Spoons banged against pots, giant Puerto Rican flags flew in the air, and voices boomed across the narrow streets of Old San Juan.
The governor’s mansion looming behind her, Alexandra-Marie Figueroa Miranda and fellow activists looked out to the hundreds of people amassed on the cobblestones. The activists passed a microphone around, reading lines from the Puerto Rican Constitution on the right to assemble, the right to vote, and how to impeach a governor. All were met with roars.
“You could tell by the way that the audience was responding that it was the first time they were hearing this,” Figueroa said in an interview.
Figueroa is often in the thick of a picket. She and her team organized this reading as part of the protests that led to Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s resignation in July 2019.
Figueroa is the co-creator of La Clara, a social media account that breaks down politics for young voters. She has built an online following of around 20,000 people across multiple platforms and accounts, using them to organize around social justice movements.
Last year, La Clara launched a campaign on social media educating people on electoral participation and voter registration. When Figueroa isn’t leading her own campaigns, she’s using her talents where she sees fit. She joined other feminist organizations clamoring for justice for the dozens of women who were murdered in Puerto Rico last year. After the island’s elections became shrouded in controversy and citizens were asked to help count ballots, Figueroa also lent her time to the cause.
Figueroa’s non-stop activism is reflected in the burst of popularity La Clara earned, which she names as one of her greatest achievements.
When the incriminating messages that led to Gov. Rosselló’s ousting were released, Figueroa sat down at her desk at 7:00 a.m. and started reading. She used social media to share highlights from the countless pages of slurs. By 1:00 p.m., she had read all 889 pages of texts.
Figueroa and La Clara joined the ensuing protests, handing out pocket-sized versions of the Constitution with inclusive, straightforward language. La Clara’s motto “La protesta se criminaliza porque funciona”—“Protests are criminalized because they work”—was printed on the front.
Figueroa dedicates both her personal and professional time to fighting for gender equality. She works full-time as the communications director for Taller Salud, a non-profit women’s health organization in Puerto Rico. She will also casually mention that she’s a law student and writer for her school’s law review.
Figueroa was recently included in an exhibition at the Contemporary Museum of Art in Santurce organized by Coordinadora Paz para La Mujer, a local organization fighting gender violence. The exhibition displayed 247 portraits of feminist women fighting for gender equality.
“These are the faces of the women who work day and night for the good of the communities they are a part of,” the organization said in a statement.
Those who know Figueroa well can confirm what anyone can see by talking to her for a few minutes—she never stops working.
Carla Pérez Meléndez, one of the co-creators of La Clara, said working with Figueroa is “a 200 millas sin jet ski”—or “going 200 miles per hour without a jet ski”—referencing lyrics from a song titled “200 Mph” by Puerto Rican trap icon Bad Bunny.
When asked about her accomplishments, Figueroa will brush them off as just part of who she is.
“I have a weird thing about talking about myself,” she said. “If you’re going to interview me on the right to choose, I’ll say: Let’s go. But about me? Ah, fuck.”
She’s not lying. Figueroa commands a conversation easily, attempting to cram as many words into a sentence as possible. Thick hair, a colorful eyeglass chain, and an arm wrapped in a flower tattoo catch the eye, but it’s her candidness when speaking about social justice issues that keeps you centered on her face.
“I work with amazing women, learning every day, engaging with social causes that are relevant, that merit it, that are needed,” Figueroa said.
While a political career could seem like the obvious next step, when asked if she would consider running for office, Figueroa’s first response was “God, I fucking hate this question.”
She said she has considered it but doesn’t see herself as a political candidate.
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“The reality is I like doing the behind the scenes way too much,” she said.
And she certainly is working behind all the scenes. Amalia Saladrigas has known Figueroa since middle school and said Figueroa works so much she seems to have a time turner.
“She gets involved in many different activities and different projects without dedicating more passion to one over the other,” Saladrigas said. “If she cares about a cause she’ll give as much as possible, even if it’s five causes at a time.”
Diego Sánchez Nieves, another longtime friend of Figueroa’s, said her work ethic can also be her weakness.
“She never stops working, which sometimes worries me,” Sanchez said. “She’ll call me all worn out and I’ve told her to take vacations but the work she does doesn’t take vacations. Domestic violence doesn’t take vacations. Violence against women doesn’t take vacations. And she doesn’t either.”
That summer when a Caribbean island ousted a governor, the cops picked up the habit of claiming the protests were no longer protected by the Constitution. Puerto Ricans joked that the cops thought “the Constitution had an 11:00 p.m. bedtime.” But like Figueroa, the Constitution doesn’t take vacations.
During the protests, after reading from the Constitution, the activists moved on to new material. Around the time the cops would typically start their tear gas parade, Figueroa and her team sardonically “put the Constitution to sleep” reading aloud children’s bedtime stories.
These bold, spur of the moment ideas characterize Figueroa as an effective organizer online and on the streets of Puerto Rico. The latest elections showed the island’s political landscape is changing—and feminist activists like Figueroa are leading the charge.
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