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Profound Crossroads
by Anthony Ramos

The Cries of San Sebastian
By Anthony Ramos


Article 37 - Revenge or Closure?
Reader Comments -

Article 36 - Cries of San Sebastian
Reader Comments
Article 17 - Puerto Rico's Future Revisited
Article 16 - Day of Celebration
Article 35 - Arizona's New Immigration Law
Reader Comments

Article 34 - Death and Reunions
Reader Comments
Article 15 - To Be Or Not To Be An Illegal Alien
Article 14 -
Reader Comments
Article 13 - Minaya's Mets Management Madness
Reader Comments
Reader Comments

Article 32 - On Sonia Sotomayor . . .
Reader Comments
Article 12 - English as a Second Language or ESL
Reader Comments
Article 11 - The Cry Is For You: Borinqueños!
Reader Comments
Article 31 - President Barak Obama and the Question of Puerto                     Rico's Future
Reader Comments

Article 30 - Obama, A New Page in American History is Written
Reader Comments
Article 29 - High Blood Pressure Among Puerto Rican-American
Reader Comments
Article 10 - Half & Half
Reader Comments
Article 9 - Our Spanish Heritage
Reader Comments

Article 8 - The Question of Puerto Rico's Future:                    Commonwealth, Statehood or  Independence.
Reader Comments
Article 28 - La Perla
Reader Comments

Article 27 - Don Pedro Albuzi Campos
Article 26 - Our Flag
Reader Comments
Article 25 - Should Cock-Fighting In Puerto Rico Be Abolished?
Reader Comments
Article 7 - My Little Piece of the Island
Reader Comments
Article 6 - Polls & Surveys and the Demographic Quandary
Article 5 - A New Language?
Reader Comments
Article 4 - Are Latin Women Really Hot or Is That                    Yet another American Myth?
Reader Comments

Article 24 - The Antichrist Revealed
Reader Comments

Article23 - Multiple Sclerosis
Reader Comments

Article 22 - Should We Pull Out of Iraq Now?
Reader Comments

Article 3 - The Hispanic Man and the Machismo                   Thing.
Reader Comments
Article 2 - Are Puerto Ricans accurately depicted by                    Hollywood?
Reader Comments

Article 21 - END OF DAYS
Article 20 - My Memories of Christmas
Reader Comments

Article 1 - "Do I have a Say?"
Reader Comments

Article 19 - We are not Alone
Reader Comments
Article 18 - Are all Hispanics the same?
Reader Comments



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May 8, 2011            Revenge or Closure?

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was still living in the Poconos of Pennsylvania and commuting to New York City, where my wife and I worked. For many years, I drove back and forth, and, as you can imagine, the accumulated mileage and wear and tear on my car was disastrous. I remember that day so well because it was going to be one of those end-of-summer, picture-perfect days. The skies were bright blue and there was no humidity whatsoever. Traffic along Interstate 80 was perfect, and since it was the day of my second son's birthday, we were looking forward to celebrating the event later that night.

We never drove into New York City. Instead, we drove to Harrison, New Jersey and took the PATH train into the World Trade Center ("WTC"). I remember arriving at the WTC at 8:15 that morning. At the time, I was a consultant for the New York State Insurance Department, Liquidation Bureau on 123 William Street, about three blocks from the WTC. My wife was working for AIG and her office was further down on Water Street. Everything was normal and routine, and since the weather was so good, my wife and I decided to meet for lunch. Then, in a matter of minutes, our world turned upside down.

About half an hour after arriving at the WTC station, an American Airlines airplane, Flight 11, struck the North Tower of the WTC. I was already sitting at my desk when all of a sudden we all heard an explosion. The sound of the explosion was so deep and frightening, we all thought a truck outside had exploded. Then someone rushed into our office yelling that an airplane had struck the WTC. We all got up from our desks and scrambled to our windows. Unfortunately, our windows were facing south. Some of us dashed across the office to see through the windows facing the north. I stayed in someone else's office watching a small TV. People were confused and disoriented as all kinds of rumors were spreading like wildfire. About fifteen minutes later, we were watching the news reports on TV as massive flames engulfed the North Tower. As we were watching this tragedy unfold, another plane streaked across the TV screen. United Airlines airplane, Flight 175, struck the South Tower. This time, the impact the airplane made against the South Tower shook the office windows, and then . . . all hell broke loose!

We were released from our office, and when I stepped outside, all I saw was a multitude of people. Their eyes reflected nothing but confusion and fear. In that sea of humanity, I saw my wife running across the street toward me. We hugged and kissed each other, and then decided to leave. We met other friends of ours and decided to leave together. I remember standing on Fulton Street looking up at the two towers, hoping those poor people trapped in the burning floors would be saved. Cell phones were not working, service on trains was discontinued and bridges and tunnels were closed for cars. Since our car was parked in Harrison, NJ, we had no idea how we were going to get home. As we watched the towers burn, we saw people jumping off the buildings. It was tough to watch and sad to see their helplessness. Police and Emergency vehicle sirens were blaring constantly, but the most memorable sounds that morning were the beeping sounds of the locator device that the brave firemen were wearing. To this day, my wife cannot hear that beeping sound because it reminds her of that dreadful day. We were anxious to leave but one of our friends decided that she needed to buy flat shoes because she wasn't going to walk with heels. So we waited for her while she went into Conway's on Fulton Street to buy flats. We waited, and waited, and waited until the South Tower collapsed.

We were standing right in the middle of Fulton Street when all of a sudden a stampede of thousands of people roared toward us. We had no choice but to run as well. It was either run or stay and be trampled to death by a stampede. We finally slowed about a block away, but when we turned back to see if our friends were behind us, a thick cloud of white smoke consumed us. It got dark and all you could hear was people screaming, crying, and calling out for their friends. In the midst of that harrowing cloud of asbestos-filled dust and debris, we all managed to find each other and began our walk uptown. We heard that the ferries to New Jersey were still working and that the Port Authority of New York was offering free rides across the river. Thousands of people walked from Lower Manhattan to Midtown Manhattan, thousands more crossed the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and 59th Street bridges to get to Brooklyn or Queens. The most compelling thing about this exodus was the calmness everyone displayed, now that they knew what had happened.

It took us nine hours to get home but my children were grateful that we arrived safely. I told my son that from that day forward, his birthday will always be special. There were many other things that we experienced that day, but it would fill more than ten pages. There were nearly 3000 deaths caused by the September 11, 2001 attacks. The attacks were planned and coordinated by a terrorist Muslim group called Al-Qaeda and led by a man called Osama bin Laden.

In the days following the attacks, our leaders promised they would find Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. For those people who lost their husbands, wives, children, parents and friends, days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. Then, ten years later, on May 2, 2011, we finally received word that Osama bin Laden was killed by a Navy Seal team. The mission, approved by the new president, Barak Obama, was flawless with no American casualties.

That same night, many people gathered at ground zero to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden. There were many such celebrations across America, but soon afterwards, people began to question whether it was a good idea to celebrate the death of a human being. They wondered whether the mission was an act of revenge or an act to bring closure to the victims of the September 11 attacks. For many, it was revenge and for many it brought a sense of closure, and yet for many it was neither.

Osama bin Laden was a human being, no doubt about that, but he was a Muslim zealot, too, whose distorted views about his religion compelled him into becoming a terrorist. Following the death of their leader, members of Al-Qaeda vowed to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden by threatening more attacks on the United States and her allies. Although I did not personally lose family or friends in the WTC, I was in the middle of all that chaos. I was frightened, confused and angry that day. I thought the world had ended and that anarchy would reign forever. I, too, felt gratified that Osama bin Laden was dead, but I am still haunted by the events of September 11. Many Latino-Americans lost their lives that day, as did many other Americans, foreign nationals and even Muslims. But did Osama bin Laden's death bring closure or was it simply revenge? For me, the death of Osama bin Laden wasn't revenge, but his death did bring a sense of closure. It did not make me feel that the war on terrorism is over, in fact, it has heighted my fear of reprisal attacks from Al Qaeda. However, I do have faith in my government and hope that by now we are a prepared nation, ready to thwart all acts of terrorism.

We should never be caught as unprepared as we were on September 11, 2001. That is my opinion, what is yours? Was it closure for you or was it revenge?

Send your comments to: TonyRamos email

Reader Comments - Article 37 (Revenge or Closure?)

Article 36 - Cries of San Sebastian

MARCH 2011 Hello my dear readers . . . . . It has been a while since my last article, and perhaps you may have wondered why I have not written anything since June of 2010. It's because I've been very busy finalizing my latest book, The Cries of San Sebastián. I am happy to announce that on Friday, March 5, 2011, The Cries of San Sebastián was released by publisher, PublishAmerica, LLP). Below is a synopsis of my book, as it will appear in the press release due out within the next few weeks.

When Rosalía Hernández, the daughter of a powerful and feared Spanish landowner in 1860's Puerto Rico, falls in love with a rebel peasant from the mountains of San Sebastián, she unwittingly becomes the focal point behind her father's hatred toward the Creoles and African slaves. His relentless quest to kill anyone associated with the insurgency will erupt into a fatal confrontation. In The Cries of San Sebastián, Anthony Ramos takes readers on a journey back in time, to colonial Puerto Rico, to examine the age-old hostilities between the poor Creoles and their wealthy Spanish masters.

On a trip to their country estate in San Sebastián, Rosalía soon learns that the world outside the mansion in San Juan is much different from the aristocratic world to which she been accustomed for the first eighteen years of her life. While in San Sebastián, Rosalía becomes a witness to the harsh realities of Puerto Rico's poverty, bigotry and diseases, and during a trip into town, she befriends and later falls in love with Miguel Pítre, a peasant Creole farmer. Soon after their meeting, Miguel takes a huge risk in confiding in Rosalía his rebellious ideals as well as his membership in a revolutionary cell dedicated to the liberation of his country. Determined to overthrow the Spanish government by violent means, Miguel has committed to giving up his life in the war for independence. Caught in the frenzy of a revolution and because of her love for Miguel, Rosalía joins the rebellion, incurring her father's wrath and becoming a victim of his brutal physical abuse. Angered that Rosalía has fallen in love with a peasant and not with a man of his choosing, her father imprisons her in her own home and then sets out to determine whether the rumors of a rebellion are true.

Through spies and paid informants, Rosalía's father confirms that the plans for a peasant revolt are real. Fearing the rebels will bring about the loss of his financial empire, he plots to have the revolutionists arrested and Miguel hanged. As the rebellion moves forward Rosalía's relationship with Miguel blossoms, despite her father's best efforts to thwart her happiness, and she will face a hard decision: whether to leave Miguel and rejoin her family or stay with Miguel and fight against her family and country.

The book is available online only at, and through my publisher, It is available in soft cover and soon will be converted into both Nook and Kindle formats. At the moment, I am working with my publisher to make the book available in stores.

I thank my readers for all the support you have given me. Over the years, we've had good discussions, heated disagreements and funny moments, but, all in all, we've enjoyed a forum that brought about varying numbers of opinions. I would also like to thank Ivonne Figueroa, owner, editor and publisher of El Boricua, for the tremendous support and for the confidence she has had in me all these years. It has been a privilege for me to become a contributing writer at El Boricua, and I am grateful to Ivonne for giving me the opportunity.

In the coming months, I will return to El Boricua with new articles containing new and controversial topics. In the meantime, if you have purchased the book and would like to discuss it with me, I will always make myself available right here at El Boricua . . . my home.

Send your comments to: TonyRamos email

Reader Comments - Article 36 (Cries of San Sebastian)



Dateline: June 2010

On April 23, 2010, the Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, signed into law the controversial Arizona State Senate Bill 1070 ( SB-1070 ). Arizona's passing of SB-1070 ignited a firestorm of protests in the United States, further widening the ideological gap between conservatives and liberals.

As I read the newspapers and watched the controversy of SB-1070 unfold on television s nightly news shows, certain questions kept recurring in my mind. I asked myself: Is it lawful to enter the United States without a visa? Is entering the United States illegally something new; a new violation that required Arizona to pass such a law? Does the federal government have laws against entering the country illegally or does federal law allow for the infiltration of aliens without proper authority? Here then, are the answers: The United States Federal law stipulates that no one can enter the country illegally. Entering the country illegally is nothing new but something, which has been occurring daily since the inception of the United States. Now I asked myself another question: Is entering the State of Arizona illegally a crime in the same manner as that stipulated under federal law? The answer is yes! Then why is there so much controversy over SB-1070? Before answering that question, I would like to explore the root causes that forced Arizona into enacting SB-1070 into law.

For many years, the federal government has employed thousands of agents to patrol the border between Mexico and the US. The border starts in California and runs through the states of New Mexico and Arizona, ending in Texas; an area 1,969 miles wide. In spite of the fact that the U.S. employs nearly 20,000 agents, it cannot completely stop the influx of illegal aliens from Mexico. Federal funds supporting the agency responsible for patrolling the US-Mexican border is in the billions but how effective is the US Border Patrol Agency? Of the nearly two thousand-mile long border, the US Border Patrol s effect covers a mere 700 miles, which leaves about 1200 miles of open and unguarded entry points. In contrast, the border between Canada and the U.S. runs from the States of Washington & Alaska to the State of Maine; a distance of over 5,000 miles! It is interesting to note that the number of border patrol agents covering this massive area is classified. Another point of interest is that the US-Canadian border enjoys a very low measure of security patrol. What does this all mean? It means that the influx of illegal Canadians is regarded as less of a threat than that of illegal Mexicans. It means that the number of Canadians entering the U.S. is significantly lower than that of Mexicans. Why?

Canada is the 10th largest economy in the world. It is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), and it is a member of the G8. Canadians enjoy a strong economy and a quality of life that mirrors that of Americans in the United States. They have no need to cross into the U.S. illegally to find employment or to have a better quality of life. In contrast, Mexico is the 13th largest economy in the world, rebounding from its financial crisis of 1994-1995 when 50% of the population fell below the poverty line. Mexico's economic recovery resulted mainly from the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA, which accounted for 90% of their export business. Mexico is a member of the OECD but is not a member of the G8. Canada's Gross National Product ( GDP ) is $1.3 trillion, while Mexico s GDP is $874 billion. Canada's population is 34.1 million, while Mexico s population is 107.6 million. With a strong economy and a relatively low population, one can see why there is a low level of unemployment, thus a low level of security along the Canadian border. On the other hand, a weaker economy combined with a higher population would account for a higher number of unemployed, causing a higher percentage of illegal entry into the U.S.

Is Arizona in violation of the Constitution of the United States? To answer that question I had to first examine Arizona s Senate Bill 1070. As I read the language of SB-1070, I found that stipulations were made in accordance with and subordinate to federal statutes. I found no language contrary to or supplanting federal law or language that violated civil rights, as I have come to know them in accordance with the U.S. Bill of Rights. If Arizona s SB-1070 is in accordance with and subordinate to federal law regarding illegal immigration, can it still be said that they are in violation of the Constitution? If they are in violation, then it can also be said that federal protocols governing the laws of immigration are also in violation of the Constitution. How then can the current officials elected to administer our federal government raise their noses of morality upon Arizona, when its very own laws support the constitutionality of SB-1070?

To me it comes down to a basic, fundamental question. Is it legal to enter this country, or any other country in the world for that matter, without a visa or without permission from the host nation? The answer to that question is a resounding no. Does the United States or any other country in the world have the right to protect its sovereign domain? Does the United States have the right to exercise its sovereign power to stem the flow of illegal immigration? The answer to those questions is a very clear yes! Personally, I am not opposed to immigration so long as it is lawful. America is the land of opportunity, where the quality of life is arguably the best in the world. America is a place where anyone can become rich if they work hard at it. What I am against is the illegal immigration from either side, whether Mexico or Canada. I should clarify at this point that illegal entry into the U.S. through the Mexican and Canadian borders is not only limited to Mexican or Canadian nationals, but to other foreign nationals from countries such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen. Although some Mexicans cross our borders illegally to smuggle drugs, the vast majority of them cross our borders with the honest intention of seeking jobs and a better quality of life. Yet there are others that come from the eastern hemisphere with vastly different intentions. They enter the U.S. with an evil agenda; a definitive plan to do harm to the American way of life, disrupt the economy and wreak as much havoc in order to weaken our nation.

So why is there so much controversy over the passing of Arizona s Senate Bill 1070? Is it because: A) Many illegal aliens will be exposed as a result of enforcing such a law? B) Illegal aliens would rather infiltrate this country rather than go through the legal process of obtaining citizenship? C) Illegal aliens and many decent law-abiding citizens fear that police officers will racially profile them? D) Such law is unconstitutional?

My answers: A) I have no doubt that this new law will definitely expose illegal aliens. The law will not only help an existing federal agency whose ineptitude is on the same level as that of its Commander in Chief, but also will deter unlawful entry into the sovereign state of Arizona. B) Illegal aliens feel safe because the agencies created to combat unlawful immigration, simply do not have the necessary manpower or funds to mobilize into action. Why bother seeking lawful entry into the country when simply crossing the border will suffice? C) Racial profiling is an everyday occurrence in all metropolitan areas of the US; it is nothing new and it is something that Hispanics, Blacks and all people of color are all too familiar with. A police officer requesting proof of citizenship is no more harmful than requesting proof of a driver s license, vehicle registration or insurance card, which is normally done at routine traffic stops. If you have those documents, then you have nothing to fear. D) Arizona's new law is no more unconstitutional than the federal laws that prohibit illegal entry into the United States. To say that Arizona's law is unconstitutional is to say that federal law is unconstitutional. You cannot have one without the other.

It is my opinion that the State of Arizona was forced to enact such a law because the federal agencies designed to prevent illegal immigration have simply failed. These federal agencies represented the front lines in a long-standing war; a front line that has seemingly collapsed. Arizona has had no choice but to fall back and draw its own line of defense, and for this they have incurred the wrath of liberals and left-wing hypocrites who sit on the fence and take no sides except whatever cause suits them that current day. The State of Arizona has incurred the wrath of federally elected officials, which, admittedly, they have not taken the time to even read Senate Bill 1070! I have read all 16 pages of Senate Bill 1070, and have found nothing that would violate civil rights. On the contrary, I have found that Arizona's new law adheres to as is in deference to federal law. It is my opinion that the controversy surrounding Arizona's new law was created by the liberal media and left-wing radicals whose agenda it is to destroy this once beautiful and great nation. That is my opinion, what's yours?

Reader Comments - Article 35

Hugo & Nissa Madrigal write, "First let me say, Feliz Año Nuevo! My wife and I read your opinion on the Arizona immigration debate. We live in the Great state of Texas but were raised in Florida. Our Family is made up of Costa Rican, Mexican, Puerto Rican and European heritage; myself being born in Costa Rica to Mexican/Costa Rican parents. We think your opinion eloquently sums up what many Hispanics in this country are thinking. The media's portrayal of "all Latinos" against Arizona or the Federal government on this law is absurd. The most pointed is your comment about racial profiling, so very true. There is nothing to fear. We must enforce our laws and we must abide by them. Thank you so much for putting this out there. We plan to direct many of our family and friends to your column/article."

Thank you for your comments Hugo and Nissa. It is no great secret that this country is the result of labor produced by immigrants. It began with the Spanish, who began settling in and named the territories of California, Texas and Florida, the English who landed in what is now known as Massachusetts, and colonized what is now known as Virginia, the Dutch who landed in and first settled New Amsterdam (now known as New York), and finally the French, who colonized the territory of Louisiana. The Africans, by no choice of their own, also came to America. Beginning in the mid 1800's and through the early 1900's a great influx of immigrants followed these early pioneers, the Irish during their potato famine, the European Jews, Polish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, and the list goes on and on. The immigration laws were not as stringent then as they are now, and perhaps the ideology of liberty, the dream of wealth and independence, and the promise of non-persecution for religious beliefs were the forces that attracted and drove the immigrants to America. Immigrants today have those same dreams, hopes and beliefs, but the laws concerning immigration have changed. Although the laws were less stringent back then, immigrants still went through a documentation process in Ellis Island and they became United States citizens. The documentation process today is more voluminous and takes a longer time than it did in the 1850's, but the basis still remains the same. The solution is simple: become a legal United States citizen, get a job and pay your taxes.


Ms. Bythe Sanchez writes, "I wanted to chime in on Arizona's new immigration law from the perspective of a Caucasian woman married to a Puerto Rican man. I was happy to read what you and what so many other Latino's and Latina's wrote.

I personally do not feel this is a racist law and it should be enforced on ALL illegal [aliens]. I understand that other countries have big problems and the citizens have no control or power and therefore need to flee. But this is their governments' fault because they have failed to effectively control the problem. None of these problems magically appeared overnight and sometimes these governments need to 'fight fire with fire' in order to protect the good people of that particular country. Pressure needs to be put on these government officials. If all the good Hispanic people flee an area or flea a whole small county, then who is left? The bad guys, and therefore they won and have now been able to take over twice as fast - there is no resistance.

Nobody who is a hard working person likes to see other people who are (illegal or not); hang out in the streets all day, being loud, constantly committing crimes, not working, using the system to receive welfare benefits or disability. All for the simple fact they are lazy and think everyone owes them a hand out. People like the ones I just described are the reason why these laws need to be in place. Now, please don't mistake what I am saying . . . I don't believe that every illegal does those things I just mentioned, but there is no way to figure out the good illegals from the bad ones.

Also, if these laws are not in place it actually creates racism between the races, because it creates tension. This law also protects the Hispanic people who are here legally and work hard. We all pay heavily for illegals (who only come here for handouts and trouble) of all nationalities . . . and one way is taxes and another is government programs. Because when you need a government program and live (especially) in a sanctuary state you cannot get help, because people who don't deserve it are already getting the help.

In closing, if people are here legally, work hard and stay of trouble they have nothing to worry about. But anyone who is so worried about Arizona's new law. . . well...maybe they should be if they or a family member has something to hide."

Thank you for your email Blythe. I agree with your comments, but it is hard for the US to put pressure on these countries without committing funds in one way or another. It always boils down to money. I think that the problem lies in the fact that because there are so many government-funded programs (which take root in the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration) it has become quite simple for illegal aliens to take advantage. Yes, we are a generous nation, a forthright people who care about the problems of the world. We are a nation that takes pity on the poor and downtrodden, but where do we draw a line? The problem also lies in the fact that our nation's commerce and sphere of influence affords us a first-world lifestyle. We compete with the European Economic Community, China, Japan, Australia and England, to name a few. To sustain such an elitist stature, we have to maintain an aggressive economic posture. Other countries in Central and South America, Africa and Asia are not as fortunate as the United States or simply lack the means to compete with the G8 countries. As a nation, we struggle with conflicting ideologies. How can we claim to be the land of opportunity and live by the credo: "Give me tired, your poor and your huddled masses" but then close our borders to the very same poor people? This is the paradox in which we find ourselves, Blythe; it has pigeon holed the US and there is nothing we can do about it without contradicting ourselves. To me it is quite simple, give us your tired, your poor and your huddled masses, but make sure you come here legally. Become a legal citizen of the United States, get a job and pay your taxes just like every other hard-working American citizen. Please do not come here illegally and demand your share of the American pie as though you are entitled to it.


Ms. Norma Hernandez writes, "My opinion, regarding ALL illegal [immigrants], if stopped for whatever reason by the police, is that they should be deported. Many illegal [immigrants] have come here and obtained citizenship the correct way. Why, tell me why, should Cubans and Mexicans be given a free ride into citizenship when others have had to go through a whole process? What is so special about these people that they should be singled out by the government for a free pass? All I see are illegal Dominicans, Mexicans, etc., having babies from left to right in order to get government assistance. I am born and raised here, my family has fought for this country beginning with civil war and the one time I went for a one-shot deal to help with my rent due to the fact I was unemployed, and I was told no. You have to be working in order to get the help! Well if I were working I wouldn't need to be there! In the meantime, I saw pregnant Mexican women with 3 other kids running around, Dominican women with gold [jewelry], designer clothing, manicured false nails and hair straightening getting assistance. My tax dollars don't help me when I need it, [but] they help these illegal [immigrants] that do not pay into the system to reap the benefits of my sweat and tears. Send them back. Let them go through the immigration process, [and let them wait] the way they should. Just like those illegal Dominicans in Puerto Rico should be sent back. Believe me, they go to New York and drag the Puerto Ricans through the mud. Go home; we have enough problems as it is."

Thank for your comments, Ms. Hernandez. I agree that illegal immigrants should be deported regardless if any of their children were born in the United States. I also agree that many Cubans and Dominicans view Puerto Rico as a stepping stone and gateway from which they can easily enter the United States. I also agree that many of them are poor and come from underprivileged societies but after they arrive here, they have the audacity to, as in your words: "drag the Puerto Ricans through the mud." Once they begin working and start obtaining things that they could never dream of obtaining in their own country, a discernable sense of arrogance forms in their appearance and psyche. They look down upon those who came before them, endured the hardships of bigotry and prejudice, and paved the way for all other Hispanics. Puerto Rico has been a United States territory since 1898 and all Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States. Puerto Rico has benefitted greatly from its association with the United States and we enjoy being CITIZENS of the most powerful county in the world. If that is a source of discomfort to foreign Hispanics (illegal or illegal) well then it's just too damn bad. You weren't here during the 1930's - 1950's, learning to communicate in a foreign language, dealing with a new culture, experiencing bigotry, so please don't come here from whatever third-world country you came from, and look down upon others simply because you now have a job and can afford to buy things. Just remember where you came from and that it was in AMERICA that you were able to get the things you could never dream of having in your country. Please keep that in mind as you make your way to the local "Moneygram" store to send American dollars home.


Ms. "Yolirican" writes, "Well as you noticed, Tony, this is a divisive issue. I agree that if a law enforcement official stops you for whatever reason, i.e., speeding, broken tail or brake light, etc., they have the RIGHT, to ask you for your registration, insurance and status. They are not just going to stop you just "because". Something has to be done to thwart the huge influx of illegal immigration. Anyway, bottom line, if you're a legal citizen you would have no objections to comply with the law. If you're not legal then suit yourself. By the same token, most of the immigrants entering this country come in under an "asylum" status. That means, they have free medical and free welfare indefinitely. And these immigrants have nothing to contribute to our welfare because they are very poor and uneducated. Back in the early 1900's our immigrants were British, Italians . . . they contributed to our welfare. The Filipinos I can say (because I work with a bunch of them) mostly have college degrees when they come here. Some come here under a "B" status waiver that it is understood: a family member has to sponsor them and be responsible for their well being before they are allowed into this country. And they speak English, unlike many of the newer immigrants; especially the Ethiopians . . . try understanding them! Also, it's time that the U.S. stops accepting Cuban dissidents and issue immediate political asylum just because most of Florida is populated by Cubans and it's political suicide not to agree with their whining. They should be allowed here just like any other immigrant submitting bona fide papers to INS. Life in Cuba is not as bad as the Miami Cubans like to make us believe it is. They, like all immigrants should go through the same INS process and wait their turn."

Thank for your email Yoly. I agree with you, Yoly. In the late 1800's to early 1900's,shortly following the Irish influx, the incoming wave of non-English-speaking Europeans included, Italians, Polish, Jews, Hungarians, Germans and many other people from different parts of the continent. With the exception of the Irish, these immigrants did not speak English, but they arrived here with knowledge of certain trades that were needed and would later contribute to the growth of this great country. Among these trades were carpentry, iron works, fabric and textile manufacturing. I, too, have worked with Filipinos; they are all educated, hard-working and very patriotic people. Many come here as doctors and business people. They are quiet, unassuming and very religious. It is sad to know that many other immigrants use this "political asylum" thing to get into the country but do nothing to contribute to its growth and well-being. On the contrary, they come here with a sense of entitlement, as though it is their god-given right to demand welfare and medical benefits from its host nation. Imagine something: Your neighbor just asked you to let him stay in your house because he was suffering oppression in his own home. Out of the goodness of your heart, you allow him to stay in your home (you've just granted him political asylum). Three months have gone by and he has not found work. In fact, he is now demanding that you provide him with food and care products for his well-being. What would you do then? Would you feel sorry for him and continue to provide him with food, shelter and care products out of the dollars that you've worked so hard to earn? Or, would you throw him out of your home?

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Ms. "Yolirican" writes, "Well as you noticed, Tony, this is a divisive issue. I agree that if a law enforcement official stops you for whatever reason, i.e., speeding, broken tail or brake light, etc., they have the RIGHT, to ask you for your registration, insurance and status. They are not just going to stop you just "because". Something has to be done to thwart the huge influx of illegal immigration. Anyway, bottom line, if you're a legal citizen you would have no objections to comply with the law. If you're not legal then suit yourself. By the same token, most of the immigrants entering this country come in under an "asylum" status. That means, they have free medical and free welfare indefinitely. And these immigrants have nothing to IBritish, Italians, etc.; they contributed to our welfare. The Filipinos I can say (because I work with a bunch of them) mostly have college degrees when they come here. Some come here under a "B" status waiver that it is understood: a family member has to sponsor them and be responsible for their well being before they are allowed into this country. And they speak English, unlike many of the newer immigrants; especially the Ethiopians . . . try understanding them! Also, it's time that the U.S. stops accepting Cuban dissidents and issue immediate political asylum just because most of Florida is populated by Cubans and it's political suicide not to agree with their whining. They should be allowed here just like any other immigrant submitting bona fide papers to INS. Life in Cuba is not as bad as the Miami Cubans like to make us believe it is. They, like all immigrants should go through the same INS process and wait their turn." Thank for your email

Yoly. I agree with you, Yoly. In the late 1800's to early 1900's,shortly following the Irish influx, the incoming wave of non-English-speaking Europeans included, Italians, Polish, Jews, Hungarians, Germans and many other people from different parts of the continent. With the exception of the Irish, these immigrants did not speak English, but they arrived here with knowledge of certain trades that were needed and would later contribute to the growth of this great country. Among these trades were carpentry, iron works, fabric and textile manufacturing. I, too, have worked with Filipinos; they are all educated, hard-working and very patriotic people. Many come here as doctors and business people. They are quiet, unassuming and very religious. It is sad to know that many other immigrants use this "political asylum" thing to get into the country but do nothing to contribute to its growth and well-being. On the contrary, they come here with a sense of entitlement, as though it is their god-given right to demand welfare and medical benefits from its host nation. Imagine something: Your neighbor just asked you to let him stay in your house because he was suffering oppression in his own home. Out of the goodness of your heart, you allow him to stay in your home (you've just granted him political asylum). Three months have gone by and he has not found work. In fact, he is now demanding that you provide him with food and care products for his well-being. What would you do then? Would you feel sorry for him and continue to provide him with food, shelter and care products out of the dollars that you've worked so hard to earn? Or, would you throw him out of your home?

* * * * * * * *

Yolyrican writes, "Hi Tony-it's great to post my opinion here regarding this hotly debated issue with Arizona's immigration laws. Bottom line: the Mexicans don't seem to understand the underlying issues here. WE, are not anti-immigration like a lot of people, organizations (i.e., LULAC, etc) accuse us legal Americans of. How can this country turn the other cheek to illegals? I really don't give a damn they come here to "seek a better life for their families", etc. Go cry to someone else! If we went to Mexico and tried to sneak in illegally, we'd be persecuted just like any other criminal and believe me, the Mexican authorities and jail system are almost as bad as Peru's! Many citizens in Arizona, especially ranchers and people who own and live off their land are simply fed up to have/see a myriad of Mexican citizens illegally cross their lands day in and day out without having the back up of the federal government. So I applaud the governor of Arizona for standing up to her state and telling the hypocrites in Washington that enough is enough! They don't enforce the federal laws that are supposed to protect our border states, so if a governor from one of the border states enacts a new law concerning this illegal immigration issue, because they are fed up and tired of not getting help from the Feds, then so be it!! But . . . Mexicans living here in the US see this as . . . let's see . . ."anti-immigration, "phobic" . . ."racist"...........blah, blah, blah!! Frankly, I'm tired of the US trying to be the "dumping ground" of all these other countries just because back in the 1800's we had a slogan that said, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" when the Statue of Liberty was erected in NY. But . . . that was then, this is now. And NOW . . . everybody wants to come here regardless. So I ask you all . . . is the USA supposed to just open their borders to just anyone without regards for legal/social ramifications and the effect these diasporas will have on our society present and future? Hey, I'm all for legal immigration, however, I beg to differ when it comes to "illegal immigration", be it from Mexicans, Canadians, Ethiopians (who seem to come in by the thousands here in San Diego), etc. I have many Mexican friends and I love them all. However, this is my Country and I do not agree with the "free for all" mentality . . . legal or not!"

Thank you for your email Yoly. I agree. Why should we feel sorry for someone who has illegally entered the country, then asks for welfare and free medical benefits with a sense of entitlement? Why? Why should our hard earned money pay for programs dedicated to assist these law breakers? Why? Is it because the left wing, liberal, bleeding hearts in Washington think it is the moral and decent thing to do? Is it because we are so afraid to against the ideologies and agendas set forth by the American Civil Liberties Union, a notorious left wing organization? What about us, our families, why can't those benefits, which are funded from our taxed dollars, go towards our benefit? Is it because our incomes and financial positions are greater than those of the illegal aliens, and therefore we can afford such expenses without government assistance? Bull s _ _ _! When are we going to wake up America? When are we going realize that the liberals are going to destroy this country? When? Maybe never!


Roberto Barreto writes, "I have lived in the US for the past 32 years. I have made many friends from other countries some with papers and some without papers. I have also helped some of them get their papers and become legal in this country. The problem with the immigration law is not only the lack of enforcement of it but also the application of the requirements for entry as controlled by the State Department.

Many people come into this country illegally because they have no other choice, it has been happening forever. The government has programs that are specifically designed to keep people from certain countries out and allow people from others in. You have countries that are allowed a number of people in annually while others have to have their people wait as much as 10 years for legal entry and then on top of that they only have a limited number of entry visas that are granted annually. If I have a brother that I pledged to help settle in once he is in the country, why does he have to wait 10 years to get his visa? If the government would level the playing field on entry requirements across the board and controlled the borders better, there would be less of a problem.

As for Arizona, they have been forced by a government that refuses to act and refuses to enforce immigration laws as they are in the books right now. When you have a politician tell Arizona that your law will affect how the Federal government enforces immigration law what he is really saying is "Your law will prevent me from conducting business as usual". They know that this issue is political suicide for both sides on election year and neither wants the hot potato on their hands.

Lack of action is not a fix, a massive wall is not a fix, and Arizona's paper checking law is also not a fix. The only fix is the application and enforcement of the laws that already exist in the books. Immigration reform is needed but is needed at the top."

Thank you for your email Mr. Barreto. While I understand your sentiments, I should remind you that Hispanics have now become the most populous minority in the United States, whether legal or illegal. In 2007, the Hispanic population in the United States was 44,300,000 or roughly 15% of the total US population. Based on these numbers, one can certainly understand why the United States Department of Immigration might want to slow down the Hispanic influx and favor applicants from other countries. So what's wrong with that decision? Nothing. Foreign applicants (other than Hispanics) might have special education, skills and talents that would contribute favorably to US society; among these are surgeons, engineers, chemists, astronomers, geologists, nuclear and astrophysicists, and so on. Why should Hispanics have immigration preference over other foreigners who have the same dreams, the same values and the same hopes as they do? Please do not misconstrue what I am saying here. There are many Hispanics with the same education and talents that are just as welcomed here in the United States. However, I am of the opinion that entry by foreigners (whether Hispanics or not) into the United States ought to be through legal means, and if there is a ten-year waiting period, then so be it. I think there is nothing wrong with the immigration laws and there shouldn't be any kinds of reform to such laws. I also think that the US cannot make the playing field any more level than it already is. However, I do feel that immigrations laws are not being properly enforced.

Sylvester Pirulo writes, "You are absolutely correct, Tony. But many Hispanics here state side feel differently and make it a racial issue. Nice site Tony I came across it looking for a guayadora para pasteles with no luck."

Thank you for your email Sylvester. If we just look at it from a legal standpoint and interpret the language without preconceived ideologies, then it makes sense. However, as you stated, many Hispanics are misconstruing the meaning of SB-1070's language. They see what they want to see and they hear what they want to hear. Now, regarding your quest for a "guayo", you must come down to Brooklyn, NY. On Moore Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there is a "marketa", where you can buy the machines that grate bananas. Trust me, these machines make life simple. Or, you can buy an old style "guayo" and grate the bananas one by one. Either way, you can get it there. In fact you can get anything at the "marketa", even all the ingredients for "sofrito". Hope this helps!

Ms. Jennifer Perez writes, "I read this article and I found it very disheartening that no other Latinos have commented about this issue. I think that the governor of Arizona should be ashamed of herself for passing such a law it is very racist, and an invasion of privacy no one should be allowed to just come to someone and ask them if they're an American citizen without probable cause. So what if a person has dark eyes, olive skin, etc. they have Hispanic features but they could probably been born and raised in Arizona and are Mexican-American just like there are people here who are considered Nuyoricans. Not everyone carries around a green card, passport or any other proof of citizenship in their wallets, so if a person doesn't produce this I'm wondering can they be arrested? Arizona is a state it is not their own country and they don't have the right to make a law like this the immigration laws are made by the federal government agency INS not the state of Arizona themselves. I also notice a very heavy anti-immigrant sentiment lately like all the causes of this country's problems people are very quick to blame the immigrants and claim that they are taking away this country's job which I think is ridiculous. I know a lot of people who have come here and have immigration issues and they're not criminals, they simply are people who want to come here and give their families a better life, they're poor but they do the jobs that no one here wants to do or feels they're too good to do. Whether we are Latinos born here or Mexican-American, Nuyorican, etc. we should support the Latinos who need citizenship and not discriminate and be mean toward them. I think there always be a problem of immigration until the federal government comes up with a reasonable way to make people US citizens maybe the problem will alleviate itself maybe it won't but I know the current system isn't working so there has to be a better alternative."

Thank you for your email Ms. Perez and thank you for being the first Hispanic to post your comments regarding this article. Should Governor Brewer be ashamed of herself for passing such a law? Let us analyze this. First off, the government of the State of Arizona is comprised of people elected by its population. Second, Arizona's legislature is bicameral, as it is with every other state (with the exception of Nebraska), including New York. A bicameral government consists of a 30-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives. Collectively, this elected legislative body is responsible for passing law in Arizona; it is not the responsibility of only one person.

