Friday, September 24, 2004

By Fernando A. Zapater


In that poker game god dealt me cards
An anti-Semitic joker as a wild trump
That played me like a well-tuned guitar
To the fine tune of a mashuganov gentile
I traveled 32 hundred miles
To reach the rabbis daughter and reconcile
But imagine a balsero boricua all the while
After he had his heart circumcised
Perhaps in past incarnations I had been
A nazi luftewaggen first lieutenant air force
Maybe I was the roman soldier who gave Christ
His hideous last drink
Or perhaps had been the Jew that condemned
Him to be crucified
It is my karma I accept in mazeltov
All the while thinking in Luria's mysticism
And when my love for Mordecai borders fanatism
You will know me also as his sidekick companion
Esther's lover, Lilith's cousin, a Jew beloved
Like Moses leadership amongst the waters
But when Palestinians explode like watermelons
It is time to corner Arafat with serious questions
Not only traveled a mile for a camel
But 32 hundred for a whole herd
With which we will conquer the west
And will have again Jerusalem and Bethlehem
We must not thrust aside the Palestinians
For they are a tribe that is here to stay
I have been dealt the anti-Semitic trump
It's now my turn to twist and shout, to hum and hump
We shall live like a civilized tribe
Amongst human, spirits, and animals alike
Love and peace shall prevail amongst all the same
Shalom, Mazel-tov, Hola, Hello, Bienvenido, y Como estas.

c Condemned, by Fernando A Zapater
Published in "Cuentos Cortos y Poemas de Un Balsero", Volume II, by Fernando A. Zapater.

Zapater is a contributing poet to Puerto Rico Sun.

Community News

NCLR Supports Report Showing that "Three-Strikes" Laws Fail to Control Crime

Washington, D.C. - The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Latino civil rights organization in the U.S., welcomes the report released today by the Justice Policy Institute demonstrating that the "three-strikes" mandatory sentencing laws are highly ineffective. This report, Three Strikes and You're Out: An Examination of the Impact of 3-Strike Laws 10 Years After their Enactment, is a timely analysis of these laws which have been adopted by approximately two dozen states and the federal government in the last ten years.

NCLR has expressed great concern with "three-strikes" laws because, in addition to being ineffective, these laws impose unduly harsh sentences on people who commit minor, non-serious crimes, such as shoplifting, and waste resources that could be invested in better methods for reducing crime. Given the data in reports such as this one, it is clear that "three-strikes" laws give the public a false sense of safety and do not make good on their promise of reducing violent crime.

The "three-strikes" laws put into place in the past decade had two primary goals: to reduce crime by incarcerating repeat offenders for long periods of time and to dissuade individuals with criminal records from committing new crimes. "Three-strikes" laws were designed to make communities safe by reducing violent crime. However, violence has not decreased at a faster rate in the states that have implemented these laws as compared to the states that do not have "three-strikes" laws.

"Tough-on-crime" measures, like the "three-strikes" laws, result in the incarceration of tens of thousands of petty criminals for life, while not reducing crime and wasting billions of dollars. Instead, those resources would be better invested in education and job training, as well as prevention and treatment programs for people with substance abuse and mental health problems.

For example, while 31% of California's population is Latino, nearly 40% of prisoners in the state are Hispanic. In this state, a person could conceivably receive a 25-year-to-life sentence, under the "three-strikes" laws, for shoplifting. Thus, approximately a quarter of the total prison population is serving time as a result of this punitive measure. This overreliance on incarceration causes a strain on the state budget and dries up resources needed for community programs.

The Latino community believes that the punishment needs to fit the crime; severe prison sentences should be reserved for violent repeat criminals and not for nonviolent minor offenders. "Three-strikes" laws offer a "cookie-cutter" solution to crime. NCLR urges the states and the federal government to look for smart approaches to public safety and crime reduction, which yield results and address the root cause of the problem.


All Content © 2004 NCLR. All Rights Reserved
FYI -- My photos are now part of the photo collection at the Escape to Puerto Rico site.

