Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blog Description Change

I have decided to change the description of this blog to better suit the direction I am headed. Whether it is a thought, memory, comment or opinion, my goal is to share nuestra cultura. In so doing, I hope to encourage others to seek understanding and knowledge of the same and/or to also share what they know.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cemi Underground's 2009 All-Star Extravaganza

Un orgullo profundo...Hector Lavoe could not have sang those words better and that is exactly how I felt after attending Cemi Underground's 2009 All Star Extravaganza. An evening of music, poetry and comedy with art by Mia Roman Hernandez.

The evenings host, Caridad 'La Bruja' De La Luz, kept everyone on their toes with her coolness. The perfect host for this venue, she performed a piece with Los Pleneros de la 21 that was exuberating with energy. Los Pleneros de la 21 held their own with their bomba and plena performances that had me moving in my seat and several others getting up to dance.

Poetry not withstanding, Jose Angel Figueroa, Maria Aponte and Bobby Gonzalez hit me with their poetry and have made me a new follower.

The comedy...hilarious..El Boogie Down Comedy Show host Arnold Acevedo set it off and Eric Nieves, Marilyn Torres and Cindy Sugarush carried it the rest of the way.

At the end of the night, we took a step back into time, with musica de ayer by Joe Falcon del Grupo Coco Rico. This definitely took me back to a time when I was young and I would visit my abuelita in Puerto Rico. Refreshing.

In closing, my biggest regret of the night was that, in the two years Cemi Underground was in business (officially closed on April 30, 2009), I never paid it a visit. The web page is still up and running so stop in and support Cemi and Luis Cordero for all he has done. Now, I can only look forward, all the more after this extravaganza, to future events such as this. In the words of Papo 'swiggity' Santiago "I wanted to see people that look just like me" and that is exactly what I got to see...talented Latinos.

A photo collection of Cemi Underground By Elena 'Mamarazzi' Marrero

Los Pleneros de la 21

Los Pleneros de la 21 con Caridad "La Bruja" De La Luz

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

After all This Time.... Immigrants?

Several weeks ago, when the news was abuzz with the possibility of Sonia Sotomayor being an outstanding choice to replace outgoing Justice David Souter in the Supreme Court, I decided to remain in the sidelines and not comment or write about it. I kept a back seat and waited for further development and further development indeed it is. President Barack Obama has announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States.

It is not the nomination that has me finally writing, the news is abuzz again, but something else that caught my attention. A tweet that I read earlier in the day stated that if Sotomayor parents are from Puerto Rico how could they be called immigrants? Apparently, that is exactly what some in the media were saying. Well, Why does this not surprise me? I remember many years ago being asked if I was Mexican. When I replied with a "no" the response to my reply was "well, what's the difference". I also recall a time when asked about my nationality and responding that I was a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent. To this reply I was asked what and where is that? Now, I come full circle to the tweet and it all comes down to stereotypes and the uneducated (not always entirely their fault).

Immediately, since Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican descent then her parents must have immigrated to the U.S.
Mexicans, El Salvadorians, Dominicans and Ecuadorians, just to name a few, all immigrate and speak spanish so Puerto Ricans must immigrate also. Unbelievable... It was only 1898 when then Gen. Nelson A. Miles led an invasion into Puerto Rico. It was only the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 (over ninety years ago) that gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship and it has only been a commonwealth since 1952. These truths are as much a part of American history as they are Puerto Rican history but are never taught in the classroom. Hence, part of the reason for the ignorance.

In moving on, it is with great pride in seeing a Latina of Puerto Rican descent getting the nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States. Sonia Sotomayor es....orgullo Boricua!

Now back to the sidelines to await a confirmation.

National Association of Hispanic Journalists press release: Avoid Confusion on Sotomayor

Monday, May 25, 2009

Latino Memorial Day

Memorial Day: A day of remembrance for those who have died in defense of the nation. While many have died and should be remembered, one life lost is always too much and no life is any less or more valuable than the other. In keeping with the text here, the focus is on Latinos of course.
While we enjoy the long weekend with a barbecue, stroll in the park or a family gathering we should take a pause because many Latinos have also made that ultimate sacrifice. So it is with great respect, wherever we are at....3 p.m. on Memorial Day, that we stop and pause....think about them...remember them....

  • Hispanic contributions
  • Sunday, May 24, 2009

    The Status Issue

    And so the story remains the same but the never ending insight into the Puerto Rico's status issue continues. As posted this past week at "SUPPORT THE DECOLONIZATION OF PUERTO RICO AND THE SIX PRO-INDEPENDENCE PROTESTERS" the vocal majority will be out on May 26th to support the six Puerto Ricans who have a court date for their act of civil disobedience in the U.S. Congress. While this goes on the silent majority remain in their shells not being heard.