Although Arizona is member state of the United States of America, it has certain sovereign power as a state. You must understand that every state has its own laws; laws that vary from state to state and which may not necessarily be embraced by the Federal government. This country was founded upon the ideals that the individual state was responsible for its own people and laws. That initial foundation was comprised of 13 states that because of their desire to become independent created a central government for their collective representation. At some point in time during the past two hundred years, that ideal was corrupted in favor of a stronger central government; a government that withholds Federal monies from the states and uses it as leverage in order to force them to conform with a central plan. The strength given to the central government has increased over the past two centuries and has forced all of the states to become dependent on Federal dollars. This malignant dependency has compelled many states to go along with Federal edicts in order to obtain such funds.

Arizona's law does not allow for any police officer to simply walk up to someone and demand to see papers. On the contrary, it is based upon probable cause. As I mentioned in my article, if you are stopped for a routine traffic violation, do you not have to produce a valid driver's license, a valid registration and a valid proof of insurance? Is it an inconvenience? Yes, especially when all your documents are valid. If Arizona's police departments add one more document to that list, and if you have a valid green card, why would you refuse to show it to them? Let us think for a moment. Let's say you are a Mexican national, or any other foreign national, and that you went through the documentation process, and waited for many years to obtain LEGAL citizenship in the US, how would you feel about others who cheated by entering this country illegally? Is it fair to you? No! As a foreigner, you had a dream to come to America, to become a legal citizen and live a better life. You chose to apply for citizenship, went through the legal process and then became a legal member of our society. Let us not diminish your hard work or insult your honorable intentions by feeling sorry for illegal immigrants. Instead, let us applaud those who come here legally and become responsible members of American society.

Let us now focus on the job issue. It is not the fact that they "taking jobs away" or the fact that they are "doing jobs that Americans are too proud to do". It is the simple fact that because of their illegal entry, they pay NO TAXES. They work off the books because they possess no social security number. So I beg to ask the question again: is it fair to legal immigrants who are working and paying their share of taxes? NO! If Arizona has enacted the immigration law it is because they were compelled to do so because OUR own Federal government has not addressed the issue in a mutually satisfactory manner. As a Hispanic myself, I do feel for my fellow Hispanics-my fellow legal Hispanics, that is. I respect their dreams; I respect their efforts to become legal citizens, and I admire the fact that they have become hard-working tax payers. I do not respect immigrants who come here illegally, for they have cheated the system and then have the audacity to claim hardship with a sense of entitlement. Am I supposed to pay for their medical benefits because some bleeding heart liberal thinks it is the right thing to do? Are my tax dollars, for which I have produced with the sweat of my brow, going to a welfare system that pays for an illegal's food and shelter? I ask you again: is it fair?

In your final statement you say that there must be an alternative because the current Federal system isn't working. You are 100% correct. The alternative is Arizona's new law and I hope that Texas and New Mexico follow suit. As for California, there is no hope there because it is too much of a liberal state, with many bleeding hearts.


February 2010 - I come from a large family. My grandmother had four daughters and four sons, and so I had four uncles and three aunts. As you can imagine, with so many uncles and aunts, I also had many cousins. Just recently my third uncle passed away, leaving only one left  the youngest. The wake was held in Brooklyn, NY, and was attended by my aunts and by many of my cousins. My surviving uncle, for health reasons, was unable to attend, and we missed him greatly.

At one time, way back in the day (1950 s-1970 s), we all lived closely together. Some of us had apartments in the same building, and some us lived a few blocks down the same street. We all went to the same schools and the same church, and we all gathered at grandma s house on Sundays. As we grew older, many of us branched out, either through marriage, or because of our work or careers, or the desire to leave the confines of our original nest.

We eventually grew up, married, had children and some of us even became grandparents. The ensuing years, saw the older generations, become older, and our family s matriarch pass away. It was at Grandmother s wake that the last massive gathering of the family took place. Over the past two years, three of my uncles have passed away and it seems that the only times we see each other is at these saddened and tearful wakes. I think we can all agree that these events are not the ideal places to socialize, but, we do anyway. There was a lot of hugging and kissing, and through those heartfelt expressions, I could feel the strong love and bond that defines our family. The emotions were palpable, tangible, like a warm quilt that you snuggle into when it s cold outside

A few of us cousins complained about the same thing and kicked around the idea about a family reunion without it being attached to a death. Then, all of a sudden, the idea gained momentum until there was serious talk about an actual family reunion. I ve always been daunted at the idea of coordinating such kinds of events. The logistics involved in getting a reunion off the ground are monumental; such as contacting hundreds of people to create a list of family members, choosing a place that everyone will agree on, and finally coming up with the funds necessary to make the event happen. Fortunately, there were many cousins that took up the challenge and have come through with flying colors. We have approximately 300-325 family members of which 150-175 will make the effort to attend. The event will take place in July 2010, at a park in Long Island, which will include barbecue pits, children s playground, carousel, baseball diamond, volley ball court, and a pavilion in case it rains. Family members will be coming from Puerto Rico, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York City.

I will be meeting many of my second and third cousins for the first time, and look forward to the event with excitement, giddiness, and with a good measure of love. I don t know how the event will turn out and I don t know if we could pull it off again one or two years later, but I am certainly going to enjoy it even if it only happens once. I also plan to share my reunion story with my readers. By the same token, I am certain that many of my readers out there have had family reunions, and I invite all of you to share stories of your reunions with us at El Boricua.

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments - Article 34

December 20, 2009

It is that time of year again. The time of year when shopping, wrapping and the joy gift giving fills our hearts with joy. It is a time to remember those individuals who stood out during the year. It is a time to remember the brother, who helped you out with money when you needed it. It is a time to remember the sister who was always there to listen to your complaints about life s miseries, or babysat your children on the days when you had to work late and could not find anyone to help you. It is a time to remember the father, who gave you advice on purchasing your first home. It could be your mother, who cooked for you on more nights than you can remember. It could be your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, personal friend, mailman, beautician; the list goes on and on. For me, that special person is my wife, Annie. Annie is the light of my heart, the engine that keeps me going whenever I stall in despair. Without her my life is incomplete and chaotic. Without her I feel empty. And after thirty years of marriage I still love her with all of my heart! Merry Christmas, honey!

I would like to thank all of El Boricua s readers for contributing to In My Opinion . We ve had many good arguments and discussions ranging from Politics, to Religion, to Cock-Fighting, and many other worthwhile themes. A very special thank you  goes out to Ms. Ivonne Figueroa, publisher of El Boricua for her support and wisdom. I wish Ivonne and everyone at El Boricua a very Merry Christmas!

It is also the time of year when New Year s resolutions are made, a time to wipe the slate clean, a time to forgive those who offended you or to apologize to those whom you offended. For me, it is the same thing every year. QUIT SMOKING! This year will be no different; I will try to quit . . . yet one more time! I am open to suggestions, my dear readers; anything that could help me quit smoking. If you have quit smoking and have remained a non-smoker for more than a year, then I would like to congratulate you and ask how you did it.

I plan to quit right after the holidays, because I do not want to interrupt my lifestyle just yet. There are a lot of things I need to do before quitting. Before quitting, I must first indulge in certain gastronomical excesses such as pernil, ron, arroz con gandules, ron, pavo asado, ron, pasteles, ron, and flan. I also need to indulge in mass quantities of ron.

These are my reflections, what are yours? What person in your life stood out so much this year that you would like to personally acknowledge or give a special thank you  to on El Boricua? What is your New Year s resolution? How will that resolution help you on a physical or psychological basis? With Ivonne s blessings, I would like to publish all of your acknowledgments as well as New Year s resolutions.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments - Article 33

Manny Velazquez writes,

Saludos desde Houston, TX. Primera vez que visito el magazine (spanglish, estilo criollo). I too share the resolution to quit smoking this New Year, amongst others. Like you I have not quit yet but I've slowed down considerably, which is also good. Just like you, I had to partake from the sinfulness of pernil, ron, arroz con gandules, ron, pavo asado, ron, pasteles, ron, and flan. And to round it all up, indulge in mass quantities of ron . The more things remain the same, the more they change. By doing this very traditional way of celebrating, a surprising thing happened. I "remembered where I come from, who I am, always been and always will be". And all these cultural connections began to activate themselves. In the last week alone I've been in more contact with other Puerto Ricans, from here, abroad and en la Isla, than I had in the last couple of years.

I find myself involved in art and design projects with other Puerto Ricans in business and civic events, local and across. I look around and see a lot of activities that went unnoticed for a while. A whole re-connection with our very unique flow of energy y me siento bien contento de eso. I just found (again, re-discovery) El Boricua and felt the need to read the articles that jumped the most and am glad I did. Just wanted to say thank you for the effort of you all [at El Boricua] in having a way for some of us "expatriados" to re-connect to our roots. I'm copying some recipes "p'al proximo bembé" with neighbors. Keep up the good work pana. Saludos y abrazos fraternos 

Thank you for your email Mr. Velazquez. I spent four weeks in Houston a few years back lovely city! I went around the Loop a few times before finding my way back to the hotel; it was quite an experience. I find it a great comfort when I read about people re-connecting with their ethnic heritage. Though we live in the best country in the world, and though we have made this wonderful country our home, a part of us still remains connected to that beautiful island in the Caribbean; the island of enchantment, the island we call Borinquen. I am also glad that El Boricua has reached fellow Puerto Ricans in Houston and as far away as Hawaii and even Europe. We at El Boricua strive to present the best Puerto Rican image possible, to represent our people in best way that we can and to keep our Puerto Rican family connected. Thank you for your kind words, Mr. Velazquez, and please feel free to comment on any of the previous In My Opinion  articles or any other articles appearing on El Boricua.

August 15, 2009
Presidential legacies can have a positive or negative effect on our futures, depending on your point of view. Some Presidents leave office amidst a strong, thriving economy while some leave office with a country in near economic ruin. They can leave office with the country either at the brink of war or at peace with the world. Among the many legacies of a United States President is the nomination of a judge to serve in the capacity of a United States Supreme Court Justice. For our current president, Barak Obama, that nomination went out to Sonia Maria Sotomayor, a Puerto-Rican American, born in the Bronx, New York City and our very own Nuyorican.

Why is the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice by a President so important? The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the country; there is none higher. The US Supreme Court is where all cases involving legal precedents are heard by nine judges. The cases, adjudicated by these nine learned people, test the language, meaning and intent of the US Constitution. Some cases will test the limits of our reason, morality, faith, and other treasured virtues. Although the decisions made by these nine US Supreme Court Justices do not make policy for individual Americans, they clearly send a message as to how certain philosophical, religious, civil and moral views will be judged. How can nine judges perform this monumental task without compromising their own philosophical, religious, civil and moral views? How can they adjudicate high-profile cases with objectivity and with absolute integrity for the pureness of law?

It is nearly impossible to judge a case without injecting one s personal beliefs and moral values. That is why there are nine judges; because they do not necessarily agree on every issue. Presidents with liberal points of view, often tend to nominate liberal judges, while conservative presidents tend to nominate conservative judges. A liberal majority of judges might be more sympathetic to liberal causes, while a conservative majority may favor conservative issues.

The Honorable Sonia Maria Sotomayor confronted strong opposition from conservative Senators. They sighted her liberal decisions on various cases where she presided as judge, and quoted some of her earlier speeches wherein she claimed, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn t lived that life.  I will not comment on Judge Sotomayor s remarks, only to reiterate what I said earlier. It is nearly impossible to judge a case in the pure sense of the law without injecting one s own personal philosophies. As you all well know, I am a conservative, always have been and I guess I will always be. I fear that a liberal majority in our US Supreme Court will direct our nation towards the left, and send us down a path that may ultimately destroy what s left of our moral, civil and religious virtues.

So what are the differences between liberals and conservatives? There are so many, that I will not go into details. I will, however, refer you to an Article written by S.L. Bradish, appearing in the website: , wherein he outlines the fundamental differences between these two schools of thought. Please read this article before you respond with your opinions.

As a Puerto Rican-American, and a Nuyorican, I am very proud to have one of my own sitting on the bench in the highest court of the land! The Honorable Sonia Maria Sotomayor is a living testament to the notion that anyone can succeed in this great country of ours if he or she wishes to do so. Granted, her road to the US Supreme Court was not an easy one, and she sacrificed many things, but the reward for those sacrifices was great.

Sonia Maria Sotomayor is an inspiration not only to Puerto Rican-Americans, but to all our Hispanic brothers and sisters. Her success should be viewed as a beacon of light for all minorities trudging in the darkness of poverty and despair. It should be a message to our Latino brothers and sisters that all they need to do is apply themselves, and free themselves of all stereotypes and inferiority complexes. Ms. Sotomayor, we are all very proud of you! My only lament is that you are a liberal. I will be looking in on Ms. Sotomayor s decisions and will comment in later articles.

Let s talk media now, hmm, my favorite subject. Did you notice how the leftist media handled the Sotomayor nomination? Kid gloves all the way! Nothing Obama does will ever get the media to cast a bad light on him. Let us not talk about the fact that Mr. Obama is slowly converting our country into a socialist republic. The US government now owns stakes in banks, insurance companies, etc. President Obama is slowly nationalizing these financial institutions, entities that once enjoyed free enterprise in a capitalistic America. Wake up people! Beware! Health Coverage is next! No mention of this is made by the media who still adores him. They mislead you into thinking Obama is the messiah, the one who will turn this country around. But is he truly turning the country around? It pains me to see how blindly we believe our newspapers or accept TV news as the absolute truth! Let him who has an ear, listen. Let him who has an eye, see. . . 

That . . . is my opinion, what is yours? As a Puerto Rican American or a Hispanic-American, what impact do you think Ms. Sotomayor s decisions as a US Supreme Court justice will have on you or Hispanics? How has Ms. Sotomayor s rise to one of the top spots in our country s judicial system impacted your life and philosophical views?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments - Article 32

President Barak Obama and the Question of Puerto Rico s Future

January 25, 2009 - Earlier this month, President Barak Obama wrote a letter to the newly elected governor of Puerto Rico, Mr. Luis Fortuño, promising to address and resolve the issue of Puerto Rico s political status. President Obama told the new governor that his administration has set out an ambitious agenda over the next four years.  Our new president also stated that, It will not be easy to accomplish. But we cannot sit back and wait for someone else, at some other time, to do something about it.  This letter was read aloud during Governor Luis Fortuño s inauguration, on January 2, 2009, and it was received with an ovation.

Not to dampen the high political spirits of the new Puerto Rican administration, but I have heard this kind of promise before from many of Obama s predecessors, and cannot help but to regard it as nothing more than political rhetoric. My opinion notwithstanding, I must pose the following questions: just how ambitious is Obama s plan for Puerto Rico, and why does he feel it will not be easy to accomplish? Some time ago, I wrote an article addressing this very same issue, Article #8  The Question of Puerto Rico s Future: Commonwealth, Statehood or Independence. You might want to read that article before continuing with this one.

There have been three referendums in Puerto Rico, and, to date, the pro-statehood and pro commonwealth proponents are running neck and neck. We can interpret the referendum results as an island divided by two schools of thought with no clear majority in either way. So why is it an ambitious plan? Why will it be difficult to accomplish? By ambitious, does President Obama feel that he must win an uphill battle against a congress opposed to change? Is the uphill battle against the islanders themselves? Is it a difficult goal to accomplish because he must convince the American people that we no longer need a colony in the Caribbean in order to keep watch on Cuba? Just who is pushing this issue forward? Is it the Puerto Rican people or is it America?

It seems to me that our congressional leaders have always had the power to act quickly, though only on matters of high importance, where national security is at stake. Since Puerto Rico s future does not affect our national security, it is, therefore, not an important issue to our congressional leaders. Is this perhaps the reason why it has been dragging on for many years? Is this what President Obama refers to as difficult to accomplish? Obviously, legislature of this kind must be clearly defined and written in language satisfactory to the wishes of President Obama and that of the Puerto Rican people whatever political future a fourth referendum reveals.

At the same time however, it seems clear to me that the results of the three referendums in Puerto Rico have spoken volumes thus far. The people of Puerto Rico are undecided! If Puerto Rico were to have a fourth referendum today, which political future would win? Will it take all four years of President Obamas term to accomplish a definitive future for Puerto Rico? Is President Obama s letter to Governor Luis Fortuño just political rhetoric or is it a valid promise backed up by action? It is my firm opinion that a fourth referendum must result in a clear majority, whatever future that may be. Unless Puerto Ricans clearly decide what future they want, President Barak Obama and his ambitious plan cannot help them. That is my opinion, so what is yours?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments - Article 31

Teresa Jimenez (Seattle, WA) writes,
This website is new to me, but I wanted to state my opinion and say that I am a proud Puerto Rican and proud to have Obama as our President. You sound like you are not pleased with him [Obama], and all he is trying to do, considering that he DIDN'T put us here...remember? It was "BUSH" or how soon do we forget. He [Obama] is not a socialist, and if he wants to stimulate the USA and that thereof, what s wrong with that? We need it and as far as us not seeing it, come on people it took "BUSH" 8 years to get us here...everybody is complaining but has anybody ever heard that the power of LIFE and DEATH are in the TONGUE and has anybody ever heard of PRAYER? Oh wait, I'm sorry, this is probably the complaint hotline. What's going on people? Have we nothing better to do than to speak ill of the living and our leader for that matter. As far as Puerto Rico becoming independent or a state it might happen but this has been a tug-a-war since even when my mom was a kid and she was born a raised in Puerto Rico in '34 died in '07 and it is still an on going matter. let's give Obama longer than 6 months or even 4 years, and also as long as we are spending millions each day on the war, which I might remind you that "BUSH" started let's get into the solution people and stop complaining. 

Thank you for your email Ms. Jimenez. You state in your email that I sound like I am not pleased with Obama. Frankly, I thought I made it absolutely clear that I wasn t pleased at all. To crystallize my opinion, so that all of El Boricua s readers (including you, Teresa) may know, it is with Mr. Obama s politics that I have not found any favor. As I do not know the man on a personal level, I cannot comment in that regard. Now I will comment on your sentiments regarding George Bush. Mr. Bush sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan with the consensus of world government and with the approval of congress. Contrary to what you may think, George Bush was not a tyrant who acted selfishly and made arbitrary decisions. Mr. Bush acted diplomatically while coping with the fact that more than 2000 lives were lost during the 9-11 attacks on US soil. I sincerely hope that you have not forgotten that terrible day. I certainly have not because I was there on William Street and Fulton Street, looking up at two burning towers right before one of them crumbled and covered me with white dust. Mr. Bush s efforts resulted in the apprehension and trial of Saddam Hussein, whose regime harbored and allowed for the training of Al Qaeda terrorist. His efforts also resulted in the removal of the repressive Taliban, who beat women publically and at gun-point forced the population to submit to a medieval form of Islam. Mr. Bush, like many of us Americans, believes in one of the most revered tenets of the United States of America, and that is free enterprise; the right to make profit freely without encumbrances or intrusion of government. Other tenets of our beloved country are individuality and the pursuit of happiness. Mr. Bush did not seek to control banks, insurance companies or medical health plans, as Mr. Obama has clearly done, but instead he left his constituency do what it does best and what is expected in a capitalistic society.

Socialism is government control. Socialism is the government telling you what insurance you should have, what car you should own, how much money you should have. Socialism falls into the abysmal depths of bureaucracy where the machinery grinds to a halt, as with ACORN. Mr. Obama has an agenda and that agenda will bring our beloved nation to the brink of disaster. I am sure that many white liberal Americans felt good about themselves when they voted for Mr. Obama. I m sure they thought they were being noble in voting for the first African-American man as President of the Untied States. They probably felt good that they partook in an historic event. Not once did any of them stop to look into the man s politics or take the time to know his past. They simply voted because it was a noble thing, perhaps . . . even because it was a novel idea. Who knows?
Regarding Puerto Rico s future, I think I have already spoken my mind on numerous articles and email rebuttals.

On a final note, it has been almost one year and I have yet to see any of Mr. Obama s accomplishments. Then again, as you said, there are three more years remaining. I hope there is a country left after those three years.

Mr. Angel Pla writes,

I cannot understand how you can make this claim. The data clearly reflects that the majority of Puerto Ricans in the Island prefer the Commonwealth status we have now, with strong support for statehood. Most Puerto Ricans, at least those who participated in the referendums, do not see independence as a viable solution to the status question. All recent Presidents of the United States claim that the status decision is for Puerto Ricans to decide. Although this is laudable, the reality is that those statements just attempt to buy votes from the Puerto Rican communities in the States, and to a lesser degree in the Island. The bottom line is that the United States is a nation of law and as such, in accordance with Public Law 600 the final solution to the status question for the Island rests in the Congress of the United States of America. 

Thank you for your email Mr. Pla. My opinion remains the same: Puerto Rico is an island divided. Why do I say that? The data results from the three referendums clearly shows a gap of less than 4% between the preponderant choice of Pro-Commonwealth and the up and coming choice of Pro-Statehood. Although you are correct that Commonwealth status remains the popular choice, I think that in time, as newer generations become the dominant force at the polls and at every government level, Pro-Statehood will become the island s choice. Through attrition, the older generations will fade into history and the new generations will take up the mantle for Puerto Rico s future. Though I am hesitant to say that statehood is Puerto Rico s best destiny and most likely their inevitable future, there is strong indication that there isn t much of a choice otherwise. Perhaps you may be right: the final solution does rest in the hands of the United States Congress.

Reader Comments, Article 31

Ruben writes,

I, like you, a conservative, believe that Obama's administration can be a good thing for Puerto Rico since he is a socialist and socialists like to give hand-outs like the island is so use to receiving. Of course, the hand-outs are not free from a socialist administration; they will take something in return. What would they want in return is difficult to pinpoint. I differ from you on the point that I do not have to give Obama a chance to prove me wrong; he already has. The damage this president is doing and will do to this nation will devastate us and more so our beloved island. It is time people wake up and see that Obama is going on the wrong path. Our lives, liberties and the pursuits of happiness hang in the balance. People need to get off the bandwagon and see things for what they are. We need to fire this president and the sooner the better. 

Thank you for your email Ruben. It is sad to read your comments regarding the island being so used to receiving hand-outs. I guess we cannot deny it, right? Maybe they need to get off the hand-out bandwagon and start thinking and living independently, right Ruben? It might be easier to say than to do. As a commonwealth of the United States, the island of Puerto Rico is dependent on the mainland. One more thing, Ruben, in what manner does Obama s socialist  views devastate the Puerto Rican people? I have my own opinion but what is yours? Now, regarding Mr. Obama, I couldn t agree with you more. I have yet to see how this huge stimulus package has resolved our nation s economic woes. Frankly, I don t know where all the money is or where it is going. Well, enough about that. Ruben, in what manner does Obama s socialist  views devastate the Puerto Rican people? I have my own opinion but what is yours?

Obama, A New Page in American History is Written

November 2008 - The first week of November 2008 was arguably one of the most exciting weeks ever in the history of American politics. People came out in record numbers to vote for a little known senator from Illinois as the 44th president of the United States. He came up as a virtually unknown politician and rose to become a prominent political figure within the 21-month period leading up to the elections of November 4, 2008. His name is Barack Obama, and, more importantly, he is the first African-American man voted by the people of the United States to serve as their president.

Most of you know that I am a conservative thinker and writer, and although I do not necessarily agree with President-elect Obama s politics, I am compelled to admire his dogged determination and unyielding drive to become the leader of the free world. I was in New York City the week of the elections. On the day after Barack Obama won, I rode the trains into Manhattan. That day I saw many African-Americans in the trains, streets, stores, restaurants and just about every place I went to, and noted a certain glow in their faces, a certain euphoria, excitement and general feeling of wonderment. As a Puerto Rican-American, I related to those inner feelings and outward glows. One of their own had achieved the highest office in the country, one of their own proved that nothing in life is impossible if you try hard enough, and one of their own had given them hope beyond all measures. Now, the role model image would not end at just becoming a professional athlete. Indeed, now setting a goal to become president of the United States was a real thing for them and not just a pipe dream as it once was.

Barack Obama has not only given hope to African-Americans, but he has also given hope to Hispanics, Asians, Middle-Eastern and all other minorities living in this blessed country of ours. The election of Barack Obama as president has given us a clear signal that America is growing up. The people have decided that race is no longer an issue, and they based their vote upon the character of a person rather than the color of his skin. All I can say is BRAVO America, well done!

In the months ahead, President-elect Obama will face many hardships, failures and successes. One thing is certain, though, that he has proven (at least to me) that he has the mettle to face and to deal with any problem. As a conservative, I paid close attention to his speech on the night of the elections. There was one thing in his speech that captured my attention. He reached out to those who did not agree with his politics and those who did not vote for him, and said let me prove myself to you  (paraphrase). Another thing that captured my attention was his promise to have a bi-partisan staff, and that indicated to me that Obama intends to reach out to Republicans and Independents and include them in the governance of this country.

As a minority, I am proud to see Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States. As a conservative, however, I am still having trouble with President Obamas politics. Nevertheless, I have decided to forego my ideological predispositions for the next year or so and give President Obamathe chance to prove himself, as he requested of me. What is your opinion? What do you think Obama can do for you, for Puerto Rico, for this country and for the world?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments - Article 30

Mr. Guillermo Ruiz writes,
I am a man and child of Puerto Rican born parents. I was raised in the Bronx, New York 59 years ago. It pains me to read your hateful comments of Our President Barrack Obama. Your conservative and more than likely Republican views hinge on total disregard for the truth. I suppose that your political sentiments are in agreement with fixed noise network, notably Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck, and least and let s not forget, Bill O Reilly . Let me tell you that my first visit to the web page was for referencing cooking. But as I explored the web page further. I happen to see your picture and your line of In my opinion . Well, sir, you disappoint me to no great end.

I am a Vietnam veteran. I served my country with honor and distinction. I am not a war monger, I find war to be distasteful, wasteful and it should only be implemented as a last resort. But in regards to your statement about President Obama and your statement that our President is a socialist is totally untrue and unworthy of you as a U.S. citizen; I expected better of you, but as a conservative and republican, I now understand why. I also would like to address your lack of knowledge about the cause and effect of 9/11. Least we or at some of us who's done our home work, that it was not as you stated that Pres. Bush did the right thing. President Bush has been nothing but a failure, in everything he has ever done, not least his Presidency. If you bothered to look up the real facts, you would have found that in regards to 09/11 it was he who was President that this event occurred. And to put a finer point to it, the US was warned months before, that Osama Bin Ladin poised to fly planes into US building.

Now, as a history buff and accredited college student with 2 degrees, I know how to do my research. Apparently you do not sir!!! But then again Republicans and conservatives enjoy making things up, thus avoiding doing any heavy lifting, like say doing real research. One last thing, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. It was our so called friends, Saudia Arabia, who where the majority hijackers who commandeered the planes that flew planes into the twin towers. For your information, I was a student at BMCC, just a few blocks from the twin towers when they were flown into. I was scheduled to attend classes that day but was prevented from attending classes because of this tragedy.

Mr. Ramos, please do your homework before you make stupid and incorrect statements. And as a voice for the people do us Puerto Ricans and the rest of us Americans etal a favor and stop dissing our President. One very last thin: It is people like you who have hindered the history of Puerto Rico, when it comes to the Island's future. Please stop. I dare you to print my letter in total. 

Thank you, Mr. Ruiz, for your email. You state that my conservative and more than likely views hinge on total disregard for the truth. Fact: unemployment rate is over 10%. Fact: The Health Care Reform is in shambles; two thousand pages of double-talk and pork barrel politics. Fact: Back room political deals, bribes and other promises were made to fellow democrats to get them to play ball on the Health Care issue. Fact: Democrats have taken a step back in light of the fact that the Health Care Reform package is meeting heavy resistance with their own constituency. Fact: 30,000 additional troops were sent to Afghanistan while our President stood in Norway accepting a Nobel Peace Prize. Fact: Obama and his staff have shut out the Fox News Network and other conservative media outlets because of their opposing views. Fact: The staunch and very liberal state of Massachusetts has voted for a Republican as governor of their state; a position held by a Democrat for the past 47 years. Fact: The current government, by virtue of the bailouts, wants to seize control of the banks and other corporations, thus stifling the heart of the of the United States  economy which is based on FREE ENTERPRISE! You see, Mr. Ruiz, these are not lies, but truths  truths that every left-wing and every liberal chooses to deny. Now if ownership of these corporations by our government does not constitute the very meaning of socialism, then I do not know what does.

Regarding your statement on my lack of knowledge about the cause and effect of 9/11, I doubt very much that you do too. I think there were many factors both overt and covert that contributed to the 9/11 attacks, facts that we will never be privy to because of national security. To say or infer that you truly know the cause and effect of 9/11 is not only preposterous, but also implies that you had first-hand knowledge of the events unfolding prior to the 9/11 attacks. Even as a Vietnam War veteran, I doubt very much that you had such insight. Regarding your statement about my saying Iraq had something to do with 9/11, I must urge you to please get your story right! Please go back to my comments and see that I said the following: Mr. Bush s efforts resulted in the apprehension and trial of Saddam Hussein, whose regime harbored and allowed for the training of Al Qaeda terrorist.  I said harbored and allowed  the training of Al Qaeda terrorists. Please, Mr. Ruiz, don t put lies into my mouth. If you are going to quote or paraphrase me, please get it right!

You stated that it is people like me who have hindered the history of Puerto Rico, when it comes to the Island s future and to stop. What the heck does that mean? I have no idea how I can hinder the history of Puerto Rico when it has already occurred. How does hindering Puerto Rico s history affect its future? Please, Mr. Ruiz, make some sense when you write. Also, by telling me to please stop , are you telling me to stop writing on my very own webpage on El Boricua? You further told me to stop dissing  the president. Mr. Ruiz, I have tell you that I will NOT stop writing on El Boricua. I will NOT stop writing about our President, and I will NOT stop writing my opinions simply because you disagree with them. As a fellow American and citizen of our beloved country, I invite you to please go to the United States Constitution and read the First Amendment, specifically our right to free speech. By telling me to stop writing my opinions on El Boricua you sound more like a Democrat s interpretation of a right-wing conservative. The way I see it, you can do one of two things: write to me and tell me your opinion, to which I will be more than happy to reply. Or, you can skip my page altogether. Since you do not like my opposing views, like Mr. Obama, I think you will choose to shut me out like Mr. Obama did the Fox News Network.

On a final note, opinions are not right or wrong, but simply what people think. I have never refused to publish someone s opinion simply because I disagree with them; it doesn t work that way, and I would not be true to myself if I did that. I have published your comments in full and though I do not wholly agree with all of your opinions, I respect them because they are yours. Also, I have answered your email respectfully and without personal epithets or sophomoric appellations. On the other hand, you have insulted me and wrote mendacious characterizations of me. You must have some kind of impression of me, and that s really too bad . . . on your part, that is.

Frances Wooden writes,

I am not Puerto Rican but I someday hope to live in that country. I am glad that there are people who really see what is going on in the White House. I am scared for this country. It was said a long time ago that America would not be destroyed by a foreign army but from within. I think that time has come.

P.S. I love Puerto Rican cooking and saw your post on EL BORICUA. 

Thank you for your email, Ms. Wooden. I think people should open their eyes, truly I do. Barak Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize! FOR WHAT? What has he done in the past six months to earn a Nobel Peace Prize? Obama has given many eloquent speeches about the need for people to do this and to do that, and about how governments of the world need to do this and do that. Motivational speeches are good thing, but they can only go so far. Anybody with good speaking skills and a decent appearance can accomplish the same thing. I was always under the impression that to receive a prize, such as the Nobel, one had to accomplish something special, achieve extraordinary results in the face of adversity or come up with a solution to better the world. Has Obama accomplished any peace at all? Conflicts in the Middle East, between Israel and the Palestinians are still present and show no signs of abating. And what about the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, how can Obama reconcile winning the Nobel Peace Prize with the fact that he may have to send additional troops there? His foreign policies notwithstanding, let us focus on his domestic policies. So far, the unemployment rate is in double digits, and the money for the stimulus package has somehow disappeared. Where did the money go? Here s another thing: why did the President think it was a good idea to have beer in the White House? Was it so that he could smooth over the ruffled feathers of his dear, personal friend an issue that could easily have been handled on a local level? Why are the President and his White House staff constantly attacking Fox News and other conservative speakers? Is it because they want to deflect the negativisms of the presidency by attacking those who expose them? Why did the president feel the need for talking to the nation s children? Was it because he wanted to indoctrinate them in his liberal, leftist ideologies? The health care reform is a debacle, and should congress vote in favor of it, it will cost us dearly. The price tag so far is set at around $871 billion, but some say it will probably cost about $1 trillion! Let me write this figure so that we can all see it with zeros: $1,000,000,000.00 (nine zeros). Payment for this health care system will span over the next ten years roughly $10 billion a year. It hurts me to say that America s torch as a world leader, as the bastion of true democracy, is slowly fading into oblivion.

Ms. Jennifer Perez writes,
I have to say that I'm glad that Obama became president for many reasons, our country has been headed in the wrong direction for the last 8 yrs. The past president and his administration ran this country into the ground, [and] with this war, tons of people of my generation [are] dying or [returning] home with life altering injuries, etc. [The prior administration had] policies that didn't work, and now our country is in serious trouble; people are suffering the recession and a very big economic crisis. The people spoke and put [Barak Obama in] office people were tired of the same and wanted a change. I notice the sarcasm in many people who don't believe in or agree with his "politics". What would you rather have more of the same garbage of the last 8 yrs? It can't get any worse. I saw and felt the promise and euphoric attitude [on] people the day of the election in the minority community and across the board. For the minority community, it shows that we can do anything if we put our minds to it; even become president [of the United States]. I will always remember [the day] he was elected because my son was born on the same day. I think he has a very challenging job ahead of him as president, he has to fix and correct the past administration's issues, try and fix our economy, deal with the war and foreign policies but I wish him the best as president, I believe he is a person who has genuine desire to change things despite what others think. While President Obamahas the best goals at heart to address all of the issues at hand, no president does a perfect job. He provided a small glimmer of hope to the people and we should try to think positive and hope for the best that he does make a positive change for this country. 

Thank you for your email Ms. Perez. I don t know how to respond to your comments without trivializin President Obama s goals or your confidence in him. I do not think that George Bush ran the country to the ground. That honor belongs to a select group of individuals in Wall Street who planted seeds that would later blossom into our current economic disaster. They nurtured those evil seeds with greed, avarice and a never-ending lust for self-indulgence. Now, after all those prodigious bonuses were paid and stock options exercised, we, the taxpayers, are left holding the proverbial bag. You said that you notice sarcasm in many people who do not believe in or agree with Obama s politics. Well, perhaps it is not so much sarcasm, but cynicism; a deep reluctance to accept what many of us feel is nothing more than political rhetoric. You further state that it cannot get any worse, but that is not true. In fact, it can get a lot worse as evidenced by the plummeting stock market prices these past few weeks. Yes, President Obama is our first African-American president, and perhaps he has a genuine desire to change things. I further agree with you that no president does a perfect job. I think that George Bush had those same desires and I believe his administration did not do a perfect job, either President Obama has given hope to the people, and that hope was the impetus behind his election to the United States presidency. Now we need something more than hope, something tangible, action with results. The honeymoon is over and now Obama has to fulfill those promises he made during the election campaign.

Ms. Lourdes Richardson writes,
Of course, I do not believe in all of Obama's idealisms but on the whole, he seems to be genuine in his intent and character. We must not forget that the reason that Obama is President is because the people of the United States spoke and resoundingly said, "Enough is enough of business as usual". He was voted in not only [by] blacks, but [also by] people of all nationalities, religious persuasions, and political parties. The job of everyone who voted Obama into office is far from over. Now is not the time to sit back and "see what happens" so to speak. We must still proudly support our President in anyway we can, whether by volunteering, taking better care of our communities, making sure our children pursue an education, etc. This Presidency just goes to show that African American families are showing their children that there are other goals to be reached, other than being an athlete. This is a new era for great and wonderful achievements and most of all positive thinking. Remember, this is not just good for the United States but for the rest of the world. Other countries wrestle with many of the issues we do. I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and then raised in New York since the age of six months. As a Puerto Rican woman of black skin, I never believed that I would see within my lifetime a Black American President. I have three teenage sons and this is undoubtedly a wonderful time and experience in their lives. 

Thank you for your sincere email Ms. Richardson. I agree with your statement that President-elect Obama appears to be a genuine and sincere person with true and honorable intentions. I also agree with you in the fact that the American people spoke resoundingly. I understand your feelings and I truly can relate to your enthusiasm. There is one thing you said that I found interesting. You said, Now is not the time to sit back and see what happens  , which was a rebuttal to my article. You further said that we must support our president in any way we can, and you gave examples of how we should support him. While I understand your call to arms, as it were, why is it that we could not do the same for President Bush? Why is there a call now to rally round the new king and support him? Why wasn t there a similar call for Bush? Is it because you do not want to see Barak Obama fail? Is it because if he fails, he not only fails for himself but also for all minorities? In my article, I mentioned the fact that President Obamapromised to include Republicans in his cabinet. To date, I have not seen any choices in that regard. He further promised change, but many of his chosen cabinet members were from Bill Clinton s old regime. He further said that he would increase taxes on people earning over $250,000. This week, he decided not to increase the taxes for those individuals but to leave things as is until 2010, when the law concerning such taxes expires. Will he increase their taxes then? We shall see. Obama then chose Hilary Clinton to serve as our nation s Secretary of State, something he did not necessarily have to do. I tried to reason his choice but could only conclude that President Obamaincurred an enormous debt to the Clintons while on his tremendous campaign for the presidency. Honestly, I think that the only one benefitting from Obama s choice will be Hilary Clinton herself. It will keep her in the media spotlight for the next four years and bolster her already prodigious credentials in foreign policy. I will give Obama credit though, for acting quickly in putting together a decent economic coalition. Will Obama bring change as he promised? I hope so. Can he keep Hilary Clinton quiet for the next four years? I think so, at least for a while maybe. But, then again, Hilary is Hilary, and one day she just might open her mouth at the wrong time and say the wrong thing. Can Obama s economic team turn things around in Wall Street? Gosh, I sure hope so! To be honest, I have refused to open my 401K statements when they arrive; I just don t want to see how many thousands I have lost! If Mr. Timothy Geitner, Obama s choice for Treasury Secretary and leader of his economic team, is as good as people say he is, then perhaps there may be a light at the end of this strange tunnel in which we currently find ourselves.

