Saturday, July 31, 2004
Friday, July 30, 2004
the boricua vote here and there
By Clarisel Gonzalez, puertoricosun.com
San Juan - Two years ago, a Mexican-American friend visited me from Texas and asked me what was up with "the commonwealth" status.
"What's that all about?" he asked.
Well, I explained to him that Puerto Ricans are US citizens and have to follow federal laws. But we don't have a right to vote for president or pay federal income taxes.
The way we are now I joked is like shacking up with a lover with limited benefits rather than getting married with all the benefits.
"Hey," he responded, "I prefer the lover then."
"Who wants to pay federal income taxes?" he asked.
If he were a Puerto Rican living here, he'd probably be for remaining a US commonwealth every time just because we don't have to pay federal income taxes.
"Voting for president is overrated," he joked.
If my friend were here, he probably would have been among the thousands who spent July 25th in Ponce celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Puerto Rico's government as a US commonwealth or "free associated state."
But it's more complicated than that.
While boricuas here vote in massive numbers in local elections, they can't vote for president. In Puerto Rico, we don't vote for federally elected officials and we don't have voting representation in Congress. There's something not too democratic about that.
But things seem to be changing. Pro-statehood and pro-independence supporters say there is growing bipartisan consensus in the US that commonwealth is only temporary, and that the political status issue must be resolved.
A large group favors "perfected commonwealth'' as the best option, which would provide broader autonomy while another significant group favors "statehood.'' Only about 5 percent of the population favors independence.
Puerto Ricans opted to keep the status quo over statehood in the most recent nonbinding plebiscite of 1998 on the island.
While the divide over status continues to be in the heart of Puerto Rican politics here the whole year every year, boricuas are listening closely this election year to what the presidential candidates have to say, specifically on this hot-button issue. Puerto Ricans stateside are too.
That's why it's important for Puerto Ricans stateside to register and vote because they can actually elect a president and influence change.
Far too often, Puerto Ricans who live in the good old USA are just not taking full advantage of their clout. Many Puerto Ricans stateside seem to take their votes for granted and that, too, has to change for the good of boricuas there and here.
But there is a movement to help draw more stateside Puerto Rican voters, and it seems to have a positive impact. It's a nationwide nonpartisan movement that was actually launched by Puerto Rico Gov. Sila M. Calderon of the ruling pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party.
Now, let's see if stateside boricuas who register actually vote in November. For now, the picture is looking pretty, judging by what has been accomplished so far.
At a July activity in Yonkers, NY, just north of New York City, Mari Carmen Aponte, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, announced the next expansion phase of what she says has become the nation's largest Hispanic voter education, registration and mobilization campaign.
"I am proud to announce that our nonpartisan voter registration effort has registered 250,000 new voters nationwide including over 100,000 right here in New York State," Aponte states on a July 15 press release on the PRFAA website.
Eight days later, at a Puerto Rican activity in Ohio, Aponte states that the number had actually climbed to 280,000 registered new voters nationwide including more than 5,500 in Ohio, home to many boricuas.
Mainland Puerto Ricans have the opportunity to play a crucial role in this year's presidential, state and local elections as Democrats and Republicans alike aggressively court the Latino vote. The mainland Puerto Rican population has grown to 3.4 million, a 28.5 percent jump in the last 10 years alone, according to the 2000 census.
Meanwhile, the nationwide, nonpartisan voter registration and education program "Que Nada Nos Detenga" that Calderon launched in July 2002 to empower Puerto Ricans and Hispanics across the nation by encouraging them to become more engaged in their own communities does seem to be working. Aponte states the campaign is on target to register 300,000 new voters by the November 2004 elections.
So far, the campaign has proven to be a good, impressive civil rights movement even though it also seems to contradict the fact that US citizens on the island don't have the same right to vote for president.
Nonetheless, good things are happening for mainland boricuas who should probably follow the example of island boricuas when it comes to voting.
According to PRFAA, voter registration and participation rates on the island are higher than any state in the United States. In Puerto Rico, voter registration is 95 percent and participation rates are 86 percent in elections here. But the story is different when boricuas move to the mainland with voter registration and participation dropping to about 40 percent, partly because of apathy and language issues.
It really is important for stateside boricuas to cast their votes in the upcoming presidential election to improve the quality of life in their own stateside communities as well as in Puerto Rico.
So, Boricua, please vote. Voter registration and participation matters for all of us whether we are here or there! It's about political leverage.
As Calderon states: "We are mobilizing Puerto Ricans and raising awareness of their potential impact on elections in New York, as well as issues that affect their communities and the Island. All citizens play an important role in the political process and should have the information and the opportunities to help control how decisions are made that affect their daily lives."