    I also read a very good essay entitled "Personal Essay: An Argument for Puerto Rican Statehood". One part makes reference to "boricuas living on the mainland (U.S) are fairly quiet" and to that I say the silent majority. Those too caught up in their "everything is cherry" lives and there isn't a care in the world to even bother, and those who are still scarred by past transgressions..the other silent majority.

    It's obvious that the status issue will not just disappear like a magicians trick, although some may want it to. Regardless of political view, position and/or opinion and until the silent become vocal, can a true consensus on the status issue be reached. The arguments and opinions here are many....but take note, one must take the bull by the horns and deal with this issue.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Puerto Rican Poet Luivette Resto

    Luivette Resto....Born in Puerto Rico, raised in the Bronx, BA in English Literature from Cornell University, MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts, english teacher at Citrus College and Mt. San Antonio College, poet with her published poetry collection titled Unfinished the interview with Mayra Calvani at American Chronicle here. Her poetry and blog... Que los disfruten!!

    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    An Evening with Capicu Poetry - An Inspiration

    On Friday, May 15, I (along with my wife) attended the Capicu Cultural Showcase/Capicu Subway Series-Open Mic in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem). Strange for me because I don't listen to, read or write poetry.

    Why did I go then?

    In my quest to quench my thirst for new things within my culture I have decided to become more involved. That's the reason why I started this blog. An outlet for me to share what I know and an opportunity to learn more from others within the latino community about the culture. This has allowed me the opportunity to connect with several interesting people. This is what lead me to El Barrio and to the East Harlem Cafe for an evening of poetry.

    anilogosmall by Paposwiggity @ Flicker

    An evening of inspiration brought to you by Papo 'Swiggity' Santiago and George 'Urban Jibaro' Torres ( began in the small yet quaint East Harlem Cafe. The place was filled to capacity with a standing room only crowd. As soon as I entered the cafe I felt as if I was among friends. We were immediately approached by George who quickly proceeded to get us seated. We relaxed while waiting for the show to begin and had small conversation. The ambiance was a perfect set-up for what was to come.

    As poet after poet stepped up to the mic I was introduced to the spoken words of veterans and newcomers alike. At times, I was captivated and surrounded by the poetry (deep)....some in attendance included Americo Casiano, Bobby Gonzalez, El Extreme, Frank Perez, Jaime El Maestro, Jani Rosado, Maria Aponte, Papoleto, Paul Flores and Reina Miranda.

    The evenings featured poet/painter was Yubelky Rodriguez, writer of the new spoken word play Pious Poetic Pie which premieres May 21st. She gave an energetic performance which left me hungry for more. That being said I am looking forward to attending future events and encourage others to do the same.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    The Puerto Rican Silent Majority

    The event (Six Puerto Ricans demand freedom for Puerto Rico) that occurred last week (May 6, 2009) at the U.S. Congress has left me thinking about the independence movement. It was on June 10, 1948, nearly 61 years ago,that the Puerto Rican Legislature approved Law 53, La Ley de la Mordaza (Gag Law). La Ley de la Mordaza, modeled after the Smith Act, made it illegal to display a flag, sing a patriotic song and talk or fight for the Independence of Puerto Rico. COINTELPRO operations, which occurred mostly during the late 50's to early 70's (and that can be questionable), have no doubt left scars on the independence movement as well. Many who lived during those times are still living today. I'm sure that hidden somewhere in there we have that large majority of Puerto Ricans who do not express their opinions publicly..... the silent majority.

    Read a letter to Pres. Barack H. Obama here...


    María L. (Chabela) Rodríguez
    Eugenia V. Pérez-Montijo
    Luis Enrique Romero
    José (Tony Mapeyé) Rivera
    Ramón Díaz
    Luis Suárez
    Carlos Esteban Fonseca (accompanied but did not participate)

    Grito boricua de Libertad

    Seis Boricuas en el Congreso

    More on COINTELPRO:, thirdworldtraveler.

    Segundo Ruiz Belvis

    Segundo Ruiz Belvis, historiographer and abolitionist, born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico on May 13, 1829 to Venezuelan parents.

    Segundo began his early studies in Mayageuz, P.R., then went on to earn a degree in Philosophy from the University of Caracas of Venezuelaa and then a law degree from the Central University of Madrid in Spain. During his time in Spain, among other Puerto Ricans, he joined a group called "Socieda Recolectora de Documentos Hisoricos de la Isla de San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico". Upon finishing his studies he returned to Puerto Rico and established his law practice. His liberal ideals led him to join, with Ramon Emeterio Betances, the "Sociedad abolicionista"(Abolitionist Society) against slavery. When Segundo's father died, he inherited the family property and immediately released all the slaves.