Ms. Liesla Lugo writes,

I have never been much into politics. Ever since I was a child, I remember seeing the caravans of election floats and the political arguments that took place between opposing parties on the streets of Puerto Rico. Those scenes left an indelible impression on me that I still cannot support. Well, as a very conservative person, I would have welcomed Senator McCain as president of the United States. Since that did not happen, I have no choice but to accept Obama and see what he does in the next four years. Obama is the elected president but he is not my president. In my opinion, I think Obama became president because it was God s will. A leaf in a tree does not move unless it is God s will. Obama reminds me of a movie I saw recently. The movie is entitled: Left Behind , and shows the government humbly promising it will fix the economy, etc. In the end, the Anti-Christ revealed himself. I do not mean to say that Obama is the Anti-Christ, but all the promises he made seems a little unrealistic. In this case, I must say that the majority of people voted because of Obama s race, to make history and not because of ideals. I think people voted for Obama without really knowing his politics. Many African-American people, who have never voted before did so this year. I hope that Obama can fulfill all of the promises he made during his presidential campaign and not just become president in order to make history. 

Thank for your email Leisla. I agree with your comments regarding politics; it is a nasty business. Perhaps the majority of the people indeed voted for Barak Obama because of his race. Perhaps it was the novelty of such an historic campaign or the freshness of his appearance or even the charismatic charm of his persona that swayed the pendulum towards the left. On the other hand, it is fair to say that eight years of President Bush and his politics might have been a consideration, too. In the wake of the elections, I have often asked myself, how many republicans voted for Barak Obama? How many conservatives, during the course of eight years, grew dissatisfied with their own party line politics? I believe that Bush did what he had to do, but I also believe that President Bush might have made decisions based on less than accurate information. Should we have sent troops to Iraq? Should we have sent troops to Afghanistan? Was Saddam Hussein developing weapons of mass destruction ? I think after September 11, the people needed to know that the American government was going to do something about the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. President Bush was compelled into acting swiftly and harshly against terrorism. We knew that Afghanistan and Pakistan were havens for terrorist camps, and we knew that Osama Bin Laden went into hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan. Yes, President Bush was right in sending troops to Afghanistan, and we should not withdraw our troops until we have Osama Bin Laden firmly in our hands. I also think that Saddam Hussein was deep into creating chemical warfare and other weapons of mass destruction. You may recall years ago, that Iraq had been purchasing nuclear materials from France and Germany with the intention of creating a bomb. The nation of Israel, learning of Iraq s intent, dispatched the Air Force to destroy Iraq s nuclear facility. Iraq has always been a radical nation with extremist Muslims who d like nothing better than to destroy Israel and her allies. In the many months prior to our sending troops to Iraq, there were many debates in the United Nations and many threats and warnings by the United States. I strongly believe that the incredible length of time it took for the United Nations to approve the invasion of Iraq gave Hussein enough time to clear away all the chemicals, and make Bush a laughing stock. Could these horrible events have shifted the minds of middle of the road  conservatives? I think so. At the same time, I also ask myself, how will Barak Obama react to a new terrorist attack on the United States? Will he act quickly and go after those responsible or will he use diplomacy as he has stated so many times? It seems to me that diplomacy simply does not work with terrorists. Muslim terrorists have only one goal and that is to annihilate the nation of Israel, destroy the United States of America, and eviscerate our way of life.


High Blood Pressure Among Puerto Rican-Americans

August 2008 - On February 24, 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) published an article in their week report about high blood pressure among Hispanic Americans. The most alarming part of the article was the fact that Puerto Rican Americans were at the top of the list. The CDC based their analysis, which took place between the years 1995 and 2002, upon underlying cause of death obtained from death certificates. High blood pressure, if left untreated, can result in a stroke or a heart attack.

According to the CDC, in 2002 the average hypertension-related mortality ( HRM ) rate among Hispanics was 127.2 per every 100,000. The CDC further stated that the age-standardized HRM rate for Hispanic women was 118.3, which was significantly lower than that of Hispanic men at 135.9. The most compelling fact of the CDC s report was that Puerto Rican-American men ranked number one at an HRM rate of 154.0 per 100,000 deaths. This translates to 18.1 more hypertension-related mortalities than the national average for Hispanic males.

So why do Puerto Rican-Americans have the highest number of hypertension-related deaths? Is it the result of our diet? Let s face the truth here, no self-respecting Puerto Rican man can deny his predilection for cuchifritos, pernil, pollo frito, morsillas, and other oil-based Puerto Rican delicacies. We cannot deny either that our food contains a high caloric and cholesterol count. From the time that we are able to walk, we indulge ourselves in this diet and never change it because we simply love it. Could this be the reason why high blood pressure is so prevalent among Puerto Rican males?

Can hypertension-related deaths be the result of mental conditioning? Puerto Rican men from an early age learn that they are the sole providers and caretakers of their families. A Puerto Rican man assumes this leadership role with all of his heart and soul, and he will work hard to provide for his family. Could this financial and familial burden be responsible for the high HRM rate among Puerto Rican males?

Is the high HRM rate inherent in our genetic composition? If it is a question of genes, is there a remedy out there? Can our scientists isolate that gene and remove it before our children are born?

In my opinion, it all boils down to what we put into our bodies. It is all about the food. Our food is full of salt, oil, fat and other ingredients that, although makes our food taste so good, they are actually killing us. I would like to make a special request of El Boricua s readers: If you are a doctor, or a geneticist, or a physiologist, can you please tell us why our HRM rate is so high? Can we change our diet and stay away from our cultural food? Can we re-condition our ways of thinking? Can we destroy that high blood pressure gene (if there is one)? I would also like to hear from our regular readers. What is your opinion?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments - Article 29

Ms. Jennifer Perez writes, "I think that high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes are things that the Puerto Rican community suffers is due to diet and lifestyle. A lot of Puerto Rican foods like chicarrones, tostones, alcapurrias, while very good, are fried and have tons of cholesterol; same for pastelillos, sorrullos, etc. Rice, potatoes, and heavy drinking are [other] things that affect our community people, [and they] don't realize that alcohol has a lot of lasting effects. The social effects when people don't know to act, drunk driving, [may] seem like a party [but it] is not a party with beer or any other type of alcohol, and it can also cause you have liver damage leading to cirrhosis and eventually death. Change doesn't come easy but it seems like too many people make that change when it's already too late. Portion control is another issue. Sometimes the amount of food served is too much and on top of that fried, heavily salted and seasoned. Many in the Hispanic community are also reluctant to go to the doctor and take medicines and follow the doctor's orders. You can eat things, like the foods I've mentioned. once in a while but not all the time. I drink a lot more water now than soda or sweet drinks, we no longer fry our meats any more [but instead] we grill and bake our pork chops, chicken, and have cut back on the portions. There is no reason why you should have enough rice for two people on your plate with matching amount of beans and a piece of meat to top it off. I think that while this is all a part of culture and social experiences it has to come from within to want to make a change in diet and lifestyle. Just because things are culturally acceptable doesn't necessarily mean that they are the right choices. We want to be healthy and be around to see our child grow up and we also want him to be healthy too, which is why we made the changes in our diets and go to the doctor regularly."

Thank you for your email Ms. Perez. I think you've indentified all of the underlying factors contributing to the significant rates of high blood pressure among Puerto Ricans. I also think you've identified the solution to the problem. It is not only a change of diet, but also a change in mental approach and outlook. Simply put: if you want to live a healthier life, change your diet, but also think in healthier terms. There is only one thing you did not mention, and that is a good regimen of physical activity. It doesn't have to be daily attendance at a local gym or running for five miles a day. It could simply be a walk around the block, using stairs instead of escalators or elevators, or even bike-riding. There are many ways to improve your health but the only way to do this is to set your mind to the task. Once your mind is set, the body will follow.

Ben writes,

I read your article about the heart problems of people from Puerto Rico, and I wonder if it isn't the food that causes this. Puerto Rican food has a lot of meat and a lot of the food is fried. There are even fried pork-chunks, which cannot be that healthy. On the other hand, on the nearby island of Jamaica, people eat a lot of vegetarian food and not as much meat or fried foods. I think that this is because there is a strong cultural influence from the Indians (from India) and I think that is why their food is healthier. I have been on a vegetarian diet for a while to lose weight and to get back in shape and in a few months I lost over 25 lbs. and feel a lot better than I did. I did this because I was going on a vacation to Jamaica and when I went there, I tried many of their vegetarian dishes. When I came back to the States, I started to buy Indian food because there are no Jamaican restaurants nearby. In any case, I will say that Puerto Rican food is delicious but so is Jamaican food. But I think that Jamaican and Indian food are more healthy. What do you think? 

Thank you for your email, Ben. Indian food? I used to work for an Indian man, and he took me out several times to Indian restaurants. I am not a fan of Indian food, but many of my friends and family love this pungent cuisine. What can I say? I love my fried pork-chunks , my pernil asado, my mofongo guilty as charged! I do work out though. I started going to the gym about a year ago, when I was weighing a decent 210 pounds. I changed my diet by eliminating candy and in-between meals (munchies). I now weigh 184 pounds, feel a lot better and go to the gym religiously. I substituted candy with fruits, and when I feel the urge for munchies, I reach for a granola bar. I don t know if I can become a vegan, as you have, for I love meat way too much, but I commend those have tried and succeeded in this endeavor. As far as Jamaican food, I love their beef jerky!

Ms. XIR writes,
I like your column, congratulations. I think that high blood pressure among Puerto Ricans is created by the junction of several facts: High-paced lifestyle in Puerto Rico, Diet and Genes. High-pace lifestyle PR vs. Middle-of-nowhere, SC

My husband and I got married in PR and the next day we moved to SC. Here, in Greer, SC, there are not many people. We live in a nice rural area, with no traffic and almost no crimes. It is a very relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. My husband and I both grew up in Mayaguez, and as you know, Mayaguez has bad traffic and too many people everywhere. El Colegio s overcrowded population, combined with the lack of parking, finally got to my husband. Since moving to SC, my husband s blood pressure is much more under control, he sleeps better, and because I cook healthy, he is eating better too. He has only a five minute drive to work, where he always has parking and the people are nice and love to listen to him talk about PR and drink good coffee that he brings them.

Both our parents were always asking and meddling and commenting and comparing and criticizing, like many other PR families do. We love them, but they need to respect the line between caring and being nosey. My family is very much like that, his not so much. He would get so much stress when he noticed how I was so easily manipulated by my mother s demands. They always come to visit and we love it when they are here. But now that we live far away, it is easy to ignore the criticizing and the commenting.

Genes and Diet - We like living in South Carolina, but thinking about health we decided to change our Puerto Rican-based eating habits to a healthier choice. Even with a better diet, his blood pressure is on the high side, but better than when we were living in PR. This is his story. When he turned 21 he started having unusual symptoms, like numbness in his fingers. Since his father, grandfather and older brother had high blood pressure, the doctor checked and it turns out his was high too, consistently. He is prone to very dangerous peaks when he gets angry (typical PR-male). Since he is only 21, the doctor checked his blood fats (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc). Although his cholesterol was fine, both LDL and HDL, his triglycerides were SKY-HIGH, making the doctor nervous about his well-being. His score was 900 out of a 120-80 range! Well, his father, and brother had the exact same thing when they turned 21. The doctor looked into my husband s genetic composition and detected a certain gene that causes extreme triglycerides levels. This is a predominant gene found in Spanish descendants; his family name is Cruz. So, the triglycerides and high blood pressure is now being maintained with a pill and no alcohol. It is important for us PR s to understand all these factors and how easily they affect us. A bad diet is not the only culprit. Living a high-paced life-style is also a culprit. Certain genes make us fat, give us diabetes, high blood pressure and all sorts of things, but this does not mean that we should give up the battle against these illnesses. We can change things with knowledge. I know diabetes are everywhere in my blood line, therefore, I stay away from sweets and carbohydrates, and I will teach my children to do the same. My husband knows how hereditary genes and a high-paced lifestyle affects him, so we always schedule time for a nice relaxing hike or beach outing, and live in an laid-back area. I just wanted to share this information with you. 

Thank your for your email XIR. I guess family matters can also contribute to stress, leading to high-blood pressure incidents. In your husband s case, the hereditary gene that causes high triglycerides is present in his system, which further contributes to high blood pressure episodes. However, both of you have taken the right steps by moving to a more serene environment and by making healthy choices in both diet and exercise. I hope that when my readers look at your comments and take note of the changes you made to improve your living conditions, they will learn and do the same.

Elizabeth Barbieri writes,

¡Gracias por escribir este comentario en la hipertensión y la salud de los Latinos, en particular, Puertorriqueños.! Wow. Great issue and topic.

The irony is I was on to find a recipe for bizcocho/tarta for a family get together! Now I am convicted, perhaps I will serve some fresh fruits along with la tarta! I am not a physician or epidemiologist; I am a nurse that is completing my graduate work for a Masters in Public Health with a focus on Hispanic health and health disparity. I do not claim to be an expert by any means, and I am passionate about the state of health particularly amongst Latinos. Soy Española and my husband es Boricua and thanks to God, he is in good health with a normal blood pressure but he has a very strong family history of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease in [his] male lineage.

We love our empanadas, arroz hecho con tocino, jamón Serrano, bocadillos, arroz con dulce &¡caray! I have to stop! I am getting hungry! However, [we eat these] foods on occasion and we prepare our traditional foods in a healthier manner and we are both very active and make exercise a priority. We are also very fortunate to have access to health care by way of insurance and our plans allow us to be proactive in preventative health care.

After doing some literature reviews from some peer-reviewed Journals from American Heart, American Journal of Hypertension, Annals of Epidemiology, etc., there are many theories as to why this is. The Puerto Rico Heart Health Program (PRHHP) examined by way of a longitudinal study, if there was an association between skin color and all-cause heart disease (not just hypertension) and their results suggested that skin color [might] be capturing environmental dynamics that may influence risk among Puerto Rican men, but nothing definitive. African American males have a higher rate of hypertension and Puerto Ricans do have African influence. Another observation by PRHHP &going back to the 1960 s wanted to test the hypothesis that low calcium intake is related to increased blood pressure, again, inconclusive. Another abstract looked at these differences and again, unclear whether the differences can be explained by traditional risk factors. My personal opinion as to why the disparity is based upon something I read published by the Consortium for Southeast Hypertension Control Although the health care system in Puerto Rico continues to improve, changes in diet, increased social stress, and the high prevalence of diabetes mellitus and obesity may add to the increased rates. 

We all need to be accountable for our health. God gives us only one body while we are here on earth. We need to care for it. No reason to stay away from traditional foods, many of the traditional foods and food grown on the island are healthy, it is just the way in which they are prepared... not everything has to be fried (try telling that to my husband s grandmother and aunts or mine for that matter!) I do feel that preventative and control measures must be taken by public health officials in Puerto Rico to bring awareness and incentives to the population. Stress is unavoidable in life, yet we need to learn to manage it and for some, it is a more of a struggle especially if one does not have access to health care. Also, it is important that educational materials are culturally relevant and sensitive. Educational materials one receives in the doctor s office in the US may not be relevant to patients in Puerto Rico. Sorry my response is so long! This is an issue close to my heart and once I finish my degree, I hope to address and make a difference! 

Thank you for your email Ms. Barbieri. High blood pressure is attributable to skin color. Hmmm, let me think about that one. Yes, that s about as abstract as any medical report can possibly be. Did you read about that conclusion in the Nazi Journal of Medicine? Elizabeth, just like you, I cannot lend any credence to the idea that some doctor out there has linked high blood pressure to the color of a person s skin. I also agree that our diet, which begins from an early age, is chock full of fat, sugar and salt. Lastly, I agree that we must take every measure to reduce our daily intake of fatty foods and sweets, and limit our use of salt in our cooking. I must confess, however, I do like a fair amount of salt on my fries something which I have been curtailing as of late (work in progress). I love my sweets, and I truly love my chuletas fritas, pernil, pollo frito, and just about every other sinful dish in the Puerto Rican cuisine. Elizabeth, I would like a favor of you. Can you please write back to us and give us website addresses or publications where we can see what a good and healthy diet should be? Also, can you provide website addresses, publications or even your own suggestion as to the best forms of cardiovascular exercise? What measures can we take to prevent stress? Is there a remedy for stress, or is stress a mental phenomenon that we should conquer psychologically?


La Perla

July 2008 - Hello again, my dear readers! It has been a while since my last article, and you are probably wondering why I have not written in such a long time. Since relocating to Florida from New York City, I have been working from home while at the same time acclimating to a new climate. Aside from that, I have been busy working on several projects, both around the house and personal. This has left little time to do much of anything else. However, I do want to keep writing, and now that I have a small window of opportunity, I would like to share something with all of you.

To alleviate the stresses of work, as well as the ho hum of our day-to-day routine, my wife suggested we take a long, overdue vacation. I agreed and asked her if she could make all the arrangements. I did not care about where we were going so long as there was the promise that we would get away from it all. To my surprise and delight, my wife booked us on a seven-day cruise that took us from Miami to Puerto Rico, to St. Maarten and finally to Haiti. Well, if you have not treated yourself to a cruise, then you are missing something truly wonderful in life. I think everyone should go on a cruise at least once in a lifetime; it is the ultimate indulgence. There is just one thing you have to forget when you go on a cruise. You must forget your diet, because you will eat, eat and then eat some more! There are many things to do on a cruise, from dancing, to gambling, to ice-skating, to watching variety and comedy shows in the ship s theatre. You could also do nothing, and just lounge by the pool and sip the drink of the day, whether a Mango Tango or simply a beer. There are many restaurants in the ship and numerous barbecue grills along the decks. By twelve o clock, the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs is so overpowering, it is difficult to ignore it, so you must believe me when I say that you will eat, and you will eat a lot! I am not even going to tell you about the midnight buffet.

On the ship we were on, Royal Caribbean s Liberty of Seas, there was a grand promenade that resembled a shopping mall, complete with a coffee shop, men s and women s apparel store, jewelry store, other restaurants, a liquor store and even a Ben & Jerry s ice cream shop. It felt like we were on a floating city where the crew catered to all our needs with the utmost joy and care. There was always something to do, and we never got bored. Did I mention that there is plenty of eating? In case I forget, I need to tell you something else. If you decide to go on a cruise, make sure you bring that old outfit in your closet, the one way in the back. You know the one I m talking about, right? The one that s a couple of sizes too big. You will need it after the cruise because you are going to EAT!!!

Our first port of call was San Juan, Puerto Rico, and I could hardly wait to disembark once we arrived there. It did not take very long to moor the ship and clear customs, but to me it seemed like hours. We anxiously walked the long pier and finally crossed the gates into Old San Juan. The second I set foot on Puerto Rican soil, after more than fifteen years, it felt like I was home again. As my wife and I began to walk the streets, I felt a strong sense of pride and love for my ancestral land that swept through the deepest part of my soul.

The first place we went to see was the fort of San Cristobal, where we saw how the Spanish garrison soldiers lived, dressed and ate. Then we walked from the San Cristobal fort to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or better known to us as El Morro. I must confess that every time I go visit El Morro, it never ceases to surprise me. It is a remarkable construction of concrete and limestone and truly an awe-inspiring sight. Standing over the ramparts, one cannot help but to imagine how it must have looked at the height of its glory. Toward the northernmost bastion, where the fort juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, it is easy to stand there and imagine how pirates must have felt at first sight of twelve and eighteen pound cannons bearing down on them from the top of such an imposing and strategically placed fortress.

Our sense of awe and pride would have remained high had it not been for something else we saw that day. On the way to El Morro from San Cristobal, we passed through a neighborhood called La Perla. La Perla is located practically on the shores of San Juan, between the San Cristobal and El Morro fortresses. The thoroughfare between the forts rises above La Perla on a ridge that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. La Perla is a cluster of tightly packed, low-income houses that have been in existence for more than a century. At El Morro fortress, we took some time to talk to the Park Ranger there and he told us that La Perla was a crime-infested neighborhood, dominated by drugs and violence.

Standing on the ridge overlooking La Perla, we saw a narrow street that gradually descended into the seemingly benign neighborhood. On occasion, the strain of a narrow street was clearly visible when one driver tried to exit while another tried to enter using the same road. While the drivers decided who had the right of way, our attention focused on La Perla s entrance, where a drug transaction was taking place right before our eyes. It happened so fast, that if we had blinked, we would not have seen it. But we saw it, and we were disturbed by it.

It is sad to look upon the slums of La Perla and witness a drug transaction while on your vacation. It is even sadder still to see American and international tourists witnessing the same thing. Even though we are not residents of the island, we could not help but to feel somewhat embarrassed for Puerto Rico. The San Cristobal and El Morro fortresses are main attractions for Puerto Rico s tourism, and millions of people around the world come to San Juan every year to visit these grand monuments. The United Nations has recognized the historical importance of El Morro and bestowed upon it the honor of a World Heritage Site. Despite the global recognition and accolades associated with it, La Perla, nestled between the two fortresses, stands out much like a cold sore does on a person s lip, and mars the beauty, historic value and prideful memories of the two ancient monuments.

We lifted our spirits later that day when we took a stroll on the streets of Old San Juan, where we purchased a few souvenirs and ate at an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant. The shopping district is currently undergoing much needed renovations. New sidewalks are now visible, as well as freshly paved streets. We took in as much of San Juan s sights as we could possibly take but in the end, we only had one day, and we needed to get back to our boat. Overall, we were happy to see San Juan again, and thrilled to reacquaint ourselves with our culture and heritage.

Standing on the deck of the ship as it slowly sailed away from San Juan harbor, I could not erase the memories of La Perla. I kept asking myself, what could the Puerto Rican government do with La Perla? How do the administrators of the Puerto Rican government feel about La Perla? Do they think that tourists simply ignore it as they walk between the two attractions? La Perla lies along a piece of prime real estate, with a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean. La Perla s conversion could take the form of a hotel district, condominiums, casinos, or even an exclusive beach. But what would the government do with the people of La Perla if it decides to renovate the area? Relocation of La Perla s citizens would most likely be the answer; governments do it all the time. Have any of you seen La Perla? What is your opinion?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments - Article 28 (La Pela)

Ms. Raquel De Jesus writes,
I often visit for recipes but on this blah Sunday afternoon I decided to read a few articles and I'm so glad that I did. I took a trip to P.R. this past August with my boyfriend, who is not Puerto Rican, and we stayed in San Juan. I go to the island every 2 years or so and stay with my family (my father is from Arroyo) but since I was going with my boyfriend whom they hadn't met yet and it was only for a few days, I decided to stay in the city. He was eager to see the beauty of the island and I was happy to show it off to him. We took a long stroll from our hotel along the shore, past the forts and came upon La Perla. He asked about the area and I told him what I knew about it; it was poor and my family on the island warned that it was pretty bad. He was struck by the separation of the neighborhood from the rest of San Juan, by the wall and the long dirt road and stairs leading down to it. The separation saddened me as well. Here is this beautiful city and this little slum is sandwiched in between these historical monuments. The city deserves more than the reputation La Perla has and the people of La Perla deserve more than being separated and basically cast off. As we were snapping pictures we did separate a little and when I looked over at him, he was being approached by a drug dealer. I could not believe it, after all the times I have visited the area in my life, I never once experienced that, it struck me how bad things actually were. In the 5 or so minutes that we were looking over down onto the long road we witnessed at least 4 drug deals, both to tourists and islanders. At one point the police walked right by us and did nothing, I could not believe it! I'm not sure what the solution is, but unlike Mr. Webb I do not think that things should stay the same. P.R. has much more to offer and is not just a "poverty-stricken corrupt nation with a terrible drug trade". It has its problems, as does every other major city and country with large amounts of tourists. I'm from Boston and I can name quite a few places in the city that tourists should stay away from. I go to P.R. for the beauty, the culture, and when I visit my family there is a sense of family and community that I feel has been lost in the business of day-to-day life here in the States. It is nice to connect to these things once again, even if it is only for a short visit and I don't think that you have to be Puerto Rican to appreciate these things. 

Thank you for your email Raquel. I sensed the alacrity with which you undertook your journey to show off Puerto Rico s beauty to your boyfriend. Yet, at the same time, I sensed your disappointment and embarrassment when you both came upon La Perla. I, too, disagree with Mr. Webb s suggestion that the Puerto Rican government do nothing for La Perla. However, I agree with your assessment that San Juan is marred by La Perla s reputation and that the inhabitants need more than the separation it now faces. But I wonder: why does the Puerto Rican government refuse to do anything about La Perla? We have to consider a few things before we start judging the politicians. First of all, according to Wikepedia, La Perla has been in existence since the late 1800 s, and it is located outside the northern historic wall of Old San Juan, on grounds where a slaughterhouse once stood. The laws in the 1800 s required that slaughterhouses and cemeteries both be established away from the city center. Eventually, farmers and workers began living around the slaughterhouse and soon built homes there. Over the past 100 years, many generations have lived and died in La Perla, and to demand their exodus from a place they have known all their lives is not a simple thing to do. The second thing we have to consider is the power of the drug lords and their minions. As many readers have stated, the police do not dare venture into La Perla for fear of losing their lives or even those of their families. Another thing we have to consider is the fact that not all of the inhabitants are associated with drugs and violence. I have to concede the notion that there are many hard-working and decent people living there. Finally, we have to consider the repercussions the politicians would face if anyone of them dared to write legislation that would displace these honest and decent people from a place they have known all their lives. I would imagine their reputations and chances of re-election would hang in the balance should the media learn about such legislature. In my earlier responses I have offered several solutions for La Perla. Here is another solution: rather than relocating the residents of La Perla and building tourist attractions, perhaps the government could start demolishing the ancient dwellings there and build new homes. I don t mean cheap housing projects or pre-fabricated low-cost constructions. I mean good and decent homes that the residents can be proud of. The government could temporarily house the residents while their new homes are being constructed in La Perla. As La Perla receives the face-lift it so much deserves, the government could start rooting out all of the drug dealers and introduce a police force dedicated exclusively to La Perla. But . . . that is my opinion!

Patrick Webb writes,

I just happened across your site; I'm not Puerto Rican but I have been [to] La Perla. I take this as special, as I find even most Puerto Ricans have ever been, and I'm sorry to say there is no missing the drug activity there. Don't worry about blinking, the activity is quite obvious and open once you re inside. Much like you, I did wonder why the government doesn't do more. After all, the place sits on "prime" real estate for development [with] absolutely stunning views. Relocate them, pay them to leave, even burning it probably would have been better; I don't know what, but I thought they must be able to do something.

But the more I thought about it, really, the place is great. Right there in the heart of all the casinos, big hotels, millions in international tourism, and economic activity, sits a little community, which represents a polar opposite. Poverty, drugs, prostitution, and god only knows what else as even the police won't dare go to look for the world to see (if they care enough to look). Why is that great? Because that's P.R. After all the glitz, glam and show the island puts on for its well-healed generally Caucasian visitors, that is what P.R. is: a poverty-stricken corrupt nation with a terrible drug trade. How sad it would be if I had gotten my way. For me now, moving them would seem to serve only to hide the island s problems from the eyes of the world. Allowing the government officials (which sit just blocks away) to forget the real problems facing the island and prevent the island s "well to do" from fretting about where to park their Rolls-Royce.

Rice and beans, plantains, and yucca are all cultural icons of the island. Icons created by the very same poor communities "La Perla" represents; the icons that reflect the lifestyle of the "Criollo" and not that of wealthy Spanish plantation owners. Somehow "making" it go away to serve some outside interest seems wrong to me. But, that is my opinion, and I'm not Puerto Rican. In the meantime (with my perfectly incorrect Caucasian accent), "Vaya con Dios".

Thank you for your email Patrick. Judging from the way you wrote your email, it sounds like you actually entered La Perla. If you did, then I must say it was a gutsy move for an American Gringo , but not a terribly bright one. If you were but an observer just as I was, then you were smart and must have stood at the top of the ridge overlooking the impoverished community. I must agree with you that the Puerto Rican government chooses to ignore La Perla, and I cannot help but to liken them to an ostrich sticking its head into a hole in the ground. You say that relocating the residents of La Perla in order to develop the site and improve Puerto Rico s tourism seems wrong to you because it only hides the problem. I will give you an example of a similar idea that occurred in New York City. Back in the 1970 s, when I was a teenager, I remember going to 42nd Street (Times Square) and witnessing drug peddlers, drug addicts, prostitutes, and every other vice under the sun. Certain New York visionaries saw the potential of Times Square as a cash cow  for the city s tourism and economy. Over the span of a decade, they developed the mess that was Times Square into the hottest place in the city. There are theatres, restaurants, department stores, and all sorts of businesses catering to tourists. So what happened to the drug dealers, the drug addicts and the prostitutes that were so prevalent in Times Square? They did not vanish, Patrick, they simply moved several blocks away from Times Square and continued doing business. What I am trying to say is that drugs and prostitution might never go away no matter how much we try to do something about it. Although it may not be best choice, relocation might be the only choice. Perhaps one day a Puerto Rican visionary will rise to the occasion and do to La Perla what New York visionaries did for Times Square.

Yolanda Semidey writes,

Hello Anthony, it was about time you wrote a new article!! It's great to read that you are doing well and moved to Florida. Good for you and your wife!! It is great that you both went on a cruise to PR, lord knows I need a vacation to PR too because it's been a while I haven't visited. I must comment on your article about La Perla, because it is a neighborhood that just about everyone I know that have gone to the Island have commented on. Of course, for us as "Boricuas ausentes", it is a shame that such a neighborhood still exists in such a visible and high trafficked area of San Juan. La Perla has been there for decades and the residents will oppose to any idea of relocation and the government of PR has no plans to do so anyway. They know that there will be hell raised and huge opposition from its residents. Even if they were to move to a nice "caserio", they won't want to go because their roots are deep in that community. My friend Marge visited PR about 2 years ago and she called me from nearby La Perla. She was amazed at the way drug transactions were being conducted right there on the street and there were lots of people walking around so she had to hold on to her friend who was giving her the tour of old San Juan. It was hilarious in a way because she was so awe-struck about what was happening there that night and the cops would not even venture inside La Perla, so druggies did whatever they wanted because they knew the cops would never bust them outside its perimeter, much less go inside its boundaries. Yes, it is an eye sore and I wish the government would use its eminent domain powers to move residents out of there and clean up that fabulous piece of real estate. But I suppose it would take a lot of effort on its part to do so because they know they will face fierce opposition from its residents. Anthony you might want to read Oscar Lewis's book: "La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty--San Juan and New York" published a long time ago in 1966 but even though he named that neighborhood in San Juan "La Esmeralda" experts say that he was really writing about La Perla. The book drew a lot of criticism due to the raw nature of the writing and description of Puerto Ricans, but oh well....he saw it as it was, so I don't know why people would get all offended. Anyway, this was a good article you wrote. I also enjoyed the one about Don Pedro Albizu Campos . . . what an intelligent man he was, regardless of his political affiliations. Ok please write more often and it is great to read your articles again. 

Thank you for your email, Yolanda. Yolanda, you were among the first readers of El Boricua to contribute your opinions and comments to this web page, and I thank you for continuing to do so. I would also like to thank you for your kind words. Reading your response, I guess the first word that comes to mind is bulldozers  and lots of them, but that would never work. Perhaps rather than moving the residents of La Perla by invoking eminent domain, and thus incurring their wrath, the Puerto Rican Government could offer them incentives. For example, the government could create a decent housing community. I do not mean one of those pre-fabricated or low-income project-style dwellings, but honest to goodness homes that people can be proud of and live happily. The government could also bear the cost of all relocation expenses, and provide a one-time cash outlay to every family as a reward for cooperating. This would be a small investment when compared to the dividends Puerto Rico would receive in converting that prime real estate area into a fabulous tourist attraction. The government could convert La Perla into a Caribbean Riviera, with casinos, luxury hotels, beaches, and other attractions such as a Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, etc. The government could also level the place and create a park with a nice public beach for everyone to enjoy. For now, there is only one thing that remains certain, La Perla will continue to be sandwiched in between the El Morro and San Cristobal forts, and many tourists, domestic and international, will continue to walk to and from these two powerful attractions.

LA PERLA, LA PERLA! Who has not heard of the infamous place? Even as a child, living in Puerto Rico (until the age of six) I remember going to El Morro to fly chiringas  and my mother reminding me not to go there. Now I am here responding to this article nineteen years later and the problem is still there. You talk about feeling bad when you saw a drug transaction happen in front of your eyes, well imagine being hustled for money by the inhabitants of La Perla . About five years ago, I went to visit my grandparents and decided that it had been a long time since I had seen El Morro . Frankly, I missed it. So my aunts and I decided to go. Once we were finished parking and out of the car, a kid asked us for twenty dollars to watch the car so that no one would touch it. I told him no, that there was no need for him to watch the car. Immediately my aunt interrupted and gave him the twenty dollars. Then she turns to me and said, If we want our car to be the same way we left it, we had better give him the money, or it would be destroyed by the time we come back.  I was like WHAT! In fact, all this time has passed and that day still infuriates me. Then all these questions come to my mind: Do they also do this to tourist? No wonder some people think we carry knives. What is the government doing? Are they in cohorts with them? To add more wood to the fire, do you remember that Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez movie about Hector Lavoe? Did you know that Mr. Anthony had to ask whatever gangster was in charge of La Perla  to film a scene of his movie there? So I guess we know who is in charge there and it is not the government. Oh well! C est la vie! 

Thank you for your email Claudette. I do recall the many elaborate kites (chiringas) that people were flying that day. It seemed like a mass holiday because there were so many people on El Morro s grounds, picnicking and flying kites all so dangerously close to La Perla. I understand your feelings regarding the kid who extorted money from your aunt that day, but your aunt did the right thing. It is better to be penny wise than dollar foolish, as the saying goes. I suppose tourists do see the same thing and suffer the indignity of extortion as well, but it is a risk all tourists have to take whether in Puerto Rico or China, England, Brazil, and so on. It seems that the government is doing nothing about La Perla but I do not think they are in league with any resident of the infamous neighborhood. Regarding your comments about Marc Anthony, I was not aware that he had to obtain a special dispensation from the Pope of La Perla, but it does not surprise me either.

As you know, I talked about my recent cruise and about our port of call in San Juan. Well, my wife recently went on the Royal Caribbean web site to see the passenger comments about their recent trip. An overwhelming and disappointing number of people wrote that they did not like San Juan, citing that it was dirty, with nothing to do there. As I mentioned in my article, Old San Juan is undergoing a face-lift. They are re-paving many streets and repairing sidewalks, but at the same time though, I cannot deny the fact that I did see unclean areas and street bums and panhandlers. I did not see any attractions for tourists, nothing that would entice them into spending money in San Juan. With no real attractions, other than El Morro, tourists end up in the same jewelry and department stores they find in the United States. What is so novel about that? The Puerto Rican tourism department should be very leery of this because, very soon, Cuba will open her doors to the world and many U.S. citizens will flock over there for vacation instead of Puerto Rico, and they will spend their dollars there as well.

Ms. Ivonne Figueroa writes,

Yes, infamous La Perla is certainly an embarrassment to Puerto Rico, and it is really disappointing that tourists have to see such places, often with a guided tour. Too bad that islanders haven't decided to clean house there. And too bad tourist guides see fit to bring La Perla to the attention of visitors.

La Perla is an old historical site outside the city walls of Old San Juan, right next to the island's colonial era cemetery, "Santa María Magdale de Pazzis," and the resting place of many prominent and historical Puerto Ricans. It is located in prime real estate, in old San Juan overlooking the sea. Hopefully someday something good will become of this area. 

Thank you for your email Ivonne. It is always nice to hear from the Chief Editor and Publisher of El Boricua. I wonder if the people responsible for Puerto Rico s tourism industry are aware of the damage La Perla is causing to their trade. I have to stress here that I am not speaking about the inhabitants of La Perla but rather the sight of the neighborhood; frankly, it is an eyesore. Perhaps one day something good might indeed become of this area. For now, however, we must deal with the site and not get too disappointed with it (if we can).

Ms. Ronnie Torres writes,

I was introduced to the El Boricua website by friend and immediately was drawn to the website. While I was born in the U.S. to parents who came here from Puerto Rico back in the 1940s I still find it amazing that, while I will always feel pride in my American nationality, I will forever feel a "pull" from Puerto Rico. I visited Puerto Rico for the first time when I was 13 years old (a lifetime ago). I continued to visit Puerto Rico every year until my early 20s, when I married. My husband was not of Hispanic ancestry and as life usually does, I went on with it.

Many years later, I was the mother of a son who always questioned me about this island where his grandparents were born. In 2003, my four sisters and I decided [we should forge] a long overdue trip to Puerto Rico [just the five of us]. Soon enough, nephews, nieces, brother in laws, cousins, and yes, my son, were all on board. My son fell head over heels in love with the beautiful island. His return luggage back to the U.S. doubled from all the books he purchased about his, about MY, people, about OUR place of ancestry. It was a trip, [which] will forever stay in my heart. To walk the streets where my parents and grandparents walked was surreal. The richness of OUR people tugged at our hearts. While [my son] obviously did not learn the language in the short time we were there, he did learn to say . . . pasteles, arroz con gandules, harina de coco, cangrejos!

In 2006, my son married a lovely girl from Poland. Their honeymoon? El Conquistador! This time, my son was able to play tourist guide for his wife. They returned in 2007, for a two-week vacation. This year? They have just returned from another two-week stay in Puerto Rico.

Thank you so much for the work you do for El Boricua website. Thank you for reminding us who we are and where we came from! 

Thank you for your email Ms. Torres. How wonderful it is to read about a young person discovering his Puerto Rican heritage. I think the feelings are the same for all Puerto Rican descendents that come to the island for the first time. It is the beauty of the island and the openness of her people that somehow closes the gap between islanders and non-islanders, sealing it with a strong bond of love and pride. Reading about your son s discovery brought me back to the first time I visited Puerto Rico. I remember standing atop a steep mountain and marveling at the sight of Orocovis s rolling hills, as if I were gazing at an artist s painting. I stood there in awe, contemplating the varying degrees of green hues and shades, each color blending subtly into another, as if the artist had meticulously mixed his palette and chosen the precise colors for his canvas masterpiece. It was surreal for me, too, standing on the precipice of that mountain and looking down at the valley memories that I treasure and will never forget. For the short time I read your email, I lived vicariously through your son s experiences. I wonder if you or your son stumbled upon La Perla. If you did, then I wonder how you felt about it.