My work is located under the categories:

Old San Juan



Please visit and send an Isla del Encanto e-card.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Manny Hernandez

Picture MH
Originally uploaded by Manny.
Read Manny's empowering articles on education right here at the
Education Corner


The Key That Unlocks The Door: Education
by Manuel Hernandez

Education is the key that unlocks the door to a new world of opportunities here and anywhere in the world. Without education, humanity merely survives and risks its existence. Yet, the talk is about war and politics these days. With all the kidnappings, bombings, and the presidential campaign, education, the key to the future, has been relegated to the back door of daily conversation.
When you are born, you do not choose where you will start out in life. I had the blessing of being born in a legendary town right across George Washington's Hudson River, Sleepy Hollow. The positive learning environment imparted by teachers and the educational community at John Paulding, Pearson and Winfield L. Morse went beyond all academic expectations. I was taught to care, open my mind, think for myself, speak out, stand up for what you believe in and be creative. The rising factor in an education is motivation, and I was handed that package at a very early age. But this is not the story of millions around the world.
What happens when you are brought up in, during or in times of war and tragedy? How do you evoke or provoke yourself to grow and care without appropriate role models? When do you decide to march forth in life and go beyond the negative expectations of those who surround you? How do you restore faith when there is disaster, crisis, destruction and adversity knocking at your door constantly? The best-selling Latino poet, Tato Laviera, answers these questions and others purposefully in "Fighting":

ceased to be physical

when I realized my natural

potential for dealing with

institutions on their own

word and logic turf

ceased to be physical when

the power of my uneducated job

prose elicited respect at a job

interview at Livingston college

(first and third stanzas, La Carreta Made a U-Turn, p. 31)

All of our modern day heroes have learned to take these questions and transform them into keys to unlock the doors of opportunities in their lives. Motivation does not come easy. It takes purpose, strength of character and leadership to go deep inside within. When doors are seemingly closed, others will open. When role models fail, big brothers and sisters will fulfill their duties. Bigotry, ignorance and prejudice can only be confronted from an educational standpoint. The current Secretary of State of the United States has learned to serve and lead under both political parties. Mr. Powell comes from a very humble background in the South Bronx and has used his great determination and will to demonstrate that no one is excluded from greater doors of opportunities.
When the reflection in the bedroom window (past experiences) are not the brightest, the key to salvation may very well be an education. It will take an encounter within to heal and restore, but it is possible. With all the talk on war and terror, education will soon surface to the top, and all Americans will understand its role to unlock those hard-locked doors. There will be no need to bring the doors down. They will open naturally.

Manny Hernandez, a Puerto Rico Sun contributing writer on education issues, is an educator and columnist. He may be reached at 787-448-6080, or you may write:
HC-O1, Box 7717, Luquillo, Puerto Rico 00773

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Community News:

New NCLR Study Finds Hispanics in the South are Reluctant to Use Health Care System

Lack of Access, Information is a Public Health Concern

Atlanta, GA - A report released (this month) by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) finds that, contrary to conventional belief and despite the explosive growth of the population, Hispanics in the South are underutilizing public heath care services throughout the region. The report, The Health of Latino Communities in the South: Challenges and Opportunities, includes the perspectives of health care professionals and members of the community and notes that Hispanics are reluctant to use public health care programs and facilities due to barriers such as lack of information about available services; lack of insurance; insufficient numbers of bilingual, bicultural personnel in the healthcare arena; and disparate treatment.

"The fact that many Hispanics are intimidated enough by the health system that they are not seeking care should trouble anyone who is concerned about public health. These adults and their families are an important share of the workers and taxpayers of the South, and the region's economy depends on their well-being," stated Janet Murguia, NCLR Executive Director and COO.

NCLR conducted the study to gain new knowledge about the rapidly-growing, young, and increasingly significant Latino population in the South. "Ensuring the integration of Latinos into the social fabric of the South is critical to the region, and we can only do that if we understand the community and its needs," observed Murguia. With financial support from the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NCLR partnered with four highly-respected community-based organizations (CBOs) with experience in the health care field - El Pueblo, Inc. (Raleigh, NC); Latin American Association (Atlanta, GA); Latino Memphis (Memphis, TN); and Southeast Georgia Communities Project (Lyons, GA) - to gather information from community members and health care service providers.

NCLR's research and analysis suggest that a serious information gap prevents the Latino community from accessing available health services and hinders the ability of health care professionals to provide Latinos with adequate care. Specifically, the report's key findings show that:

There is a lack of knowledge about available health care service providers within the Hispanic community.
Health care facilities and professionals often do not have the adequate linguistic and cultural skills necessary to treat members of the Hispanic community.
Among Hispanics, there is a lack of trust of the medical system, which is sometimes amplified by immigration status.
Many Hispanics experience disparate treatment when they visit health care facilities, including longer waits and denial of service.
"The issues raised across the region were remarkably consistent, regardless of which state Latinos live in. Many without insurance are unable to get help due to the high cost of care. Struggling to learn English, others are daunted by the lack of information in Spanish and are unable to find anyone in the public health arena who understands or can communicate with them. People shouldn't have to resort to over-the-counter medicine or the botánica when they need medical attention," stated Andrea Bazán-Manson, NCLR Board Member and Executive Director of El Pueblo, Inc., one of the community-based partners in the study.