    In 1865, Segundo returned to Spain as a representative of the abolitionist movement and and was not looked upon in a favorable manner. When he returned to P.R. he, along with his compatriots, was banished from the island. Segundo ended up in New York with Betances and friends and formed the "Comite Revolucionario de Puerto Rico" (Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico). The stage was being set in what was to become known as the "Grito de Lares". In search of financial support Segundo took off to Chile where he died, November, 1867. He never lived to see his dream, the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Nuyoricans Against MTV's True Life

    Several months ago I posted the first of an ongoing story about MTV's "True Life: I'm a Nuyorican" series in regards to its negative portrayal of several young New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent. I also joined the group Nuyoricans Against MTV's True Life on Facebook and signed an online petition against the same. Progress on this continues to be made and I will continue to provide updated posts as information becomes available. The following is the latest message by Katalia Velez, creator of the Facebook group, to all members of the group. She writes:

    Saludos All Group Members!

    Last Thursday, together with: representatives from the Hispanic Media Coalition, the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, the National Puerto Rican Coalition, Inc, the National Institute for Latino Policy, author Linda Nieves-Powell, and a representative from the government of Puerto Rico, (we also had endorsement and support from Women of el Barrio, among many other community organizations, as well as politicians and academia from different areas of the country)

    I had the distinct honor of sitting down to represent your call for change and accountability in front of:

    MTVs head CEO- Judy McGrath, as well as their MTV News, MTV3, Global Strategies, Branding, etc. CEOs... all in all there were roughly 25 people in attendance to discuss the divisive and damaging documentary which innacurately portrayed Puerto Ricans and those of Puerto Rican descent living in the United States.

    Among many things discussed we spoke of how this episode served to divide our community and present us to the United States in an incorrect political light (ie- we are not immigrants, we are migrants and have served in every war the US has fought in for the last century) we also discussed the controversy over the word "Nuyorican" its historic context and the missed opportunity to educate on our contributions to the Civil Rights Movement by way of the Young Lords, and to the artistic panorama of New York with respect to the Nuyorican Movement exemplified by the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

    We spoke of what corrective measures should be taken, and the opportunity they have to produce corrective programming. We also requested to look into their funding of community organizations, not only for Puerto Ricans in the U.S. but for Latinos in general.

    I am VERY PROUD to report that they responded positively and have committed themselves to produce a special re-educating the country on what Puerto Rico and Nuyoricans as sons and daughters of the island are about. This will be done in a town hall setting where young people can talk about their identities, the controversies, and the facts will be displayed within an accurate social and historic context.

    MTV understands their CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to youth and the power they exert in molding minds. They are going through a renaissance of social awareness and are incorporating our story in this framework. I will be posting additional information on the outcome of the meeting on the group's discussion board.

    They also understand that Latinos in general are the emerging majority in the country especially with respect to purchasing power and they recognize the need for accountability when we are, after all, contributing to their wealth.

    Whether you completely agreed with this initiative or not, I am thankful for the dialogues that have taken place on our wall board. It is imperative that these topics continue to be discussed.

    Hold your head up high when you leave your house... the people in that meeting represented for you, they did so aggressively and with grace. And they accomplished A LOT for our community.

    Stay Tuned and Pa'lante.....


    Katilia has worked diligently on this matter and deserves all the support, not just from Nuyoricans or Puerto Ricans but from all Latinos/as as this is just as much about you. Many a thank you to Katilia.

    You can still sign the petition and join the Facebook group. It is not too late!

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Puerto Rican Identity

    Puerto Rican astronaut..... wait! I mentioned Joe Acaba this past weekend in conversation about Puerto Rico. The conversation was about several issues facing Puerto Rico including the issue of whether those born in the U.S. can call themselves Puerto Rican. A family member mentioned that she had been told, when she was in P.R., that she was not a real Puerto Rican but a Nuyorican. She was okay with that, I, on the other hand, have never applied that term to myself as I feel it is not me (not that I don't like it). I may have been born in New York but I very much consider myself of Puerto Rican descent and nothing else. I have no qualms with who I am.
    Puerto Ricans born on the island have been U.S. citizens since 1917. Does that make them any more or less American than I am? Very touchy, should I go there? I feel no less/more Puerto Rican than those born on the island. I didn't choose to be born where I was born but I do choose to call myself that which I identify with the most: Yo soy Boricua, soy Puerto Puertoriqueño y para mi, negar me de eso es negar me de mi identidad! Puerto Rico nacio en mi!
    Now where does Joe Acaba fit into this? If you read his bio, he was born and raised in California. Yes, he is the first Puerto Rican in space. Is he now a real Puerto Rican because he went into space? Hmm..Think about that. Nonetheless, be proud. He made an appearance at the Puerto Rican Association of Central Florida. Read about it here..