Ms. Leisla Acevedo writes,

It is good to hear from you, and about time, too. I was happy to know that you took your vacation aboard a cruise ship. I have been on about five cruises myself, and every time I go on one, I find more things to do; and it does not matter to me where the ship goes. Regarding your comments on La Perla, it is ironic the neighborhood you wrote about bears such a name; a name that, in this case, does nothing to define what Puerto Rico truly is. 

Thank you for your email, Ms. Acevedo. Now that I have been on a cruise, I can see why there are so many repeat customers. A couple that we met on the ship told us they had gone on about twenty or so cruises, and the number of additional cruises they were planning to take. Hey, if you got the money, go for it! Regarding La Perla, it still haunts me. You are right, Leisla, about the irony in such a lovely name.

Article 27 - Pedro Albizu Campos


He was born on September 12, 1893, in the village of Tenerias, Ponce, Puerto Rico. His birth name was Pedro and he was the son of Alejandro Albizu and Juana Campos. Pedro might have been just another ordinary Puerto Rican boy content with the notion of living out his existence on the island, anonymously, without much fanfare, and without controversy. Pedro might have been just another Puerto Rican citizen born in a country ruled by a foreign power, and he could have accepted the cards dealt to him by fate, had he not been born with a prodigious reservoir of passion for his country, exceeding intelligence, and the audacity to question the status quo. He looked at the hand dealt to him and had the iron will to throw the cards back at fate and alter his destiny.

As a young boy, between the years 1900 and 1911 Pedro s scholastic performance caught the attention of his teachers, who began to nurture his sponge-like mind and encourage him to pursue higher academic goals. At the age of 18, Pedro Albizu Campos  academic prowess had earned him a scholarship to study Engineering at the University of Vermont, where he received a Bachelor of Science after completing two majors in Chemistry and in Engineering. In 1915, Campos applied and received acceptance to the prestigious Harvard University, majoring in Law. As fortune would have it, though, World War I had broken out the previous year and the young Campos faced the first major decision of his life. He left Harvard University to join the Army and fight for the new masters of his beloved country.

Pedro enlisted in the Infantry, where he received his training from the French Military mission. After training, the Army assigned Pedro Albizu Campos to serve under General McIntyre in an Afro-American unit. It was during his tenure in the United States armed forces that Campos first experienced racism, and that brief exposure to American bigotry left an indelible impression in his consciousness that would later become an ingredient to the formation of his persona.

At the end of World War I, in 1918, the Army discharged Pedro as a First Lieutenant. Then, in 1919, Campos rededicated his life to his academic studies. He returned to Harvard University, where fellow students elected him president of the Cosmopolitan Club. While Pedro studied at Harvard, he met and fell in love with a Peruvian national named Laura Meneses. At the same time, Campos befriended other foreign students who shared the same ideals as he did radical ideals that were starting to foment inside his activist soul. Among the students Campos befriended were Subhas Chandra Bose, who later became an Indian nationalist leader and stood shoulder to shoulder with Mohandas K. Ghandi in the liberation of India from English rule. Included in that small circle of friends was the man who later became the famous Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. Pedro s formative years at Harvard drew his attention toward many causes, and his zeal was so powerful that he helped in the formation of several establishments in Boston dedicated to the independence of Ireland. It was no surprise that his connection to the centers for Irish freedom in Boston drew the attention of Eamon de Valera, the famous Irish independence leader. Pedro met Eamon de Valera during his final year at Harvard, and that meeting proved to be the pivotal moment of his life and when his passion for a free and independent Puerto Rico became cemented to his soul. Later on that year, Pedro Albizu Campos became a consultant to Eamon de Valera, and assisted with the drafting of the constitution of the Irish Free State. Pedro graduated from Harvard University in 1921 with a degree in Law

Pedro Albizu Campos made the most of his time at Harvard University. By the time he graduated, Pedro had degrees in Chemistry, Engineering and Law. Aside from achieving those milestones, he was proficient in English, as well as French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Latin and Greek. Shortly after graduating, he received job offers. One offer came from a Protestant church to work as their Hispanic representative, and another one came from the U.S. Diplomatic Corp as their representative in Mexico. Pedro Albizu Campos  dreams and visions of a free Puerto Rico, however, caused him to turn down the job offers and he immediately returned to his homeland, where he married Laura Meneses in 1921. The couple lived in Ponce and later had three children, Laura, Rosa and Pedro. While in Ponce, Pedro Albizu Campos received many high-salaried offers, but he rejected every one of them because he wanted to concentrate all his energies on the independence of Puerto Rico. This goal, this dangerous ideal, would never change and would remain the focal point of passion throughout his tumultuous life.

In 1921, Pedro entered the political arena and became a member of the Union Party, but three years later the political cohesiveness within the membership disintegrated and the party dissolved. Pedro then joined the Nationalist Party in 1924, where the members elected him vice-president. Between the years 1927 and 1930, Pedro Albizu Campos, filled with an unwavering determination and an undeniable patriotic fervor, traveled to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Peru to drum up support for the independence of Puerto Rico. Upon his return to Puerto Rico in 1930, the Nationalist Party elected him president, and under Campos  leadership, the party became a powerful force, a movement that the United States had to take seriously. It was then that Pedro Albizu Campos became an enemy of the state, and it was then that he came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Federal authorities.

Perhaps the catalyst behind Pedro Albizu Campos  persecution by the United States was a manuscript that he published in 1932. The manuscript was more of an exposé on the American doctor, Cornelius P. Rhoads, who, while working at San Juan s Presbyterian Hospital, admitted to killing Puerto Rican patients by injecting them with cancer cells. The manuscript further exposed the Rockefeller Institute as Doctor Rhoads  financial backer and for whose behalf he conducted the so-called medical experiments. Although the manuscript brought to light the alleged atrocities perpetuated by Dr. Rhoads  experiments on a defenseless people, it did not stop Dr. Rhoads  forward mobility within the U.S. government. Dr. Rhoads later became the head of two chemical warfare projects during World War II and served on the United States Atomic Energy Commission, receiving the U.S. Legion of Merit award. Perhaps Campos felt the cold sting of irony when he realized Dr. Rhoads would continue to rise within the government ranks despite his genocidal work. Maybe it was the fact that Campos  manuscript had failed to draw international attention to the evil work Rhoads performed on behalf of the Rockefeller Institute and in the name of Science. Perhaps these two factors were the impetus behind an unstoppable chain of events that would eventually lead to Campos  demise. Now that Campos had opened the bottle and let out the genie, there was no turning back. He pushed his independence efforts into full gear and never relented, never faltered, and never gave up!

In 1933, Pedro Albizu Campos led strikes against the Puerto Rico Power & Light Company and the Puerto Rico Railway, both of which he claimed had monopolized industry on the island. Campos continued to go against the grain, and Federal scrutiny increased as a result. The Feds heard and wrote down Campos  daily, incendiary speeches against the United States  illegal occupation of Puerto Rico. They watched him when he stormed the Puerto Rican Capitol building protesting against the ban imposed by the United States on the use of the Puerto Rican flag. Since 1898, after Spain had ceded Puerto Rico to the United States as a spoil of war, the United States had banned the Puerto Rican flag, citing its use as a symbol for independence and revolt. Campos felt the United States had no right to occupy Puerto Rico, let alone ban the flag representing his country, and this angered him right down to the very core of his soul. The U.S. Federal authorities watched Campos as he made his presence known during strikes, and they took into account all the occasions where he agitated for the sake of doing so; all details recorded for later use by the ever-present Federal authorities.

By 1936, the U.S. Federal government had collected enough data on Pedro Albizu Campos to fill three file cabinets, but still the government would not act. Then, a certain incident occurred that year in which the results affected the collective psyche of the Federal government and finally prompted them to initiate action against Campos. In 1936, two Nationalist Party members, Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp, assassinated the appointed commander of the police in San Juan, an American named Colonel E. Francis Riggs. The assassination, however, was a retaliatory act upon Riggs because it was under his command the previous year that the police had killed four members of the Nationalist Party in what the people referred to as The Rio Piedras Massacre. What incensed the citizens of Puerto Rico the most was the fact that the police summarily executed the two Nationalist Party members behind closed doors inside the police headquarters in San Juan. Based on the fact Rosado and Beauchamp were members of the Nationalist Party, the U.S. Federal authorities arrested Campos and several other members of the party, charging them with sedition and conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government in Puerto Rico.

In March of 1937, while lawyers for the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party were appealing the case in a federal court, a lawful rally was taking place in Ponce. Hours before the rally, however, and unbeknownst to the protesters, the Puerto Rican police, under pressure from U.S. authorities, revoked the permit for the rally and began to surround the protesters with their guns. The rally, whose leaders formed it with the purpose commemorating the end of slavery in 1873, also protested the arrest of Pedro Albizu Campos as well as the United States  illegal occupation of Puerto Rico. Though the protesters were unarmed, no one could verify whether any one of them possessed a firearm. Shots eventually rang out and general chaos ensued. In the aftermath, the police wounded over 100 people that day, most of them innocent bystanders. Of the many wounded, 19 died 17 men, a woman and a little girl. The Ponce Massacre, as the people later referred to it, would further strengthen the Federal case against Campos and his followers. With The Ponce Massacre fresh in the minds of the Appellate Court judges, lawyers for the Nationalist Party lost the appeal, and the United States shipped Pedro Albizu Campos off to a Federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia; his sentence: ten years.

In 1943, Campos became seriously ill and the government transferred him from the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, to Columbia Hospital in New York, where he served out the remainder of his sentence.

Pedro Albizu Campos  years in prison and the severity of his sentence convinced him that the United States was never going to give up their occupation of Puerto Rico. Many people believe that when Campos completed his term in jail, he had already resolved to revolt against the United States. During the years 1949 and 1950, Campos, along with several leaders of the Nationalist Party began to put together a plan to overthrow the U.S. government in Puerto Rico. The Nationalist Party planned the revolution for early 1952 since that was the year in which Puerto Rico would become a Free Associated State or Commonwealth of the United States. Since Campos had rejected the United States  occupation of Puerto Rico, citing its illegality, he lent no credence whatsoever to the impending new status of his country. Campos and his followers also lent no credence to the so-called referendum  in favor of a Commonwealth status, alleging U.S. influence and manipulation in the electoral process. The place where the revolution was to take place was a town called Jayuya because Nationalist Party members had stored a cache of weapons in a house owned by Blanca Canales, leader of the party in that town

The revolution, which Campos had planned for early 1952, never took place that year. Instead, it took place in 1950 after a series of events occurred, which Campos could neither control nor avoid. On October 26, 1950, Campos had been moderating a Party meeting in the town of Fajardo when he received word that the police had surrounded his home in San Juan with warrants for his arrest. Having no further recourse, Pedro Albizu Campos made a quick escape from Fajardo but not before issuing orders for the revolution to start immediately.

On October 30, 1950, the Nationalist Party members commenced the revolution in the towns of Jayuya, Arecibo, Ponce, Utuado, Mayagüez and Naranjito. Blanca Canales and another leader of the Juyayan Party stormed the town and attacked the police station. An exchange of gunfire ensued leading to the death of one officer and the wounding of three other officers before the police station finally surrendered to the Nationalists. By that time, other members of the party had cut telephone lines and burned the post office. The Nationalist Party members declared Puerto Rico a free nation but would hold the town for only three days.

Reacting immediately, the United States declared martial law and ordered the Puerto Rican National Guard to restore order in Jayuya. Many citizens of Jayuya woke up one morning to see military airplanes swooping down on their town and dropping bombs on their homes and business establishments. Many more Jayuyans would see first-hand the effects of a barrage of fire from artillery weapons. Nothing could have been more frightening to the Jayuyan country-folk, many of whom might not have even seen an airplane before. Though the defenseless town-folk would survive the land and aerial attack, the military had destroyed a good portion of their town. The United States took every effort to prevent news of the attack from spreading outside of Puerto Rico, and went as far as calling it just an incident between Puerto Ricans.

The attempted revolt prompted the arrest of Pedro Albizu Campos as the ringleader, as well as other members of the National Party, among them Blanca Canales. The trial took place in 1951 and Campos, together with his associates, received an 80-year sentence. In 1953, Governor Luis Munoz Marin pardoned Pedro Albizu Campos, and the Nationalist Party president was free once again. However, on March 1, 1954, Lolita Lebron with three other Nationalist Party members traveled to Washington, D.C. and from the gallery of the Capitol Building opened fire on several members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. arrested the Nationalist members, charging them with terrorism and attempted murder. They received long prison terms terms, but their terrorist act also caused the U.S. Federal government to revoke Governor Luis Munoz Marin s pardon, which sent Pedro Albizu Campos back to prison.

During the initial year of his second imprisonment, Pedro Albizu Campos claimed that the U.S. government had been conducting radiation experiments on him. Though it remains unproven, many prisoners claimed that the U.S. had been conducting radiation experiments at the Princesa Prison during the early to mid 1950 s without receiving permission from its subject and without warning them of the ill effects of radiation. Campos adamantly stated that the first experiment conducted on him took place on February 1, 1951, and the effects of that first experiment knocked him out cold. The next abuse took place on May 9, 1951, and then eight more atrocious and unpardonable times between the years 1952 and 1953. The physical effects on Campos were so bad that he had to place wet towels over his head to cool down the heat in his body caused by the radiation.

Photo of Pedro Albizu Campos during his second prison term in La Princesa Prison, where he claimed the U.S. conducted radiation experiments on him. Note the visible scars on Campos  legs, the result of intense radiation.

Pedro Albizu Campos stated repeatedly that the U.S. Federal authorities were trying to kill him, but the Federal authorities rebutted his charges with the story that Campos had gone insane, all in an effort to discredit his leadership and respect among the Nationalist Party.

Lawyers filed briefs in court, protesting Campos  abuse and inhumane treatment while in prison, but their efforts were all in vain. In an effort to prove the existence of radiation, lawyers and friends of Pedro Albizu Campos engaged the services of Dr. Orlando Damuy, president of the Cuban Cancer Association. According to Dr. Damuy, the burns on Campos  body were consistent with the results of radiation. Further reports of the initial examination claim that he placed a paper clip on a photographic film and then placed both objects on Campos  radiated skin, and when the doctor removed the paper clip, its image had radiated onto the film.

Pedro Albizu Campos  horrors in prison would continue until March 25, 1956, when he suffered a stroke. Prison authorities transferred Campos to San Juan s Presbyterian Hospital, where friends and family members alleged no one attended him for five days. Pedro Albizu Campos would suffer tremendously in prison until November 15, 1964, when Governor Luis Munoz Marin, in one of his final acts, again pardoned Pedro. By that time, however, Pedro Albizu Campos was a mere shell of what he once was, but he was still alive and his family and friends were thankful for that.

Pedro Albizu Campos would live as a free man for the next five months. On April 21, 1965 at 8:40 in the morning, Pedro Albizu Campos  suffering finally ended when he passed away. Over 75,000 mourners attended Pedro Albizu Campos  funeral procession, which ended at the Old San Juan Cemetery.

From an early point in his life, Pedro Albizu Campos had made a decision to fight for the independence of Puerto Rico. He picked up where past would-be liberators had left off, namely, Manuel Rojas, Mathias Brugman, Francisco Ramirez, Clemente Millan, and others associated with the El Grito De Lares uprising sixty-five years earlier. Campos shared the same passions and dreams for his country as did the participants of El Grito De Lares, and he railed against U.S. occupation in the same manner as the El Grito De Lares participants railed against imperialistic Spain . . . but he failed in the same manner as they did, too.

What Campos did that prior advocates for independence did not do was to reach out and touch the collective consciousness of the masses. He brought his original way of thinking to light, and blazed a new trail of liberation without fear of reprisals, without fear for his life and without fear of losing his personal freedom. Campos had the intelligence to become anything he wanted to become. He could have been a wealthy lawyer, a chemist or a high salaried engineer, but he rejected those fast highways of opportunities and chose to follow the slow, bumpy and winding road of sacrifice and turmoil. He was a man with a singular vision, devoting his life to a single purpose and he never left that rocky and controversial path.

The deep love he had for Puerto Rico was the focal point behind his advocacy for his country s freedom, daring to speak out during a period of repression when use of the Puerto Rican flag and any talk of independence was deemed seditious and conspiratorial. Though he was not a criminal, he spent many years in prison and became the victim of torture because the state considered him a dangerous element and an enemy. The power of his speeches galvanized the people and planted the seeds of independence in their minds. Pedro Albizu Campos is and will always be Puerto Rico s national hero, not only because he fought so vehemently against his country s occupation by a foreign power, but also because he sacrificed his entire life to that cause. In April of 1965, the University of Havana conferred a Doctorate of Political Science to Pedro Albizu Campos, a crowning achievement to an already accomplished life.

It takes a very special human being to give up material gains; worldly riches that he could easily have attained because of his intelligence and academic achievements. Instead, Campos devoted his life to a principal, sacrificing his personal freedom and suffering physical brutalities in the process. For these reasons, we ought to commemorate Pedro Albizu Campos as a Puerto Rican national hero and as a martyr for liberty. Today, there are five schools in Puerto Rico named after Campos in his honor. There are streets in Puerto Rican cities also named after him, as well as two schools in the United States, one in Chicago and one in New York City.

I think there will never be anyone quite like Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, El Maestro. If he were still alive today, and if you (my readers) had an opportunity to speak to him, what would you ask him? What subject would you broach with Campos? I guess I would ask him the following question: Why did you not wait until 1952 to begin the revolution as you had planned originally, why did you move the date forward to 1950? Many of you might speculate that Campos might have acted on impulse, which caused him to repeat the same mistakes as those made by the El Grito De Lares rebels when they decided to move forward their revolution date upon learning the Spanish had discovered their conspiracy. Yet others might conclude Campos  decision to move the date forward a moot point simply because it would have yielded the same results. Perhaps history does repeat itself, but we will never know Campos  reasons, will we?

If Dr. Campos were still alive today, I would visit him and get to know the man on a personal level. Aside from my initial question, I would ask Dr. Campos what things about life brought a smile to his face, as well as what things did not. I would ask him what kind of poetry he read, his philosophical outlook on life, the books and other things that he found interesting. I would know the human side of Pedro Albizu Campos, a political lion, an icon of freedom . . . a man of and for the people.

Sources and References Used For this Article
Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia
La Esquina de Karde
Biograficas y Vida

Response to Article 27 - Albizu-Campos

Elizabeth A. Barbieri writes,

Thank you so much for researching this and sharing this story. It was fascinating and excellent, not to mention an important history lesson. As a conversation starter or questions that are asked in team builders for work, I have often been asked, "If you had to opportunity to speak to . . . (Abe Lincoln, Jesus Christ, George Washington, or whomever....), what would you ask?  I, too, would ask questions about 'cotidiana' (before that awful imprisonment)....what made you smile? Tell me what you do for fun? What was your favorite food or music or book? What was a typical day like? We can research history, but the personal items? Not too much. Thanks 

Thank you for your response Elizabeth. Unless personal notes or autobiographical accounts are found, where we are able to obtain a glimpse of the person behind the fame, we must rely on historical data. Pedro Albizu Campos did not seem to me as a very complicated man, but a man with a clear mind, a man who immersed himself in the cause for liberty. It is rare to find such people, and when we read about them, we seem to connect to them and develop a profound respect for their work.

Our Flag

September 2007 - Flags, they are seen everywhere in the world. Flags represent all kinds of things, from nations, to corporations, political and religious ideologies, to sports teams, and so on. So what is the importance of a flag? A flag is a symbol, a symbol of who you are, what you represent or what you believe in. Flags come in all shapes and sizes, some are colorful and bright, and some are banal and seemingly go unnoticed. Flags have been in existence since the dawn of modern civilization. They have spearheaded the vanguard of many armies throughout the course of world history, and they have caused religious and political turmoil; hailed by believers or condemned by detractors. One flag has even found its way to the moon and it is still there, undisturbed in the vacuum of space, as a testament to the achievements of man and the pride of the United States of America.

But a country s flag is a little different than, say, a corporate or an organizational flag, isn t it? A country s flag represents the focal point of its heritage, the tip of its cultural iceberg, so to speak, the banner under which its citizens unite. It is a visual icon for a nation s people, the very essence of their identity, and the funnel through which flows their national pride.

When I gaze upon the flag of Puerto Rico, whether in pictures, or whether hanging on the rear view mirror of someone s car, it reminds me of who I am, and where my ancestry originates. The Puerto Rican flag also reminds me of my family, many of whom still live on the island, and of the physical and mental separation from my culture. It reminds me of the Puerto Rican struggles, the challenges they face under a commonwealth station, and of the desires of many to become a free and independent nation. To me, the flag of Puerto Rico is a sacred thing.

With this in mind, I would like to make a few observations, and hope at the same time that my comments will not offend you, my beloved readers. What angers me most, what really makes my blood boil, is when I see the Puerto Rican flag dangling on a telephone or electric wire strung across a neighborhood street in New York City. With much dismay and reluctance, I witness a faded flag, mired in soot from years of car emissions; its endings ragged and torn, and long, uneven, strands of red and white thread floating in the air like the tendrils of a jellyfish bobbing in the middle of the ocean. As I watch our people s symbol of heritage flapping helplessly, it seems to beckon me in its gloomy and miserable silence, as if wanting to talk to me. In my mind, I see what it used to be but in my heart I cannot ignore what is plain to my eyes, a proud flag now reduced to a mere rag. I hear its agony, in a passive yet disturbed voice that cries out to my soul and tells me, Please, I beg you, tear me down from this wire and destroy the shame wrought upon me!  There are times when I walk through a Puerto Rican neighborhood and see a flag hanging from a windowsill, or covering a window of a five-story tenement building. The flags are all faded and so, too, are the windows. In my horror, I say to myself, Is that how they demonstrate their pride?  I look away in shame and I start to get a feeling of helplessness because I want to share my views with the perpetrators of such shame, convince them that they are doing a disservice to our culture. My initial inclinations are to shout at them and demand that they remove the dirty cloths from their windows, the filthy fabrics that once represented the flag of Puerto Rico. I change my mind, however, because I realize that perhaps they do not know any better, or perhaps they have simply forgotten about their indiscretion. I simply walk away and hope that a strong wind rushes through the neighborhood and sweeps the rags away, deep into the pit of oblivion.

I believe in expressing our Puerto Rican heritage, and to avoid anyone from misconstruing my feelings, I would like to make my observations perfectly clear. In the days preceding the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Puerto Rican flag is as ubiquitous in New York City as the coquís are on the island of Puerto Rico. Many of my Puerto Rican brothers and sisters take the time and effort to ornament their cars with little flags, or drape the hoods of their automobiles with a huge Boricua flag. I like that, because they do it meticulously, with a great deal of pride and in good taste. The flags are clean and bright, and they draw immediate attention. I also note young men and women bedecked in Puerto Rican ensembles complete with matching baseball caps, tee shirts and pants. One young teenager had even draped a large Puerto Rican flag over his body in the form of a cape. Now that is pride! It is my opinion that we Puerto Rican Americans must take the Puerto Rican flag a little more seriously. We should honor it because it represents who we are and where we come from. It should not be defiled whether purposefully or inadvertently. It should not hang from a telephone wire or from a windowsill and left unattended until it becomes a grimy piece of cloth. I do not know how many of you will disagree with me, but then again, this is my opinion. What is your opinion?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments (Article 26 - Our Flag)

Angel A. Pla Jr. from Virginia writes,

The use of the flag is regulated by the Government of Puerto Rico and follows the regulations of the United States government on their flag. As you stated in your article, we should be proud of our symbols and show them with pride. The problem is that most people do not know the correct way to do so. Those of us who do know should educate those who do not know. The first flag given to Puerto Rico by the Monarchs of Spain in 1511 is the most beautiful and oldest of the Americas. It had a red background with a white cross of equal length on both sides. On the upper half the Coat Of Arms of Puerto Rico over a green background, [there is] a castle on the right and a lion on the left. The castle and the lion were of gold color over green background. On December 22, 1895, a group of 59 Puerto Ricans met at the Chimney Corner Hall in New York and organized the Puerto Rico section of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. At that assembly the flag, as we know it today, was selected as a symbol for the independence of Puerto Rico. The flag resembles the Cuban flag but the colors are inverted. The Red stripes meant the blood of the fallen patriots during the revolution; the white stripes meant victory and peace after the revolution; the equilateral triangle blue in color meant the color of the sea and skies over Puerto Rico; and the lone star meant the Island itself. Puerto Rico's Union Party and the Nationalist Party used the flag as their symbol. In 1952, the Legislature approves the design as the symbol for Puerto Rico and an official description is approved. The red stripes meant the blood of the people that nurtures the Republican form of government; that is Legislative, Executive and Judicial. The white stripes meant the rights and liberties of the individual that maintain checks and balances on the Republican form of government. The equilateral triangle blue in color means the Republican form of government and the lone star means the Commonwealth Government of Puerto Rico. The Lares Cry (Grito de Lares) flag is the official flag of the municipality of Lares. This flag was designed by Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances and was presented by Don Manuel Rojas at a meeting of the junta de Centro Bravo de Lares. The flag was formed [with the use of] a Latin white cross in the center. Four squares formed on the flag. The top squares were blue in color and red the bottom ones. In the center of the upper left square, a white five point star. Mariana Bracetti made the first Lares flag. This flag was used as the symbol for the revolution on September 23, 1868, known as the Grito de Lares (Lares Cry). The cross meant rebellion and desire for the establishment of a country. The red meant the blood the heroes shed in the rebellion. The star on the lone over the blue meant liberty. I hope [you share] all of this information with others so that we can feel proud of our heritage and understand that when we disrespect our flag, we are disrespecting ourselves. 

Thank you for your email, Angel. It is nice to hear from readers that know their Puerto Rican history. Aside from the fact that the Puerto Rican flag represents our identity and heritage, you have also made us aware of how its details symbolize our ideals, struggles and history. Perhaps more readers will come across El Boricua s web site and see the article, as well as the reader comments, and maybe they will take use of the Puerto Rican flag more seriously. For my readers (especially those living in the U.S.) who are not aware that there was another flag, which once represented Puerto Rico (as mentioned above by Mr. Angel Pla), I feel you should see what it looked like. As Mr. Pla stated, Dr. Betances designed the flag and requested Mariana Bracetti to make it. Manuel Rojas, the rebel leader of the El Grito De Lares, along with his fellow rebels entered the Lares town church and placed the flag above the altar when he declared Puerto Rico a free and independent nation on the morning of September 24, 1868.

You may notice similarities between the rebel flag of El Grito De Lares and the flag of the Dominican Republic. There is good reason for this because while Dr. Betances was coordinating the rebellion against Spain, he was living in exile in the Dominican Republic. He was friends with and publicly supported the Dominican rebel leaders Jose Maria Cabral and Gregorio Luperon. There is no doubt that Dr. Betances  design of the Puerto Rican rebel flag in 1868 was influenced by the flag of the Dominican Republic.


Eileen Concepcion writes,

After reading your opinion, I began to consider the vivid picture you portray. It is indeed a sad, sad sight to see our beautiful flag reduced to a faded and torn shadow of what it should be. I agree with you 100%! 

Thank you for your email Eileen. Sad indeed, but perhaps we can educate those who, because of their ignorance, remain unaware of their indiscretion.

Alejandro E. A. Luciano writes,

I'm glad you have brought up this important subject. I believe that the Puerto Rican flag is the single most abused and overused national flag in the whole United States. I wouldn't say that it is a symbol of pride to wear a flag as a cape during the PR day parade or on the hood of a car like some Mexicans do with Our Lady. We should respect our national symbols and display them with pride and honor, and not this exaggerated "pseudo-patriotism" that makes us look like a ridiculous unruly bunch. Another thing I'm very much against is when a drawing is put on the flag like a coqui or bongos. What is even more interesting about that is that it is against the Puerto Rican government's regulation on the usage of the flag (Reglamento Sobre el Uso de la Bandera del ELA de Puerto Rico). Article 26, Section D-1 prohibits the drawing of any symbols on the flag. Also under section D-5 of the same article, it states that "under no circumstances" will the flag be used in articles of clothing. Pride should be expressed though our actions and be inflamed in our hearts, not in disrespectful and truly tacky displays of our flag. 

Thank you for your email Alejandro. I think that the outrageous and unethical displays of the Puerto Rican Flag by many Puerto Rican-Americans stem from the isolation and separation they feel from their homeland and their culture. The 6th of June (NY Puerto Rican Day Parade) is a day for celebration, a day in which the need to proclaim your heritage calls out from the pit of your stomach, a need that has lain dormant in your soul for one year. Perhaps this pent up energy gives rise to such blatant yet ignorant disregard for the flag. You tell me because, frankly, I am at loss for words here.

Should Cock-Fighting In Puerto Rico Be Abolished?

August 2007 - In June of this year, the state of New Mexico made the blood sport of cock-fighting illegal. On Thursday, July 12, 2007, the governor of Louisiana signed a bill that would make cock-fighting illegal in that state beginning in August 2008. With the signing of the bill, Louisiana became the last state to make cock-fighting illegal.

Now that we Americans have successfully banned the sport in our country, animal-rights activists are targeting Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States since 1898 where cock-fighting is not only a profitable industry, employing more than 50,000 people and generating sales of over $400 million, but a sport that has been a part of the Puerto Rican culture for more than 400 years.

According to a July 16, 2007 article written by Mr. David McFadden of the Associated Press, he quotes an email he received from a PETA spokeswoman, Ms. Heather Carlson: The cruel blood sport [is] illegal in every U.S. state and now it is time for Puerto Rico to follow suit." PETA is the acronym for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Mr. McFadden s article further states that Mr. Wayne Pacelle, chief of the Humane Society of the United States, plans to closely monitor the island s industry to ensure cock-fighters are not violating a new federal law that makes the transport of fighting birds or cock-fighting implements abroad or across state lines a felony.  Mr. McFadden s article quotes the following statement from Mr. Pacelle made by phone, We do plan to mount a campaign to appeal to the many Puerto Ricans who agree with our perspective that this practice constitutes needless cruelty. 

With Louisiana becoming the last state to ban cock-fighting, will the United States pressure Puerto Rico to follow in their footsteps? Recently, the Puerto Rican government approved a bill that established the sport of cock-fighting as a cultural right  of Puerto Ricans. The bill recognizes the sport as a deeply rooted tradition in Puerto Rico, but aside from that, it also sends a clear message that Puerto Ricans will not allow outsiders to meddle in their affairs.

I am not going to deny that cock-fighting is violent and bloody, and I m not going to deny that there is growing opposition to this unique pastime. However, it just strikes me as funny that the most inhumane sport, the sport that, in my opinion, truly represents needles cruelty  and requires banning is the sport of professional boxing. In boxing there are two opponents, just like in cock-fighting, but instead of two animals as in cock-fighting, there are two MEN that face each other and try to beat each other to a pulp. Professional boxers receive bloody lacerations to their faces, bruises to their bodies, and damage to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys; many professional boxers urinate blood the day after a fight. Aside from that, the long-term ill effects on their central nervous systems, as well as their visual acuities have been medically documented and proven. There is another blood sport growing in popularity in the United States called the Octagon , where two fighters enter a cage and beat each other not only with their fists but with their legs, too. The fighting is real and so too is the blood.

So why is it that the so-called humane societies, have not taken steps to ban this barbaric sport in the United States? Are animals that much more important than human beings? Can this really be? How can the Unites States ban cock-fighting but turn a blind eye to the violent and inhumane sport of boxing? How can the humane societies clean someone else s house without cleaning their own house first? Let s face the truth here: the reason why boxing is not banned in the United States is because it is a billion dollar business, and where money is concerned, well, you draw your own conclusions. Moreover, the innate lust for blood has been entrenched in our genes since the Roman times. Boxing delivers the quench for this insatiable blood-lust, and people pay to see two modern-day gladiators pummeling each other until one of them is knocked out or even killed.

It is my opinion that cock-fighting in Puerto Rico is a tradition, an institution, and a favorite pastime that islanders may find difficult to give up. Will the United States pressure Puerto Rico to ban cock-fighting? Yes! Will Puerto Rico knuckle under the American will? Probably. Will we see the United States depart from their duplicitous stance and ban professional boxing, as well as all other blood sports? Are you kidding me? What is your opinion? If there are any members of the humane society, I would love to hear from you. Please tell me why you have not gone after professional boxing? Is it because they do not qualify as animals? And please don t tell me that boxing is a controlled sport, with doctors sitting at ringside monitoring the fights. Having doctors at ringside does not lessen the violence, nor does it lessen the physical and mental damage that boxing causes to HUMANS. Why are you not humane about the inhumane sport of boxing?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments (Article 25 - Cockfights)

Robert Jason Jorge, Boothwyn, PA, writes,

Sr. Ramos, I am very impressed with your manner of expression on all the subjects, and reading your words makes me feel very proud to be Puerto Rican. I was born and raised in the south Bronx of New York city. (I never accepted the label of Nuyorican - we called ourselves New York Ricans back then) However, I would like to comment on the cock fighting issue. First of all, the islanders should not even listen or be pressured by the opinions from the US or any other country. They should take it upon themselves to ban the massacre of God's creatures for enjoyment and monetary gains. You cannot make a fair comparison between cock fights and boxing. Boxers are humans who choose to go into that ring fully knowing the short and long term effects of the sport, whereas roosters are thrust into fighting by humans for gambling purposes and selfish reasons. When a boxer is in trouble in a fight; a corner man or trainer will throw in a towel to halt the fight to keep his fighter from getting seriously hurt. In cock fights, the animals are egged on to fight to the death. No towel throwing there. My point is, this is the 21st century. We should all behave in a more civilized manner. To take a stand in favor of cock fighting because it is a Puerto Rican tradition is ridiculous. Let us show the rest of the world how intelligent and articulate we have become as a people and not let them make us targets for ridicule and contempt.

Thank you for your email, Mr. Jorge, and for your kind words. I got beat up by many readers over this issue, and though my analogies did not find much favor with them, my focal point still remains the same. Boxing and cockfighting are brutal, savage, bloody sports that are driven by pecuniary forces. While I understand your sentiments, I still feel that it is a cultural tradition in Puerto Rico. Personally, I am against cockfighting and all blood sports; something I have made perfectly clear in my previous comments. My feelings notwithstanding, Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans alone, should make the determination to discontinue the sport of cockfighting.

Ms. MS writes,
I just wanted to comment on your article. It is very interesting that you mention the boxing thing, because I too, think boxing is excessively violent, it is a great argument. Furthermore, it is interesting that on one of the previous comments someone accused your opinions for being the reason of why people have been oppressed throughout history. Not only were those comments completely unfounded, but that person displayed the most clearly racist attitude by stating that Puerto Ricans need to "join civilized behavior." That very argument of "civilizing" people has been exactly what racist leaders have used over the course of the history of the world to justify the oppression they imposed on other societies. I think some people need to educate themselves a lot more before they open their mouths and reiterate the ignorance that has kept even [THEM] oppressed for so long. Some people need to open their eyes and see the reality of our world, and the Puerto Rican culture. I honestly don't like the sport of cockfighting, but they need to realize that Puerto Rico has a very unique situation because of its status as a colony, territory, call it what you will. We are people trying to defend the things we call "culture." Also as for the lady who talked about the oppression of women in the middle east, I understand that point; but I also do not believe that another country has the right to go into a foreign country and try to change it so radically; it only makes things worse. There are other means of helping and invading another country and creating a war is not one of them. Also, this argument of liberating a people is as old as time itself, and has been used by political leaders for ages simply for money, and believe it or not some people are willing to do anything for money and power. I think that this cockfighting thing is not really about the freaking gallos (well it is), but about the principle that the US has taken away SO MUCH from us, and now this? So now, some spoiled PETA people who do not understand our culture want to take this national pastime away. Is it because they think everyone in the world needs to think like them and are INTOLERANT of different views or because they're bored and need something to care about? I understand where they're coming from, but I also think that there are cultural implications here they need to respect, and they're taking advantage of PR's political situation. Luckily for us, we can use this in our way too. Why don't these PETA people go to the island and help take care of the situation with the stray animals (which is a big problem in PR, esp. after the incident where tons of dogs were killed), if they care SO MUCH about animals? The stray animal situation is a MUCH bigger problem that [first] needs to be addressed [before] this cockfighting thing. They can get to the root of the problem then, and help to create a national consciousness towards animal welfare. But, no, they're lazy and simply don t care about our people enough to deal with the issues. If they try to ban [cockfighting] it, it will still happen illegally because this is a part of our culture. But they're not smart enough to think of that I guess. With Pam Anderson as their spokesperson you really cannot expect much. 

Thank you for your email, MS. Isn t it interesting the way people interpret things and then try to justify those interpretations with their own brand of reasoning? The focal point of my argument was that PETA should not intervene in the affairs of Puerto Rican society but rather stay out altogether. The people of Puerto Rico should decide their own fate, without the pressure or mandates of any federal agency, private organization or international group seeking to enforce their left wing, bleeding heart agendas. It is my firm opinion that in time, Puerto Ricans will outgrow the blood sport and seek entertainment elsewhere. Let us allow them the opportunity to make that decision rather than forcing it down their throats.

Aurora Yolanda Darroch writes,
Cruelty is not a given, cultural right. Cockfighting is inhumane and your comparison between it and boxing is nothing more than a slippery slope argument. Animals subjected to injury and maiming have no say in their outcome. Boxers on the other hand choose freely to earn money through this so called "sport." Once upon a time your brand of convoluted logic was used as a justification for human trafficking which led to enslavement of human beings, and in some places on this planet this reasoning still holds. This type of thinking will never be right. It is time for Puerto Rico to come into this century, abandon unwilling cruelty and death of animals and join civilized behavior. 