But the report also notes that strategies are within reach to improve information, access, and care available to Hispanics. "There are some rays of hope - partnerships between government, public health organizations, and CBOs can serve as models for other communities eager to address the challenges raised in the report," advised Murguia.

The report proposes detailed recommendations to educate the Latino community on available health care, and to prepare members of the medical profession to be responsive to the needs of this diverse population. Specifically:

The public and private sectors should collaborate on a comprehensive media-based campaign aimed at Latinos to increase awareness on public health issues.
Government agencies should establish mechanisms to ensure that appropriate language services, required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, are available when needed.
Regional nonprofit organizations should train other CBOs on community health education and outreach techniques.
Medical professionals, with help from regional CBOs, should create cultural competency and continuing education courses to help doctors increase their knowledge of culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
Latinos should play an active role in improving the health of their communities, through education, advocacy, and research.
"Hispanics need and want what many other Americans take for granted - that if they or their kids get sick, they will be able to find the means to get well. Given that Hispanics are an increasingly critical part of the region's economy, we urge public health officials in the South to partner with the Hispanic community to ensure that all residents of the South are able to access and receive health care services," concluded Murguia.

The full report, The Health of Latino Communities in the South: Challenges and Opportunities, can be accessed on the Internet at

Community News



A workshop with Screenwriter/New School Professor
Frank Algarín

An introduction to the techniques, tools and vocabulary necessary for
turning an idea into a screenplay.

The goal is to develop an original idea into an outline for a feature
length screenplay and write the first scenes of the script.

The workshop will include lectures, discussions, viewings of films,
exercises, assignments, resources and handouts.

10 sessions: October 7 - December 16, 2004
Course Fee: $250
Registration Fee: $25

161 East 106th Street, First Floor
(Between Lexington and Third Avenue)

For more information and to register:
Call (212) 828-0401
Empowering community through technology

Let there be light!

Mi gente, I have been off-line for nearly a week as a result of the blackout on Puerto Rico. I finally got electricity at home today, so I'm back to blog.

Go figure. The blackout was not even caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne!

The blackout and lack of water was actually worse than the storm! I got the water back over the weekend.

Some wise person decided to shutoff the power, and the Puerto Rican government is now fending off critics.

Whatever! I won't get into the politics of that foolish decision that left the island in chaos for days.

I'll leave that to the Puerto Rico radio reporters and commentators, who did a fantastic job of informing and letting people voice their opinions during the last week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Community News

New Report Finds That D.C. Council Juvenile Justice Proposals From Past Year are Ineffective and Unfair

WASHINGTON, DC- A consortium of Latino organizations will join civil rights, community, and youth organizations tomorrow in releasing a report on Latino youth in the District's justice system and call on the D.C. Council to reject the harsh juvenile justice proposals they have considered in the past year when they take a final vote this month.
The report, District of Columbia Responses to Youth Violence: Impact on the Latino Community, which offers a comprehensive analysis of the proposals introduced by D.C. Council members and District Mayor Anthony Williams since the fall of 2003, finds that some of the policies being considered would be ineffective in protecting public safety and would have a negative impact on Latino families if adopted into law.
The consortium's report includes alternative policies that would more effectively reduce youth crime and assist families who are caught in the criminal justice system. These recommendations are similar to those of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Safety and Juvenile Justice Reform, which provide a sound blueprint for effective reform based on research and experience from around the country but have been largely ignored by District policy-makers.
The report's authors are the National Council of La Raza, the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the law firms of Foley & Lardner LLP and Piper Rudnick LLP. These organizations will be joined at the briefing for the D.C. Council and the press by representatives from the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition, the Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative, the Latin American Youth Center, the Youth Law Center, the Justice 4 DC Youth Coalition, as well as Latino families who will speak to the personal impact of these policies. The briefing will be hosted by the D.C. Council's Subcommittee on Human Rights, Latino Affairs and Property Management, whose members include Jim Graham (Ward One), Adrian Fenty (Ward Four), and Phil Mendelson (at large).
The release of the new report on juvenile justice proposals that are ineffective and unfair to Latinos will be made at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Source: National Council of La Raza

Jibaro Embraces Lady Liberty

Jibaro Embraces Lady Liberty
Originally uploaded by clarisel.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Reading Life
By Vivian Lake, Puerto Rico Sun Book Editor

The Turkish Lover by Esmeralda Santiago ($24.95 DaCapo Press, 341 pp.)

