Wednesday, April 28, 2010

U.S. Congress, Puerto Rico and H.R 2499

The U.S Congress has finally acted on the H.R. 2499, Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009. As stated in the resolutions summary, this allows for two votes. First would be a vote asking whether Puerto Rico should remain in its current status or whether there should be change. If the desire to remain in its current status is the choice then another vote would take place in another eight years. This would then solve nothing and would only leave Puerto Rico in its current colonial status. There is a lot to be said about the colonial mentality if this becomes the case. One hundred and twelve years under the wings of the U.S. will have proven that the fear of change has a stronghold on the people.

If Puerto Ricans desire to make change happen then another vote would take place with the options being between independence, sovereignty in association with the United States, continuation of the current status or statehood. With out going in depth into each option, each one carries its own pluses and minuses. For the people to make a just decision the full context associated with each option should be made available.

Amendments to the resolution add the continuation of the current status and 'none of the above options' to the second vote which seems to bring the status debate full circle to previous plebiscites. Reps. Velázquez (D-NY)/Gutierrez (D-IL) want to expand the eligibility to vote in the plebiscite to all U.S. residents of Puerto Rican descent-that is, anyone born in Puerto Rico or has one parent who was born in Puerto Rico. Interestingly enough, the current resolution states "the ballot would be open to all voters in Puerto Rico who are currently eligible to vote, as well as all U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico who comply with guidelines determined by the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission, whether they live in Puerto Rico or not". Under the Jones Act of 1917, island born Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. To include those who have one parent who was born on the island would open the door to a deluge of voters who are currently out of touch with the islands status and history with the U.S. (as well as and with respect to those who are in touch). This would bring with it many arguments (far too many to include here).

Now we come to the additions by Reps. Burton (R-IN) and Young (R-AK) which bring about the language issue. Not too long ago, Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader Roberto Arango wrote a letter to the U.S. House asking for statehood. The letter was marred with many grammatical errors and created a bit of a stir. Add to this the rhetoric brought on by English-only advocates and we can easily ask if Puerto Rico is prepared to go along with these changes. The amendments by Republicans Burton and Young would require the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission to:

  • Ensure that ballots in the plebiscite include the full content of the ballot written in English.
  • Inform everyone voting in the plebiscite that, if Puerto Rico were to maintain its current political status or become a state, it would be subject to the official language requirements of the federal government.
  • Inform everyone voting in the plebiscite that it is the sense of Congress that if Puerto Rico were to maintain its current political status or become a state it would be in the best interest of the U.S. to promote the teaching of English in Puerto Rico

Can this possibly be a step in the right direction? Is it the only direction? The legislation has legitimate arguments from both proponents and opponents alike. In the end, the right to self determination is still absent of one thing, that the referendum require Congress to act on it. Leaving all this in the end, non-binding.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In Solidarity with the Students @ UPR

In the end there will be nothing left to privatize but the island itself.
In what seems like a 'leave no stone unturned' stance, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR Rio Piedras) is the latest to have the spotlight on privatization. The issue stems from Puerto Rico's economic crisis, governmental cutbacks and the universities ballooning deficit which is at nearly 100 million dollars.

University students have been on strike since Wednesday protesting what they're calling a privatization of the public universities and a budget that could cut programs and tuition assistance.

The following are links to various stories related to the situation thus far:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fear of a Latino/Hispanic U.S.A. September 2009 and a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) entitled "Climate of Fear." The reports focuses on Suffolk County, N.Y. but the bottom line is that the anti-immigrant attitude is an ever growing problem in the United States. How ironic is that at a time when the Latino population is growing and expected to grow even more that anti-immigrant groups seem to be increasing. Is it merely ironic, coincidence, population growth related, the fuel to the fire attitude of the extreme or quite simply, "Fear of a Latino USA."

Fast forward to the passage of Arizona SB1070 which adds fuel to the out of control fire that is anti-immigration. What you have within the flames is a growing anti-immigrant sentiment masked as a security measure, safety of citizens measure and an anti-ILLEGAL immigration bill. The attempt to cover the bottom line by merely telling the the aforementioned is like saying 'it's ok, the fire will not burn you' (fool's play). The line has been drawn by the Arizona Legislature and we must take heed.

And now...

Hopefully, Puerto Rico is paying special attention to what is going on here. Scream and yell as much as you would like that Puerto Ricans are not immigrants and that you so dearly want to be a state. That's fine, since the right to self-determination is yours. Maybe, there is something there that others don't know (that's another post). Take heed here as well and brush up on your English if you plan on passing through Arizona. For if there is an inkling that you may seem like an immigrant and can't prove your status, you just may end up in custody if stopped for any reason. Remember, to the ignorant, Latino= immigrant, regardless of citizenship status.

Photo courtesy of FaceBook group: Boycott Arizona NOW That SB1070 Is Law!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where do we draw the line?