Thank you for your response Ms. Darroch. I guess you missed the focal point of my article. I drew parallels between boxing and cockfighting to illustrate the duality of organizations such as PETA. On the one hand they espouse their ideals against cruelty to animals but on the other hand they say nothing about the cruelty of boxing. Also, my article concentrated more on the fact that these animal rights organizations think they can impose their will on the people of Puerto Rico without giving them the opportunity to make social changes on their own. Cockfighting in Puerto Rico has been in existence for hundreds of years and has become part of their evolution as a people. To say that Puerto Rico must cease this cultural pastime immediately, to arbitrarily impose their will upon the Puerto Rican society without regard to their feelings about the subject whether pro or con, crystallizes the lack of sensitivity these institutions demonstrate in order to push their agenda in their idealistic crusade. Is cockfighting inhumane? Yes. Can Puerto Ricans do without this blood sport? Yes. Do Puerto Ricans want to ban cockfighting? Well that is something they must decide on their own. Social changes in America do not happen overnight. Case in point: cigarettes. The cigarette industry is big business in America and it employs powerful lobbyists in Washington to do their bidding. So how do societies against cigarette smoking combat such powerful conglomerates and the issue of smoking? They do this by producing powerful, thought-provoking and graphic television ads, by educating young people about the hazards of smoking. It is a slow but effective process, and, in time, they will succeed. In time, the idea of smoking cigarettes will be a thing of the past. In New York City, cigarette smoking is now banned in public buildings and in bars. Many hotels are going smokeless. Casinos have now designated non-smoking areas. The point I am trying to make here is that organizations like PETA should allow Puerto Ricans the time to make social changes. They should not think that because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States that they can treat Puerto Ricans like subordinates or like a problem child that must be taught to obey.

Ivan Feliciano writes,

Ever since I can remember, I have been in love with cockfighting. Life would not be the same for me if cockfighting were to be abolished in the island of Puerto Rico. I understand these birds don't have a choice, but if I were a chicken I would rather be a gamecock than soup on someone's dinner table. These birds are bred with pride, given the best food, and given the best possible care . . . unlike the chickens that are bred for our consumption. The people who find this sport cruel have never held a rooster in their hands, [let alone] raised one. I could think of crueler and [more] inhumane things to do like taking away 50,000 jobs from people who love this job and this way of life, never mind the money it produces for an island already in debt. Why doesn't PETA go to Iraq and help stop the killing over there and let us worry about our gamecocks? 

Thank you for your email, Ivan, and well said. I think that personally, if I were a chicken and if I were given a choice,, I d rather die fighting than die in a slaughter house and ending in somebody s soup bowl, I ll tell you that for sure. But those birds are neither given a choice to die in the ring or die in the slaughter house are they? On the other hand, I do love fried chicken! LOL!

Zulma60 writes,

This is my first time on your site and I really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work. Peleas de gallos are part of being Puerto Rican; [it s] tradition my people. On a more of a killing view, child beating is a crime and I don't see anybody working so hard to stop the killing of our children. So let's be real, this is part of our culture and for a lot of us who grew up in Puerto Rico, to make cock fights illegal is like making Spanish illegal. 

Thank you for your email Zulma. On behalf of everyone at El Boricua, I extend you a hearty welcome to our site! Please take the time to explore everything El Boricua has to offer, and you might learn a few things about yourself that you didn t know before, how about that? Regarding the fate of cock fighting, I think it will ultimately rest upon the people of Puerto Rico. They must decide whether the blood sport should be continued or banned all together.

Andrew French writes,

Hello, I believe the main reason cockfighting is unsupported yet boxing is supported is because animals aren't asking to be thrown into a ring and fight. Boxers are. Boxers want fame and fortune and they are willing to risk physical abuse for it. But animals don't have that choice. And what do the cocks get out of it? That's the reason most people are against it. Thank you for your time. 

Thank you for your email Andrew. So let me get this straight, you feel more empathy for an animal than you do for your fellow man, is that it? So because they aren t asking to be thrown in the ring you say, Oh well, it was his choice tough luck.  You see Andrew, when I witness such violence in the ring, as in professional boxing and Ultimate Fighters, I feel as much sorrow for the participants as I do with any animal being made to suffer. It is not simply the notion of man vs. beast, but the similarity of violence that both cockfighting and prize fighting share, a violence driven by none other than our own primal lust for blood, as well as our lust for capital gains.

K Jay writes,

This is in response to your article on I personally think that cock fighting in Puerto Rico should be abolished. I am Puerto Rican myself, not from the island, however I still feel that this is a very cruel and useless sport. I see that you compare the brutality in boxing with that of cock fighting, which I feel is not a fair comparison. First, boxing involves humans who are willing and decided to participate in such sport. These chickens however did not volunteer to fight other chickens to death. They are forced and raised to be a fighter without a choice. So I can't see how you can compare the two sports. Should the U.S. ban boxing? No because these people chose to fight and they are willing to deal with the consequences. It's not that Americans care more about humans than animals it's the fact that these animals don't have a voice, nor do they have choices as us humans do, so PETA and other such organizations are like the voice for animals. Secondly, you point out that it's been a tradition in Puerto Rican history for over 400 years. Yes, this is true, but does that mean we must continue to support this kind of sport? I don't think so. It's a tradition in Saudi Arabia for women to have no rights. Does that mean that they should forever stick to this tradition and never grow just because it's "tradition". Just because it's a tradition doesn't mean that it must continue and/or the right thing to do. I think as a people it's not about killing a tradition but rather us growing and becoming more aware as a people to know that this "tradition" should be banned. Just because this is a tradition for over 400 years is not a valid reason to not ban it. Also, you say that cock fighting in Puerto Rico brings in over 400 million in revenue but then you say that the US will not ban boxing because it all has to do with money. Well if this was the case, then why wouldn't the U.S. cash in on cock fighting since this sport brings in so much revenue? If it was really all about money wouldn't they legalize cock fighting to capitalize on it? So, no, it's not always about the mighty dollar it's more about animal cruelty, which is what this sport is all about plain and simple and this is one tradition I am not proud of and neither should you. 

Thank you for your response K Jay. Granted, these fowls do not have choice, I do agree with you on that point. But do people who enter professional boxing have a choice, too? Not really. They mostly come from urban centers and they are poor and desperately looking to rise from their urban blight. They gravitate toward boxing because it promises them riches. They enter the sport at a very young age and they are raised in the art of fighting much like the fighting birds of Puerto Rico are raised. Regarding the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, well that is a tradition deeply rooted for hundreds of years, but you do not see the U.S. trying to change their way of life, do you? So why should the U.S. force Puerto Ricans into changing theirs? Are Puerto Ricans any less important than Saudi Arabians? Regarding the money made in cock fighting, it is a mere spit in the bucket when compared to the money made internationally with professional boxing. Yes, it is always about the money, billions and billions of it. K Jay, I do respect your opinion on this matter, and I don t want you to think I m not subject to change. As I mentioned in my article and rebuttals to some of the emails, I don t particularly like either cock-fighting or professional boxing, because in my opinion they represent they same levels of violence. The crux of the matter, what this all boils down to, is the right that Puerto Ricans have to make that decision. LET THEM DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES. As you said, . . it s not about killing a tradition but rather us growing and becoming more aware . . .  I agree with you, but let us allow Puerto Ricans to grow and learn by themselves rather than an outside party forcing them into doing so.

Robert Rodríguez Rodríguez writes,

Mi gente, no rindan esa tradición con los gallos. Do not give up the tradition of the gamecocks, which we've loved for 1000's of years, even since before moving [from] Iberia. 

Thank you for your email Robert. Of the emails I ve received thus far on this particular subject, I cannot help but to note how deep the love for the sport of cock-fighting runs in the hearts of all island-dwelling Puerto Ricans. As you mentioned in your email it is a tradition that has been well-entrenched in our heritage ever since the colonial days, and has become every bit a part of our culture. Perhaps that is what most outsiders cannot comprehend and so they try to vilify the sport, as if it were something barbaric, harking back to the days of old. But, are we humans that far removed from the days of old? Have we truly evolved into a passive and civilized society? Have we learned how to live without violence or without the primal lust for blood? I think not, which is why professional boxing and UFC (two bloody sports involving HUMANS) remain popular with blood-lusting aficionados and thrive financially without diminution to their international appeal.

Iris Espinoza writes,

Fist of all I don't agree with U.S taking that sport [cock-fighting] away. It's been part of Puerto Rico for a long time. Second, we are not a State and until we become one [the] United States should not get things taken away from us. 

Thank you for your email Iris. I think that by and large, whether or not island-dwelling Puerto Ricans like or dislike the sport, the issue of banning cock-fights has taken exception with them because it is yet another display of U.S. societal intervention on another culture; a 500-year culture that the U.S. knows nothing about and where they have no business sticking their noses. Let Puerto Ricans decide for themselves what s best for their Island. Do not force Boricuas into doing something they don t want to do because this will further widen the cultural and ideological divides already prevalent in Puerto Rico-U.S. relations. It is good that the United States humane societies have rid the country of the blood sport of cock-fighting; their collective conscience is clear and now they can take the moral high ground without shame. Not so fast! This is only the beginning. The road is long and the work is tougher than before because now the humane societies should concentrate their efforts on professional boxing and Ultimate Fighters (UFC); blood sports that employs human beings. Until then, and only until then, can the humane societies stand without shame!

Ms. Eileen Concepcion writes,

Hi Anthony, I have read your articles before but for some reason have never expressed my opinion until now. Why? I'm not sure why. As background, I was born in New York but have lived in New Jersey all my life and have only just recently visited Puerto Rico for the first time (at the age of 42 -- shame on me!!). I have always been proud of my heritage and have learned to read, write and speak Spanish. I also cook authentic Puerto Rican foods. Both my husband and I are 100% puro Boricua; both of our parents having been born and raised in Puerto Rico.

I believe that cock-fighting is a gruesome "sport" and I don't particularly agree with it, but what I really disagree with is PETA getting involved. Having just returned from Puerto Rico, I have been infused with a new pride for my heritage. I resent more than ever Gringos telling us how we should conduct our lives, especially when we are talking about something as deeply rooted in our culture as cock-fighting is. Non-Latinos have no understanding of our culture, but they sure do love our island, our music and our dance. They are quick to judge without taking into consideration the generations of deeply rooted traditions such as cock-fighting. I think Boricuas should fight and fight hard NOT to give up this tradition. 

Thank you for your email Eileen. I agree with you that cock-fighting is a gruesome blood-sport, and I don t care for it myself. I also agree that cock-fighting is a deeply-rooted tradition and, albeit violent, a Puerto Rican institution. I guess what really bothers me is the double-standard here, the hypocritical nature of organizations such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, treating Puerto Rico as if it were their problem child , saying things like (paraphrase): they are going to closely monitor the island s industry to ensure that fighting birds are not going to be transported over state lines. How asinine can this statement be, especially when cock-fighting has been banned in all 50 states? Why would Puerto Ricans want to transport fighting birds over state lines anyway? How would they transport the birds, in boats, like drugs are? How about by small aircraft designed to land in some remote airfield, and the birds whisked away to some holding pen where they are brought out to fight in an undisclosed location deep in the bayous of Louisiana? How about stuffing them in their crotches? Well, maybe not that; it might be an unforgettable experience for them. The illegal transportation of fighting birds is not going to happen. There is no need for Puerto Ricans to transport fighting birds anywhere because their money is made on the island itself. I guess the question we must ask ourselves is what about professional boxing and UFC? Aren t they just as violent, brutal and gruesome as cock-fighting is? Shouldn t those blood-sports be banned as well? Why aren t organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States closely monitoring  those violent sports? You see my reasoning here, Eileen? Do you see the double-standard? Are PETA and the Humane Society of the United States placing more value on animals than they do on human beings? I ll tell you why, because PETA and the Humane Society of the United States are powerless to take on the behemoth of professional boxing.

The Antichrist Revealed

May 2007 - The book of Revelations, in the New Testament of the Holy Bible, states that in the final years before the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Antichrist will reveal himself. He will first appear as a compassionate and noble leader, and will gain much power and fame. The people will not know him but will hail him and submit to him, and he will come to rule the world as a benevolent leader. His benevolence however, will last for only three and a half years, and for the next three and a half years, he will reveal himself as the Antichrist and will plunge the world into what the book of Revelation says will be the period of the Great Tribulation.

Well, my dear readers, the Antichrist has already revealed himself to the world. He is a sixty-one-year-old man who lives in Miami, Florida . . . and is a Puerto Rican. That s right, the Antichrist is a Boricua and his name is Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda!

Miranda grew up poor, in a housing project in Puerto Rico, where, during the early 1970 s, as a teenager, he was forced to steal in order to support his heroin addiction. While in prison, in 1973, Miranda claims that two angels appeared to him in a vision, and that the spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth  came into his soul. Miranda converted to Christianity and later began to teach himself all about the Bible. Following his release from prison, he arrived in the United States and drifted from the Catholic Church to the Pentecostal Church to the Baptist Church where he finally began his religious life as a youth pastor. In 1986 Miranda began his own ministry, Growing in Grace, in an old warehouse in Florida and over the past twenty years, Miranda claims that his movement has grown to the point where it has congregations in over 30 countries (mostly Latin-America), 287 radio stations, a web site and a 24-hour radio and TV station. He claims to have millions of followers and plans to expand his ministry across the globe.

So what does Miranda preach that makes followers of purportedly millions? Mr. Miranda preaches that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means sin no longer exists and that people can no longer do wrong in the eyes of God. Miranda claims to be a living incarnation of Jesus Christ, and in January of 2007 revealed to the world a tattoo on his arm bearing the number 666. He then announced that he and his followers are antichrists because their beliefs are greater than those of Jesus Christ. Many of Miranda s followers have gotten their arms tattooed with the number 666, showing their leader just how much they believe in him. Some followers have donated their entire savings to Miranda s church in a show of absolute Jim Jones cult-like submission. Mr. Miranda has taken special aim at the Roman Catholic Church, claiming that its priests are child-molesters and that the vows of chastity are in conflict with the Bible s teachings.

The Roman Catholic Church has denounced Miranda as a false prophet, and South American governments have labeled him a terrorist, banning him from their countries. Detractors have claimed that he is nothing more than a fortune-seeking, money-hungry opportunist who draws a $136,000 salary from the church (some say much more than that), wears expensive Rolex watches and travels in a bullet-proof Lexus or BMW.

As you well know, my dear readers, I am a conservative thinker and I am compelled to put in my two cents on this bizarre subject. First of all, I have to ask myself something. What is it about our world society that compels us to accept something so quickly? What is missing from the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist faiths that force people to go looking for it elsewhere by flocking over to a new doctrine or ideology? Is it that yesterday s message no longer keeps us captivated, and no longer puts fear in our hearts? Is it that we have lost our hope in this ever-changing world and cannot find it in our Churches or Temples? Is it that we are stimulated by a new brand of thinking? Are we so weak that a new manner of thought sways our rationale? Or, are we just plain gullible?

I think that many members of the human population are in desperate need of comfort and reassurance. I think that they need to know they are not alone in this universe and that there is a supernatural power that keeps things in control. I think that they constantly ask themselves: Is this all that I am? I am born, I live and I die, and when I die there is nothing more of me. I think that as a species here on earth we all want to be more than just an indigenous creature. I think that we want that supernatural power to exist and the promise that there is life after death and that we will be rewarded for living a good and pious life. I think that we have had these thoughts in our hearts since the beginning of time, out of fear of the unknown. Maybe that is why thousands have flocked over to Miranda s teachings and have converted to a new religion that promises new hope to them. Maybe the reason why Miranda has become so popular is that he offers new hope to a disillusioned people. As a Christian myself, I must denounce Mr. Miranda as a false prophet. He cannot be the antichrist because the antichrist will not reveal his identity until he has achieved global power and become the leader of the world. It is my firm opinion that if we reject Miranda s message, ignore him and take him as yet another Jesus Christ wannabe crackpot that his financial empire will crumble like the walls of Jericho. And let s face it: it s all about money, isn t it? I m sure that if the potential for making money in religion had not been there for Mr. Miranda, he might still be a pastor somewhere in Florida or Puerto Rico or maybe still dwelling in prison searching for an answer to his problems.

So, what is your opinion?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments

Ms. Teresa Jimenez writes,
I am sending this in regards to the article #24, 2007 statement, when you were talking about "The Book Of Revelation" [there is no letter "s" at the end of it] anyway you asked or stated: how can a world or "people" believe such a lie? Well God clearly states it in 2 Thessalonians 2: 9, "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. This "Jesus' guy can think he's God and the people can too, and people can try and blame the church but let's not blame anyone and let's pray for them, let's ask god what can we do to help in saving souls."

Thank you for your email, Ms. Jimenez and for your correction. Regarding your thoughts, well, I guess we can pray for such misguided souls; something I think Jesus would want us to do anyway. But the heart of my argument was why do people willingly accept new or alternative ideologies rather than explore their individual faiths for answers? What is it about these radical departures that seemingly attract the downtrodden, the weak-minded, and the seekers of knowledge beyond the confines of normalcy? I wish I knew, truly I do. In the absence of scientific evidence, I must agree with you in the fact that these false prophets have to exist because the Bible clearly states they will appear in the latter days. I must further agree that God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe these false prophets.

Ms. Milagro Diaz writes,

Just recently did I come across the El Boricua web site and I've been reading your opinions on various subjects on a daily basis. I would like to congratulate you on your very interesting and well-written articles. This is my personal opinion in reference to your article of May 2007, regarding Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, who claims to be Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that in the final days there will be false prophets trying to confuse people and claiming to be Christ. By the power of His Holy Spirit He will give us the wisdom to recognize who these false prophets are. Through His Holy Spirit, we will be able to discern what is and what isn't from God. That is why it's so important for us to have God in our lives.
In your column you ask, What is missing from the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist faiths that force people to go looking for it elsewhere by flocking over to a new doctrine or ideology? Is it that we have lost our hope in this ever-changing world and cannot find it in our Churches or Temples?  My answer to that is that it is not through religion that we find hope. You cannot find hope in church or in any temple. It is through our faith in Jesus Christ and by inviting Him into our hearts that we can find hope. When you develop a strong relationship with God through prayer and reading His word he will protect you from falling prey to these wolves disguised as lambs. As a Puerto Rican, I'm ashamed of this man. As a Christian, I pray for this man and for all the misguided people who have fallen prey to his evil ways. May God have mercy on them, and touch their hearts so that they can find the truth and come out of the darkness into the Light who is Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Thank you for your email Ms. Diaz, and thank you for your kind words. I try to keep an open mind on all religions, as they are based upon personal beliefs. Your personal belief is in Jesus Christ; it is your faith and there is nothing wrong with that, but Muslims believe in Allah and Jews believe that the Messiah has yet to come. From an objective point of view, I cannot say which religion is the true religion (though I have my own personal belief), but I can say that you are right. The strength of your faith is what will prevent you from falling prey to these crackpots and scam-artists. Perhaps we should not blame Churches and Temples for causing people to flock over to these charlatans, but rather on cynicism and general lack of faith.

Jennifer Hernandez writes,

I read this article on the website but I've also seen news coverage on it and I think that this man is nothing but a scammer with the morals of a slug who like many of these religious extremists who twist the Bible's words and make their own interpretation of it. In my opinion any one who has a tattoo of 666 isn't someone that I would be associating with, let alone go to a church where they minister. This man is a disturbed individual and needs to be put of business permanently. It angers me and saddens me at the same time that there are people out there who are so gullible to fall victim to a fake like him but he [cannot] not survive without the support from the public or financial donations. If you need to speak to [a] priest or pastor go to your neighborhood churches but don't empty your pockets to this crook! I think if people are not careful, this guy is going to be the next David Koresh and we don't need another Waco, TX incident on our hands. 

Thank you for your email, Jennifer. I guess the Bible has always been an interpretive subject and a tool for people such as Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, David Koresh and Jim Jones. They interpret what they want to interpret, and they base their beliefs by taking the Bible s passages out of context for nothing better than to serve their selfish needs. They are false prophets that prey on the weak-minded, the poor and the desolate. You are correct that these false prophets cannot survive without the public s support and their financial donations. However, as long as there are weak-minded people, willing to accept alternative doctrines, there will always be people like Miranda; wolves hiding in the brush, waiting to pounce on innocent sheep.

Ms. Yoly Semidey writes,

Hi Anthony long time I haven't posted any opinions. This topic is very good because I have seen this guy in like in 20/20 or one of those magazine shows. He sure has charisma, but you know he is just another hypocrite that uses religion as a means to fool people into believing in false pretenses in order to gain financial, personal wealth. I mean come on people! This guy probably has no theological education and he is a former felon. They all claim they have found some type of God or another in order to gain early release from prison. I know because I work for law enforcement. Once they are out, most of them get involved in criminal behavior again and end up in prison again. The recidivism rate in California is very high because mostly these felons do not receive rehabilitation that will prepare them for life outside of prison. Anyway, I don't know what makes a person get hypnotized by these so-called "prophets" or so they think they are. Miranda is a very convincing person or so he thinks. Maybe his followers have stumbled onto something different than what they have experienced in their churches or religions and are looking for something new. But people shouldn't be so trusting, especially of a man that convinces them to donate so much money to him or his "cause". And someone that writes 666 on their body is not a religious person as Christ intended, he is a false prophet. I feel sorry for the fools that follow this idiot. I know he will never fool me to believe in his false pretenses, for I'm a strong spirited person and I can spot a con man from miles away. It's just too bad there are many that fall prey to these con men. I truly feel sorry for them because they are missing something from their lives and they are looking for an escape. But believing in a fool is not the way to redeem one s self. I do hope this Miranda guy gets censored by most countries and gets banned from preaching his cheap "religion". By exposing his false ideologies thru the media can we get the word out about what he really is, nothing more than another opportunist. 

Thank you for email Yoly, it was nice to hear from you once again. Frankly, I am baffled at the fact that Mr. Miranda has so many devoted followers. I mean, what are these people looking for that they cannot find it in mainstream Christianity? Is it because the current political events around the world, the growing violence, the death of millions, famine, and disease all point towards a bleak future, a future without hope? Has this end-of-days mentality contributed to a kind of religious cynicism that has compelled them to seek answers elsewhere? Yoly, I really do not understand the human psyche surrounding this bizarre issue. All I can say is that the Bible does talk about false prophets arising in the last days before the Second Coming of our Lord, and false prophets cannot rise without the support of their followers. So it goes hand in hand that a false prophet must have his followers. As you said in your email, by exposing their false ideologies through the media will word get out about these illegitimate prophets, these con men that prey on the weak-minded, these vultures who thrive on the hopes of innocent people.

April 6, 2007
Multiple Sclerosis

A couple of months ago, I received an email from one of El Boricua s readers who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis ( MS ). She calls herself La India Caribe, and in our many email exchanges, she told me all about MS and about her struggles with this dreadful disease. I was previously aware of MS and saw many T.V. commercials about it, but I was ignorant about the horrible symptoms and the terrible suffering that those afflicted with MS have to endure. Profoundly touched by La India s sincerity in her emails and her powerful will to live life to the fullest in spite of her daily sufferings, I asked her to write a little about her life and share it with all of El Boricua s readers. What you are about to read is a mere glimpse of what La India goes through every day of her life, and I am very pleased and honored that she has graciously consented to share this very personal account of her life with us. Also, as El Boricua is a cultural web site and not a medical web site, I am grateful, too, that El Boricua s editor, Ms. Ivonne Figueroa, has permitted me to publish La India s story in this article.

Anthony Ramos

By La India Caribe

Hola, mi gente! Mi nombre es, La India Caribe. I suffer from a nefarious disease called Multiple Sclerosis, MS for short. Some of the symptoms include paralysis and memory loss. I got diagnosed with MS in 1999, which didn't make a difference to me, given the fact that it didn't change my condition. It only gave me an excuse to blame my symptoms on something that had a name. An MS attack is like an unexpected blow to the body. It's inauspicious! To put it mildly, it's a harrowing experience! You never see it coming and it knocks you flat out, literally! My face goes beyond recognition! My right eye goes down to my breast! Literally speaking, I get transformed into a monster! My lips swell up and hang past my chin. Wow, that's a scary sight as well! Needless to say, if my face doesn't hurt me, it kills those looking at it! The doctors say they've never witnessed anything like it! What they really mean is: they've never seen anything so damn ugly! OOOYYYY, EL CUCO! My arms get paralyzed, only one at a time. However, both my legs go dead at the same time and I become a neurological mess. Que barbaridad!

Years ago, I dragged my body all over the house and up and down the stairs when I lost the use of my legs. I started losing the strength in my arms and hands, too. I couldn't lift a fork to eat my arroz con gandules! So, I would compromise and lick the food off of my plate like a dog. After all, I was hungry. The only thing that came to my mind was: mira paya, a lo que yo a llegado! Con las lagrimas I would wash the food down.

In October of 2006, I was transported to the hospital by ambulance. They took me directly to the Intensive Care Unit. I had pneumonia and asthma, and I was totally paralyzed from the neck down. My brain held my body hostage. I was trapped inside of my own body and the agony was both mental and physical! I looked like a side show, and looking back, I should have charged on-lookers for ogling! Admittedly, an inferiority complex set in. Tired of hearing laconic comments such as: Mira pa' ya! , or Diatche!   Or: AAHHHH man, that's a stroke victim right there!  Then, as if that weren't bad enough, they d yell, as if I lost my hearing along with my ability to move. M ija, no grite que yo no estoy solda okay? 

Feeding time at the hospital was aggravating. I had to wait until everybody else got fed before me (they probably figured, hey, she's young, she can wait.) Furthermore, when they finally got to me, they would be called to the office or to another room (Sigue esperando mija!) My husband and children didn't visit me everyday, so, if I needed anything I had to go without. Que hambre! The doctors kept me in the hospital for a couple of months. Then, pa' fuera! Off to a nursing home I went. At the nursing home, I was treated like royalty. Thank God, because my last experience at a different nursing home was revolting and a complete atrocity! I slowly and painstakingly regained movement, first in my pinky then in my thumb. Gracias a Dios! This was a "come-back" sign. HELLOOOOOO!

Each time I have a MS attack it has the propensity of lingering longer then the previous one. With that said, I need to add to my story the pain, agony, embarrassments, sorrows, disasters and triumphs I experienced on my journey back to health. Pain and agony invaded my body. The embarrassment came when I defecated and urinated on myself, due to lack of control. Pero mi gente, lo mas que me afligio - fue el dolor que vi en los ojos de mi nieto Phabian! Y cuando le pregunte al nieto de 8 anos como se sentia, simplemente buscando conversacion, me contesto de esta forma  Al igual como tu te senitiria mami, si yo estubiera en una cama - muriendome!  Hay Bendito Dios mio, si el MS no me mata, seria la contesta del nieto. Good grief! Que dolor de cabeza!

The sorrow in Phabian's eyes and the dive his grades took in school {from an A's to F and D's) just added to my stress, and I came to realize that my baby was traumatized. Hay un refran que dice, No hay nada mal, que para bien no venga!  Si la fe mueve montanas, que mueva este cuelpo no viene diciendo nada! La fe en Jehovah Dios es lo que me tiene handando. Me libere de las cadenas que me tenian amarrada y sali corriendo! Tengan fe mi gente, que los milagros todavia existen.

As I mentioned earlier, this is merely a glimpse of what La India suffers everyday of her life, but what truly amazes me about La India is her attitude. Though she suffers daily, she is very optimistic and very determined to live as normal a life as she possibly can. Her candor is refreshing and her humor, in spite of her daily struggles, is admirable. If you want to know more about Multiple Sclerosis, you may use the link below. Also, if anyone, whether afflicted by MS or not, would like to chat with La India, please send me an email and I will forward your message to her. If you suffer from MS and want to respond to this article, please feel free to write to me.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments (Article 23 Multiple Scherosis)

May 2007

María Adelita Reyes-Velarde, MD, MPH
Manager Underserved Population Program
National MS Society
733 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10017
Phone: 212-476-0456

Dear Mr. Ramos,

I recently read your article about MS. It is a crude but true account of the psychological and physical struggle that faces a person with MS.

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system with a variety of symptoms such as numbness in the limbs, paralysis or loss of vision. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50; it can also be present in children and older persons. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are giving hope to those affected by the disease. MS affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S., and 2.5 million worldwide.

Now a days, the early and on going treatment with disease modifying drugs can reduce future disease activity and improve quality of life for people with Multiple Sclerosis. The daily struggle is also lessened by the education, support groups, other programs and services that the National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers nationwide to the people with MS and their families. It is important to know that the Society funds more MS research, provides more services to people with MS, offers more professional education and furthers more advocacy efforts than any other MS organization in the world. Anyone who wishes to know more about the disease or to learn about ways to help people with Multiple Sclerosis or current research that may one day reveal a cure, can contact us at National MS Society at or 1-800-344-4867.

We have Spanish-speaking information and referrals specialist to help the Hispanics person with MS and their families with their inquiries and are engaged in developing new programs and services to the Hispanic Community as well as other underserved populations. We are moving forward to achieve a world free of MS. 

Thank your for your email Dr.Reyes-Velarde. Like so many Americans, I had no idea of the daily suffering, pain and anguish endured by people afflicted with MS. I am very glad to have received a response from a doctor devoted to the eradication of this dreadful disease. I am equally glad that you have provided us with a web site where we can learn more about the disease and about the on-going research dedicated to finding a cure for MS. I hope that by posting your response, you will receive calls or letters from El Boricua s readers, whether or not afflicted by MS. Thank you, and please feel free to write to us again.

February 2007
Should We Pull Out of Iraq Now?
Article 22

I try never to write about politics and religion because these topics are very subjective and interpretive. However, in light of the fact that we are heading toward our third anniversary in Iraq, I feel that the war in that devastated country, as it relates to the Hispanic community, should be discussed in our forum.

As you all know, I am a conservative thinker, who believes in the notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These inalienable rights should not be exclusive to the citizens of first-world countries but should be experienced by all of humankind.

The repression in Iraq, under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, was barbarous. There was no free speech, and the act of speaking out against the oppression in Iraq was tantamount to committing suicide. Iraqis lived in perpetual fear for their lives. Men disappeared, taken away from their families, and were imprisoned to be tortured mercilessly or executed. Women had no rights and their social status in Iraq was equivalent to that of cattle (as in the ancient days of Persia).

Saddam Hussein committed all kinds of atrocities, including mass murders of the Kurdish people, use of chemical warfare, and unimaginable methods of torture. In addition to this, his government harbored terrorists and if unwatched could have developed nuclear technology.

When President George Bush asked Congress for broader powers and funds for liberating the Iraqis from Hussein s oppression, I supported him. I firmly believed that Iraq was at the beginning stages of developing their nuclear arsenal. I also believed that they did have chemical plants and were well on their way to a campaign of chemical warfare. It is unfortunate that the nations of the free world gave Hussein too much time. There were several warnings and far off deadlines given to Hussein, and while the United Nations took their time haranguing and voting, Hussein s minions used the political lull to either hide their weapons or transport them safely out of Iraq. Naturally, when members of the United Nations inspected Iraqi facilities they found inconclusive evidence of biological and/or nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Despite these setbacks, we went to war in Iraq.

A good number of Hispanics representing the Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force, were sent to the Persian Gulf. Many of our Hispanic leaders claim that since the war began in March 2003, the Hispanic casualties have been disproportionate. Many claim that Hispanic soldiers more often than not are among the first to be sent to the front lines or selected to go on dangerous missions. Never let it be said that Hispanics are cowards! This is proof positive of the great sacrifice our sons and daughters have made in Iraq. One of the first soldiers to die in the Iraq War was a youngster named Jose Gutierrez, an orphan from Guatemala, who wasn t even a United States citizen at the time! If that doesn t speak volumes about the Hispanic character, then I don t know what does. Many of our Hispanics brothers and sisters joined the military because they believed it was a path toward a better life. After serving four years, the GI Bill would pave the way toward an education among several other benefits. Joining the service to some Hispanics meant a way out of their impoverished homes or neighborhoods with a promise to see the world and become an effective member of society. And yet to some, joining the U.S. Armed Forces was the fulfillment of a dream; a dream to serve their country with honor, to fight for freedom and democracy, to make the world a better place in which to live.

As we approach the third anniversary of the Iraq War, there is talk among the liberal members of Congress of pulling out of Iraq. While I am saddened and grief-stricken over the loss of so many of our soldiers, whether White, Black, Hispanic or Asian, I disagree with this notion. To pull out of Iraq now would mean that all of the sacrifices made by our soldiers in the past three years will have been in vain. It would mean that we could not finish the job we set out to do. It would show the world that we have lost our edge and our stomachs to fight. The United States is a nation of principle and ideology, a society that has always been willing to lay down its lives for a cause they believe in.

Let us not cower in the face of adversity like Spain did, because the results of Spain s withdrawal only served to give the terrorists more encouragement. In my opinion, Spain s withdrawal was a travesty because it showed the world how afraid they were. They were stepped on and remain firmly underneath the terrorists  feet. Though many of you might disagree with me, I still support my President. Furthermore, I will not allow anyone to devalue the deaths of these soldiers, especially our Hispanic sons and daughters, by pulling out of Iraq. We should honor our soldiers, particularly those who bravely made the supreme sacrifice on the battlefields of Iraq.

This past weekend, I was at a McDonald s where I saw an older gentleman sitting a table. He was wearing a cap that read: World War II Veteran. I walked up to him, introduced myself, shook his hand, and talked to him for about a half hour. He told me what he did during the war and he was very happy to see my interest and gratitude toward a veteran. So when you see a young man or woman in uniform, don t be afraid to walk over and show your gratitude. Let them know that you appreciate what they are doing and that their decision to join the Armed Forces was an honorable one. What is your opinion?

PS. As an afterthought I would like say that on Sunday night Hollywood s Academy Awards will be televised. I think that the entertainment industry is the only industry that awards itself so many times over. They award themselves with the Emmy, the Tony the Oscar, Golden Globe, Peoples Choice, MTV, etc., etc. I could go on and on but you get my point. Why would I want to see a show about people awarding themselves for singing and acting? I would rather see a show rewarding people for making positive contributions to society, not for making movies and pretending real life situations. Why not do a show honoring the men and women of the services, awarding them with medals for their bravery on national television? Too boring you say? Perhaps, but I would rather see this than the Oscars any time.

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments, Article 22

Leroy Z writes,

Due to my participation in a letter to the editor campaign for which the topic is the Iraq war on the anniversary of 9/11 I will produce and distribute my current assessment of the conflict. Prior to 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq I put the world on notice as to how the conflict would unfold via civil actions filed under the name of Leroy a/k/a Derek McSmith that I requested to have transferred to Washington, D.C. & New York on specific dates that can be viewed at the Office of the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court Northern District Of Georgia. The assessment will be distributed to (Clayton News Daily, LA Times, ABC News, The Miami Herald & Rolling Stone Magazine) on the anniversary date and will be distributed to no more than XL media outlets in the morning on the date that Gen. Petreaus will provide his assessment. The author of this memo supports the bill that passed the House of Representatives on August 2, 07 on a vote of 229-194 sponsored by Rep. Ellen Tauscher D-California relating to our troops. 

Thank your for your email Leroy. I will be on the lookout for your assessment on the war. However, as I stated before, I still feel that we cannot pull out of Iraq without completing the job. That job was to remove a despicable tyrant from power and bring democracy to Iraq. The former was completed and now we are close to completing the latter.

Mr. Arsenio Cruz of Albuquerque, NM writes,

You said in your article that we need to finish what we set out to do, and what was that, to stop the weapons of mass destruction and to get [Saddam] Hussein? Well, we never found the so-called weapons of mass destruction, [but] we did get Hussein. So, why are we still there, to fight a civil war? Not our job. President Bush says that we don't want to look like we are losers, well what I say to that is, I don't want our children fighting for Bush's personal [beliefs]. I rather look like a loser and have our children home alive than to bring them home in a casket. [President] Bush is fighting for the oil because he has a personal interest in it. I say let us use the oil we have at home and stop making Bush richer with the blood of our children. 

Thank your for your email Mr. Cruz. While I understand that you would rather have our children come home alive rather than in a casket, I must remind you that our children have made a choice, an adult choice. The decision to join the army or any branch of the military does not come with a guarantee from the President that they will not serve in action. It does not come with the guarantee that they will serve out their four years in peace, and collect their GI benefits afterwards. The inherent risk of enlisting in the military, and perhaps the most obvious one, is the risk of dying in a battle. I saw the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power because of the human atrocities his regime wrought upon his own people. After 9/11, we all knew that Hussein was responsible for harboring known terrorists of Al Queda and perpetuating his own brand of international terror. Not once did I consider the notion that there were any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but I still believed that Hussein needed to be removed. I still believe that we did the right thing, but I also believe that we simply cannot remove a despot from power and immediately leave the country without a semblance of governmental order. We must gradually transition the people of Iraq from a totalitarian regime into a democratic society, and this cannot be accomplished overnight. I feel that we should leave Iraq as soon as we transfer power to the new Iraqi government.

Mr. Francisco Nazario, Jr. U.S. Army (Ret.) writes,

I was pleased to read the article Should We Pull out of Iraq Now?  We need to support our military in this very difficult war regardless of which political party we are affiliated to. If Americans were to give our military every bit of support that they deserve, this war would be over quickly because they are the best in the world. Not only does serving in our military allow them to fulfill a dream for the future, it also allows them to serve a country that is truly the last beacon of freedom and democracy in the world. 

Thank you for your email Mr. Nazario. I agree with you because not only should we lend our full support but we should also believe in what our soldiers are doing for us there, in such hostile countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. To simply pull out would send a signal to the world that we have given up, cowered in the face of adversity; and that is contrary to the character of the United States Armed Forces. But more importantly, it would (in my opinion) devalue the deaths of the many men and women who have bravely fought in the struggle for bringing freedom to a foreign people who have only known subjugation by tyranny and brutality. As a retired U.S. Army soldier, I salute you, Mr. Nazario, as I would salute any veteran or current member of the Armed Forces. You are the backbone of our society, the protectors of our freedom and our last line of defense.

January 2007
Article 21

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

As we celebrate the beginning of the New Year and move closer toward the end of the decade, we are seeing more television shows and magazine articles concerning the end of days . We log on to web sites laden with theoretical views, religious interpretations and warnings about doomsday, and wonder: when will it all happen? Growing up in a Pentecostal Church, the preachers continually drilled into my head this end of days  message until I was old enough to leave home. But aside from the teachings and warnings of the Church and the beliefs of so many of God s faithful followers, why are more non-churchgoers so concerned about the end of days? Why can t they get enough about this subject and why do we all search relentlessly in libraries or surf the internet for answers, as if by some miracle the elusive answer will come to us as if through prayer?