This much-awaited follow-up to When I was Puerto Rican and Almost a Woman is a riveting memoir of a young woman’s first serious relationship. Santiago, at age 21, meets an older man and leaves her family to be with him. Although the man is older, charming and experienced, she soon learns that he is also a dominating, lying, psychologically abusive man and has no visible means of support. And he calls her “Chiquita.”
After a financial setback, he takes her back to New York and dumps her at her parents’ home. After he leaves the country Esmeralda flourishes, finds a job she loves and her own place to live. Unfortunately, she continues to correspond with the Turkish Loser (as I call him) who calls and writes constantly with fervent but vague promises of reuniting with her. Instead of running for the hills (as every reader would advise), Esmeralda is enthralled, though not yet immobilized by her attraction for this man.
Esmeralda is working at a prestigious and fulfilling job at the Museum of Modern Art when she hears from the loser again, telling her that he is enrolled at the University of Texas. She is living in Lubbock, Texas, in a matter of weeks. His life becomes hers as she finds a job – and hands over her salary to him, researches and writes his papers for him, and learns to be quiet, submissive and not ask too many questions. When he completes his Master’s – for which she did all the work, something happens. Esmeralda’s self-esteem and self-worth begin to flourish. She has been taking a few courses, has done most of the work for her lover’s degrees, and begins to believe that she can accomplish more, and deserves better.
During a vacation in Massachusetts, the couple drive through Cambridge and the Harvard campus. Esmeralda has an epiphany. She belongs here. She returns to Lubbock unsure of how she will make the desire a reality. With the support of her co-workers, she completes the application and applies for scholarships and is accepted. To his credit, the loser is supportive. They pack up their Lubbock life and head north. He is to start a doctoral program in upstate New York and she moves to Cambridge to start life at Harvard.
This is an extraordinary testament to the strength of the human spirit – and the strength of Ms. Santiago in particular.
Esmeralda Santiago’s website is at

Vivian Lake, a contributing writer to Puerto Rico Sun, runs her own blog site dedicated to book news. It is at
Community News

NCLR to Release First-Ever Survey of Health Care and Hispanic Community in the South

ATLANTA, GA - The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights organization in the U.S., will release the findings of the first multistate report to document the health care challenges, needs, and aspirations of Latinos in the South. NCLR will hold a news briefing on the report, The Health of Latino Communities in the Southern United States: Challenges and Opportunities, on Friday, September 17 at Saint Joseph's Mercy Care Services Clinic-North, 3367 Buford Highway, Suite 910, beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Hispanics, the nation's largest minority and its fastest-growing population, have experienced their greatest growth in the South. The four states included in the survey - Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee - are those with the highest percentage increases during the 1990s in the number of Latino residents. Yet, despite this explosive growth, little documentation exists regarding the status of, and challenges facing, these communities, especially related to health. The report, funded by the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, surveys health care professionals and members of the community on issues such as availability of health care services, barriers to accessing health care, and treatment of Latinos by health care personnel and facilities.
Speakers at the news briefing include Janet Murguia, NCLR Executive Director; Andrea Bazán Manson, Executive Director of El Pueblo, Inc., Raleigh, NC; Andrea Cruz, Executive Director of the Southeast Georgia Communities Project, Lyons, GA; Dr. José A. Velázquez, Chief Executive Officer of Latino Memphis, Memphis, TN; Cecilia G. Galvis, Family Health Promotion Manager of Saint Joseph's Mercy Care Services; and the author of the report, Liany Elba Arroyo, Senior Program Manager, NCLR Atlanta Office.
All Content © 2004 NCLR. All Rights Reserved

Hispanic Scholarship Fund Awards $29.3 Million Nationwide to Nearly 7,500 Latino Students During 2003-2004 Academic Year

Increased Giving Highlights Organization's Impact as Census Bureau Reports a Decline in Household Income of Hispanics Nationwide