The recent conviction against Jeffrey Conroy on manslaughter charges for the killing of Marcelo Lucero sends mixed signals to many. Some will consider this conviction as justice while others will consider it as too lenient. In either case, the families pain will never be served enough justice.

When looking at this anti-immigrant (in Marcelo's case,more so directed at those perceived as Mexicans) sentiment and many other hate crimes we must also look to the root. After all, the criminals here were all teenagers who obviously learned this anti-immigrant hate somewhere along their short lives. Consider the Arizona Anti-Immigrant Bill (Senate Bill 1070) which is awaiting the approval of that states governor. This bill would make it a state crime not to carry proof of immigration status and would require police to ask about a person's immigration status if there is any doubt. What message does this send to our youth? Will it create the same attitudes towards immigrants as those that Marcelo's killers have? Enter John McCain, “The state of Arizona is acting and doing what it feels it needs to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility — to secure our borders.” and "the people whose homes and property are being violated. It's the drive-by that -- the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway." Now, again, what message does this send? Where do we draw the line?

Let's be realistic, some will turn a blind eye and say that this doesn't affect them but the truth is it affects us all. Regardless, of your nationality, if you are Latino this could end up having its repercussions. Think of the trickle effects if this bill passes in Arizona. If you are Latino this should concern you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Puerto Rican Political Prisoners

A post via VivirLatino by Maegan la Mamita Mala, which shows a presentation by human and civil rights attorney Jan Susler, sheds some light on what would motivate Carlos Alberto Torres, Oscar Lopez-Rivera and others to risk so much.
Read "PART I. Puerto Rican Political Prisoners: 30 years in U.S. prisons"

Jan Susler: An attorney for the People's Law Office has over 30 years experience as an attorney and over 20 spent representing the Puerto Rican political prisoners. She served as lead counsel in the efforts culminating in the clemency offer and release of eleven Puerto Rican political prisoners in 1999.

Carlos Alberto Torres: Born on September 19, 1952 in Ponce, Puerto Rico has served 30-years of a 78-year sentence on charges of seditious conspiracy and other charges.

Oscar Lopez-Rivera: Born on January 6, 1943 in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico has served 29-years of a 55-year sentence for seditious conspiracy and other charges.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Taina India Abuelita

A short piece for National Poetry Month. And why not?

Taina India Abuelita

She had soft brown skin
Her hair flowed the length of her backside
Her dresses were always those of the "jibaras"
Always having that look of innocence
Never a foul word come from her tongue
Living the simple life of a "campesina"
Thoughts of her bring me joy
Thoughts of her remind me of her hugs
Remind me of childhood travels to her "casita"
From the concrete jungle to the mountainside
I smile, having so many sweet memories
She was my 'Taina'...India...abuelita.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Antonio Rafael Barceló y Martinez

Antonio Rafael Barceló y Martinez, lawyer and politician is known for his great determination and fighting spirit.

Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico on April 15, 1868, Antonio Barceló became the first President of the Senate of Puerto Rico in 1917. He showed an interest in politics at an early age and in 1889 he became the secretary of the Autonomist Party. On October 1, 1899, with Luis Munoz Rivera, he formed the Federal Party which proposed statehood as a final solution to the political status of Puerto Rico (but still defended autonomy). After this Party was dissolved, Antonio helped form the "Union Party of Puerto Rico" and was elected to its Chamber of Delegates in 1905. By 1924, the Alliance Party (a union between the Republican and Union Parties) was formed, which was renamed the Liberal Party in 1932.

In 1910, he founded the Association of Puerto Rico, with the idea of protecting the coffee, tobacco and sugar industries. The Puerto Rico legislature, in 1913, passed a law officially establishing and renaming the association to the Association of Products made in Puerto Rico.

As an independence advocate, Antonio Barceló believed that independence should be a gradual process. His views, differing from those of Luis Munoz Marin (son of Munoz Rivera) who favored immediate independence, led Munoz Marin to break away from the Liberal Party.

Antonio Barceló was responsible for the passage of many laws which benefited the economic and social well being of Puerto Rico. He was also instrumental in the passage of the minimum wage rate, worker's compensation and limitations on working hours. He died on October 15, 1938.

Bios in spanish:

Contraband: A New Novel by Charlie Vázquez

Hard work does pay kudos to Charlie Vázquez for his second novel, Contrabrand. I had the opportunity and privilege (thanks Charlie) to get a sneak peak into his latest work and in all honesty it had me at the edge of my seat. Charlie brings a refreshingly new look into a world of revolutionary struggle surrounded by danger and filled with secrets.

Charlie is a friend, an author and Latino literary activist who is always hard at work and this is a reflection of that. Visit his blog and Official website for more info.