I think there is an inherent fear within all of us; a fear of the unknown, fear of our own mortality, fear that there is nothing after death, and fear of a planetary destruction. I also think there is an immeasurable amount of curiosity in all of us, too. Many religions of the world have predicted the end of days  for more than two thousand years, and for the past two millennia, many humans have shifted their lives to become more pious so that on judgment day they can enter the kingdom of heaven. I have read the book of Revelations many times and each time I read it I get something new out of it. I have read many other books concerning the end times, and I have seen documentaries and shows about it, too. I recently began looking into the subject of 2012 and found some interesting things. The year 2012 is important because many people believe something great will happen then.

The ancient people known as the Maya were great watchers of the skies. They lived in what is now Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico s Yucatan peninsula. The Mayans kept a very accurate calendar based upon their keen knowledge of astronomy. For hundreds of years, the Mayans, by virtue of their vast astrological awareness, were able to calculate both the winter, and the summer solstices; June 21 (summer) and December 21 (winter) and thereby assist their farmers with this knowledge. According to Mayan scholars, the Mayan calendar abruptly ends on Sunday, December 21, 2012 at 11:11AM, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It is precise up to the second! It is also interesting to note that although the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, the Mayan civilization ended around 900 A.D. So why did their calendar keep going for more than a millennium past their demise? But my research didn t just end there. In fact, it took me to the scientific world of Astronomy, where current astronomers have already calculated that on December 21, 2012, our sun will align itself on the same plain as that of the center of the Milky Way galaxy! But that s not all. Scientists have also calculated that on this day, planet Earth s poles will shift, causing great worldwide calamity. This has been scientifically and mathematically proven, and such a natural disturbance only occurs once every 26,000 years!

Today the media has kept us well informed about global warming, greater frequency of hurricanes and tsunamis and tectonic plate shifts causing terrible earthquakes. What does it all mean? Are these natural events the precursors to the global catastrophes mentioned in the Bible? Is it the second coming of Jesus Christ? Are these events occurring by design; a sophisticated plan of action concocted by alien entities thousands of light-years away? Or is it simply the Earth getting ready to shift its poles, and nothing more? Has nature selected that date for the extinction of all humanity, much like the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago? As I delve more into this gloomy subject, it is my opinion that something will definitely happen on December 21, 2012, though I cannot decide on what will happen, whether natural or spiritual. I think it will be the end of the old age and the beginning of a new age. I also cling to my religious beliefs and to the idea that God will somehow intervene and will not allow for the destruction of his greatest creation: Man! What do you think? What is your opinion?

Want to know more? On your web browser, simply type: 2012. You will see many web sites concerning this controversial subject.

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

December 2006
My Memories of Christmas
Article 20

My fondest memories about the Christmas holidays actually do not begin with Christmas itself but with Thanksgiving, too. As long back as I can remember, the holidays always started on Thanksgiving Day and did not end until New Year s Day. I guess what made those days so memorable for me was how our family came together to give thanks to God for the many things that He had given us and to celebrate the birth of His son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving Day is the one day in the year that we set aside to show God our gratitude for waking up healthy every morning and being able to breathe the Lord s good air once again. We show our appreciation to God for giving us a roof over our heads, and for the wonderful memories of our parents and grandparents. We are grateful to God for giving us children to love and grandchildren to dote on. We give thanks to God for the food that we eat and for everything that we have. Though we may not necessarily have everything that we desire, we are, nevertheless, grateful.

One of my best memories centers around the kitchen table, where I used to watch my mother, father and grandmother, cut box loads of green bananas, and then grate them by hand, one by one, until a thick, creamy glop (otherwise known as masa) formed and oozed into a huge pot. I was always fascinated at how my father would patiently slice the pernil off the bone and meticulously cut the meat into small cubes. The infinite patience with which my parents and grandmother performed these laborious tasks and the loving care they took in preparing pasteles for the holidays was not fully appreciated by me until I began to do the same thing later in life. Believe me: it is not as easy as it looks!

While my father helped out with wrapping the 10,000 pasteles, my mother and grandmother would begin spicing up the 400 pound nuclear turkey. My father would always get the biggest turkey; it was always so big that it could never fit into any conventional pot. My mother would stab the turkey three hundred times, and then stick a green substance (cilantro, recao, sofrito, etc.) deep into the holes she d made with the knife, and then she would color the turkey with achiote. After my father was done wrapping the pasteles and stacking them ten feet high on the table, he would then go out to the store and buy turones, bags full of nuts, and several eight-tracks filled with nothing but Christmas songs from Puerto Rico. It was then that he would reminisce and tell us all about the parrandas in Puerto Rico, and how much fun it was for him to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas on the island. I remember my sisters and I sitting on the floor listening to my father talk about the parrandas, and wishing so much to be there in thick of all the merriment.

Thanksgiving Day for me would start by watching the Macy s Thanksgiving Day parade on television, and then Laurel and Hardy in March of the Wooden Soldiers. Then I would switch the channel and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other Christmas shows. Finally, my mother would call us all to the table where all the plates and glasses were set and where we watched my grandmother (a firebrand Pentecostal) pray to God for about four hours. It seemed that long to us because my sisters and I (by choice) never ate a thing on Thanksgiving Day until dinner time.

The day after Thanksgiving, my mother would shove us all into the car, and then go on her yearly pilgrimage of Christmas shopping. I swear: it seemed to me as though we stopped at every possible store in Brooklyn, covering every square foot and every nook and cranny of Kings County; that s how it was day in and day out until Christmas day. Now Christmas was an entirely different holiday than Thanksgiving. Christmas was even more festive and happier.

The fun would begin on Christmas Eve, usually after 5:00PM. My aunts and uncles, cousins and friends would come over with arm loads full of shopping bags filled with gifts. They would sit at the dinner table and eat pernil asado with arroz con gandules, drink my father s coquito, eat my mother s arroz con dulce, and devour my grandmother s pasteles. After dinner, the stereo would blare out Christmas songs from Puerto Rico out of dozens of eight-tracks, everyone would be dancing and no one could hear a thing. Someone would always be in the middle of the living room recording every event on a Super 8MM camera no sound, of course, but plenty of shots! This would go on until the stroke of twelve midnight when my mother would turn off the stereo. Then she would arch her body down to the base of our 900 foot tall, 300 foot wide, pine tree that nearly took up the entire living room, pick up the gift-wrapped boxes underneath the tree and start calling out names. Being a little kid at the time, you will certainly understand that the only name I paid attention to, the only thing that mattered to me, was hearing my name! Oh how I waited so impatiently for mom to call out my name! As my mother would pick up boxes and call out names, I would keep my eyes on the number of gift boxes remaining underneath our leviathan pine tree, watching it diminish until I could stand it no more! I was afraid my mother would take my gift and give it away to one of my cousins. Later in life I learned that she never put our gifts under the tree until the very morning of Christmas.

I remember taking all of my gifts and going into my room with my cousins. We d sit on my bed and open up every gift. There would be a ton of gift wrap paper all over the bed and floor. I d sit there on my bed with my cousins playing with Tonka Trucks, Captain America dolls, and games like Kerplunk and Operation. Occasionally, I d open up a box and find a sweater or a shirt. Disappointed, I would toss the box to the side of the bed and look for another box. By about 2:00 in the morning, when everyone had left for the night, my mother would yell at me and my sisters to go to bed. By this time we were all hip to Santa, although it took us a long time to recover from the mental scars of finding out there was no Santa and no Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and no elves and no North Pole and . . . well, suffice it to say that we did get over it.

My sisters and I would struggle to keep awake but in the end, we would all succumb to sleep. Then, on one particular Christmas day, I got up out of bed and walked ever so slowly toward our monumental beast of a tree. I poked my head underneath it and recognized the box. I then pulled the box out as quickly as I could. Wide eyed and gleaming, I tore open the gift wrap paper and ripped open the box. It was the latest toy! The one every boy in the neighborhood had to have! It was none other than the Johnny Lightning 500 Series! It had come with an entire track and a ramp where the cars jumped up and flew to the next track! Wow! I had been dreaming of that toy for almost a year! I had been pestering my parents about it for as long as I had been dreaming of it! I had been waiting so long for Christmas to come! It was finally here and so was my toy, and no one was going to deprive me from my Johnny Lightning 500! My youngest sister would open up her gift and find her ballerina doll! My older sisters would get their radio record players or something teen-agers got at that time. But all I remembered was my Johnny Lightning 500!

After watching me play with my Johnny Lightning for about an hour, my mother and father stood in the middle of the living room with their arms folded and waited for some acknowledgement from me. Of course, since I was so into my brand new toy, I was oblivious to their presence. My mother with arms still folded said, Well, aren t you going to thank your father and me for the gift?  Can you imagine the trouble and effort it took for me draw myself away from the latest, best and most sought after toy just to thank my parents?

These are but a few of the thousands of memories that I store in the depths of my heart. We all have precious memories of our childhood Christmas days. Some recollections are funny and some are not so funny but we thank God that we have them.

Christmas is a time of joy, of sharing, of giving to those in need; a time of year in which we choose to forget about our differences and love one another. Christmas is a time that we take not only to buy gifts for one another and to appreciate your neighbor but to commemorate the birth of our Lord and Savior, the Son of God who came to earth to deliver us from sin. As we celebrate the coming Christmas holidays with food, drink, dance, merriment, and exchange of gifts, let us not forget the real Christmas, which is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. These are just a few of my memories, what are yours?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments, Article 20

Ivonne Figueroa writes,

Most people have great Christmas memories but unfortunately some don't. That is the way life is. Not everything can be perfect in life. I have great Christmas memories myself but I also have other memories that are not so great. One thing we have to remember is that although we cannot change the past, we certainly have the ability to make what we want of our present and even our future.

I make sure to tell my family stories about my Puerto Rican Christmas parrandas  and related events. I decorate my tree early to get into the holiday spirit . We drink coquito and play Puerto Rican Christmas music while decorating our tree. My daughter doesn't listen to my music, but she loves it when I play it at Christmas and she even wants to dance. So what we are doing is creating a Puerto Rican Christmas mood. You have to 'set the stage' for your Puerto Rican parties that will create great memories for your family and your children for years to come. Decorating the tree is a holiday event; make it memorable.

I make pasteles  with friends and family and we play our music it is really a cooking and eating party; the music is on, the tree is on, etc, and the pasteles  are frozen for later. I have a rule that if you want to eat you have to work. That means our pasteles  making event (party) includes wives, husbands, daughters, and even sons. I try to invite another family and we share the cost. The more people the merrier. I end up with teenagers who don't speak Spanish, and eat mostly burgers and pizza, eager to help cook and searching the internet for Musica de Navidad  to download for us. This is an event your family and kids will always remember. Of course there is Christmas Eve all traditional recipes.

We don't forget El Dia de Reyes  either. Even my college-age son and daughter continue to put their box of grass under the bed. If they don't want to do 'the box' it stops. I have a box in the garage that I put parranda  instruments in. My box has an old guiro that was my Dad's. I also have palitos  (3 sets) and 3 old taborines , and 2 beat up bongos I bought at garage sales. I also have an old cassette player that is battery powered, and two cassettes with parranda  music. The box is ready in case we decide to go on a parranda , but since that rarely happens when we visit relatives or family during Christmas we take our parranda  box with us and stand at the door, ring the bell and play the cassette and bang our instruments. It is funny how those 'cool teenagers' get excited with this particular activity.

So, plan your holidays and get ready ahead of time and have a lot of fun making your own family traditions and memories for yourself and your loved ones. 

Thank you for your wonderful email Ivonne. I think you ve captured the true spirit of a Puerto Rican Christmas. You have proven so enthusiastically that the spirit of a Puerto Rican Christmas dwells in the heart of a Puerto Rican and not in the island itself. You have taken the time to continue this age-old tradition in your home in Texas, far away from our beloved island. You have also taken up the great task of handing down our Christmas traditions to your children, so that they too may know and experience the holiday spirit from a Puerto Rican perspective. As I read your email, I imagined your house filled with Christmas joy and love! Pa lante Hermana!!

Nice article! Sounds like you had a great childhood. My Christmas days were not as fun as yours; I don t have a big immediate family, so my Christmas days were pretty quaint. But I remember my art college Christmas parties. I remember sledding on lunch trays down the snow-filled steep hills of Purchase, New York. I remember, "Reggae Christmas parties", trimming trees while smoking trees; BBQ in 20-degree weather, snow ball fights, wrapping empty Christmas gift boxes (lol, we were really broke). I also remember kegs in bathtubs etc, "jungle juice", and jello shots; very fun times, still fun times today. I always hooked up the dinner though, since I was the only one of my roommates who knew how to cook. Here is mine and my design partner's website Check our portfolio by clicking on work page. Peace I. 

Thank you for your email Ms. Martinez. Wow! You really did have fun in college! I don t remember my college days being that exciting, but they were fun nonetheless. I m trying to place an image in my mind of you sledding down a snow-covered hillside on a lunch tray; you must have been going pretty fast! I like the BBQ, though and the jello shots but I m not too sure about smoking tress that s a little too much for me! I m glad your Christmas days were fun for you in college. Now that you are in the real world, I m sure you treasure those wonderful memories. Have a very Merry Christmas, Irene, and a prosperous New Year!

Diana Dorta writes,

Nice memories. I live in Louisiana and I get very depressed during the holidays. I miss all the family, the music, spending time together just talking, joking and remembering the old times. I m married to a Cuban who came to the U.S.A. when he was 5 [years old] so even he does not understand our traditions, especially the parrandas .

Thank your for your email Diana. While I can certainly understand your depression during the holidays, I can tell you that you re never too far away from your beloved island or from your people and culture. You can plan a vacation with your husband, and you both could go to Puerto Rico and Cuba. Try to plan your vacation around the holidays so that you can enjoy the parrandas and other fiestas.

October 2006
Article 19

A few months ago I wrote an article about Alien Biological Entities or ABE s. The article was mainly about a furry creature with claws, red eyes, and long, sharp quills that ran along its spine. This mischievous creature was responsible for the deaths of many goats and other farm animals, and was actually seen prowling the Puerto Rican countryside. This creature is better known as the world famous El Chupacabra!

Since I wrote that article I have been contacted by numerous agents from around the world and given top secret government information about ABE s. Well, as you can imagine my dear readers, I had to treat this matter with the utmost skepticism and with a great deal of trepidation. After all, you cannot put all of your trust in anonymous emails that come from the highest levels of government, not only here in the U.S. but in Europe and in Asia as well.

After double-checking the source of the information as well as the information itself, I can only conclude its veracity. The data contained in the anonymous emails sent to me over the past few months is irrefutable, and its impact will send shivers up your spine.

For the past few months I have been debating whether or not to share this secret information with my readers and thereby taking a huge risk by exposing myself to the governments of the world. After much consideration and soul-searching, I have concluded that although the inherent dangers of sharing this information are high, I am compelled to disclose what I know to all of my readers. So, without further delay, I will tell you more about these ABE s; creatures with bad intentions that seem to invade earth with impunity.

In an email received from Chile, I have been informed that hideous creatures are prowling the streets of Santiago de Chile. These are harrowing times for the citizens of Chile because these creatures seem to be attracted to restaurants at night, looking for chuletas fritas! But the most hideous thing about these creatures is that instead of eating the meat off the chuleta, they suck on the bones. That is how this creature has earned the name of El Chupahueso!!! I think I ve gone too far now. Maybe I should stop.

I can t stop now. I must tell you everything! I received yet another anonymous email from a government official in Venezuela. This one is even more hideous than the one I mentioned previously. I mean this one flies, and continually circles the skies but when it spots a child, it swoops down on the child and yanks his sweets right out of his hand! Can you imagine how earthlings are being made to suffer at the hands of these alien creatures? That is why we must take steps to scan the skies and make sure that El Chupacandy does not infiltrate our airspace and steal our children s sweets. We must unite against these alien visitors who seem to show no compassion toward us.

In another disturbing email I have been given secret information about aliens that seem to be attracted to earth women!!! They have been seen ambushing women in countries such as Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Colombia. They suck on women s necks but they do not draw any blood. These creatures, also known as El Chupacuello, or known in the U.S. as El Chupahickey, leaves a red blotch on the neck of its women victims that seems to last for days. One woman, in Santurce, thinking that it was her boyfriend who was doing this deed, actually liked it. But when she turned around and confronted this creature, she fainted and remained comatose for days. I need not tell you about the mental scars that these incidents have inflicted on earth women.

There is one more creature that I must tell you about. Now this one is probably the most hideous of them all. I shudder to even think about this creature. He is known in countries all over the world as El Chupapanty!! I cannot tell you what this creature does, because the data is too packed with sensitive information; information that you may not wish to know.

By reading the foregoing passages you can easily deduce that something must be done! It is up to us, the citizens of the world to spur our governments into action. It is for this reason that I invite you to join MOFONGO (the Mutual Organization For Ongoing New Ghastly Organisms). As a new member of MOFONGO you will receive details revealing these creatures and their agenda for the citizens of earth. You will automatically be eligible for raffle tickets to win a trip to Mr. Kelvin Pena s farm in Canovanas, Puerto Rico. There you will meet Mr. Pena, an internationally-known cross-dresser, and witness the remains of his marijuana plantation after the terrible destruction caused by yet another ABE called El Chupapasto.

For the next thirty or so days, I will remain in hiding. I will try to answer your emails but if you don t hear from me, then you may presume that they ve gotten to me. But before I allow them to get to me, I will leave my friend from the United States, Mr. Jose Canyousee, in charge of MOFONGO. Until then, my beloved readers, please keep vigilant and watch the skies.

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments, Article 19

E. Peña from Chicago writes,

HA! HA! HA! I got to say, this was the funniest thing I have ever read re the Chupacabra. I couldn't stop laughing. I think I am going to read it to my relatives when they come to my house for the traditional comida de noche buena . Thank you for a good laugh. 

Thanks for your email E. Peña. I was wondering if you ve seen any alien creatures in your neck of the woods. If so, then MOFONGO is ready to hear your story. Carry on, and always maintain vigilant! To all of my readers: MOFONGO is a private organization dedicated to the investigation and subsequent exposure of all alien creatures invading planet Earth (lol).

Ms. Yoly Semidey writes,

Hi Anthony . . . I had to laugh at your story. What, you don't believe in the Chupacabras? You have to wonder what truth there is to this legend, or to what really happened to all those dead animals found with their blood sucked from their bodies. No eran marcianos! Okay, well it is funny anyway. 

Thank you for your response Ms. Semidey, it was nice to hear from you again! Regarding your question, yes, I do believe in the UFO phenomenon. That is what got me into trouble the first time, and why I had to go into hiding for one month. But by responding to you now, I am officially coming out of hiding, though it may not yet be completely safe for me.

By the way, has anybody contacted Jose Canyousee about the latest Chupacabra incident? Yoly, I think you should be the one to tell him. I cannot make contact with any member of MOFONGO yet, but I will rely on you. Yoly, you must tell Jose that yet another alien creature has been spotted. This one is kind of dumb because it seems to run into walls and get hit by cars. They call it El Chupadedo. Tell Jose Canyousee that he must add that one to the list. Also, at the MOFONGO convention in January, I will nominate you as secretary of our organization. I hope you don t mind.

A MESSAGE TO ALL MOFONGO MEMBERS: This year s convention will take place on July 2, in Roswell, New Mexico. With the approval of the U.S. Air Force and other interested parties, we have arranged daily bus trips to Area 51. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by several armed sentries who will provide you with a detailed tour of the base. I am told that sometimes, depending on the sentry, visitors are given a glimpse of recovered spacecrafts or even alien creatures, and if you are very lucky maybe even the Chupacabra itself! So bring plenty of tip money for the sentries and remember to book your rooms early! And one more thing members: please don t forget to dress properly. Bring as many bulletproof vests as possible and a very good pair of sneakers!

Package Deal Offered By Chavienda Travel, Inc.
Airfare: $ 225.00  Roundtrip (MOFONGO Discount)
Bus fare to Area 51: $ 30.00  One way (you may not come back)
Hotel Room: $ 60.00  Per Night Double Occupancy
Bail Money $10,000.00

September 2006
Are all Hispanics the same?
Article 18

Have you ever been annoyed at someone for referring to you as a Mexican, Cuban, Dominican or another Hispanic other than what you really are? And when you correct them, do they dismiss your correction and tell you it s all the same thing because we re all alike? Don t you find it frustrating that Americans are so misinformed or just simply lack sensitivity? If you find this misconception disturbing, then you are not alone. Many misinformed Americans believe that since all Hispanics speak Spanish, that we are all the same. Not so!

The Mexican people have a beautiful history and culture that s been in existence for centuries; a fusion of Aztec and Spanish blood that evolved their ethnicity into what it is today. The Puerto Ricans, like the Cubans, have evolved from a fusion of Taino, Arawak and Spanish blood, and their culture and history is just as colorful and beautiful as that of the Mexican people. The common thread that binds all Hispanics today is the Spanish language that we all speak; the last remaining legacy of the Spanish conquest. But other than sharing a common language, what other things do we have in common? In spite of sharing the same language, our cultures, heritage and manners of being are vastly different and definitely not common among us.

So, can I say that England and Ireland or the United States and Australia are all the same simply because they speak the same language: English? No! England s culture is vastly different than that of Ireland s and the same could be said of America s. You do not tell an Irishman that he is the same as an Englishman, so why is it that this train of thought can cannot be applied to Hispanics, too? I don t know why, and believe me I ve tried to rationalize it many times.

This reminds me of an incident that happened in an elevator several years ago. It was May 5th, and several of my colleagues were on their way to the bar to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday that not only has gained popularity with young Americans today but has found commercial appeal among American businesses, as well. One of my colleagues in the elevator wished me a happy Cinco de Mayo, and then he asked me what do we do for celebration on this day. I told him politely that I wouldn t know because I wasn t a Mexican. The others in the elevator laughed at my colleague, and I need not tell you that during the laughter in the elevator, my colleague could not hide his chagrin or the redness prevailing upon his face. I didn t want to sound off at him or make him feel that I was angry because of his naïveté, but what I wanted was for him to understand that he should never make that presumption again, but take the time to know a person s ethnicity before making such a remark. I must tell you though, my beloved readers, that he asked an innocent question of me, and that I did not perceive any hint of bigotry behind it.

In American cities today, we find many Hispanics from South America, as well as the Caribbean co-existing in neighborhoods. Though these urban centers have brought us Hispanics closer together, and though many of us have inter-married, there is still distinction between us. We do not hate each other but we try to learn each other s culture and co-exist peacefully. We enjoy the different cuisines that we bring with us, like ceviche, tamales, arroz con pollo, etc., and we learn the different nuances of our cultures and the different accents and enunciations of the Spanish language spoken among us.

Yes, we do speak Spanish but we are a diverse collection of people, with different cultures and foods that distinguish us from each other. What is your opinion?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments/Article 18

Esperanza writes,

I found this web page looking for the pig feet recipe. Yes, I have lost my cooking skills. I was taken by reading some of your articles, and you said it all in Article 18: Are all Hispanics the same? I always make sure that the people understand that we are different, and even our foods are different. But we must always respect one another, enjoy each other s culture and learn about diversity is very important. 

Thank you for your email Esperanza. I am wondering: did Carmen Santos de Curran, our wonderful chef, have the pig s feet recipe you were looking for? Regarding your comments, we each have our unique culture, food and customs but we all fall under the same Hispanic umbrella! Isn t that marvelous, to be different and yet still be the same? By the way, now that you have written to El Boricua, what is your nationality?

Marco Alemany, Esq., Orlando, Florida writes,

I want to thank you, first and foremost, for reading this letter. I only have one thing to say to all
Puerto Ricans living in the United States: SHUT UP ABOUT THE SITUATION IN PUERTO RICO!

Now the previous statement may have come out rude or disrespectful, however, what is it our business what is happening on the island? All of us by one way or another made the choice or the choice was made for us to be here in the mainland, so it is not our concern what happens there. Let the people living there make their own decisions and choose what they want to choose. Here in the mainland, there is always some kind of discussion in regards to what is happening in the island . . . why?

I am proud of being Puertoriqueño! I am proud of coming from one of the most elegant families of Puerto Rico, the Alemanys. I am proud of having part of my education coming from the Hermanos De La Salle. I am proud that my brother-in-law is a Federal Attorney and I am proud that my nephew was the only student appointed by Sila Calderon to the United States Military Academy at West Point (look it up, Roberto Perez). However, how can I be proud when ignorant people start speaking their mind in regards to what is happening in the island and the most eloquent statement that they can say is "pal' carajo!".

What can we do? How can we become the culture of the "Island Continent" as we have been described? How can we excel without having to compromise our values? Can you answer those questions Mr. Ramos? No one else can. 

Thank you for your email Mr. Alemany. My take on this issue is that Puerto Ricans living on the mainland feel a need to maintain connection with the island s politics and culture. That connection is what seemingly closes the long distance between themselves and their ancestral land. Some of us feel so strong about Puerto Rico s politics because perhaps we still have family living there and wonder about their future. Perhaps our love of the island is so powerful that it outweighs our sense of rationale and forces us into making irresponsible comments or unnecessary statements. Perhaps we have been away from the island for so long, that it has made our minds far too nebulous to make sound judgments when it comes to Puerto Rico s current and future political status. Your question: How can we become the culture of the "Island Continent", as we have been described? How can we excel without having to compromise our values? The answer to those questions is complicated, but I will try to respond. Literally speaking, it is my opinion that as long as Puerto Rico remains a Commonwealth of the United States, it will never achieve the description of Island Continent . To become an Island Continent in the literal sense, to obtain its own identity, Puerto Rico must be a free and independent country. Regarding your next question, we can excel without having to compromise our values. As an attorney, you have done it. Many of us have achieved certain degrees of success without having to compromise our culture, ethnicity and values. So what is preventing Puerto Rico from doing the same? Nothing! In the end, it is up to Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico to take action and do something about their future.

Amanda Garza Lightfoot writes,

First of all, let me say that your web site is fantastic. I enjoy it everyday. I have cooked several of the delicious recipes from Mrs. Carmen. I look on the recipe list every morning and make something new and delicious every day.

Although I'm not Puerto Rican, I feel at home at your website and can relate to many topics and discussions. I'm Mexican-American, born in Germany (Father was in the Service). I lived in Texas since I was 2 [years-old]. I speak with a Texan accent. I don't speak fluent Spanish, however, I can understand a lot more than what I can speak. What little I know, I try to pass on to my children. The older I get, the more important it becomes to me to pass on my heritage. In the past I've heard "What kind of Mexican are you?" Mexican Hillbilly, among other things. I guess what I'd like to say is that I'm very proud to be Latina and just because I do not speak Spanish fluently, doesn't make me any less Latina.
Your web site has helped me to understand that. I also embrace all Latinos; we are all brothers and sisters with similar backgrounds. My feeling of being at home at your website reminds me of the movie the "Motorcycle Diaries". The speech at the end when he said Latinos are all brothers, it's just geography. That was one of the best statements, I ve ever heard. We all have similar heritages-Spanish and indigenous. We are all beautiful people, all of us: Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican.... and all of my Latino brothers and sisters I haven t mentioned. Thank you for your time. This is such a great web site. I truly enjoy it on a daily basis. It s nice to see Latinos achieving great things. 

Thank you for your email Amanda. It s nice to hear kind words from our readers whether Puerto Rican or not. Regarding your growing desire to acquaint yourself with your Mexican heritage, I applaud you, Amanda! I also applaud your desire to pass on your heritage to your children. Your roots go back to the mighty lands where empires like the Aztecs and Mayans ruled, a land steeped in glorious history, enchantment and wonder. I ve been to the Yucatan peninsula, deep into the jungle where I came face to face with the pyramids and temples of Chichen-itza. I have a profound respect for the people who once dwelled in these lands; a resolute, coherent and dedicated people who lived in communion with mother earth and thrived hundreds of years before the European invasion and theft. Yes, my dear Amanda, that same Aztec and Mayan heritage flows through your veins, like the fresh water that flows through the winding rivers and creeks of the Yucatan. Embrace your heritage, and open your arms to receive what has always been yours to claim!

Boodawgmama writes,

Hi I totally agree about other people thinking all Hispanics are the same cause that is so not true. First off you also must be careful when you say "Americans" because I consider myself "American" even though my heritage is Mexican. The reason for that is because I don't know the half of what Mexico is. I think being of Mexican heritage we have it the worst because of all the millions of unwelcome illegal Mexicans. All Anglos think "Oh you re Mexican, well go back to your country because you re not welcome here." So I find it hard to place myself anywhere. If you've ever watched the movie Selena, where Edward James Olmos says, We're not welcome by the Whites and we're not welcome by the Mexicans, we have it rough on both sides,  he couldn't have said it any better. My great great-grandparents were here before Texas became the 28th state in 1836. They never had to cross any borders, this was their home from the time Mexico lost the battle at the Alamo. So when I say I'm American and other ethnicities think being "American" is white I have to disagree, because I am not white but I am American. Sorry if I sound rude I don't mean to be. 

Thank you for your email Booda. I don t think that you were rude at all. In fact, I think you brought up a very important issue for the Mexican-Americans. Aside from Texas, Mexicans were also in California long before it was taken by the U.S. They were in Arizona and in other southwestern states, too, before Americans arrived there. In fact, they are more American than the so-called Americans . Thank you for brining up this often forgotten fact. However, as a fellow Hispanic and one that grew up in the American culture, I can commiserate with your sentiments. You are an American, and that is true, but your roots go deep to your motherland of Mexico. And no matter what Mexicans might think of you, you are still very much a part of them and of their culture.

Ms. Irene Martinez writes,

You forgot to add African blood, as well. Spanish missionaries [originally] brought over the African slaves and [the] Spaniards [soon began] raping Blacks and Indians; mucha mescla! This is also the reason for Santeria, which comes from the African [slaves who were forced into hiding] their polytheistic beliefs in the guise of Catholicism, etc. I wasn't aware of the Arawaks being in Puerto Rico; glad I read that.

You are so right about most people thinking all Latinos are the same. Very nicely written and explained. I want you to write about Latinos who don't speak Spanish. What do you think of Latinos who don't speak Spanish? Are they [any] less Latino? [Are they], too influenced by western culture, or ashamed of their heritage? That would make for controversy, ha! 

Thank you for you email, Irene. Yes, I did forget to mention the African contribution to the Puerto Rican culture; something which many of my readers have reminded me time and again. Regarding Santeria, I really know nothing about that subject. However, it is interesting to note your comments on that subject. On the matter of non-Spanish-speaking Latinos, I don t think that makes them any less Latino. There are many Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, German-Americans (and many more) that do not speak their ancestral tongue, but that doesn t make them less Italian, Polish or German. My children do not speak Spanish, but they understand it well (thanks to their grandparents). This is what happens when people from other countries come to live in the U.S.A; their descendents assimilate into American society and culture. If you do not speak Spanish, Irene, hey it s okay. You are still Boricua!! It s never too late because you can always learn to speak Spanish.

Anthony Santiago, Sr.

I was reading some of the comments sent by our readers in regard to our racial mixture and I would like to share with you the following story. When I was growing up in the Bronx, the phrase "Hispanic" was not yet commonly used and you were either "Black" or "White." My family has the physical traits of your average Italian-American and we never gave any thought to the race issue. My family moved to a "White" neighborhood in Queens and I guess everybody assumed that we were not Puerto Ricans since my mother's surname from her second marriage was Pop. I had been going out for a couple of years with this Italian-German American girl whose parents "loved" me. However, all that changed when I told them that my mother was Puerto Rican.

One day she came up to me crying and told me that she wasn't allowed to go out with me because I was Puerto Rican and that all Puerto Ricans had "Black Blood." I was so naive. I told her that as far as I knew there were no blacks in my family and that she was supposed to love me and not my blood.

That's when I realized that I didn't know a thing about Puerto Rico and my heritage; that and the fact that my cousins always stated that we had Italian blood, were the incidents which prompted me to do some research about my Puerto Rico and her people. It has also served as the inspirational force which has led me to write about my findings, which I enjoy sharing with the readers of Wikipedia and El Boricua.

It would be a false assumption to believe that all Puerto Ricans are of a mixture of Spanish, Tainos and African. Even though the mixture of the Spanish, Taino and African culture became the fundamental base of our customs, traditions and culture there were many families who immigrated to the island during the 1800s, when Spain invoked the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, who kept to themselves. These families came from the Canary Islands, Mallorca, Corsica, France, Germany and Ireland. Most (not all) of the non-Hispanic immigrants intermarried with those Puerto Ricans of Spanish descent to maintain their "social" standing.

I have written articles about the African, German, Corsican and French immigration to the island. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that our island is the genuine "Melting Pot" where all the races and religions coexist. We shouldn't worry if we are white, black, brown or purple because we all have one common denominator and that is that we are all "Boricuas" and proud of it. What we must do, however, is to educate ourselves and we should always remember that our actions not affect us as individuals but, may reflect on the opinion that others have of our people in general. 

Thank you for your email Mr. Santiago. There are so many historical events and dark secrets about Puerto Rico s distant past, waiting to be discovered by her sons and daughters living abroad, that it baffles my mind that there is an apparent lack of interest. We should all take the time to acquaint ourselves not only with our culture, but with our history as well. I think rather than spending our time in fruitless arguments over our ethnicity, we should all learn more about our motherland. To all my readers, Mr. Anthony Santiago, Sr. is also known as Tony the Marine . Tony Santiago writes for El Boricua and for Wikepidia, an online encyclopedia, focusing on Puerto Rican historical topics. I invite all of you read his page.

Antonio Santiago Jr. writes,

I respect your views and you are a very intelligent man. I admire you for publicly saying your opinions, something not too many dare to do and in many of our countries is actually outlawed.

That said, eight Puerto Ricans here and a Spaniard say we are not the same. I feel ashamed of people who are so ignorant. If you look back at our roots, we all, at least presently, have at least a pint of Spaniard blood in our veins, every citizen from Barcelona to Tijuana, from Havana to Tierra del Fuego and Ciudad Panama to Guinea Equatorial and Manila (our African and Asian Hispanic brothers). Many have it mixed with African blood and others with Indian blood. But a study carried out recently concluded that Tainos and Mayas, who populated Central America and Mexico, had the same DNA!

I think the unity between Hispanics is not a curse but should be a blessing. While according to the Bible we are all brothers and sisters in God, Hispanics share more in common with fellow Hispanics than say, non-Spanish Europeans, and Australians.

I am a Boricua pa que tu sepas and I m always invited into my Mexican neighbor's parties, where I wear a sombrero and rejoice in the fact I can mix my Puerto Rican background with the Mexican one. I sing my ajuas and Mañanitas and I teach them how to sing La Borinqueña and we all do it in the name of brotherhood and sisterhood sharing and the name of fun.

At a time like this, when the United States is holding Puerto Rico at reganadientes as they don't even give Puerto Rico money to overcome the economic situation, and then try to build a wall on the Mexican frontier while overlooking the Canadian one (alas, terrorists have come to the USA using the Canadian border!) Hispanic unity needs to be highlighted even more as we need to fight for our rights together. The great Edward James Olmos, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to, went to jail defending PUERTO RICO during the Vieques cause and he is Mexican. Olmos is an example of how the great majority of Latino Americanos feel about each other. Or, like a sign read during the recent skirmish between Argentina and Uruguay's governments: SOMOS HERMANOS, WHY DO OUR GOVERNMENTS FIGHT? I respect you, for having your column and expressing your points of view. Thanks and God bless you. 

Thank you for your response Mr. Santiago. I guess rather than expending our energies in talking about our differences, we Hispanics ought to focus on our commonalities, such as our language, struggles of life, and desires to be recognized as equals, as one nation, if you will. To all of my readers, I have the honor of informing you that Mr. Santiago Jr. is the son of Antonio Santiago Sr. who is also known as Tony the Marine , a writer for El Boricua. Aside from El Boricua, Tony Santiago also writes for Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, where he focuses on Puerto Rican related topics.

Frncs67 writes,

Being born and raised in Connecticut, from two parents whom are both from Patillas Puerto Rico, I can understand why Anglo American s, take our culture so lightly. The African black blood , [which] runs through our veins, is looked down upon by most American s for historical reasons and guilt for past and present indiscretions.

Due to all the negative history Americans have with Africans, they pass on their guilt and spread it around on Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, etc. The art of deflection is what I call it, and too many Puerto Ricans are quick to cower down and allow [this deflection] to foster and continue.

My own parents failed to teach me my own culture and history; after all, if you don t know the way the road goes, would you not need a map or a guide so you don t get lost? Else, how would one know where they have been and where they are going?

Compartmentalization of Puerto Ricans here in the states also fosters the Keep it in the House 
attitude that makes it hard for another culture to learn our culture. We, as Hispanics, as a whole do this all the time we are not inclusive to the extent we should be.

Yes, in our home we had our Christmas parties and festivities, but as a Puerto Rican, I know there is much more to me, I feel it in my bones and every fiber of my being. We are more than food, flags and parties, more than an island, we are a people. So, I choose to educate others and not infuriate.
I choose to learn, ask questions and teach others. Then, just then, maybe the day will come that others are not blinded by their own guilt.

Thank you for your insightful response Frncs67. While I might agree with your perception that Americans pass on their guilt and spread it around on Puerto Ricans,, I think that the lack of sensitivity is the result of disinterest and general laziness to know learn about other ethnic groups and their cultures. Let s face it: from the moment foreigners set foot on the U.S., they strive to assimilate into American society, and many lose their ethnicity within one or two generations. Many Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. have done the same thing; we re no different than any other culture. The general belief is that everyone has to learn to speak English and must become Americanized in order to fit into the societal scheme of things. We come in all shapes and sizes, whites, blacks and olive-skinned, but though our appearances vary, and though many of our racial lineages differ from one another, we are still one people, one voice, one nation and one culture. Indeed Frncs67 let s all of us choose to educate others and not infuriate them! Let s all of us choose to learn, ask questions, and teach others! It is the best approach I ve heard thus far!.

PSR122 writes,

I am Boricua but born and raised in NY, and [now] reside in Tampa, Florida. In reality, Hispanics are not the same! In my office we celebrate the Hispanic Heritage week, [a time when] every Hispanic shows their pride and culture and food for others to get familiar [with]. I root for food (smile). Me encanta los congri (Cuban), tamales, burritos (Mexico), churrasco (Argentine), mangu (Dominican Republic), do I have to list all the Hispanic food?? Oh gee you will get hungry! Hispanics speak Spanish but there are words that each country speaks or interpret differently. When I visit home in NY, people confuse me as Italian. When I speak Español, they [say], "Oh you Latina," and I correct them: Soy Boricua pa  que tu sepa! 