According to PRFAA: "the campaign's success can be seen in exit poll data made available following the 2002 elections where polls showed a 70 percent increase in turnout among first-time Puerto Rican voters. In addition, 87 percent of Puerto Ricans surveyed in 2002 said they were aware of the voter registration campaign and 54 percent said they were motivated to vote because the campaign drew a clear link between voting and benefits for their community. Since the campaign's launch in July 2002, major voter registration rally events have been held in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania - all states with large Puerto Rican populations."
For now, we closely follow how the presidential candidates court the stateside boricua/Latino vote and what promises they make. After all, stateside boricuas/Latinos do have a say on who they will vote in as the nation's president, and it is to our benefit to have as many boricuas stateside voting.
President Bush reactivated a task force last year to clarify legal options for the island and appointed as co-chair a White House adviser who has said Puerto Ricans eventually would have to choose sovereignty or statehood.
Last spring, Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry released a position paper saying that the political status here "remains undetermined." He supposedly would deal with island issues such as the economy and political status.
Something has to be done to bring real change. Puerto Rico needs to decide its future. And, it's about time Congress address the situation and allow Puerto Ricans decide.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
BOSTON, July 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a speech by Eimy Santiago at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, July 28, 2004:
Buenas noches! Mi nombre es Eimy Santiago. Tengo 21 anos. Y te quiero contar una historia de como John Kerry ayudo mejorar mi vida.
Good evening! My name is Eimy Santiago. I am 21 years old. And I want to tell you about how John Kerry helped save my life. From this stage to my street in Springfield, Massachusetts, it's only a 90-minute drive. But it is a world away. Growing up, I didn't always make the right choices. When I was 14, I ran away from home and into a world of trouble. I fell into a bad crowd. I sold and used illicit drugs. I was trapped in an abusive relationship. Then, I got pregnant and dropped out of high school. A lot of people gave up on me. For a while, I even gave up on myself.
That's when a program called Youthbuild changed my life. And Youthbuild has had no greater champion than Senator John Kerry. Because of John Kerry, a small state effort has become a national program focused on education and community service. Because of John Kerry, thousands of young people like me have been given a second-chance to earn their G.E.D. Because of John Kerry, we have learned job skills like construction by building affordable housing for the homeless and thousands of low-income families. And because of John Kerry, I started to believe in myself again. He even came to my class in Springfield. There I was a high school dropout and seven months pregnant. And John Kerry looked at me, he listened to me, he shook my hand, and he said, "You can make it." And today, I am making it. Thanks to Youthbuild: I earned my G.E.D. I became an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, and with the money I earned, I enrolled in my local community college. It hasn't been easy. My little girl Alex is now three and stays with day care and my family. I work full-time in the afternoons and at night. I go to school full-time in the mornings, and am proud of my grades -- a 3.8 average!
Across America today, there are millions of young people like me, trying to make something of ourselves, studying hard and working hard. And I think it's time that we had a president that worked just as hard for us! America deserves a president who means it when we talk about "leaving no child behind." John Kerry thinks it is unacceptable that nearly half of Hispanic, African-American, and Native American youth do not graduate from high school. Under President Kerry, the quality of a child's education will not depend on the wealth of that child's neighborhood. Education will be funded, classes will be smaller, and teachers will be paid better. And America deserves a president who is committed to helping students afford a college education. Under President Kerry, young people will be able to pay for four years tuition at a public university, in return for serving their communities. And working students like me will get the training and technical skills we need for today's workforce.
Tomorrow, I will go back to Springfield, back to my job and in the fall, back to school. Next spring, I hope to graduate with an associates degree in human services. For a career, I want to help other young people turn their lives around. And for the future, I want to give my little girl Alex a better life. All because a senator named John Kerry believed in a young woman like me. That's the difference John Kerry made in my life. Just imagine the difference President Kerry will make for America! I cannot think of a better way to thank him than to nominate John Kerry to be President of the United States of America! Vota por John Kerry!
Source: Democratic National Convention Committee
CONTACT: Peggy Wilhide of the Democratic National Convention Committee,+1-617-366-3100
Web site: http://www.dems2004.org/
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
An educational resource published by the Music of Puerto Rico Foundation, a non-profit corporation to help enhance an appreciation of Puerto Rican music and to instill a sense of pride in Puerto Ricans for their music.
The foundation's complete mission statement.
..a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring Puerto Rican music...from the soft rhythm of the Puerto Rican danza, to the traditional folk music, and plenas, to hot salsa, and the latest in reggaeton.
Check it out.
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA KIDS COUNT PUERTO RICO PROJECT TO RELEASE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE DATA BOOK ON CHILDREN IN PUERTO RICO
San Juan -- The National Council of La Raza KIDS COUNT Puerto Rico Project will release the 2004 KIDS COUNT Puerto Rico Data Book, which presents data on the major population, health, and socioeconomic characteristics of the child population, for the island as a whole, at a news conference Aug. 2 in Guaynabo.