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), the nation's leading organization supporting Hispanic higher education, announced it has awarded more than $29.3 million in college scholarships during the 2003-2004 academic year, enabling nearly 7,500 Latino students in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to further their college education. HSF's award numbers are encouraging news in the face of an August 26 report from the U.S. Census Bureau showing a 2.6% decline in the median household income of Hispanics nationwide during 2003 -- the only major racial or ethnic group to show such a decline(1).
"During the past academic year, HSF has worked hard to increase the number of scholarships awarded, the number of students supported, and the number of programs developed and delivered -- all during a period when Hispanic families find themselves struggling with shrinking financial resources," said Sara Martinez Tucker, HSF president and CEO. "Because these numbers reflect an urgent need -- one that we are working to satisfy with the generous support of corporate partners, private foundations, and individual giving-we must continue to provide Latinos with the resources necessary to earn a college degree so that we can break the cycle of under-education in the Hispanic community."
The $29.3 million represents scholarships awarded through HSF's College Scholarship, High School Scholarship, Community College Transfer Scholarship and Partnership and Internship programs, as well as awards through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program and the Washington D.C.-based HSF Institute. Although the 2003-2004 numbers represent a cumulative dollar increase over the previous year, the disappointing news from the Census Bureau's August report points to the increased need for education support for Latinos as the median household incomes of Hispanic families have fallen in real terms. Hispanics already struggle with significantly lower college graduation rates than their white or African American counterparts -- only about 10% of Latinos complete their four-year degrees -- and this new data shows a diminishing capacity for families to meet rising tuition costs.
In addition to the unprecedented financial support secured for Latino students in the past academic year, HSF worked to close the education gap through innovative programming that seeks to build a pipeline of Latino students entering and graduating from college, while engaging Latino families to become advocates for their children's education.
HSF toured the country and hosted more than 66 HSF "Steps for Success" workshops, Town Hall Meetings, and other outreach events, providing more than 10,700 students and their families with the critical tools needed to help them graduate from high school and successfully navigate the college application and financial aid processes. In addition, the HSF Scholar Chapter Network has grown to 20 chapters on university campuses nationwide, providing students with access to mentors, leadership opportunities and skill-building workshops to help them stay in college and complete their degrees.
HSF's scholarship and support programs continue to rank among the most effective in the country. An independent study found that 97 percent of all students selected as HSF Scholars attain their college degrees. Almost 90 percent of HSF Scholars earn salaries above the national median income, and nearly 60 percent earn at least double the average annual income of most working Hispanic Americans.
Since its founding in 1975, HSF has continued to raise the bar on giving, and provides the Latino community with more college scholarships and educational outreach support than any other organization in the country. During the past year, HSF has partnered with more than 100 Fortune 1000 companies, gained support from more than a dozen national and regional foundations, and conducted numerous workplace giving campaigns and community fundraising events.
During its 29-year history, HSF has awarded more than 68,000 scholarships in excess of $144 million to Latinos from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have attended more than 1,700 colleges and universities.
Several of HSF's scholarship programs have begun accepting applications for the 2004-2005 academic year, with additional programs opening in September and October. Each scholarship program has a different application deadline, ranging from October 15, 2004, to January 15, 2005. Please call for more information.
(1) Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003; issued August 2004 by the U.S. Census Bureau. See pages 3-6.
Source: Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Web site:

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Ground Zero

Ground Zero
Originally uploaded by nonny.
Remembering September 11

Photo by Jonny "Nonny" Newman is part of a collection of Nonny's photos at flickr, showcasing New York City.

Worth visiting.
Puerto Rico Sun is republishing this poem by Fernando A. Zapater

In honor of 9/11 Victims
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

Wednesday, September 08, 2004




"Episode 2"

Sunday, September 12, 2004
10:30 - 11 pm
This episode features Miriam Colon and the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater Company (PRTT) of New York, Tejana musical artist Selena and the Santero art tradition of New Mexico.

Latino artists across the United States take center stage in VISIONES: LATINO ART AND CULTURE, a groundbreaking six-part television series airing on PBS Sundays this month to October 10. Viewers experience the world of Latino artistic expression as the series journeys throughout the country, capturing rich stories about theater, music, dance, spoken word and the visual arts. From New York City's hip hop culture to mural painters in Los Angeles and Chicago to theater in Texas, the series offers a unique cross section of Latino artists.

VISIONES: LATINO ART AND CULTURE is the first PBS series to focus exclusively on Latino artistic expression in the United States.