Thank you PSR122 for your email. Indeed, the food seems to bring us all together; it s our ambassador, so to speak. I couldn t agree more with you, and with the title of the television documentary starring Rosie Perez: SOY BORICUA PA  QUE TU LOS SEPA! If you have not seen it, my readers, then I recommend that you do. You will discover interesting things about Puerto Rican history. It comes on every now and then on the IFC channel, so you must be on the look out. If you wish you may go to your local video store and inquire about it.

Ms. Alford writes:

It seems to me that some Puerto Ricans have a problem in regards to "African Blood." Is it a bad thing to have African Blood in your veins? What's the big deal? I don't get it. 

Thank you for your response Ms. Alford. It is not a bad thing to have African blood, and perhaps this topic ought not to be a big deal. But it seems to have become a big deal, hasn t it? Perhaps it s because for those Puerto Ricans living on the island, those with blond hair and blue or green eyes, there is a problem in having to be forced into accepting this notion; a notion, which in their eyes is false. I cannot blame them or judge them but simply respect their feelings. By that same token, there are many Puerto Ricans on the island that are black-skinned with kinky hair, and some that are a combination of both. Again, I don t reject them, but simply respect their feelings as well. As we are an eclectic people, we cannot categorically say that we all have African blood because that would be a false statement. Those people that feel they do not have African blood have a right to claim that, and they should not be forced into accepting something they feel they are not. I would like to share something with all of my readers: my grandson is half Puerto Rican and half African-American. I love him with all of my heart and I see no color when I look upon him. Perhaps that is the way we should all be, and with a little wisdom, respect, prayer and love, we will come to embrace each other as human beings. Peace and love to all of my Puerto Rican brothers and sisters!!!

Mr. Fernando Fortunato Vizcarrondo writes,

I always smile when fellow Puerto Ricans try to decipher their lineage, as in your response to Rasta, even though it was full of apologies. To still insist that your Boricua lineage was free of any African bloodlines made me think of the very famous poesia negroide which I include for your readers. 

Thank you for your email Mr. Vizcarrondo. Notwithstanding the Poesia Negroide, I feel that I can safely tell you that I have traced my lineage to the mid 1800 s when both sides of my families settled from Spain. I have not deciphered my lineage, as you stated, because it was not ciphered to begin with. It was neither a riddle nor an enigma of races. I am not saying this to you to make myself appear different or better than anybody else but to simply state a fact. Why must all Puerto Ricans be forced into claiming African lineage so categorically and so arbitrarily, and without the benefit of a complete review of their own geneology? This is a misconstrued thought that has insinuated itself as a racial axiom among many of our people? Yes, my response to Rasta was full of apologies. But I apologized for not mentioning the fact that the African culture has been a contributing factor in the evolution of the Puerto Rican culture. If you have not researched your own lineage, then how can you pass judgment on me? How can you presume that I am not what I am? How can you arbitrarily say that all Puerto Ricans have African blood without performing a scientific study on the composition of our racial bloodlines? Are you basing your opinion on a poem or on hard scientific evidence?

Mrs. Elizabeth A. Barbieri writes,

I enjoy reading your articles and learning more and more about Puerto Rican culture. My background is Irish and Spanish (de España).
I am married 10 years to a wonderful man (Jeff) who is of Puerto Rican decent. He is the youngest of 5 and was the only one born in the United States, returned to Bayamon, Puerto Rico until he was 5 years old and returned to New Jersey to start school.

While growing up in the states, his culture was more or less "forgotten" or put aside. It is shameful to say that while living in some rural parts around New Jersey-it was not "desirable". That is a story for another time.

Jeff did make a couple visits to Puerto Rico as a teenager to see his abuela and brought his New Jersey friends with him that, according to Jeff "had the time of their lives and were jealous of my abuela!"

As he has gotten older, he is getting back in touch with his roots and I am along for the ride and having a blast! We visit the island often about twice a year and we are looking into purchasing some property. His Spanish language skills are close to zero (except when it comes to ordering food, especially his favorite: bacalaitos)! He is learning! My Spanish is more adv
anced than his but it sounds so different when I am on la Isla and I get a little lost sometimes! Which brings me to one of the articles you wrote-not all Hispanics are the same! Cierto!

We both feel that if we are going to have a home there, we need to assimilate and become more familiar with customs and your articles and El Boricua web site help us with that! People have been nothing but kind and generous while we are there. Thank you for your articles 

Thank you for your response Elizabeth. I am happy to know that you ve undertaken that journey of discovery along with your husband. It sure sounds like you both are having a good time at doing it, and it s something you can share with your children, too. As far as the Spanish goes, well, I think you can string him along until he s able to communicate effectively, if he should desire to do so of course. I am also glad to know that we, at El Boricua, have provided a small measure of help in your discovery. Write back to let us know your progress.

Mary Juana writes,

Original Text
Lo que mas me molesta ami es que cada vez que voy a buscar alguna informacion sobre puertorriquenos rapido le meten la chavienda Africana. Yo soy Boricua, reniego de nuestra sangre negra, y no somos negros pero parece que la gente Americana no lo entiende. 

What bothers me the most is whenever I go surfing on the net for some information about Puerto Ricans, they quickly throw in the African thing. I am Boricua, I apostatize of our black blood, and we are not black but it seems that the American people do not understand it. 

Thank you for your response Mary Juana. I understand your sentiments regarding your personal ethnicity; many Puerto Ricans feel the same way you do. However, I think your statements were more directed at Rasta s response a few days ago rather than my article. Rasta was born and lived in Puerto Rico and he merely brought to my attention the fact that I had neglected to mention in my article the African element that comprises many Puerto Ricans, too. Mary, in talking about our ethnicity we cannot ignore the racial and cultural contributions that the Africans made to the Puerto Rican mosaic. Though you, and many like you, may not have any African blood, there are many Puerto Ricans that do. And so when we talk about our Puerto Rican heritage, we must take the African element into consideration.

Rasta writes,

As a proud Boricua you have greatly disappointed me in your major omission of the many African ethnic groups (Yoruba, Congo, Ashanti, etc.), that contributed to your supposed fusion of Taino, Arawak and Spanish blood  (to quote you). This saddens me greatly; it is the reason that many of us refer to ourselves as Afro-Boricua these days. Of my four grandparents, only one (my mother's mom) would be classified in the US as "Black" but my physical appearance firmly identifies me as a person of African descent. I would never omit the African from the Boricua "fusion", and yet, I wonder more how you could.

Maybe you were simply describing 'your' bloodlines and maybe you would wonder why I would give so much weight to your omission. Maybe your family does not look like mine, which I tend to think is a typical Boricua family. I have first cousins of every complexion imaginable blondes, redheads, brunettes, straight hair, wavy hair and kinky hair. Then I gave you the benefit of the doubt and thought to myself; maybe his family is from up in the mountains and not from the coast like mine. Then again, my mother's father was from the mountains, a proud Corsican-Taino man and he married the little Black woman who was my grandma. My father's father was a second generation Spaniard who married a Taino-Spanish Mestiza (my other grandma). I doubt if my very 'Hispanic looking' grandfather would have omitted the African from our Boricua "fusion".

We all don't look like Ricky Martin but I have noticed many Puerto Ricans in the US who bleach our identity for the benefit of gringos and assimilation. Maybe you've gotten used to leaving out the African for the benefit of your Anglo friends. I hope you never shame our heritage like that again. If you omit the African from our language, our music, our art, our food you would be left with the sullen culture of the conquistadors, instead of the vibrant culture that we can call our own. Notice I say: 'we' even though you left me out of your equation "hermano".

Our 'fusion' is: Spanish, African (including Arab-Moors), Taino, Irish, Corsican and Canary Islands, to name the majority. By the way, I was born 'en la Isla' and lived 'en la Isla'. I have a Spanish language (only) Blog, so that I combat this idea that millions of Afro-Latinos don't exist. 

Thank your for your response Rasta. I say to you, Rasta, and to every Afro-Boricua out there, please accept my sincere apologies for omitting perhaps the most important ethnic element in our cultural composition. I was remiss in the omission of the African culture, but I am happy that you have pinpointed my negligence and corrected me. Also, you are correct in your deductive reasoning about my bloodlines, which originate in the mountains of Orocovis and Utuado, and descend from the Catalonian and Basque regions of Spain. To echo your statement: yes, millions of Aftro-Latinos do exist and they are every bit a part our Hispanic culture! I will never exclude the Afro-Latinos again, but if I do, I take comfort in the fact that you, Rasta, will be there to correct me again.

Ivonne Figueroa writes,

In response to your question, of course we are not all the same. We enjoy a common ancestry, the Spanish Heritage and traditions from 'mother' Spain, and we speak Spanish, but we all have our own homeland traditions, customs, colloquialisms, history, food, etc. I am so glad to say that all Hispanics are cousins, we are primos, part of a big family and I am very much proud of that. It is fun to learn about our differences and our similarities, and fun to try new foods and actually different ways to eat the same foods we eat in Puerto Rico.

Since I live in the Southwest, most people confuse me with being a Mexican-American. I get the very same comments you mentioned, but that is normal and natural. I usually ignore the comments and say, I am going to the parade or festival. When I do have a chance to explain the differences between us 'cousins', I use the very same example you used in the article about Americans, British, and Australians all speaking the same language but being different, etc. It is a great argument. 

Thank you for your response Ivonne. Indeed, learning about other Hispanic cultures is a lot of fun, especially the food part! Perhaps we may never be able to get that message across to Americans, but we know who we are, and we know that we each have our individual identities. So in the long run, I won t lose too much sleep over this American misconception.

Puerto Rico s Future Revisited
Article 17

I was invited to join an internet group called Diaspora, a forum where the members discuss current topics relating to Puerto Rico and to Puerto Ricans both living on the island and on the mainland. Among the hotly debated and often recurring topics is the future of Puerto Rico s status. Some months ago, you will recall that I wrote an article entitled: The Question of Puerto Rico s Future: Commonwealth, Statehood or Independence, Article 8. In this article I wrote about the pros and cons regarding each of Puerto Rico s possible futures.

A fellow Diaspora member provided the group with an article written by Megan Scott, entitled: Puerto Rico s future debated. The article was published by the Lexington Herald-Leader, a Lexington, Kentucky newspaper, and it appeared on its July 26, 2006 publication. It is interesting to note the many similarities between this article and the one I wrote back in September 2005. Anyway, the reason why I am writing about Puerto Rico s future is because the article that Ms. Megan Scott wrote did not bring a fresh perspective to this very important issue; it simply rehashed the same old issues that we have come to know so well and have discussed at great lengths. The second reason for writing about this issue again is because I still receive emails from El Boricua s readers.

As you all know, I believe that Puerto Rico should explore the possibilities of becoming an independent nation. But those are my personal feelings, and I never try to persuade anyone to think like me because I feel that everyone should have their own opinions free of outside influence. I have always said that the final decision on Puerto Rico s future, whether commonwealth, statehood or independence, will ultimately rest upon the shoulders of the Puerto Rican people. As a Puerto Rican American, I will respect and honor whatever decision is made because it will be based upon the majority and the will of the Puerto Rican people.

My previous statements notwithstanding, I remain curious about how El Boricua s readers, if given a chance, would vote. For this reason I would like to conduct a poll with El Boricua s readers. I would like to know which future you would vote for: a) continued Commonwealth status;
b) Statehood; or
c) Independence.

So, if it isn t too much trouble, please send me an email telling me which future you would vote for and why. Hopefully if I get enough emails, I will post the results on this page.

If you are interested in reading Ms. Megan Scott s article, please email me and I will forward it to you, or you can search the web for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Minaya s Mets Management Madness Revisited

Back in February 2006, I wrote about the unnecessary fuss that certain New York sports radio personalities made over Omar Minaya s acquisition of ball players for the New York Mets. Way back in February, even before the start of spring training, I wrote that Omar Minaya, as the new General Manager of the New York Mets, was doing a good job in acquiring the ball players desperately needed by his team. The fuss that these radio personalities made (I will not mention their names) arose out of the fact that the newly acquired players were nearly all Hispanics.

In case you are not following the progress of the New York Mets and the success of Omar Minaya, let me bring you up to date. As of Friday, July 28, 2006, the New York Mets were in sole possession of first place in the National League Eastern Division. Not only were the Mets in first place but as of Friday, they had a commanding 12 game lead on the second place Atlanta Braves. Now I know it s still too early to give Mr. Minaya his due accolades, and I realize that in baseball a 12 game lead can be cut short in no time at all, but I have to say that the New York Mets have far exceed any of my expectations. Regardless of where the Mets end up this year, or how far they will go in the playoffs, we must agree that Omar Minaya has already turned the team around.

As I stated in Article 13, I have been and always will be a die hard Yankees fan. But since I felt that the media (radio in this case) was wrong to pass judgment on Mr. Minaya without giving him the opportunity to prove himself, and because of the fact this Dominican man and fellow Hispanic was forced to defend his actions, I have been rooting for the New York Mets. It is interesting to know that no other General Manager in the history of baseball has had to defend his actions based upon the issue of ethnicity.

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Day of Celebration

On Sunday, June 9, 2006, I was home and working on my computer. I turned on my television and flipped through the channels several times until I came across the live telecast of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. At first I thought about changing the channel to watch something else, but something caught my attention. I noticed that the famous rapper, Fat Joe, was sitting alongside Ernie Anastos (a popular New York City news personality) as a fellow broadcaster of the parade.

Despite the fact that this was Fat Joe s first foray as co-host of a nationally televised event, he did a very good job. He came across as a very warm-hearted and sincere person filled with enthusiasm and pride. Many famous Puerto Rican personalities participated in the parade. Among the many that made a pit stop at the broadcast booth to speak with Fat Joe and Ernie, were Geraldo Rivera, Jimmy Smits and Rosie Perez. The parade was led by that famous couple, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony.

I watched most of the parade and was terribly impressed at the sight of so many colorful floats, beautiful women and handsome Puerto Rican men, and as I heard the vibrant sounds of our Salsa music blaring out of speakers, I couldn t help but to feel very proud to be a Puerto Rican. The Puerto Rican Day Parade has grown so much in popularity that it is now broadcast nationally. Many of the participants in the parade not only came from New York City, but from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and many other states. A great number of participants even came from Puerto Rico. To see the streets lined on both sides by hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican spectators enjoying the parade, and seeing the genuine pride that their faces reflected, was truly a breath-taking sight.

But what does this beautiful parade mean to us? For me, the parade is something that magically brings us all together for one day. It is a massive forum for Puerto Ricans to express their pride and solidarity. For that one day, we are all as one, whether we come from Puerto Rico or whether we come from as far away as California. For that one day, all of our ideological differences with regard to politics, religion and philosophy vanish into the black asphalt of 5th Avenue, and supplanted by the convergence of our minds and souls in a prideful celebration. For me, the parade fills my heart with the desire to visit Puerto Rico again. My daughter is dying to visit Puerto Rico. I have promised her that I will take her not only to San Juan but to my father s home town of Orocovis, and my mother s home town of Utuado. I want her to know her roots and learn all about our beautiful Spanish and Taino heritage. I know her visit to our enchanted island will change her dramatically, as it changed me when I first visited Puerto Rico for the first time. And by change, I mean that all confusions I had about who and what I was disappeared, and I came to embrace my Puerto Rican heritage with open arms.

When the parade was finally over and the station switched to broadcast something else, the event it left an indelible impression inside of me but it also left me with an empty feeling. I didn t want the parade to end, and I didn t want the celebration to end either. It frustrated me to think that I would have to wait until next June to see the parade again. So, my Puerto Rican brothers and sisters out there, what does the Puerto Rican Day Parade do for you? How does it make you feel? What impact do you feel the parade has on the Puerto Rican people?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments (Article 16/Day of Celebration)

Llope46 writes,

If you visit Puerto Rico with your daughter, I don't know how long it's been since you visited, both of you are going to enjoy it. I was there in April and the island is beautiful. Please try to go around the island and don't miss "GUAVATE", in Caguas. Live music in every kiosk and not forgetting the food. Lechon en la vara, arroz con gandules, guineitos, ensalada de pulpo, maduros fritos, morsillas, etc. etc. Y BARATO! QUE DISFRUTEN! 

Thank you for your email Llope. Well it s been a long time since I was last in Puerto Rico, my friend. And I plan to do just that: go around the island, to places I have never before visited. I ll try to make a stop in Guavate, and experience the music and DEFINITELY THE FOOD!

RgArn writes,

I, very much, enjoyed watching the parade. The only thing I didn't like was that the spectators were so loud. Whenever someone walked up to them with a microphone, they would yell and scream. One spectator was asked what Boricua  meant, and she responded, Puerto Rican power . Well, that's not what it means, and that's not what the parade was about. Anyway, other than that, I did enjoy the parade. 

Thank you for your response RgArn. I guess some people get caught up in the excitement of the moment and express their feelings by yelling and screaming. Some people are less vocal, but are equally excited. These are individual expressions that shouldn t be judged too harshly. Regarding the Puerto Rican woman s comment that Boricua  means Puerto Rican power, I agree with you that it is an incorrect definition, and should not be connoted with the Puerto Rican Day parade either. But, although you said you enjoyed watching the parade, you did not tell us what the parade meant to you. I invite you to write back and share with us your reflections on the parade.

To Be Or Not To Be An Illegal Alien

A couple of weeks ago, millions of illegal immigrants walked off their jobs for one day in an effort to show the people of the United States just how important the workforce is without them. They also walked off their jobs in protest over House Resolution 4437-Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, an immigration bill that was introduced to Congress for ratification in December 2005. I m not going into the specifics about House Resolution Bill 4437, but I will talk about the illegal immigration issue and its effect on all Hispanics in North America today.

The United States has stepped up its efforts against illegal immigration by reinforcing its southern borders with miles and miles of fencing, increasing border patrols and dispatching 6,000 soldiers to help stem the rising tide of non-U.S. citizens entering the country every day. House Resolution Bill 4437 even cites Alien street gangs as inadmissible, and rightly so. But, on the other hand, in New York City, in the Brighton Beach area, Russian mobsters have carved a niche in the so-called underworld of crime. How did these criminals get here? Why didn t the U.S. screen these people like they screen the people coming from south of the border?

Another issue behind these China Great Wall measures is that if illegal immigrants are held back from crossing the southern borders, employers will be unable to hire them, and thus cannot pay them the ridiculously low wages under the table  or off the books , as so many of them are willing to accept. This will then force U.S. employers to hire legal immigrants and pay them at least the minimum wage; an idea that they may not particularly like.

So why do we not hear about the efforts the United States is taking to protect its northern borders? Has the United States taken the same measures to protect its northern borders from illegal immigrants as it has done with its southern borders? Didn t a few of the Islamic terrorists responsible for 9/11 enter the U.S. illegally through Canada? Aren t there two fronts in the war against illegal immigration? I just wonder: how many people enter the U.S. illegally through Canada?

I cannot help but to think that it all boils down to ethnicity. Hispanics come from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and, yes, even Puerto Rico. They are not white, and they speak Spanish and come from what the United States refers to as Third World Countries. Anglo-Americans and perhaps a large number other white Americans tend to view the Hispanic people as an inferior class. They complain that the Hispanic population is growing too fast, prefer to speak Spanish and that in time they will become the number one ethnic group in the United States. There is even talk in Congress about making English the official language of the United States. In spite of these prejudices and outright bigotry, Hispanics still come to the land of opportunity to seek jobs and better lives, like so many Jews, Italians and Irish did in the mid to late 1800 s. Unfortunately, the Hispanic s skin color is not white, though there are exceptions, and because of this cannot assimilate into the U.S. mainstream as easily as the many Jews, Italians and Irish did within a generation. Bad luck, I guess, to be born a Hispanic, right? Not so fast!

In my opinion, I think that, collectively, Hispanics represent more than just numbers. Their countries have their own universities and colleges that produce engineers, doctors, lawyers, economists, politicians, teachers and professional laborers. Their countries have natural resources and people willing to work. I say, let them take note of what the countries of Europe have done. European countries joined together, pooled their resources, and became known as the European Common Market. As a result of their union, the European Common Market became a major player in world economics. The central currency is the Euro Dollar, and it is currently trading at a rate 1.275. That means that the United States Dollar is equivalent to $0.78 of a Euro Dollar.

It is my opinion that, collectively, Hispanics can extricate themselves from the American inferiority stigma and become respected people by pooling their resources to become, perhaps, a Latin-American Common Market. A what? Are you kidding me? That s impossible! That s a pipe dream! But . . . is it really a pipe dream? I don t think so. Why can t Hispanics manufacture automobiles or airplanes or machines? Why can t Hispanics create their own Space Agency? Why can t Hispanics become major players in world economics and politics? What s stopping Hispanics from becoming a world power? I believe it is their inability to dispense with their differences.

So what was achieved two weeks ago by the walkout? Some say nothing! Some say it only disrupted certain businesses for a day. And yet, some would say that it had a great impact on the United States economy. But the next day, they all went back to work (illegally) and the events from that day faded away from the media s attention. All of their energies were focused on the protestation of a Congressional Bill and their hopes of achieving favorable immigration laws.

I say, instead of expending such energies to reach a country that really doesn t want them there, why don t Hispanics do something to keep their people in their own countries? Nothing should stand in their way toward becoming something truly special. They must put aside their differences, like the European countries did, and band together to become an economic and political force to be reckoned with! They must stop eating the crumbs off their master s table and become masters themselves, masters of their own destiny! What is your opinion?


On a rainy September evening in 1995, Olga Cruz was driving on a lonely street in the outskirts of Canovanas, Puerto Rico. Earlier that evening she had been embroiled in an argument with her husband over his infidelity and his refusal to change his philandering ways. In a fit of anger, Olga stormed out of the house, and while she drove to her mother s house, she fought against her tears of anguish and bitterness, and the sudden feeling of loneliness. She had decided to leave her husband for good, despite Efrain s pleas that this time he was going to change. But she had heard him say those words so many times before, and though her husband would keep his promise for a few weeks, he d always revert to his old self. So she made up her mind to finally break with her tumultuous eight-year marriage.

Olga Cruz took her three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 7, forced them into her tan-colored 1985 Toyota Corolla, and decided right then never to look back. Her jet-black hair was dripping wet and her hands, for some strange reason, shook uncontrollably. Yet, the 35 year-old Olga was fully determined to start a new life.

As she slowed the Corolla at a stop sign, her light-brown eyes squinted through the torrents of rain water that cascaded down her windshield. There were no overhead lamps on the street and Olga could barely see with the aid of her Corolla s headlights. The howling winds rocked the trees along the edge of the street and leaves would come down, like the falling rain, and scatter throughout the asphalt thoroughfare. Olga had always been afraid of the rain, especially the lightning and the loud claps of thunder that followed it.

But on this September evening, she was oblivious to those childhood fears because a sudden shiver ran up her spine. It was an eerie feeling; something Olga had never before experienced, and even the hairs in the back of her head began to stand. Something was out there! A strange and malevolent force was hiding somewhere inside the forest of trees beyond the edge of the desolate street.

Olga Cruz made her full stop, looked both ways as the rain pounded her car, and just before hitting the accelerator, she caught sight of it! With eyes widened and mouth agape, Olga tried to focus on the four-foot creature that jumped out of the forest and seemed to be hopping its way toward her. At that very moment though, her reliable Corolla buckled for a few seconds and then simply went dead! Olga tried frantically to turn her car back on but it wouldn t turn over; the engine refused to ignite. That was when Gloria, her eldest daughter caught sight of the creature too and began to scream. Olga turned around quickly and tried to calm Gloria in the best motherly voice that she could muster during those tense and harrowing moments. Soon, all three girls began to shrill and there was nothing Olga could do to calm them down. They were scared of their wits and so too was Olga but, for the moment, she would have to dispense with her own fears and draw upon all of her motherly instincts to protect her children.

Olga turned back to see the creature hop once toward her car, then hop twice. Then, as if God had answered her prayers, the creature turned around and darted back into the forest. As the girls clamored for their mother, Olga fixed a long stare at the tree line beyond the street, exactly at the point where the creature had disappeared. She waited until she felt the creature was gone for sure, and then turned back to calm her daughters. The rain came down hard and crashed against the car with unrelenting fury, as if the helpless Corolla had been underneath a waterfall.

After taking several more moments to pacify her daughters, Olga felt comfortable enough to try to turn on her car again. Her shaking right hand reached for the key that was still in the ignition and turned slowly. At first the car rattled and then the engine finally kicked over. Olga made the sign of the crucifix and thanked God. But before she could reach for the stick shift, she noticed that the creature was back again and standing right outside her window! The creature s angular face bore two large, oval-shaped red eyes and its skin was like that of a reptile. The creature s back contained a line of quills that ran down its spine, much like a porcupine. Blood dripped down from its mouth as if it had just eaten an animal, like a cow or pig or even a goat. For that one split second, Olga and her three daughters were catatonic; their hearts inexorably pumping as a result of their deathly fear of the creature that stood only inches away from them.

All of a sudden, Olga felt her right hand grasping the stick shift and bringing it down to drive. She stepped on the accelerator all the way down to the floor, causing the wheels to spin wildly on the wet asphalt. Then, as the creature raised its hands to reveal long, sharp claws, the Corolla began to move. Smoke rose from the wheels as they spun on the asphalt, and in a matter of seconds, the Corolla shot past the stop sign and rumbled its way out of Olga s hellish nightmare.

Ten minutes later, Olga parked in front of the police station in Canovanas and gave an account of one of Puerto Rico s most bizarre occurrences.

The foregoing passage is perhaps one of hundreds of similar reports made during the middle to late 1990 s concerning sightings of a hideous creature. The creature, mentioned in Olga Cruz s ordeal, is known in UFO circles as an Anomalous Biological Entity ( ABE ). It is more popularly known as El Chupacabra  or Goat Sucker . But what exactly is this creature? Some say that it is a cross between one of those Grey  aliens and a porcupine. Some say it is the product of genetic engineering gone haywire, and some say it is simply a mad dog.

So why all the hysteria? Why have these bizarre occurrences spread not only to parts of Central and South America but even the United States? Is there any truth to the numerous sightings made on the island of Borinquen? Or is it an illusion of the mind? What can we make of all this?

Well, I did some investigation of my own, albeit through the internet, and found a plethora of information on the subject. I am not going into specifics here but I can give you a few websites that write extensively on this most enigmatic creature. What I am interested in, though, is the whole UFO phenomenon. I have come to believe in my heart that the universe is so vast that there has got to be life out there somewhere. Perhaps we are the product of alien beings that came to earth hundreds of thousands of years ago and seeded the planet. Perhaps there are aliens living among us right now.

I am not quick to dispel the UFO phenomenon because many people have stepped forth to talk about their personal and most terrifying experiences. Some are lawyers, pilots and policemen, and some are regular citizens. But they all share one thing and that is a strong desire to talk about their experiences, a desire so strong that they are willing to suffer the indignities of being ridiculed by the mainstreamers and debunkers.

I ve never had a UFO experience but I do like to read about them. I cannot dismiss El Chupacabra, nor can I dismiss the Roswell Incident or the countless other UFO stories because I feel that there is truth in these accounts. In my opinion, I believe that aliens have visited earth, and though I have no proof other than the thousands of articles on the subject, something inside me simply believes in UFO s. What is your opinion? Have you ever had an alien encounter? Have any readers personally encountered El Chupacabra? If so, then please share your experience with all of us at El Boricua. And don t worry because in this forum, we will not ridicule anyone for stepping forth to talk about their experiences.

Suggested websites: The Skeptics Dictionary, and, or just type the keyword: Chupacabra on your web browser. On Google, you will find 1,010,000 websites carrying the keyword: Chupacabra.

Reader comments

Skindeep99 writes,

Well, my brother, the term UFO  is unreal because they have been identified for a long time. Now IFO s are as real as anything else can be. Too many people have testified, too many people who have had no contact with each other, have given accounts too similar for this be another lie. Every ancient culture, including our Taino [ancestors] gave accounts of these so-called Unidentified . It s also another reason why we ll never see a Reverend quote the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls speak of Ezekiel s wheel, describing it as a spacecraft, and it also quotes the planet it came from. Like you said, there is lots of information out there. Siempre de Corazon, Suave. 

Thank you for your response, Skindeep. Indeed, the evidence regarding extra-terrestrial objects or beings is not only compelling but it is overwhelming, too. Perhaps one day, the governments of the world will come clean and fess up this great secret. For those who have seen or have had contact with extra-terrestrial entities, there is no need for them to wait on the governments of the world to tell them what they already know. But for those who do not believe, I bet it will come as a great shock to them. Regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls, I believe that these ancient writings have forced the world s religions to re-think certain aspects of their faiths. When I first read the book of Ezekiel, I thought the man was on acid and was experiencing a bad trip. But then on my second read of the passages, I couldn t help but to draw parallels between his account and those mentioned in UFO sightings. I have seen television documentaries about the Dead Sea Scrolls, but outside of this I know nothing about them. They are as mysterious as they are profound.

David Sanchez writes,

Mr. Ramos, I would like to comment on your article ABE . For many years I was the kind of person that always required proof before believing in things. I had always thought it absurd that people actually witnessed Unidentified Flying Objects, or experienced abductions by aliens bent on performing exotic probes on their bodies. Basically, I rejected the UFO thing as a myth and always refused to participate in such conversations. But I had a UFO experience that changed my entire outlook on this subject.

About four years ago, my brother Rick and I were hiking in the mountains of Pennsylvania all day, and pitched our tents for the night in a very secluded, dark and remote part of the woods. All had gone well and, except for the sound of a steady breeze rustling the leaves in the trees or the hoot of an owl, the night was quiet. My brother had started a small campfire and was brewing some coffee, while I was busy inside the tent un-rolling our sleeping bags. I had already set up my sleeping bag but as I reached for Rick s bag, I heard my brother calling me. It was the sound of terror in Rick s voice that captured my attention because my brother never got exited; he was always an easy going guy and was usually very quiet and reserved. I stepped out of the tent and saw that Rick had dropped his coffee mug on the ground and was looking up into the darkened skies, his body seemed frozen and his face looked as if he had seen a ghost. When I turned up to see what had captured my brother s attention, I froze too! What my brother and I saw was a triangular-shaped object that was shining a narrow beam of light down at the woods, apparently searching for something. Now I don t know what this UFO was searching for but I am very grateful that the beam of light did not shine on the two of us. The most striking thing about this object though was that I heard no engine sounds like one might expect from a conventional aircraft. Then, all of a sudden, this UFO shot straight up into the skies, made a right-angle turn and moved westward at such an incredible speed that it seemed to have simply vanished right before our eyes.

I know that what I witnessed that night four years ago was not of this earth and since then I have become a believer. I never talk about that incident because people usually give me a strange look, like I m nuts or something. But after reading your article I wanted to share this story with your readers. My brother has never spoken about that night and I never bring up the subject. I know he was really shaken that night so unless he wants to talk about, it will remain an unspoken incident between us. I have read many books on the UFO subject and read personal accounts of abductions. What I want to know is if the governments of the world are aware that aliens are visiting our planet, or have been visiting us since ancient times, what are they doing about it, and why so much secrecy? Well, I could go on and on so I ll just end it here. I hope other readers will share their personal stories on your column, Mr. Ramos.

Thank for your response Mr. Sanchez. Wow! As I read your personal account, I couldn t help but wonder what might have happened to you and your brother had that beam of light shone on your campsite. I live in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, and I know how dark and desolate the woods can be at night. You and your brother were out there all by yourselves, and I can t even imagine how terrified you would have been had the UFO made a turn and head straight for you. Regarding your concerns about the government knowing about UFO s and keeping it all a secret, I m afraid I don t have answer for you. Maybe the governments of the world are working with aliens, but toward what goals, I dare not think it. Or maybe they feel that in revealing what they now about aliens to the general public, it might cause civil unrest on world-wide scale. But what impact would it have on the religions of the world and those who believe so passionately in their faiths? Think about it. Sometimes, though we may not agree with the notion of secrecy, it is far better not to stir the hornet s nest or open up Pandora s Box. I would like to thank you for sharing your very personal story with all of our readers at El Boricua.

Minaya s Mets Management Madness

For the first time in modern history, a Hispanic man has been hired as a General Manager for a Major League Baseball club. His name is Omar Minaya and he is the new GM for the New York Mets. So what s the big deal? Why are newspapers, magazines and sports talk shows making so much fuss about Omar Minaya? Is it because Omar Minaya is determined to bring the best ball players to a team that desperately needs them? Is it because he wants to bring the Mets out of the prodigious shadow cast by the New York Yankees? Is it because Omar Minaya wants to fill seats at Shea Stadium and bring respectability back to his childhood team? Or is it because Omar Minaya is a Hispanic man who has gone out and hired 14 talented Hispanic ball players? Some radio sports talk shows have lambasted Omar for doing what he s supposed to be doing as a General Manager, and that s going out and getting the best ball players your team s money can buy.

So why didn t anyone make a fuss when the New York Yankees, the only Major League team with deep pockets, bought out Alex Rodriguez  25 million dollar contract from the Texas Rangers? Did anyone speak out against the Yankees when they hired Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams or El Duque? Did the New York Yankees say, Wait a minute, I think we re hiring too many Hispanics.  I don t think so. I think they pursued the best talent available and got it. Baseball, like all sports, is all about wining. Yes, Baseball is a game but it is also a business and a team that cannot win ball games cannot put butts on stadium seats. And an empty stadium produces no income.

The fact is that Hispanics love Baseball and play it well. Hispanics from Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico begin holding bats before they start walking. Baseball is in their blood and in their hearts and that is why Hispanics excel in the sport. It is the job of GMs and talent scouts to search for this talent and they will go wherever necessary to bring that talent back to their team; case in point, Kaz Matsui, all the way from Japan.

Will the Mets win ball games? I think so. Will they win more games this year than they did last year? I also think so. Will the Mets have team that can honestly make a run for the play-offs? Maybe. Is it too early to make a judgment? Definitely. In professional football, Head Coaches are given two to three years to build their teams before the media starts to judge them. We must allow Omar Minaya to do his work without distraction and without having to justify his every move to sports talk radio personalities who do nothing more than second-guess rather than taking up the mantle and doing the job themselves.

Omar Minaya was born in Valverde, in the northern hills of the Dominican Republic. While his father worked, his mother taught at school. In 1965, Omar s father was arrested for opposing the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo. After spending two years in prison, Omar s father moved his family to Queens, where they came to settle in Corona. At Newton High School, Omar became the star catcher, batting .489 in his senior year. He was drafted by the Oakland A s and was sent to their minor league team. Unable to become the player he once aspired to be, Omar left the minors after two years. But Omar had another talent besides baseball and that was the talent of finding talent. He discovered Sammy Sosa and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mr. Omar Minaya, you go boy! All Hispanic eyes are on you and we re going to stand behind you every step of the way whether you succeed or fail. We know how difficult it s going to be for you because you will be under the New York Media s spot light, where one day you are a hero and the next day you are a goat. But you have shown how well you have dealt with the media and that is an achievement unto itself. Good luck to you, Mr. Minaya, and may your team succeed. I am a New York Yankees fan. I have been a fan since I was eleven and I will always be a fan. But because so much fuss has been made over you, I will be rooting for the Mets this year. So my dear readers, how do you feel about this Minaya s Mets Management Madness?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments/Article 13

Richard Caban writes,

Well said, Tony. Although I do not know when you wrote this article, I think all the talk should have stopped by now. Minaya has proven his worth a million times over. Now I hope you see what a force the METS have become, and with Pedro back in the rotation, fresh and ready for the playoffs, I just want to say one thing: SUBWAY SERIES! If your Yankees care to join us, it won t be like in 2000. 

Thank you for your email Richard. I think I wrote this article in the beginning of the baseball season, without really knowing the outcome of Minaya s work. I guess Mr. Minaya has proven his worth, and he certainly has put those radio talk show hosts to shame. Let us see now if the Mets and, indeed, the Yankees will face each other in another World Series. There is no doubt in my mind that it will be a very entertaining series for New Yorkers and a profitable one for the city.

Minaya needs to seguir pa lante and staying strong!!! 

Thank you for your response, Mr. Peña. Indeed, we shall keep watch on Mr. Minaya s progress, and we shall root for him on every step of the way!

Benjamin Cruz writes,

Love what you wrote, to hell with the critics. Keep it up my nephew... 

Thank you for your response, Mr. Cruz. To all my readers, Benny Cruz is my wife s uncle and he is a die-hard Mets fan. At our family gatherings, there are always heated discussions over the Mets and the Yankees. They usually start as regular sports conversations but then turn into arguments and then digress into team bashing and finally all hell breaks loose. I, being a Yankees fan, against my wife s uncles who are Mets fans  well you can imagine how that goes. Anyway, as I said, I will be rooting for the Mets this year because I want Omar Minaya to succeed more than anything else. I want him to prove to everyone, especially to those radio talk shows, that he did the right thing!

English as a Second Language or ESL

I grew up in a household that spoke only in Spanish. Up until the age of six, I had no knowledge of the English language, or that the world was replete with many languages. But for a young, Hispanic boy, growing up in a Puerto Rican family, there really was no need to know any other language. My mother, father and grandmother spoke Spanish and so too did my uncles aunts and sisters. Life was wonderful in my little world; a world that communicated solely in Spanish.

I had no conception that my world would turn upside down on the first day of classes at Public School 196. Well as you can imagine, being spoken to in English and not being able to understand is a traumatic experience for a six-year-old child. But I have come to believe that children are resilient creatures, and their minds, at such a tender age, are as absorbent as sponges. I had trouble in the beginning, and most of the times I spoke two languages. When I didn t know a word in English, I would substitute it for an equal word in Spanish. But this only lasted for a short while and before long, I learned to read and write in English.

Today public schools have embraced programs, such as ESL, as a tool with which to ease the difficult learning process. While I am not wholly opposed to these progressive programs, I have to ask this question: are they really necessary? Do they really help Spanish-speaking children entering public school for the first time? Do these programs cause more harm than help? I had originally opined that these programs have a tendency to slow the learning process because children are being taught in two languages, which, in the end, causes confusion. However, my sister Maribel enlightened me to a few things I didn t know.

