you.

We leave you, old friends, with this photo essay of five golden images in Latino history, as assembled by the photo editors of the New York Daily News.


Cesar Chavez and son, at a rally for the United Farm Workers, 1974


Macho Camacho, a UNESCO world heritage site at the former Incan capital of Cous Cous, Peru.



Two simple peasant farmers entering Havana, Cuba, January 1959.



Sonia Sotomayor, at her Supreme Court nomination hearings, threatening to smack the Daily News photographer, 2009



Rich Villar, uneducated Boricua, at the 2015 Puerto Rican Day Parade.

(and Author of this piece)

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“Sir. The Puerto Ricans Are Here. And They Look Pissed.” The Anatomy of Institutional Failure at the Daily News