The report presents a mixed picture of the status of children and youth in Puerto Rico. In terms of positive trends, the 2004 KIDS COUNT Puerto Rico Data Book shows that the number of low birth weight babies and the rate of infant and child mortality declined from 1990 to 2000. In addition, the number of births to teenagers, while still high and concentrated in specific municipalities, has also dropped, both for adolescents 15 to 17 years old and for girls under 15 years old.
But the book also highlights several worrisome indicators: child and youth homicide in Puerto Rico is alarming; during the last decade Puerto Rico lost more than 1,500 youth to homicide and 93% of these were males. Moreover, the proportion of children born to and living with only one parent increased from 1990 to 2000. The data book concludes with several recommendations and points to challenges and opportunities for policy-makers, the private sector, and nonprofit and community-based organizations to improve the lives of children in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Self-Determination has a New Forum
Washington, DC--(HISPANIC PR WIRE – US Newswire)--July 26, 2004--The Citizens’ Educational Foundation – US (CEF), is pleased to announce the launching of a new initiative that provides another forum for the discussion of Puerto Rico Self-Determination: http://www.LetPuertoRicoDecide.org. As the name implies, the new website can be found at: http://www.letpuertoricodecide.org. “Our goal with “Let Puerto Rico Decide.org”, is to provide the public with an action-oriented site that would permit them to learn about the issue of Puerto Rico self determination and then be able to actually do something about it,” said CEF Executive Director, Jose E. Aponte. Mr. Aponte also added that, “With this website, the public will not only be able to support Puerto Rican self-determination by contacting their members of Congress, as well as President Bush and the campaign of Senator Kerry, but they will also be able to remain active on this issue by participating in the new CEF web log called Blog Puerto Rico.” “Blog Puerto Rico is our effort to take part in this new media wave that has already had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the candidates and the overall electoral process. Blog Puerto Rico will introduce an ongoing discussion about the unfinished business of American democracy represented by the issue of Puerto Rico’s unresolved political status dilemma,” Aponte said. This year, for the first time, Bloggers will actually be given press credentials in both party conventions. For those who wish to conduct additional research on the issue of Puerto Rico self-determination, CEF still has its original website http://www.cefus.net, where the status issue is discussed in greater detail and the public has access to a growing number of resources and materials. The Citizens’ Educational Foundation-US is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that promotes the right of the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico to a process of Self-Determination.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Thursday, July 22, 2004
By Fernando A. Zapater
It keeps creeping upon me
As an invisible tower of hatred
You perceive it through your senses
Where you feel the fire burn unto your soul
I despise you suicide victims
For you are the perpetrators
Of your own invincible weaknesses
How can I avenge your threat of killing me?
Life is a destiny, it is also a tyranny
With being alive, and all its serendipity
When things happened and the culprit vanished
Where do I unleash my anger?
Darkness of night was afraid of my tongue of fire
The sun was scared of the burning hatred of my desires
Tell me earth where do I unleash my anger
The one that burns my life with hateful anxieties
For every time I fall, I push you down as I get up
I’m only a human that stumbled once upon,
One more time
Mother earth where do I unleash my anger
Brother sun, sister moon, tell me siblings where I do
Tell me mother I wish not to scorch your face
Please tell me soon, my next breath might be combustion.
Copyrighted 2002 Fernando A. Zapater
Fernando A. Zapater contributes his poetry to puertoricosun.com. He is from Ponce.
Monday, July 19, 2004
By FERNANDO A. ZAPATER
THE ANGELS SENT ME THIS ROSE
BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO PLEASE ME
BUT A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE
WHEN IT HAS NO MEANING
BUT THE ANGELS SENT ME THIS ROSE
SO IT DOES HAVE A MEANING
THERE IS AN ANGEL SOMEWHERE
FLUTTERING HER WINGS LOVINGLY
AS SHE WATCHES OVER ME
I SENSE HER PRESENCE
FLUTTERING HER WINGS LOVINGLY
WATCHING HER ROSE BLOOMING
WHEN THE ROSE PETALS OPENED
I FELT THE BLOWING KISS
HER PERFUME SURROUNDED THE AREA
AND SUNSHINE CAME FORTH BRIGHT
THERE'S A SUDDEN BURST OF LIGHT
MY HEART JUMPED INTO IT
THEN I DISCOVERED MYSELF
IN THE HEART OF THE ROSE ABSCONDED.