Inspired by Latin-American revolutionary struggles, this riveting work of Latino noir follows the paranoid underworld exile of Volfango Sanzo, a man so haunted by his secrets that he escapes to sprawling networks of underground tunnels and labyrinths in near-future America—where dissidents and “lunars” are seeking refuge from the smoldering ruins of a nation plagued by a deadly civil war and revolution. Volfango is certain that renegade genes in his DNA will be exposed by government-mandated “gene tests,” so he vanishes before his scheduled test date, terrified of being discovered and executed. He also suspects he is being hunted by a government ministry, who wishes to silence him before he speaks. What will he find in those dangerous underground worlds populated by rebels and pariahs? And what secrets does he keep? Will he survive against bleak odds in an underworld where sunlight, food and water are scarce?

Charlie Vázquez is a radical writer of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent. His fiction and essays have been published in various print and online publications and anthologies. He hosts a reading series in New York called PANIC! and is a retired experimental musician and photographer. Contraband is his second novel.

The book is currently available for purchase. Get full details here.

Book Trailer

*Words in italics provided by Charlie

Monday, April 12, 2010

30 Years: Carlos Alberto Torres

Think about it. Thirty years of your life by most accounts is a very long time. For Carlos Alberto Torres, who this month marks 30 years in federal prison, it has been a very long time. Carlos was convicted and sentenced to 78 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and various other charges. Quite simply, at 58 years old (born September 19, 1952), his sentence is nearly equivalent to that of a life sentence.

In the fall of 1999, the Clinton administration offered clemency to 12 Puerto Rican political prisoners. Carlos was not included in that offer. As he continues to serve out his prison sentence (currently in Oxford, Wisconsin) the efforts for his release also continue. The continued efforts and support for his release have left an imprint on the Parole Board, thus far, in favor of release later this year. A letter campaign continues to show this mounting support.
Download the Letter.

Recently, the National Boricua Human Rights Network (NBHRN), in recreating the isolation of prison, set up an interactive art installation. Volunteers spent 24 hours in a makeshift prison cell. Visit The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign's website and the NBHRN website for more info on this and more.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On "National Liberation and Culture" by Vagabond

by Vagabond Beaumont

I just recently came across this brilliant African brother Amilcar Cabral from Guinea-Bissau. He was a leader in the movement to de-colonize Guinea-Bissau from Portugal. He was a supporter of not only his own countries struggle for independence but also active in the struggles of neighboring Guinea and Cape Verde and of course a staunch opponent of South African apartheid. A true outspoken Pan-African and thinker.

Amilcar Cabrial was a agronomic engineer (the science of using plants for food, fuel, feed, and fiber) and passed on his expertise to both his guerrilla troops and local farmers. Even requiring his troops to work in the fields along side the people.

He managed to help lead his people to freedom but like Moses and MLK never got to see the promised land. He was assassinated in 1973 months before Guinea-Bissau gained its independence.

He was an amazing thinker. In this essay National Liberation And Culture he outlines the intertwined impotence of culture in national liberation movements. This speech was given on February 20th, 1970 at Syracuse University in Syracuse New York as part of a lecture Series in memory of Eduardo Mondlane who was the first President of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and assassinated by the Portuguese on February 3rd of 1960.

When I came across this essay I was immediately struck by how relevant it was to work that Iwas doing with MACHETERO. In a way I have a mixed bag of emotions about this essay. Not in terms of it's content but in terms of its continued relevance in terms that directly affect the national struggle for liberation in Puerto Rico. And not just in terms of the situation in Puerto Rico but in terms of Africa-Americans and Native peoples here in the United States.

On one level it saddens me that something written 40 years ago about imperialist domination and its ills has such relevance today and at the same time its good that someone has laid down a firm foundation from which we can build upon. For me (and perhaps many others) MACHETERO is salvo at imperialist domination as well as artistic or cultural imperialist domination. When I was making MACHETERO I was trying to think Puerto Rican. Trying to make a Puerto Rican film and asking myself what does that mean and how does one go about expressing that. I tried to incorporate the culture of my people in the film and tried to create a piece of cultural resistance to imperialist domination. Reading Amilcar Cabral's essay now, some 40 years later helped me to understand what it was that I was struggling with.
- vagabond
Read more--->>>

History is a Weapon

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Show of Support and Solidarity for Puerto Rican Independence

He is a writer, novelist and essayist widely known in Latin America. Carlos Fuentes, in a recent interview with the newspaper El Vocero, expressed his support and solidarity for the independence of Puerto Rico. His words are joined with those of other well respected and notable Latin American writers whom have also expressed the same. These include: Gabriel García Márquez, Ernesto Sábato, Mario Benedetti, Eduardo Galeano, Carlos Monsiváis, Frai Betto, Leonardo Boff, Thiago of Mello, Pablo Armando Fernández, Jorge Enrique Adoum.

“Reiteramos ante el mundo nuestra solidaridad y apoyo a la causa de la Independencia de Puerto Rico, reclamo histórico y de principios de nuestra América. América Latina y el Caribe no serán verdaderamente independientes hasta que todas sus naciones lo sean”. -From LaRepublicaPR