Dethroning the Queen of Puerto Rico's Airways
Last month, Pedro Julio won perhaps the biggest victory of his life, when he helped bring down the most popular television show on the island, called SuperXclusivo. In 2006, La Comay, a sassy life-sized she-puppet who sat atop a red and silver throne tore Pedro Julio apart on television for his activism on the island. As part of his/her vicious attack (the puppet is voiced by a man named Antulio 'Kobbo' Santarrosa'), La Comay called him a "pato" -- a word which literally means 'duck,' but is widely considered a derogatory term for gay men on the island.
At the time, Pedro Julio demanded an apology from the lady-puppet and his co-host Hector Travieso. But instead, La Comay responded:
"Look, Pedro Julio Serrano, we, the Puerto Rican people, are not at fault for the fact that you have these repressed desires, for the fact that you are a 'pato,'" La Comay said on the show in Spanish, which aired on WAPA TV.
Following the broadcast, Pedro Julio told the Spanish news outlet EFE, "[Santarrosa's] greatest punishment, as a homophobic man, will be that an open and proud gay man will be the one to oust him from television."
But few believed it possible to dethrone the queen of Puerto Rico's airwaves. The same show has also faced criticism for using the word "monos" or monkeys to describe black people, for attempting to "out" individuals they believed were gay, and for poking fun at women for their weight. But in December of 2012, Santarrosa would make his fatal move by presenting the possibility that the victim of a brutal murder on the island had brought it on himself by soliciting prostitution.
"Was this man, José Enrique, asking for this?" La Comay asked.
It was the last straw. The statement triggered Puerto Rican activist and I.T. specialist Carlos Rivera to start a Facebook group called "Boicot La Comay," which in a few days ballooned to 70,000 people. Pedro Julio would be the driving force and spokesperson in the boycott which successfully pressured Coco-Cola, Ford, Chevrolet, WalMart, AT&T, and Sprint, and more than 40 other companies to pull their ad dollars from the program.
Pedro Julio says social media has provided the perfect tool to lead his movement.
"It's an instrument which levels the field. No one has to go through intermediaries anymore," Pedro Julio said. "Social media is like a public plaza, which allows us to denounce or support what we want, and people don't even have to go to the street anymore to do it."
Critics said the movement was censorship from a small minority, but Pedro Julio says that the mass outcry pressured companies, concerned for their image, to make good business decisions.
"Freedom of expression is not an absolute right. It reaches a limit when you abuse the dignity of another person," said Pedro Julio. "And that's what La Comay did constantly. She was a bully."
Just over a month after the boycott started, Santarrosa resigned, and the show was canceled. A 12 year reign at the top was over.