Boricua: Let's Have More Pride
By Clarisel Gonzalez
San Juan -- I watched the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City on TV last month and listened to Puerto Ricans talk about how much they love their parade, their culture, their history, their flag. "Que Viva Puerto Rico" was the sentiment of the day as it is every year in one of the country's largest cultural parades.
Despite all the celebrations of Puerto Rican pride stateside, this little island is badly hurting with Puerto Rican on Puerto Rican crime.
Drugs, gang violence, domestic violence, child and sexual abuse and murder are very real cancers here. They are destroying Puerto Rican families.
Puerto Rico, with its beautiful palm trees and beaches and historic buildings, is far from a tropical paradise with all this violence. As I write this, there have been 427 homicides on the island to date, 27 more than last year during the same period. Sadly but surely, this number will be higher by the time you read this.
What is happening to our Isla del Encanto (Enchanted Island)?
The quality of life here is far from enchanting.
That is obvious in the daily news headlines. This week -- no, this year -- one of the biggest news stories on the island is the crime wave, particularly within the public housing projects. It's nonstop it seems.
And, the government and society is responsible for this bloody mess.
The government needs to do more than provide short-term solutions of activating more police officers to patrol high-crime areas, particularly at the housing projects. Putting police officers "as a show of force" at the projects is not enough. Not even mobilizing the National Guard would be enough.
And, attributing the drug and crime problem solely to poverty is simply a cop-out. Sure, there is poverty on the island with about 50 percent of the population living below poverty level. Sure, poverty is a contributing factor to the current crime wave.
But the drugs and the violence here is not just a poor person's problem. And, poor people are not the only ones to blame for the crime here. There is a lucrative drug trafficking market here, and I could bet that the ones making the real big time money are not the ones killing each other in drug point battles.
We, as a society, need to do more to respect ourselves as a people and combat crime by becoming activists for change. Period.
We have to go back to family values. The values of education. We have to value life. We have to value our pride as a people.
But not everything is lost. There is hope.
I know it.
I was inspired recently after I went with a group of fellow teachers to the Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation, named in honor of one of the island's giants. The foundation's mission is to preserve, strengthen and divulge the civic values that Don Luis Muñoz Marín fought.
It is definitely a place that Puerto Ricans who visit or live on the island should check out because Don Luis transformed the island improving quality of life conditions, and it is up to us to keep transforming it for the better. As the foundation literature states, "It is part of our history."
Luis Muñoz Marín, a poet and journalist, was the first Puerto Rican governor to be elected by the people, not appointed by the United States. In 1951, Puerto Ricans, under US law, were granted the right to draft their own constitution. The new constitution was then voted on by referendum, gaining the approval of the Puerto Ricans. On July 25, 1952, Puerto Rico’s status shifted from being a U.S. territory to becoming the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It was at this same time that the once revolutionary flag of Puerto Rico became the official flag representing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Fifty-two years later our flag is still a symbol of the Puerto Rican identity. It is a symbol of who we are as a people.
It is a symbol of the respect we should have for each other.
As a Puerto Rican, a journalist and yes, a teacher, I admire the work Luis Muñoz Marín did for Puerto Rico. I am inspired by his example.
I imagine Muñoz Marín would have been proud to have our group of teachers visit. After all, he was a fighter for social justice and education in Puerto Rico, and that is exactly what these teachers represent in their struggle to reach today's students.
Among the terms teachers used to described Luis Muñoz Marín, were "master thinker" and "teacher of humanity." He is someone whose example we should emulate, especially today when respect for life doesn't seem to matter and crime is devastating families in Puerto Rico.
We, as a society, have to reflect on our values as a people.
If not, ay bendito Isla del Encanto.