Update -- Community News

Governor Calderón Announces Success of Nation’s Largest Nonpartisan Hispanic Voter Registration Campaign

Washington, DC--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--September 7, 2004--On the steps of the Cannon House Office Building today, Sila M. Calderón, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, claimed victory for Puerto Rican and Hispanic communities nationwide as she announced that her government’s grassroots empowerment initiative met its goal of registering over 300,000 voters before this year’s general elections.

The nonpartisan education, registration and mobilization campaign, dubbed “¡Que Nada Nos Detenga!” or “Let Nothing Stop Us!”, was launched in July 2002 as an effort to empower the 642,000 Puerto Ricans across the nation who were eligible to vote in their local communities yet had not registered. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 3.5 million Puerto Ricans living in the states, 1.7 million of whom are of voting age.

“I am proud to announce that our nonpartisan voter registration effort has surpassed the goal of 300,000 voters nationwide,” said Governor Calderón. “This accomplishment is about more than just numbers, it’s about the empowerment of our people and the transformation of our communities.”

As Republicans and Democrats alike target the ever-growing Hispanic vote, Puerto Ricans have the opportunity to play a dramatic role in this year’s presidential, state and local elections. Many Puerto Rican communities are located in politically strategic areas and, because of the Puerto Rican electorate’s largely politically undecided stance, are expected to cast deciding votes in many upcoming elections. In the 1992 Presidential election, 100 electoral votes were decided by a difference of less than two percent of the votes; Puerto Ricans make up more than two percent of the population in as many as seven states nationwide.

“Many Puerto Rican communities represent swing votes that could potentially decide elections across the nation. The eyes of the nation are focused on the Presidential campaign and Puerto Ricans will be crucial in states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio,” said Mari Carmen Aponte, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) which launched and managed the campaign.

“We expect even greater impact as we mobilize Puerto Ricans to vote in local and state elections. We have educated our communities to understand that voting is the key to directing many issues which impact the quality of our everyday lives – such as school funding, police budgets, public works projects and zoning,” Aponte continued.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the mainland Puerto Rican population has grown to 3.5 million, a nearly 30 percent jump in the last ten years alone. In addition, Puerto Ricans now reside in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

“This is all about enfranchising people to effect change throughout the nation,” said Calderón, “this campaign is about solidarity, pride and empowerment. We are mobilizing Puerto Ricans and raising awareness of their potential impact on issues that affect their local communities as well as 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.”

Voter registration and participation rates on the Island are 95 percent and 86 percent respectively, higher than any state in the nation. But when Puerto Ricans move to the mainland, both registration and participation rates drop to about 40 percent.

“Research conducted by PRFAA and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) showed there are a number of factors accounting for this stunning drop,” said Aponte. “In some cases there are physical barriers such as language fluency, comparative complexity of the process or even outright discrimination. Often there are psychological barriers such as embarrassment, fear or lack of confidence about participating, as well as cynicism and a sense that voting does not make an impact on people’s daily lives.”

The voter registration campaign has overcome these barriers through an extensive grassroots network of field educators who have spent the last two years talking one-on-one with Puerto Rican community members about the process of voting, how government is structured and why an individual’s vote does have an impact. This approach differs from many other national registration efforts because it places greater emphasis on education and encourages civic involvement.

The campaign’s strategy proved extremely effective in the 2002 mid-term election year as demonstrated by exit poll data. Results showed a 70 percent increase in turnout over the 2000 Presidential election among first-time Puerto Rican voters and 34 percent increase over 2000 in overall turnout among Puerto Rican voters. In addition, 87 percent of Puerto Ricans surveyed in 2002 said they were aware of the voter registration campaign in their community 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, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania — all states with large Puerto Rican populations.

The campaign theme, “¡Que Nada Nos Detenga!,” speaks directly to the Puerto Rican spirit of determination and hope for a better future and encourages increased participation in the democratic process, thereby positively impacting communities both on the mainland United States and on the Island. Governor Calderón’s campaign combines grassroots community outreach efforts with an aggressive, multi-faceted communications campaign reaching Puerto Rican neighborhoods across the nation.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, which serves as the mainland offices of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, advocates for the social, economic and educational empowerment of Puerto Rican communities nationwide and operates 12 regional community outreach offices in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Hartford, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Springfield, Mass. PRFAA is headquartered at 1100 17th Street, NW in Washington, D.C.

