Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Reading Life

By Vivian Lake
Puerto Rico Sun Book Editor

The Noise of Infinite Longing by Luisita Lopez Torregrosa (Rayo, $24.95, 286 pp)

Moving between past and present, Torregrosa begins her recounting when she and her five siblings meet for the first time in 10 years in Texas, after the death of their mother.
As the siblings get reacquainted, old conflicts and resentments begin to reappear, old patterns emerge. Torregrosa, the oldest, casts her memory back to Puerto Rico where they were all born, where their parents met and married, where conflicts and the pain they caused originated. As the oldest, she wants to set down the family history and the story of their parents' turbulent marriage for her younger siblings, who have accused her of distancing herself from them. There are other reasons for this which become clear later.
At first glance, they seemed like the perfect family. Their mother was an attorney who had been a cheerleader, an equestrienne and stage actress, their father a chemical engineer and later a doctor. Both were charming, beautiful and ambitious, it seemed any children they had would be very lucky indeed.
Unfortunately, the marriage was a combination of academic and professional success on the outside, and alcohol, infidelity and abuse on the inside. Her mother, a privileged and intelligent young woman, always told her daughters that their father supported her in her career, but the truth was quite different. His resentment at her achievement played itself out in countless infidelities and alcohol-fueled cruelties, which were glossed over and almost obliterated by their mother's spin control.
The story is told with intimacy, anger and love. As the first and most constant witness of her parents' story, she gives her siblings a difficult but precious gift: the unadulterated truth. She is also trying to come to terms with her feelings for her brilliant but flawed parents. A mother whose talent and accomplishments made her a woman ahead of her time, but whose emotional enslavement to the wrong man made her a stereotypical deceived wife; a father whose intellectual brilliance coexisted with a careless cruelty he unleashed on those closest to him.
This is also a story of a particular time and place, upper middle class post-war Puerto Rico, with its club memberships, high teas and balls, private schools and dinner parties, maids and drivers, hats and white gloves. It is a loving glimpse inside a bygone era.
Torregrosa leaves Puerto Rico to attend boarding school in Pennsylvania, and determined never to go back, begins to forge her own way and deal with the passionate, tumultuous and painful years that formed her. She pursued a career in journalism and is currently an editor at The New York Times.
This is a very rare thing -- a painful story wrought with limitless love.

Vivian Lake, a New York City-based freelance journalist, writes book reviews on, about or by boricuas and Latinos for Puerto Rico Sun. She also runs her own blog at

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

source: National Council of La Raza press release

Troubling Indicators Signal Need for Initiatives to Reduce Teenage Births and Youth Violence

San Juan -- Findings of an 18-month study on the status of children in Puerto Rico, released this week by the National Council of La Raza as part of its KIDS COUNT Puerto Rico Project, underscore the need for the island to reduce teenage births and curb violence against youth.
These findings are highlighted in a new report, 2004 KIDS COUNT Puerto Rico Data Book, which offers the first-ever and most comprehensive view to date of children in Puerto Rico and links their overall status to the island's future well-being.
"We can share both good and not-so-good news about children and youth in Puerto Rico. Indeed, the book's findings show that there are signs that key health trends are moving in the right direction," noted NCLR President Raul Yzaguirre.
Specifically, highlights of the study show that the percentage of low birth weight babies and the child mortality rate for children aged one to 14 years old have begun to decline since 1999. In particular, when compared with data for the 50 states, Puerto Rico has a child mortality rate similar to that of Maine, Maryland, and Oregon (21 per 100,000 children one to 14 years of age).
"We believe that public education efforts, programs that support children and families, and public policy that places children's issues high on the agenda will ensure that we will continue to see improvements in these areas," Yzaguirre said.
Yet, there are two specific sets of issues which are troubling for children and youth, he said.
First, while the trend since 1997 shows that the number of births to teenagers is declining, comparative data show that Puerto Rico has the highest birth rate to teenagers of all 50 states. In 2000, there were 49 births for every 1,000 15- to 17-year-old adolescent girls on the island, followed by Washington, DC and Mississippi, in which there were 48 and 44 births, respectively, for every 1,000 teenage girls in that age group. Culebra had the highest number of births to teenagers (123 per 1,000) followed by Barceloneta, with 103 per 1,000, while Camuy and Aguada were the municipalities with the lowest number of births to adolescents in this age group, 24 per 1,000 and 26 per 1,000, respectively.
"We know that children born to teenagers who are unprepared to care for them tend to face a range of health, education, and social problems. But we also know that programs like 'Proyecto Aurora in Camuy' can help provide educational and other opportunities to young people, to offer them guidance with their decisions and with their families," he said.
Second, one of the report's most alarming findings relates to youth deaths, particularly homicide, among adolescents. From 1990 to 2000, Puerto Rico lost 1,500 youth to homicide and 93% of these were male.
"These deaths represent not only a personal and tragic loss, but also a loss of talent and contributions by young people who were entering the prime of their lives, who should have been entering college and the workforce and preparing for new opportunities. We need collective efforts from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to reverse this trend and to protect children from violence," Yzaguirre said.
The analysis "which sets the groundwork for a series of data books on different issues facing children and youth on the island suggests that there is an immediate opportunity to begin to address some of these concerns.
"One of the best ways that lawmakers and others can demonstrate that children are a priority is to promote strategies that support accurate, reliable, and consistent data collection, in order to track progress, identify problems, and make timely and useful investments to strengthen the outlook for children in Puerto Rico," Yzaguirre suggested.
Availability of quality data from the Puerto Rico Department of Health facilitated the preparation of this data book and underscores how such data can be used to help Puerto Rico address pressing social and other concerns.
"Often children's issues don't get the attention they deserve, and this book demonstrates that part of the problem has to do with how well we can document what is happening. We also have an opportunity to showcase these issues and to raise their visibility, as political candidates shape elements of their policy agendas and discuss current social policy concerns," Yzaguirre concluded.
Click here to access the research report.
This research was funded, in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, through its support of NCLR's KIDS COUNT Puerto Rico Project, and by the UPS Foundation, through its support of the NCLR Scholar in Residence fellowship. We thank them for their support, but acknowledge that the findings and conclusions presented in this data book are those of the authors and NCLR alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of these funding sources, KIDS COUNT-Puerto Rico Advisory Committee Members, or others who contributed to the data book's completion.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

our culture, our history

Interesting site to visit: (a site in Spanish)