    Boricuas and Nuyoricans--Indeed! By Miriam Jiménez Román: Revista Harvard Review of Latin America

    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    Cock Fighting in Puerto Rico

    On May 9, 1933 cock fighting (peleas de gallos) was legalized in Puerto Rico. A very popular and appreciated sport, among the young and old alike, which has been around since the Spanish occupied the island.

    Puerto Rican Cockfighting rink, a Gentleman's Sport, Circa 1937.

    As you travel from town to town you can find a cockpit (arena) in each one. You can find breeders painstakingly preparing their birds for fight. From the finest feeding to the best conditioning, the birds are readied to deliver power, speed and a fighting instinct when put into the ring. While it is considered, by some, a gentleman's sport, in recent years, the Humane Society International has launched a campaign against it.

    Cockfighting in Puerto Rico

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    Tato Torres & YERBABUENA

    Last week, on PRSun Radio/blogtalkradio, I listened to an interview with Tato Torres, musician, composer and singer, of YERBABUENA (ONE WORD). I must admit that until then I had never listened to the music of Yerbabuena but had heard of them and was interested in listening to their music so the interview couldn't have come at a better time.

    Tato spoke about the early beginnings hanging out at Rincon Criollo (La Casita de Chema) in The Bronx and eventually venturing out with his crew to Washington Heights. In Washington Heights the crew began playing their music on what they called YerbaBuena Mondays (Yerbabuena from hanging out by a patch of spearmint at Rincon Criollo). As their popularity grew, the name Yerbabuena became asocciated with the crew. The sounds of Yerbabuena are called Boricua roots music (bomba and plena with todays flavor). As the interview went, Tato spoke of where they are at now and where they would like to go. Towards the end Tato mentioned how the music was not just for the older generation but for entire generations of family. While Tato is in Puerto Rico, he is still very much a part of the group. The multi-talented Flaco Navaja is currently holding his own as the lead singer.

    With the interview over, I decided to pay them a visit at and listen to some of their music. As I watched the videos and listened to the music I began to understand what Tato meant by it being music for the young and old alike. It's like telling someone that they had to be there in order to understand. You have to listen to Yerbabuena to understand. The sounds of Yerbabuena will have you moving from side to side and feeling good. You will want to share their sounds with familia. You've been warned, they will have you dancing.

    You can see Yerbabuena performing live the 2nd Saturday of every month at Nuyoricans Poet Cafe, New York City, NY.

    Tato Torres YERBABUENA - Boricua Roots Music CD

    Sunday, May 3, 2009

    Puerto Rico: To Politicize or Not?

    In my last post I decided to make a quick point on Puerto Rico's economy and as I usually do I injected somewhere in there a line or two with my opinion, nothing dramatical. Well, it just so happened that a fellow Tweeter (see Twitter) read the post and communicated via Twitter that she refused to pay the salaries of those who don't show up for work. I agree and would think that anyone in their right mind would think the same and also agree. She also communicated several other tweets in good discussion. That's all good, but what caught me by surprise was when she responded with "you don't live here so your perspective is from what you hear from the news only, and that could be dangerous"! Now, how shocking is that?.... Since, I would need several people together to be able to count the fingers and toes of each one to then even come close to the amount of family I have living in Puerto Rico. My response, even better, was that my mother lived on the island and what affects her affects me. Yes, it very important what goes on, whether politically or not, because if a situation were to arise that affected her I would like to know.

    While a good amount of information is received through media it is safe to assume that we don't live in a vacuum. Media will report what media sees fit. It may be opinionated, one sided or neutral. That is not for me to decide. Outside of that vacuum, it is very easy to touch that speed dial button and talk on the phone (thanks to unlimited minutes and free nights/weekends!). It is from the voices of those who I communicate with, and that are directly affected by island politics, that I can have my perspective. Now, is that dangerous? I think not.

    I must say that it actually felt good to have that bit of communique because it provided some of the fodder for this post. As I stated in my previous post in response to comment... discussions on this subject can lead to greater understanding among those who know and those who are willing and want to learn. With that, we can move forward and hopefully begin to resolve some of the issues facing Puerto Rico.

    P.S. Thanks to that fellow tweeter. From Mr." Yo no tengo pelos en la lengua".

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    Puerto Rico's Economy

    Things aren't looking good en La Isla Del Encanto. I'm sure many of us in the U.S., as I do, have some family there and can only feel their pain. While the current economic picture in the U.S. is still grim things in P.R. are worse. As of March, the unemployment rate was reaching 15%. Making the situation worse was the news, that the government was planning to layoff 30,000 public employees. The reality of it all is getting closer as protestors by the thousands hit the streets of San Juan.

    At this point, one can only hope for the best. Ay bendito, que pasa en Puerto Rico?