For more information, please visit

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Community News

Puerto Rico Governor To Announce Nation’s Largest Nonpartisan Hispanic Voter Registration Campaign Succeeded in Registering Over 300,000 Hispanic Voters

Over 100,000 Registered in Key Swing States Including FL, OH and PA

WASHINGTON -- From the steps of the Cannon House Office Building, Governor Sila M. Calderón will announce Tuesday that the Hispanic voter registration campaign has reached its goal of registering 300,000 voters and provide details about the impact these voters will have in upcoming local, state and national elections.
Calderón, Mari Carmen Aponte, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, and Puerto Rican elected officials from across the country will also announce that PRFAA’s extensive grassroots empowerment operation has succeeded in meeting its goal of registering 300,000 voters before the 2004 presidential elections. Battleground states including Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio have large or rapidly growing Hispanic populations that will prove to be decisive in the upcoming elections.
The goal of Calderón’s ambitious empowerment initiative, “¡Que Nada Nos Detenga!” (“Let Nothing Stop Us!”) was to register 300,000 Puerto Rican and Hispanic voters — or nearly half the eligible yet unregistered Puerto Rican voters living in the states — thus enabling them to become actively engaged in the civic process in their local communities across the nation.
The campaign increased first-time voter turnout by more than 70% in the 2002 mid-term elections and effectively mobilized this pivotal voting block, ensuring that national, state and local leaders focus on issues that affect the Hispanic community in November.
Puerto Ricans on the Island vote at a higher rate than any state in the Union — over 85% — but when Puerto Ricans move to the mainland United States, voting rates in local elections drop to approximately 30-40%. The initiative has used education and grassroots outreach to reduce the physical and psychological barriers associated with voting to leverage the Hispanic vote in targeted geographic areas where their vote will have a significant impact.
¡Que Nada Nos Detenga! was a $12 million voter education and empowerment effort launched in July 2002 to encourage citizens to engage in their communities while demonstrating the combined power of the Puerto Rican vote. Local elected officials will be available for comment about the campaign’s impact in local communities.
PRFAA, which represents the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the United States, is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The agency is responsible for the advancement of Puerto Ricans on the island and the United States and serves as the advisor to the Governor, Resident Commissioner and constituents on all activities in the U.S. of interest to the island. PRFAA facilitates and promotes economic and public policy initiatives important to the growth and empowerment of all Puerto Rican communities.
PRFAA is located at 1100 17th Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20036, and can be reached at 202-778-0710 or via the web at

Saturday, September 04, 2004

La Isla

La Isla
Originally uploaded by clarisel.
Hello, you are invited to view the new
"Sunrise, Sunset -- Anything Sun!" photo page at flickr. It features sun images from a mix of photographers.

Sun images from la isla and different parts of the world are showcased.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


