Message to the Broader Harm Reduction Community from the National Harm Reduction Conference Local Organizing Committee

Fellow Harm Reductionists:

As members of the local organizing committee and the harm reduction community, we want to address some of the concerns that have been shared on social media around the conference being held here in PR.

First, we want to dispel the myth that not attending this conference would somehow shift or change the longstanding colonial reality of PR. The resources allocated to the hotel and adjacent areas in San Juan weren’t ever meant for local Puerto Ricans, and not having them has not changed and will not change the daily reality we experience. If you’d like to learn more about our colonial history, what has been happening in PR, particularly in the past 5 years since hurricane María and what has led to the conditions we are facing today, you can watch El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente, a video documentary produced by Bad Bunny in collaboration with journalist Bianca Gralau.

We also would like to challenge the myth that we need USA-based people to save us by not participating in the conference. Boycotting this opportunity local harm reductionists have to actually showcase the harm reduction work done here under constantly challenging conditions, Fiona excluded, is misleading and wrong. We don’t need saving and are not asking for that.

We do encourage conference participants to connect and support the local community and economy by centering and prioritizing support to local businesses, artists and artisans. Here is a list of local businesses near and around the perimeter of the conference hotel you can check out.

Finally, we want to stress that for far too long, the amazing and cutting-edge harm reduction work done on the island has been isolated and invisibilized by the mainland due to our colonial/geographic reality, and it is time for that to change. We (local harm reduction programs and harm reductionists) are ready and willing to welcome those that choose to come to our homeland to attend the conference.

Con amor y solidaridad,

Tanagra Melgarejo and Rafael Torruella in representation of the HarmRed22 Local Organizing Committee