c FERNANDO A. ZAPATER
Zapater contributes his poetry to puertoricosun.com. He is from Ponce.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
DROP OF LOVE
By FERNANDO A. ZAPATER
DROP OF LOVE
THAT NIBBLES DOWN YOUR BREAST
YOU ARE THE MOTHER WHO FEEDS
THE INFANT BABY WITH HER MILK
ALLOW US TO WORSHIP THOU
YOU ARE TO BECOME ANOTHER
ANOTHER ONE AMONGST MANY
A MOTHER WHO FEEDS HER CHILD
WITH HER LOVE, BREAST AND HONESTY
WHEN A FEATHER CARESSED YOU
IT CAME FROM VERY HIGH ABOVE
SUCH TENDER LOVE POSSESSED
THE GLORY OF YOUR MOTHERHOOD
BUT YOUR DROP OF LOVE WOMAN
MOTHER WOMAN GIRL CHILD YOU
WAS WHITE AND GLISTENING GOLD
SURRENDERED IN LOVE WE TRUST
YOUR DROP OF LOVE WOMAN
YOUR MOST SWEETEST SELF
COMES FROM CLOSE TO YOUR HEART
YOUR LOVE JUST POURS ITSELF.
Fernando A. Zapater contributes his poetry to puertoricosun.com. He is from Ponce, P.R.
Friday, July 16, 2004
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.
By Manuel Hernandez
Latino/a Literature is a resource for young adults and standardized testing in America. Voices of concerns were depicted in a widely televised special on November 30, 2003 on Fox television. The prime time segment dedicated a series on education to vividly document stories of children with problems with standardized testing. America is looking for answers and embarking on a journey of redefining its solutions. A resource for the teaching of literature in the United States of America may be Latino/a literature.
Studies indicate that there is a strong relationship between reading and writing. Two scholars in the area (Noyce and Christie, 1989) state that the mind assimilates information to explain the missing link between skills and reading/writing. Therefore it is up to educators to provide and include additional material and instruction to help students fill in the missing links. Closing the gap on standardized testing means going beyond the classics.
According to the United States Census statistics, there were 35.8 million people of Latino origin living in the United States in the year 2000. Recent 2003 numbers places the largest minority near the 40 million mark (13 percent of the U.S.A. population). Latino writers that migrated to the United States before, during and immediately after World War II, and those who were born and grew up in the United States have come out of the melting pot and have become a vital voice in American letters today. They have developed a powerful and dynamic literary voice and are being anthologized like never before. Even The Anthology of American Literature (Prentice-Hall, 1997), one of America’s most influential collection of classical writings, includes the literary works of the highly awarded writers, Tomás Rivera and Sandra Cisneros, alongside Hemingway, Updike and Longfellow.
Americans are demanding a quality education for all children. One of the four principles of the Government’s No Child Left Behind Law is an emphasis on teaching methods that have worked in the past. In a workshop that I performed for the New York City High Schools/English Language Learners Office in 2000 and 2001, English and English as a Second Language high school teachers shared testimonies (Integrating Latino/a Literature in The English Classroom, Part V, television production for the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network) on how Latino/a Literature had provided young adults with motivation and preparation for the Regents exams. Mr. Joseph Lizardi ,ESL-HS teacher from Roosevelt High School in The Bronx, New York, said that he had used the literary works of Latino/a writers to prepare and tutor ESL kids and had noticed positive results in the Regents exams.
In the English classroom, students feel a lack of personal involvement, especially with isolated writing assignments. Latino/a Literature is filled with every day and common events and establishes a bridge between reading and writing which connects students to ideas and themes. It is like seeing themselves in a mirror and assessing what, where, how and why they are who they are while developing reading and writing skills necessary to enter and succeed in high school and higher education. How can students interact with their reading-writing when their choices of literature are far away from their every day reality?
Young adults today are open to options. Media moguls and entertainment industries have captivated their interest because they have offered them options. Education must stay abreast with the challenges that our children face today. It is our responsibility as teachers, administrators, parents and educational advocates to provide them with innovations in their educational experience. According to statistics by the Department of Education, only 17 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders read at their grade level. Imagine what may happen to the reading skills of these kids once they reach high school by the end of the decade, if there academic demands are not met wisely. Why not provide them with an opportunity to make literature their own? If No Child Left Behind reiterates that all children are provided with quality instruction that will give them the opportunity to reach their greatest academic potential, and it provides the resources states and school districts need to fulfill this national priority, then provide them with options. Latino/a literature in the English classroom is a resource that should not be taken for granted and may redefine the literary analysis of contemporary American letters.
Like the previously mentioned Editorial states, "Disappointing test results have
many causes", but one of them are the choices that administrators and teachers make for their children. Additional research in the study of young adult literature demonstrates that language is learned through use rather than through practice exercises. Second, children need to be given opportunities to make language their own by making connections with their lives and background information. Finally, A well-designed reading/writing program should provide opportunites for diverse daily reading and various types of writing. The classics are and will always be part of the American curriculum, but Latino/a literature provides our children with a refreshening alternative and may supplement a well-balanced reading-writing program and help create interest in reading and writing which will in return augment scores in the "nations report card", the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Hernandez contributes articles to puertoricosun.com on education issues.