U.S. Representative Luis V. Gutierrez Joins Guaranty Bank and Fannie Mae to Announce 'Buy for Family' Mortgage; Qualified Borrower Can Finance the Purchase of a Residence for a Parent or Sibling Who is Unable to Purchase for Themselves
CHICAGO, Sept. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D- IL) today joined local community leaders, housing advocates, and representatives from nonprofit organizations, Guaranty Bank, and Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) , the nation's largest source of financing for home mortgages, to announce a new mortgage designed to help increase affordable homeownership opportunities for underserved markets, including low- and moderate-income immigrant and minority families. "Buy for Family," a new mortgage designed by Guaranty Bank, allows a qualified borrower to finance the purchase of a residence for his or her parents or a sibling if they are unable to buy a home for themselves. Guaranty Bank will originate the Buy for Family loans, and Fannie Mae will purchase the eligible loans.
"The power of homeownership is a central wealth building tool and an essential vehicle for long term financial security and stability," said Rep. Gutierrez. "And that is why Buy For Family is so important, because it will help tear down barriers that currently prevent homeownership and it will provide opportunities and options for first-time home buyers, especially in minority and immigrant communities."
"America was built on the backbone of new immigrants who arrived in this country trying to make a better life for their families," said Chicago Housing Commissioner John G. Markowski. "Buy for Family is a great solution for immigrants to buy their piece of the American dream. When we have a gap in the homeownership rate, that's a gap in access to wealth."
Buy for Family is a flexible, affordable mortgage that helps qualified buyers, such as the first generation children of immigrants, purchase a home for their parents or siblings, who may not have traditional forms of credit or use mainstream banking and are, therefore, unable to qualify to buy the home themselves. Buy for Family offers borrowers the opportunity to finance a parent or sibling's home through several key features.
Borrowers contribute at least $500 down from either their own funds, with the remainder coming from a gift from their family member or grants from a church, employer, municipality or nonprofit agency. In addition to the flexible down payment sources, additional funds may be obtained from cash on hand or money not traditionally placed in a financial institution. To be eligible for the Buy for Family product, the home must be located in Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, and the State of Wisconsin.
Buy for Family is intended to help boost homeownership rates, which have been on the rise recently. According to the National Association of REALTORS(R), the homeownership rate for African American households in the first quarter of 2004 was 49.3 percent, up from 47.7 percent in the first quarter of 2003, while the homeownership rate for Hispanic households was 47.3 percent, up from 46.7 percent a year earlier. In addition, the homeownership rate for Asians, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders was 58.2 percent, up from 55.7 percent in the first quarter of 2003. The homeownership rate for non-Hispanic whites was 75.5, up from 75.0 percent a year earlier.
"These are very needed programs that we bring to the table. Buy for Family will enable many minority and immigrant families to realize the American dream of homeownership, by reducing some of the barriers they presently face," said Guaranty Bank's Executive Chairman Gerald Levy. "Guaranty Bank is thrilled to partner with Fannie Mae and further demonstrate our commitment to the communities we serve by offering more diverse and creative programs and opportunities to the residents of the communities we serve."
The Buy for Family mortgage is offered by Guaranty Bank as part of its recently announced five-year, $2 billion multicultural lending initiative with Fannie Mae that is designed to increase affordable homeownership opportunities for underserved markets, including immigrant and minority families.
As part of this initiative, Guaranty Bank and its subsidiaries, Guaranty Mortgage, Shelter Mortgage Company, and GN Mortgage, will offer new or enhanced mortgage products that utilize options for helping people overcome barriers such as blemished credit or lack of a down payment. Fannie Mae has committed to purchase from Guaranty Bank $2 billion in eligible loans originated under this initiative.
"Fannie Mae is committed to bringing more initiatives to the marketplace that provide solutions to one of America's most pressing housing needs," said Terry Young, director of Fannie Mae's Illinois Partnership Office. "With Guaranty Bank, we are excited about Buy for Family, and how it recognizes the need for more affordable housing in underserved markets, including immigrant and minority families.
This effort is part of Fannie Mae's American Dream Commitment(R) for Illinois, a new seven-year, $135 billion Illinois housing investment plan to help finance affordable housing for 900,000 families across the state.
For information about the Buy for Family mortgage, the multicultural homeownership initiative, to apply for a loan, or learn more about loan opportunities, contact Guaranty Bank at 1-847-439-5626.
For more information on Fannie Mae's affordable mortgage products, consumers may call Fannie Mae's Consumer Resource Center at 1-800-7FANNIE (1-800-732-6643), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CDT.
Guaranty Bank is a Federal savings bank headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Guaranty Bank has more than 117 retail locations throughout southeast Wisconsin, northern Illinois, southeast Michigan and Minnesota. Guaranty Bank's subsidiaries and d/b/a's include: Guaranty Mortgage, GB Home Equity, GN Mortgage, Shelter Mortgage, and BestBank (in Southeast Michigan). At the end of June 2004, Guaranty Bank's assets totaled $1.89 billion. Guaranty Bank is owned by Guaranty Financial Corp. The stock symbol of Guaranty Financial Corp. is "GFCJ."
Founded in 1923, Guaranty Bank has established a strong presence as a well-known community bank. As a subsidiary of Guaranty Bank, Shelter Mortgage's nationwide offices specialize in its own niche of mortgage lending. With more than 300 loan programs available, borrowers are placed with the best-suited mortgage fitting their needs. Personalized customer service is one reason why Guaranty Bank is one of the top 50 lenders in America. For more information visit
Fannie Mae is a New York Stock Exchange company and the largest non-bank financial services company in the world. It operates pursuant to a federal charter and is the nation's largest source of financing for home mortgages. Fannie Mae has pledged through its "American Dream Commitment" to expand access to homeownership for millions of first-time home buyers; help raise the minority homeownership rate to 55 percent; make homeownership and rental housing a success for millions of families at risk of losing their homes; and expand the supply of affordable housing where it is needed most. Since 1968, Fannie Mae has provided $6.3 trillion of mortgage financing for 63 million families. More information about Fannie Mae can be found on the Internet at

Style Usage: Fannie Mae's Board of Directors has authorized the company to operate as "Fannie Mae," and the company's stock is now listed on the NYSE as "FNM." In order to facilitate clarity and avoid confusion, news organizations are asked to refer to the company exclusively as "Fannie Mae."

Source: Fannie Mae; Guaranty Bank

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