Photo: Work It on ABC
A crowd of angry Puerto Ricans gathered in front of ABC’s corporate offices in New York to demand an apology for a quip on a primetime comedy that suggested all Puerto Ricans are drug dealers.
“We want respect now!” at least 100 people shouted indignantly during the second protest at the network’s headquarters over the line uttered during the Jan. 3 debut episode of the sit-com “Work It.”
In one scene, a character portrayed by Puerto Rican actor Amaury Nolasco says: “I’m Puerto Rican… I’d be great at selling drugs.”
“That wasn’t a joke, that was an insult and we want an apology,” activist Julio Pabon, one of the organizers of the protest called Thursday by Boricuas for a Positive Image, told Efe.
“We’re also asking to meet with network executives to discuss problems like this since there’s no use staging protests every year because they keep on insulting the Puerto Rican community,” Pabon said.
The activist also noted that well-known Puerto Rican politicians in New York have asked the network for an apology and regretted that ABC “still has not had the courtesy to reply.”
Jaime Estades, another of the organizers, said for his part that the protest began 15 minutes earlier than planned because more than 100 people had already showed up in front of the network studios.
Marta Garcia, New York representative of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, or NHMC, and sociologist Angelo Falcon, also among the demonstrators, said they were surprised at the way ABC was ignoring their complaints.
“I’m a public school teacher and I also work as a construction worker and I don’t sell drugs. We Puerto Ricans are citizens of this country, we’re workers and they’ve got to respect us,” 59-year-old Aliabol Villanueva told Efe.
“ABC is attacking Puerto Ricans - we can’t have a network that knows nothing of our culture calling us drug dealers. We work hard to support our families, we’re citizens of this country and we pay our taxes. I’m a veteran and I spent four years in the U.S. Marines,” he said.
Meanwhile the actor Nolasco, who has not apologized for the controversy he sparked in his community, tweeted on his Twitter account that he understands how his compatriots might have felt a little “uncomfortable,” but justified what he said on TV by saying that the show “is a comedy and is meant to be viewed in that context.”
“Soy Boricua de pura sepa. I am proud of our culture and I’ve always strived to uphold the positive image of my beautiful island and our people in both my career and personal lives. Pa’lante mi gente,” the actor wrote.
The Puerto Ricans wrapped up the protest singing the island’s anthem and shouting “Volveremos” (We’ll be back).