To Comay or Not to Comay

LaComay BeLatina Latinx
Photo credit via primerahora.com

Just when Puerto Ricans hoped for no more drama, up regurgitates La Comay, a local show featuring a puppet dressed like a crone, with a long history of racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic propaganda. But these are bad days for nasty puppets because the times, as Bob Dylan wrote, they are a-changin. As the Black Lives Matter movement aims to finish with the American apartheid, the puppet has become as much of an anachronism as a bottle of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup. 

Since before 2017, when Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Puerto Rico has endured a litany of fresh horrors, one after the other. Besides the hurricanes Irma and Maria, rolling earthquakes, a crushing recession and debt, the 2019 summer protests that took out a corrupt governor, the rule of an incompetent interim one, COVID-19, and now a massive cloud of Saharan dust choking the island, have brought Puerto Ricans to their wits end. 

And in the middle of all this, La Comay spews her venom again.

For those who have not had the dubious pleasure, La Comay is a big-haired puppet played by “television personality” and “journalist” (if he is a journalist, I am Greta Garbo) Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa, who, hiding behind the skirts of the odious doll, shovels out homophobic and racist hate speech and pushes the political and evangelical agenda of the ruling pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP).

Comay Puppet BELatina Latinx
Photo credit via elvocero.com (La Comay, left, Rocky the Kid, right)

Much like Rasputin, the bloody doll won’t die. This is her second incarnation spreading her special brand of pestilence via the island’s airwaves. Seven years ago, Santarrosa’s then highly rated “SuperXClusivo” show was canceled by Puerto Rico’s WAPA-TV after a boycott rallied against its racist, homophobic, and misogynistic rants. 

Now, Boicot La Comay has risen again. It has renewed calls for the sponsors of the program to boycott it and demand the cancellation of a reinstated La Comay, sponsored by Mega TV and its parent company the Spanish Broadcasting Company (SBS), after the puppet made fun of a prominent Black Puerto Rican woman’s accent during a recent broadcast of the show. 

 

Boicot La Comay is a movement made up of Puerto Rican activists, writers, journalists, artists and those who object to La Comay’s content. One of its main mouthpieces is human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano. 

“We warned you, and we will succeed: Kobbo Santarrosa will be off television forever,” Serrano said in a Spanish-language release. “We did it in 2013 and this time we are showing up with more strength. The shameful thing is that Mega TV and Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) has said absolutely nothing, becoming an accomplice to racism and hatred.”

 La Comay made Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, a Black Puerto Rican woman who was the head of Puerto Rico’s Bar Association from 2012-2014, the butt of racist taunts by mocking her accent and portraying her as a Black Mamie who was bowing before her white Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC) colleague, Alexandra Lugaro, who is white.

Latino Rebels reported Santarrosa and he apologized insisting he is not a racist because his father is Black. The program in a statement posted to its Instagram page urged viewers to not boycott businesses that advertise with it. As of this writing, at least eight of its 12 sponsors have parted company with the program. 

Rivera Lassén, a lesbian, is the 2020 senatorial candidate for the MVC and an elder member of the party; she condemned the attacks and refused to accept Santarrosa’s half-baked apology. She refused to call him by his name because “saying his name is giving humanity and space to those that profit from the same.” She said the attack against her was an attack on all Black women and all Black people in general.

“La Comay’s long reign as the queen of trash television in Puerto Rico must end,” said Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) President Alphonso David. “Kobbo Santarosa, hiding behind the puppet La Comay, has a long history of spreading racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic propaganda. Given the backdrop of global protests calling for inclusive racial justice, Santarossa’s recent racist portrayal of a prominent Black, Puerto Rican woman is careless, dangerous, and unacceptable,” he said.

“We can no longer allow pop culture figures to spread the sort of hate that has contributed to a recent uptick in killings of LGBTQ people on the island. Mega TV would do well to get the memo and do right by Puerto Ricans by officially canceling this hateful show,” he said.

Belatina comay Latinx
Credit via Twitter @JesusOrtizTorr

For its part, SBS, headquartered in Miami, stated:

“SBS or Mega TV does not have a statement to share at this time, since it is being discussed with our legal team. Once we have the official statement, I’ll respond to your email immediately,” Vladimir Gómez, VP of Corporate Communications & SBS Talent Relations for Miami-based SBS, wrote to Latino Rebels.  As of this writing, the sound you hear is the sound of silence. 

In the end, it all boils down to money and politics. 

Over the four years from 2016 to 2019, SBS reported cumulative losses of 20 million in the United States and profits of 15 million in Puerto Rico. Killing La Comay would be slaughtering its cash cow.

In addition, SBS’s President Raúl Alarcón Jr., a Cuban exile living in Miami, is a donor of the Republican Party and of the pro-statehood NPP. His interests seem to be to ensure the survival of La Comay as a populist political vehicle of the lowest kind, who fetes NPP Governor Wanda Vázquez — a governor who refuses to speak to the press but makes appearances on the doll’s show. 

La Comay, and its political propaganda in favor of the NPP, is not an aberration. Earlier this week, top-rated talk show host Luis Dávila Colón was fired by Univision Communications for using the N-word on air in a defense of Santarrosa, Latino Rebels first reported.

Both Santarrosa and Dávila Colón are militants of the NPP, which is fighting for its life as the November elections approaches. Behaving worse than Donald Trump, Vázquez has used the pandemic as an excuse to block the press in order to control the COVID-19 narrative. It is an election year, and Vázquez, who was not elected by the voters of Puerto Rico last summer when she assumed the governor’s role in the post-Ricardo Rosselló resignation controversy, is trying to win her party’s nomination so that she can run for governor on Election Day.

Forget the fight for equality. SBS, Santarrosa, and the doll are the frontline of Vázquez’s political propaganda. When it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against racism, both Vázquez and SBS are on the wrong side of history and have little chance of staying on the air or in La Fortaleza, because Puerto Ricans are fed up with the rosary of disasters that have befallen the island and have little tolerance for hate speech and obvious political agendas. The times have changed indeed.