It has interesting features including:
* a cool section called "Reto Borincano" which challenges your knowledge. Take the test -- let's see how good you do.
* a photo gallery called "Encantos del Paraiso" featuring different towns.
* historical information and interesting research on stuff you probably didn't know about boricuas.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Education Corner

Taking Latino Generations to a Supernatural Dimension

By Manuel Hernández

In a universal world where the “natural world” governs many of our educational outcomes, it is necessary that we Latino leaders take the present and up and coming generations to live within a supernatural dimension. For American Latinos to have a leadership role in the world of American politics, education, higher education, science, computers, cyber-space, high-tech and global enterprise, the American educational system must produce supernatural leaders who can become pro-active visionaries in all institutions in the United States. Although Latinos have gained ground in sports, fashion, music and entertainment, they continue to lag behind in education. Thus, a transition from the naturalto the supernatural dimension is essential. Only then will we obtain results and take the Latino generations into a supernatural dimension where academic results become part of our every day lives. In education,results are measured and exhibited in charts, diagrams, statistics and reports.
However, for too many Latinos, the American educational system isa hurdle to high for them to jump. The supernatural dimension demands that we go beyond statistics. The “natural world” depicts a reality, butit is up to all of us to awaken and believe in ourselves. Going beyond the natural may seem highly unlikely, but concrete and specific gains ineducation are the result of hard work, dedication, motivation and inspiration. When Jaime Escalante decided to go beyond traditional paradigms and prepare Latino teens in East Los Angeles for the Advanced Placement Exams, the system labeled him a fool. But when his redefining work transcended and obtained results, even the system became a believer,and the reality was overwhelmed by the supernatural.
The United States Census Bureau expects the number of Latinos to almost double from 35 million to 63 million by 2030. Latinos will make up 25 percent of the kindergarten–12th grade population by 2025. There is no doubt that Latinos are the fastest growing minority and represent a valuable and integral part of the United States. But Latinos are 13 percent of the population, and yet a mere 6 percent in higher education.In many states, Latinos have the highest dropout rate and the lowest test scores, and many are not prepared to enter institutions of higher learning. At the present, only 17 percent of Latino fourth-graders at the national level read at their grade level, and the percentage is even lower in mathematics. As a consequence, Latinos have become aware that the educational development of their community is intrinsically related to their struggles to achieve economic, social and political justice in the United States of America. But we Latinos must begin to cast away traditional ways of thinking and take our children to a different level where we govern ourselves by what we believe in not by what we see with the natural eye.
The assessment and causes are the same for Latinos across America.The strategies governors, mayors and school administrators are implementing are different, but the mirror of assessment does not reflect tangible, definite and transcending results. Why? The process ofimproving educational standards begins with Latino parents. Many Latinofamilies who lack the resources must be empowered to address their children’s needs. Latinos support public education, but they are seekingstrategies to improve the education of their children. For teens to make progress in higher education registration, it is imperative that they receive the educational opportunities that in the past have not been available to them. Why not take advantage of the so-called Latino vote momentum to sway the disussion towards education? Without education,the ever-growing population risks its voice in America.
Educational opportunities become available when we begin actingupon our faith. When we let trifles govern our mindsets, children suffer the consequences. Instead of an on-going and endless futile debate on who is responsible, what language should we speak or what party represents the voice of our communities, let us build and construct upon our values and strengths. The walls of Jericho seemed invincible, but an unpractical but supernatural strategy brought down what naturally seemed impossible.
Declaring the supernatural will take us not only to believe but also to do and act on behalf of our children. It is not the work of one,but one will need to reconstruct and redesign a strategy that will makethe difference and enhance educational standards for Latino children and other Americans as well. Only in the supernatural will the present educational assessment displayed in charts and statistics become part ofthe past. The transition from one level to the next is a process in itself. After anguish, pain and sorrow are buried, a whole new dimensionwhere the supernatural reigns and a new educational horizon surfaces are the outcomes of the sacrifice and efforts of all.

(Manuel Hernandez is the author of Latino/a Literature in The English Classroom, Editorial Plaza Mayor, which is available for purchase. For more information, contact Hernandez.)

Hernandez contributes essays about education issues to Puerto Rico Sun. Hernandez may be reached at
pr politics

Want to know more about the three major political parties in Puerto Rico? Want to know more about the candidates running for governor? Take a look at the following sites:

The pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (gubernatorial candidate is Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila): (site features surveys and questions, videoclips, news and party information)

The pro-statehood New Progressive Party (gubernatorial candidate is former Gov. Pedro Rossello): (site features a mailbox to write to Rossello, a virtual chat, photo gallery and information.)

The Puerto Rican Independence Party (gubernatorial candidate is the PIP's Ruben Berrios Martinez): (site features news and columns, party information and photos. Information is available in English and Spanish at this site.

Worth visiting all the sites. The elections in Puerto Rico are in November.