Maribel graduated with a Batchelor s degree in Business and later went to graduate school, earning a Master s degree in education. She is a certified teacher and teaches in an ESL class at an elementary school in Suffolk County, New York. Maribel explained to me that ESL is not only intended for Spanish-speaking children but for all non-English-speaking children. In her classroom there are children from Russia and from other parts of the world and the only language spoken in her classroom is English. While these meritorious programs tend to soften the trauma of confronting a different language, I believe in something totally different. I believe that if a non-English-speaking child is forced into an English-speaking world, he or she will have no choice but to learn how to speak English. As I mentioned earlier, children are very resilient and their young minds are keen and open to many things. My sister firmly believes in the ESL program, and as a teacher in the field there is no doubt in my mind that she will have a different opinion than I do. What is your opinion? Do you think the ESL program is helping children or is it a detriment to the learning process?

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments/Article 12

Professor Jeremy Lignelli writes,

I am a current resident of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and a current Teacher/Professor. I have been here in PR for three years teaching English. First off, it is not easy to teach English in the public schools here. Besides that being a separate issue, having ESL programs established in the public school system is essential for all non-English speaking students living in the U.S. I don't necessarily consume my train of thought solely with public schools. Adult education in the community college and university sector is also vital to our school system in the U.S. These programs push the boundaries of language learning and find new ways to teach languages (not just English). Mostly what I think you talk about is immersion. This technique is the tried and true old school way of learning a language (and maybe the best-who is to say?) I personally enjoy a bilingual program. I feel that two languages being taught simultaneously is a very effective way of learning languages. My fiancé teaches at an English immersion school near my bilingual private school. Often times, our schools are in competition with each other. You could argue until you are blue in the face about which one is better. However, the real deciding factor is the student. Each student learns differently. I hope this helps or adds to the discussion. 

Thank you for your email Professor Lignelli. Perhaps we may never reach a middle ground or compromise between the two schools of thought. You may be right, though, in the end it is up the individual student to decide whether he/she wants to learn.

Tina writes,

My wonderful Boricua friends, I worked as an ESL teacher in public schools in PR for many years. I have to say that my students developed excellent grammar and comprehension skills; and some of them could develop fluid English language proficiency. The challenge in teaching ESL in PR is that students hardly get to interact with English language speakers once they are out of the classroom. So the oral practice is very limited. In a Bilingual instructional setting, students can develop more their oral English skills as well as their Spanish oral skills.

However, once the child moves to the states, the majority are placed in ESL programs like the majority of other English language learners who never have been exposed to an English language class. Most of our immigrant Latino/ Hispanic children in the states were not exposed to English in their countries.

My opinion is that our Puerto Rican children could probably benefit more to a Bilingual instructional setting than an ESL setting. However, even with an ESL instructional setting, our children are in advantage compared to the rest of our Latino/Hispanic immigrant children. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express. Love very much. Feliz Navidad a todos! I'm currently working for the US Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition, at your service. 

Thank you for your email Tina. Frankly, the issue of ESL versus Non-ESL remains continuously debated amongst the Hispanic community. Some feel that the ESL program is not as useful as its proponents so vehemently espouse, and some feel it is a valuable educational tool. However, I still feel that scholastic achievement is based upon individual performances and not upon programs developed by PHD candidates or educational revisionists. I know that as a pedagogue, who is currently in the service of the US Department of Education, you may think differently, and I respect that. But since I am old school, my opinion has not changed. Nevertheless, I am very proud that you are currently involved and genuinely committed to the educational process, especially for Hispanic children. Keep up the good work!

Ody Rivera writes,

 Detrimental  is a very strong word to use for such an important program like ESL. I was born and raised in PR. Because I possess this skill of bilingual, I have been able to find jobs in the US all my life living here. I have 20 yrs living in the US. I never found a job living in PR despite of having a Bachelors Degree.

The opportunities that these set of skills open to bilingual individuals are countless. [It] offers you more choices, and more doors open to you. Therefore, I couldn't call this detrimental  [not] even by mistake. 

Thank your for your response Ody Rivera. No one is arguing for or against possessing the skill of speaking two languages. In fact, I think we all agree that being a bilingual, in some cases, does give you an advantage over a monolingual. I speak English, Spanish and a little French. I would love to learn more French because a trilingual might have even more advantage over a bilingual. But that wasn t the central point of our argument. The argument focused on whether a program, such as ESL, is detrimental or beneficial to non-English-speaking children entering school for the first time. We discussed at great length and with deep passions our feelings on whether children are given the opportunity to prove themselves scholastically prior to being placed in ESL programs or, by suggestive professional studies, placed on ESL programs arbitrarily.

Ms. Cynthia Figueroa writes,

I found your article quite interesting. My parents are from Guayama and came to the US in 1963 with their parents. My sisters and I are first generation born in the US and raised in the Bronx. Our parents spoke to us in both English and Spanish because they firmly believed that it was the only way we would be able to succeed. Eventually, (and unfortunately for us) the only language we spoke was Spanglish!!  We had forgotten how to speak Spanish almost completely! And when we went to visit our grandparents we were only allowed to speak in Spanish or they would not speak to us at all!!

When we began school, my sisters and I were placed in regular  classes because we spoke English fluently. However, it seemed to be policy to immediately place the children who came from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, in special education  classes. This was before the school systems began fully implementing ESL programs. It was unfair to these children because they were not even given a chance to prove their academic abilities before they were considered incapable!!

I do believe that ESL programs should not be utilized as a student s only course of instruction for all of their academic requirements. If the students cannot understand basic English, then the schools should tailor the agenda for these students. For example: adding an extra hour  to the day so they could have one period of instruction (every day), in which they re taught the English language. And as an addition, offer a summer schedule for further development of these skills. I know that in the larger cities like New York, ESL program curriculums are not an alternative form of special education , and they are quite successful. But in smaller cities/towns ESL programs are non-existent!!

I do feel that there has been an improvement in the educational system (in the past 20 years) to recognize students who primarily speak the language of their native land---BUT discrimination and prejudice still plays a major part in our society and probably always will. And with the immigration laws as a hot topic these days, more than likely, it will affect the school ESL programs in some way.

Thank you for your response Ms. Figueroa. I have to admit that the ESL program isn t entirely bad, but it is not the answer either. I still believe that children ought to be given the opportunity to prove their scholastic abilities on an individual basis, rather than have their abilities arbitrarily assessed on a collective methodology that is based upon preconceived ideologies. In other words, we cannot judge an individual student using historical information collected from other children and/or psychological, demographic, sociological studies or any other studies, for that matter. Let the children tell you, not reports!

Ms. Maribel Ramos-Cavanagh writes again,

I m glad Ms. Figueroa has made up her mind, I don t want to confuse her anymore with the facts. I m disappointed but not surprised that MY FINAL response was not posted. However, it is only fair that your readers be given the opportunity to visit the websites listed and be more informed on the topic so they may have a chance to share their opinion armed with quantitative data rather than opinions based on personal experiences. Remember, one person s experience does not apply to the general population. One size does not fit all when it comes to a child s education. 

Thank you for your response, Maribel. Your final statement is correct and is truly what I believe. I believe that children, as are all humans on earth, are uniquely individual and therefore should be judged on their individual performances rather than on someone s dictatorial study. It is the essence of what I have been saying all along that the only way to determine whether a child needs ESL is to evaluate his or her individual performance. Regarding your complaint that your final response was not posted, I will check my emails and get back to you.

Ms. Ivonne Figueroa writes again,

It is not my wish to continue with a dispute over 'old time' school vs. the 'progressive' school of thought. This will be my last response on this subject. Statistics should be treated with a watchful eye, a watchful eye of someone who has common sense!

I'm sure glad I did not buy any ENRON stock or I would be completely broke now, or might be in the poor house like Enron's very own - long time - trusting employees. By now the entire nation knows you can't really trust statistics 100% - especially when it comes to business and stocks. It is too bad that people in power and control often use statistics to the benefit themselves or to try to validate their particular point of view.

There are statistics out there than can be made to say whatever anyone wants it to say. It is too bad that people sit around making excuse after excuse for failure instead of promoting success. Success comes from hard work, from being diligent, and being attentive.

There is nothing like the 'old school' method of using your head, following your instincts and having common sense! 

Thank you for your response, Ivonne. The arguments for and against the ESL programs have been presented well, and I think that each camp stands firmly upon their belief. As I have mentioned before, I am from the old school  camp and feel that too much emphasis is placed in the psychological and socio-economic situations of young children. Though these aspects of life are important, I feel that psychology and socio-economics are intangible factors that evolve throughout the years and come to fruition when children reach puberty and adolescence. I think they are virtually non-existent in children at the age of six because their minds are young and innocent.

I say this: Let their individual performances be the deciding factor. Grant them same academic opportunities without intrusion for however long it takes to determine whether or not children would require ESL as a tool to further progress their education. I also think that in isolating these children from mainstream academics at the outset of their education is more damaging because it tends to stigmatize them with the thought of somehow being mentally handicapped. How can scholastic aptitude in children be properly gauged if those responsible for their education have no knowledge of their performance in the first year or two of school? Rather than relying on a cross-section, upon which statistics are based and decisions arbitrarily made by the results, let us rely on individual performances. Not to put too fine a point on it, and at the risk of sounding repetitious, it is the child s performance that will ultimately prevail regardless of an ESL Program or not. But . . . that is my opinion!

Maribel Ramos-Cavanagh s answer to Ivonne Figueroa,

Actually, statistics play a vital role in everything that requires assessment and needs to prove validity. Would you invest in a company stock that statistically fails to generate a profit? Wouldn t you want to know the number of Hispanic students that under achieve? Or better yet, how many Hispanic students are enrolled in gifted programs? Would you send your child to a high school that statistically, the graduates of the school go on to college? Let s be real. Statistics are important and the more valid a study is the more impressive the statistics.

Instead of fighting against the program, more effort should be placed in making sure these students are getting everything possible to achieve success in less time. It is not a matter of smart or not smart. There are many factors that contribute to the success or failure of a student  socio-economics, literacy in the primary language, emotional disabilities, family values, prior education, trauma (leaving a beloved country and forced to learn a new language and culture), etc.

I suggest that you study the many research studies available on this topic so we can have a more valid discussion and be on par with information. 

Thank you for your response, Maribel. If you wouldn t mind it too much, could you provide our many readers at El Boricua the sources of your information? If you have any web links, journals, published papers or books that focus on the need for ESL programs, then perhaps some of us might be interested in reading them. I know that you quoted sources in your initial response but if you have a list, please send it to us so that we could post it on the site.

Mr. C. Corrado writes,

Let's try to remember that not all teachers are patient and loving with students with whom they cannot communicate and that not all students have the innate intelligence to "absorb, process and articulate" as well as others. Please let's leave the question of conservatism and liberalism out of it; it is simply dumb to do so, no offense! The central point of argument should be the educational - learning process and quotients applicable under a revision of the current cultural and historic backdrop. To say that because I learned English under a total immersion school and class environment thirty or forty years ago, that should be good enough reason for non-English speaking students today to do the same is simply a shallow and ignorant statement, no offense.

Let us please remember, that technological, social, emotional, economic and cultural realities are definite learning factors. Not to acknowledge this, is evidence of ignorance in the pedagogical process.

ESL is a good program. It says to the young student: we appreciate what you are already and we'd like to help you learn some more. This kind of approach goes a long way to motivate individuals as they face the challenge of "connecting" with their "foreign" teachers and classmates. Let's not get caught up on whether this was not around in my times, kind of thing, for we could come up with a list of things that were around then, that we are happy are no longer so. 

Thank you for your response, Mr. Corrado. I think it does come down to a matter of viewpoint: either you are for the ESL program because you are a progressive thinker who believes that modern science can better mainstream non-English-speaking children, or, you are against the ESL program because it is your view that spoon-fed children become more dependent rather than independent. But as I said in my comments below Ms. Ivonne Figueroa s rebuttal, it doesn t really matter what school of thought we ascribe to because it is the student s initiative that will ultimately prevail. There s an old adage that comes to mind: if it ain t broke, don t fix it . Sometimes, in the processing of retooling and tinkering, we tend to ruin things rather than fix them, no offense. But . . . that is my opinion.

To all my readers: Mr. Corrado is a wonderful writer who has his own blog on AOL. The blog is chock-full of information and well written. If you are interested in reading Mr. Corrado s blog, please take note of the link below.

Ivonne Figueroa writes,

My response to Ms. Maribel Ramos-Cavanagh is: When in doubt, use common sense! Statistics don't impress intelligent people because intelligent people know all about statistics. We also understand how 'studies made by professionals in the field' work.

Sink or swim might sound offensive to 'modern day' educators who have been trained to think in a particular way. All you have to do is use your head - don't allow others to tell you what to think. Question, question and question over and over again the things that don't make sense. Don't allow others to tell you the way it is or the way it should be. Are non-English speakers not as smart as their counterparts? Are Hispanic children not as smart as others? I would be offended by that thought.

What works faster and better, if not the old fashioned, but most effective, 'sink or swim ? Yes, there will be some confusion. Yes, it won't be easy. It will be difficult and kids will have to work hard. But in the end the pain will be short and the benefits long.

My little sister began kindergarten with no English skills whatsoever. She was speaking English within ONE month. My parents didn't think she was incapable, they didn't feel 'sorry' for their child. They knew there were going to be rough times but they were prepared. They sent her to school with great expectations - and she met those expectations. My other sister and I took longer because we were older and it is 'harder to teach an old horse' . . . etc., as the saying goes; it took us an entire year.

If people used more common sense there would be much less waste in this country, and that is not just in the schools. 

Thank you for your response, Ivonne. I think there are two schools of thought here. On the one side, we have the staunch conservatives like you and I, and on the other side there are the progressive liberals. We, of the old guard, tend to look at things in a more simple and pragmatic way, and feel that sugar-coating or spoon-feeding children is a detriment or hindrance to their educational progression. Modern thinkers, however, tend to look at the educational system in a more psychological and sociological manner. They perform evaluations based upon these and other noble precepts, and then ponder the results at great length. And when they are done with these evaluations, they write books and scientific papers for educational trade journals and then slap themselves on the back for a job well done. In the end, it is all up to the individual student. It doesn t matter whether the student is pushed into a sink or swim  situation or whether the student is the recipient of a bona-fide ESL program; in the end it will always be the student s initiative that prevails.

Ms. Maribel Ramos-Cavanagh writes in response to Ms. Ivonne Figueroa,

I would like to explain the current process mandated by NYS Department of Education regarding the enrollment of students in an ESL program. At the time a parent registers a student in any NYS school district at any grade, they must complete a questionnaire that asks what language is spoken at home and the language the child speaks and understands most. Students are then given a test (LAB-R, State issued) that indicates their level of English proficiency and placement level. Every May, NYS requires all students in the program be administered the NYSESLAT to determine if they are ready to exit out of the program.

Being in the program allows students extra time for completing Standardized tests in English and this year the students are allowed to use a bilingual dictionary for translating English words in their language. The programs are not perfect, however, the idea is to give students an equal playing field so they may achieve to their potential and above. There is the stigma attached to these programs that many families believe their children are not smart enough to achieve as their mono-lingual peers. This is not so. Bilingual children deserve and should get special treatment. The ability to transfer their skills from their first language (L1) to the new language (L2) requires high cognitive demand. Teaching the students to tap into the L1 to learn L2 is viable in order for these students to work to their potential. We want special treatment to prove that given the right tools, bilingual students can perform as well and often outperform their mono-lingual peers. 

Thank you, Maribel, for clarifying the need for ESL programs. However, since your response is for Ms. Ivonne Figueroa, let us wait for her rebuttal.

Maribel Ramos-Cavanagh writes,

Ah & The Sink or Swim method of learning a new language of yesteryear experienced by many up until 1970 s when the Office of Civil Rights stepped in and various court cases thereafter required school districts to provide services to this growing number of students.

You are right; eventually students do learn English, but statistically, those without primary language support show little or slow academic growth especially at the upper elementary and secondary grade level. Kids usually achieve BICS within a few months. To achieve CALP takes much longer. So what are BICS and CALP?

BICS - Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills are the language skills needed in social situations such as the playground. These skills have meaningful social context and develops within a short time period because the language is not specialized. The problem arises when teachers and administrators assume that a child is proficient in English because he or she uses good social English.

CALP - Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing in subject area content material. This level is essential for students to succeed in academic areas. Studies (Thomas & Collier, 1995) have shown that a child with no or limited prior schooling or no support in native language development, will take seven to ten years to reach CALP and to catch up to their peers academically. Hence, the great achievement gap between monolingual and bilingual students.

A synthesis of studies produced by Collier, V.P. (Bilingual Research Journal, 16:1&2, Winter/Spring 1992) summarized several studies, which examined student progress under the various English Language Acquisition programs. One particular study of student progress in late-exit bilingual classes and Immersion classes, ( Ramirez, Pasta, Yuen, Ramey & Billings 1991, vol. II p. 639) states:  &..Over and over again, those students who began their schooling with substantial amounts of instruction in their primary language and were exposed to the gradual introduction of English for instruction realized the greatest growth in skills  These programs provide English Language Learners the tools and strategies to become successful members of society in less time than the Sink Or Swim method.

That is the goal for these children, is it not? The academic demands have changed dramatically since you were a kindergarten student. By first grade, kids must develop higher order thinking skills, be effective communicators, and have strong technology skills at minimum. English language learners not only need to meet the same academic demands as their Native English speaking peers but they are also required to take standardized tests in English after 3 years in the program.

I teach ESL  middle school, which is a pull-out/push-in program taught in English only. This method is the slowest in minimizing the academic achievement gap. Why? Well, because it does not provide academic instruction in the student s native language. This is essential in order for students to reach CALP and raise their achievement levels as close as possible to their Native English speakers in as short time as possible. The goal is not to enable but to empower the students.

A common misconception is that students get confused when taught in two languages. Studies (Collier, V.P. Bilingual Research Journal, 16:1&2 Winter/Spring 1992) show that students in Dual Language programs achieve higher academic levels than an English immersion program with some students outperforming native English speakers by the end of the 6th year.

I believe specialized programs, such as ESL or Dual Language empowers students to achieve academic success. Imagine you are a 7th grade Spanish speaking student just arrived from Puerto Rico. You listen carefully as the social studies teacher is giving a lecture on the U.S. Government. You have no idea what she is saying and feel your anxiety level rising. You breathe a sigh of relief when the period ends and you go to your next class, which is ESL. You are relieved because the ESL teacher will explain the content discussed in social studies using picture and context clues, pointing out cognates, making the content meaningful and teaching you strategies that will help you understand the lecture. You are also relieved that the teacher is Hispanic and sensitive to the ways of your culture.

In summary, any English Language Acquisition program is better than sink or swim. Does America want these students to become high school dropouts or does it want these students to achieve academic success so they can be productive members of society and not a burden?

We need to ask ourselves: What can we [do], as advocates for Hispanic children, to ensure that the State Education Department is providing bilingual Spanish-speaking students with an equal opportunity to achieve high academic growth as their mono-lingual English speaking peers? 

Thank you for your response, my sister. I knew you wouldn t fail me. In your response you mentioned studies made on this subject, and I often wonder: how are these studies made? What is the core sampling and the basis for these studies? No doubt the studies are made by learned, and, I would imagine, objective people. Maybe the ESL programs are a good thing, but I can only speak for myself and from my personal experience. Perhaps I and others like me are the exception to the rule. This brings me to my next question: Are there any studies made on people who excel without the benefit of ESL programs or are these studies mainly concentrated on underachievers?

Ms. Ivonne Figueroa writes,

"When I came to the U.S., I was thirteen and going into 8th grade. I went to a summer of language inversion at the public schools. That did not nearly prepare me for immersion. I spend my 8th grade confused trying to learn a new language and turn in homework and understand Math explanations. It was very hard.

I had an English teacher, Mrs. Ramsey, at Bassett Middle School, in El Paso, who understood my situation and had me come in early daily 45 minutes before school began. She game me spelling and vocabulary assignments and tested me. My sister had no such luck. However, by the end of that first year both of us were equality proficient in English. My sister had better grades than me in the 7th grade but we both made it.

After that first year both of us spoke English, could win classroom spelling bees, and understood things better than many of our classmates. It was hard work, and we did it. My parents helped us out a lot, even with their limited English. Had we been put in an ESL Program we would have stayed there for at least three years and I am not sure what the outcome would have been. Immersion means immersion. There are no substitutes. ESL just slows progress.

Later on when I got married my six year old stepdaughter, who spoke NO SPANISH, was assigned to an ESL classroom. My husband, a teacher himself, protested, but the principal was adamant that all classrooms needed a certain number of students and since she had a Spanish surname she was going to stay in ESL regardless. We had to take it to the school board and we won, only because we were educated parents who knew they couldn't 'push us' around.

My mother taught ESL - second grade - for over 20 years. Most of her lessons were strictly in Spanish - second grade was too soon to put the poor kids through the trauma of a second language. The transition was scheduled for 5 or 6 grades. Many of those students never get immersion and fail when they are transferred. Immersion means immersion. There are no substitutes. ESL just slows progress.

Foreign students, whether Hispanic or not, are just as smart as their counterparts. We can do everything anyone else can do. We don't need special treatment. 

Thank you for your response, Ivonne. I had a similar situation with my daughter and I went to see the Principal of the school. Isn t it so callous of these so called educators to presume that just because our sons and daughters bear Spanish surnames that they must fall into a certain educational category? Is it because of inherent prejudices? Or because they just want to fill a quota in order to maintain their Federal or State-funded program? But no matter what, we shall do what we have always done and that s too fight for what s right. We will always be viewed in such ways and until we start proving otherwise, and I mean collectively as a people, we will always have to confront these situations. Regarding your views, I firmly agree with you and feel that non-English-speaking children ought not to be matriculated in ESL programs.

To all my readers, Ms. Ivonne Figueroa is the editor of El


The Cry Is For You: Borinqueños!
By Anthony Ramos

A couple of months ago I wrote an article titled, The Question of Puerto Rico s Future: Commonwealth, Statehood or Independence, Article #8. Before moving ahead with the article, I took the opportunity to write about Puerto Rico s one and only act of revolution called El Grito De Lares. This event took place in Lares, Puerto Rico on September 23, 1868. Manuel Rojas led a militia of about 400 poorly armed men and quickly took over the town of Lares, declaring a provisional government for La Republica de Puerto Rico. The next day about two hundred men were dispatched to nearby San Sebastian where the Spanish authorities, who had been alerted to the uprising, waited for them. In short order, the Spanish authorities quelled the uprising in a hail of gunfire. Many Puerto Ricans were killed, wounded and arrested. This date has grown over the years to become a symbol of the Puerto Rican struggle for independence and it has become sacred in the hearts of many.

I wrote the article early in September of this year to coincide with Puerto Rico s celebration of El Grito de Lares. However, as I wrote the article, I never contemplated or imagined the events that would take place in Puerto Rico later on in the month. On the 23rd day of September 2005, on the 137th anniversary of El Grito De Lares, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, a Puerto Rican independence leader, and leader of a militant group known as Los Macheteros, was hunted down by U.S. Federal Agents in Hormigueros, PR and killed.

Numerous reports about the incident indicate that Federal Agents surrounded a farmhouse where Ojeda Rios was staying and that more than 100 rounds were fired. The Federal Agents then proceeded to arrest Ojeda Rios  partner, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa, and left Filiberto Ojeda Rios outside bleeding to death. Filiberto Ojeda Rios had been wanted by the FBI for his alleged involvement in the Wells Fargo robbery in 1983 in Hartford, CT. Reports claim that 7.2 million dollars were stolen and allegedly used to fund the independence movement and to buy medicine for the poor.

In the days following the death of Ojeda Rios, many people spoke out against the Federal government s decision to use September 23rd as the date for Rios  arrest. Many people believe this date was intentionally chosen by the Federal Agents for symbolic purposes. In my opinion, I believe this notion to be true. I consider this a heinous act by the Federal Agents, a slap in the face to all Puerto Ricans whether living on the island or living in the USA. By choosing this date, the Federal Agents belittled the Puerto Rican culture and pride, insulted and stomped on Puerto Rico like an insignificant insect. What were they thinking? El Grito De Lares lives in all of us; it is a sacred date, an event that characterizes the Puerto Rican people. El Grito De Lares symbolized the Puerto Rican desire for independence and galvanized their way of thinking in the same manner as the Boston Massacre galvanized the American people in their quest for independence. What were the Federal Agents hoping to accomplish by choosing this date? Did they hope to bring the Puerto Rican people to their knees by disheartening them on the very day that they celebrate and take pride in themselves? In choosing this date for the arrest of Ojeda Rios and his partner, the Federal Agents may have grossly miscalculated the Puerto Rican people.

I, for one, feel insulted and angered that Federal Agents have cheapened the significance of El Grito De Lares. I love the United States of America with all my heart. I love our democratic way of life and the things associated with the kind of country our founding fathers hoped America would become and indeed has become. But I love Puerto Rico too with all my heart and all my soul! And right now I am angry at the U.S. I am torn by conflicting emotions and disillusioned and my heart is imbued with abject melancholy. The Federal Agents have shown an extreme lack of sensitivity and outright disregard for our people and culture and that is something that cannot be forgotten so easily. I cannot comment on Mr. Ojeda Rios because I do not know enough about him and I do not know the facts surrounding the FBI s case or their reasons for arresting him. But I can comment on the date chosen for Ojeda Rios  arrest because I know in my heart it was intentionally done to remind us of the futility in seeking Puerto Rican independence. This was a clear message to all Puerto Ricans: Beware!

U.S. Representatives, Jose E. Serrano (D-NY), Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) have contacted the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, demanding an investigation into the agency s actions. If you want to follow up on this trampling of Puerto Rican pride, you may wish to contact the above U.S. Representatives.

Send me your comments to: Anthony Ramos

Reader Comments/Article 11

Juan Peña writes,

It's been a while, my brother, but I haven t forgotten about you. Concerning the topic of Los Macheteros, I set that Mr. Harry Santiago [a previous responder] needs to wake up! Whether the man [Filiberto Ojeda Rios] was guilty or not, he deserved a trial. They [FBI] were making a statement by laying rounds and letting the man bleed to death. Filiberto Ojeda Rios was a citizen of the U.S. and he should have been treated like one. If he was a criminal, the law says that you are innocent until proven guilty, and that process is done at a court of law. What kind of Jibarito are you [Mr. Harry Santiago] by calling a Machetero a criminal? Do I need to go into details [about] the actions [that] the [U.S.] government has taken towards our people? Can 7 million dollars come close to the damage that was done in Vieques? [Let] he who is without sin cast the first stone! 

Thank for your response, Mr. Peña. I was beginning to wonder if you would ever write to us again. At long last you have written! I agree with you 100%. Every citizen of the United States has the right to Due Process, and the right to be judged in a court of law by twelve of his or her peers. It is a travesty that certain elements, within the institutions that are created for the strict enforcement of the law, tend to go beyond their boundaries and into a forbidden realm of authority. While this does not apply to all members of law enforcement, it is sad to note that their arbitrary actions go seemingly unchecked or not acted upon by those directly responsible for their actions. These elements take on the role of a jury, judge and executioner, and so what? It happened in Puerto Rico, so nobody s going to care. But, had this happened in the United States, could the repercussions have been different? I think so. Look at what happened at Ruby Ridge or Waco, Texas. Because of the tremendous media coverage given to these two incidents and because of the backlash resulting from the government s faulty actions, the law enforcement community has had to re-evaluate its procedures and methods for handling certain confrontational situations. Regarding Vieques, you are right, 7 million dollars is not enough. It just gives more credence to the sad notion that the U.S. regards the inhabitants of Puerto Rico as an inferior people and feels it can do whatever it pleases.

Mr. Harry Santiago writes,

Sir, first and foremost I would like to commend you on writing about our culture. Whether right or wrong, the educational effect that your article offers is very refreshing. I'm a 46 year old Jibarito that was born on the island. I came to the states in 1969 to "look for a better life." Today, I'm educated, have two businesses, live in a very nice area and have a lovely familia. Our family is well knit and we keep our Boricua culture alive everyday through our language, food and customs. Amigo, I grew up believing that Puerto Rico should indeed become the 51st state. This was the result of our familia believing it should. Once I became better educated, I realized that I no longer wanted "Nuestro Pais" to become a state.

In my honest and humbled opinion, "why buy the cow if the milk is free" . . . as the famous saying goes. El Grito de Lares is just one date in our history that to me, symbolized a movement during that era. History is always interesting, I love to learn more and more about our history. But we also have to live in the real world. Today, there are Gritos going on all over our dear island as the result of a thing called CRIME....Every time I talk to someone from the island you hear this often: Did the FBI commit a crime? Or were they simply trying to capture a known criminal???? I have hardly any pity in my heart for those individual that choose to commit crimes...Our dear Pais is full of criminals, dealing drugs and killing people......Personally, I wish the FBI would step up their involvement in our island and help to reduce the crime rate and get these thugs out period.

I thank you again for what you do and giving me the opportunity to express my opinion. I hope I made some sense here. Con Mucho Respeto y Amor Boricua. 

Thank you, Mr. Santiago for your response. Okay, okay, maybe I was a little too harsh on the FBI. And maybe the FBI just didn t really know that the day they set out to arrest Filiberto Ojeda, September 23rd 2005, coincided with a date we have been commemorating for over one hundred and thirty-five years. Maybe they didn t anticipate an exchange of gunfire. And maybe, Don Filiberto Ojeda was the criminal the FBI alleges he was. And maybe I was wrong . . . maybe. I just would like to ask the FBI one thing: Please, can you be a little more sensitive next time? I believe the FBI provides an invaluable service to the security of my beloved country, as well as Puerto Rico, my beloved ancestral home. After all, we are all humans and apt to make mistakes from time to time. It will take me a little time, but I will forget this terrible incident and place my trust in the good people of the FBI once again. Now regarding the crime in Puerto Rico, it is unfortunate that the FBI cannot assist in matters that pertain to the police or to local jurisdictions. This task must be left to the leaders of Puerto Rico. It is they who have the power and, hopefully, the wisdom to deal with these matters. It is troubling to know that crime is so widespread in Puerto Rico and perhaps the offspring of an economic condition that may warrant a closer look. Regarding your views on an independent Puerto Rico, there are many who think like you. In the end, however, it is up to the people of Puerto Rico to decide on their future.

Mr. Julio Gomez writes,
Does the author of this article, Anthony Ramos, believe the actions of the federal government were correct irrespective of the date selected for the action taken? While our federal government could have been more selective about their date, they nonetheless, did the right thing in my opinion. American First, Puerto Rican ALWAYS!! 

Thank you, Mr. Gomez for your response. As I stated in my article, I do not know the circumstances behind the FBI s pursuit of don Filiberto Ojeda except that which is known publicly, namely, his alleged involvement in a criminal act. Furthermore, it would be irresponsible for me (and you) to draw conclusions on whether the FBI was right or wrong lacking the evidence with which to make an informed opinion. I might remind you that evidence is the key element in a criminal trial and now that Mr. Ojeda is dead, we will never know whether he was innocent or guilty. It is a travesty that we (the general public) are so hasty in making assumptions about a person s innocence or guilt based on radio broadcasts, newspaper reports and hearsay. These human fallacies notwithstanding, that was not the crux of my article. Whether the FBI did the right thing or not is not the central issue here, in fact it is on the periphery of my article. What is the issue is the FBI s lack of sensitivity. And if the FBI does not have a department that looks into the historical calendar of a city, state or even an island nation, then perhaps it is high time that one ought to be established. Just like you, Mr. Gomez, I am an American and proud to be one. But I am also a descendent of Puerto Ricans and that is something that can never be erased from my heart!

Ms. Cynthia Figueroa writes,

You are absolutely 100% on point!! I totally agree with your sentiments; I am proud to be born American, but the love that I have for my people and my heritage and the pride that I have for the fact that I am of Puerto Rican descent, completely surpasses that. Our people and our island have been disrespected far too long. If this wasn't a "wake-up" call, then I don't know what is!! The whole situation is infuriating and a complete and utter shame. 

Thank you, Cynthia for your response. Indeed our people have been disrespected far too long. I don t really know how much our two congressmen and one congresswoman can do to assuage the deep pain and insult wrought upon us by the FBI s callousness and insensitivity. And although they have raised their voices at the FBI, I fear that nothing of significant consequence will come about, and that s the damnable misery of it all. Unless we unite and shout in one clear voice, we will always suffer these kinds of indignities. I can only suggest that you write to your congressmen or your representative and demand to know the status of the FBI s investigation into this unfortunate incident.

Miguel Hernández Torres writes,

First, let me say that I believe Puerto Rico has outgrown its democratization training wheels and more than ready to ride solo. Everyone in Puerto Rico even the most ardent statehood advocate refer to the island as "mi pais" my nation, my country etc. And, when they use the term, "pais" they are not talking about the United States of America. The mind-set is that Puerto Ricans think of themselves as a separate people or, if you will, as a nation and not as an appendage to the US. Furthermore, it's clear to me that most Americans don't think of Puerto Rico as being part of the U.S and those that do would be just as happy if it were not.

Regardless of the mind-set described above, many Puerto Ricans (island as well as stateside residents) are legitimately concerned about Puerto Rico's economic viability should it be come an independent, sovereign nation. The Dominican Republic, Haiti and other poor hemispheric nations are often used as examples of what lies in store should Puerto Rico become independent. However Puerto Rico is far different from those places given its 107 year historical relationship to the US and the advancements Puerto Ricans have made in social, economic and political terms, in all that time. Furthermore there are a number of small Caribbean islands that were former colonies of England, France and Holland that are doing better (in relative terms) that Puerto Rico is now doing under American domination. In summary, I am, for these and other reasons, a proponent of Puerto Rican independence and that no great calamity will befall it after its independence.

That said, I am writing to express my dismay at the over emphasis of the Lares revolt of 1868 as an ultra symbol of Puerto Rican aspirations for independence. We have placed many of the leaders of the Lares Revolt on a pedestal and glorify them as altruists when in fact most of them were slaveholders and not abolitionists, with the exception of Betances. About 10% of the participants were slaves and peons who I believe were coerced the "hacendados" with a tenuous promise of freedom. In essence were they were forced conscripts.

And, like those British subjects who participated in the Boston Tea Party and helped precipitate the American Revolution, there was no great patriotic motive among the leaders of Lares Revolt. It was more about eliminating usurious debts that about creating an independent nation. Their primary goal was to get a hold of and destroy the ledgers of the Spanish elite in Lares to whom the Criollo landowners who led the revolt owed money to. In fact the ledgers of the lenders [were] the first thing[s] they went after and burned.

As we all know, the Lares Revolt lasted all of 2 days, at most. After taking possession of the town from the mayor and other civilian authorities (including a few police) the Lares contingent marched on to the nearby town of San Sebastian where they were defeated by the local militia made up of (largely) native Puerto Ricans. The regular and professional; Spanish Army unit that came from Arecibo had no role in the battle of San Sebastian that effectively ended the Revolt. Those who led the Revolt had little or no military experience and their incompetence in the field of war had serious consequences.

Unsuccessful though it was the Revolt according to some Puerto Rican historians and political scientists did signal the true beginning of the idea of an independent Puerto Rico. But, it took PR 30 years to gain a more autonomous form of government in 1898 and in a few short months the Spanish American War ended that and for the last 100 plus years PR has been an American colony. So, in my opinion the Lares Revolt has been wrongly cast as a seminal event in Puerto Rican history. It was a political as well as a military disaster that to date has produced little but an annual opportunity for some activists to talk about American imperialism

So, if we want to talk about seminal historical events then let s talk about the 80 invasions, incursions etc. of Puerto Rico by various foreign nations and how we Puerto Ricans were the major players in rejecting the invading forces. We only failed in 1898 when we mistakenly believed that the US would grant us independence from Spain and by and large welcomed them to our shores.

Finally, let me say that I don't believe for one second that the FBI chose September 21 as the day to go after don Filiberto. In my opinion, the Bureau made its decision on logistical and tactical basics how much equipment and many agents can we get to the site before don Filiberto moves to another safe house. That's how the Bureau makes its plans. Politically significant dates are never considerations. The date chosen might be considered by some to be insensitive but the FBI does not have a community relations function that would have told them. If you are going to take don Filiberto down, do it on another day that's not going to piss the community off.  

Thank you, Mr. Hernandez for your response. While I concede to the fact that most of the rebels involved in the Lares insurrection were land and slave owners that found themselves indebted to Spanish merchants you must also understand that the founding fathers of the United States were themselves land and slave owners. Despite America s founding fathers being slave owners, it did not cheapen or diminish their noble cause to rebel against imperial England. It took a civil war to finally abolish slavery in America but it was part of the growing pains of what would become the world s only superpower. I understand your views that perhaps the Lares uprising was nothing more than a skirmish by inadequately armed and poorly trained men but at the very least it gave Puerto Ricans hope. And hope, Mr. Hernandez, is a powerful elixir and the impetus behind any acts of rebellion. To minimize the Lares uprising, as you have so eloquently put forth, is tantamount to calling the Boston Massacre a garden party. I disagree with you because the events and memories of El Grito De Lares are what Puerto Ricans draw upon for strength in their quest for independence. We must never erase that glimmer of hope. Regarding your defense of the FBI, I also disagree with you because nothing is done by the FBI without calculation. I am convinced they acted upon their political proclivities and propensity for symbolism. In short, it was a deliberate act made with the intentions of warning Puerto Ricans to think twice before exercising their God-given right to become independent.

Half & Half

A long time ago, back when I was in elementary school, the faculty had invited a man to speak to the students. The man s name was Piri Thomas. To an elementary student, with his mind on playing ball, girlfriends and other non-academic things, the name or the man incited no interest. We were all gathered into the auditorium that day in full assembly and witnessed Piri Thomas speak about his life and the trials that he went through living in Spanish Harlem as an adolescent and later as a young adult.

Later on in life, I realized how important Mr. Thomas s appearance was and how I cheated myself out of truly listening to what the man had to say. He told us that he was half Black and half Puerto Rican and said that he was proud of that because he had the best of both worlds. Most of what he said remains a blur in my mind because that was over thirty years ago. Mr. Thomas was invited to the school because he was a person of note. He had just written Down These Mean Streets, an autobiography that received critical acclaim. I have copied a description of Piri Thomas s book directly from Barnes & If you are interested in reading the description, it will be displayed at the end of this article.

Other half Puerto Ricans that come to mind are Tony Orlando (half Puerto Rican and half Greek) and Freddie Prinze (half Puerto Rican and half Hungarian). I remember a joke that Freddie Prinze once said after he became rich and famous. He said that he bought his mother a new house in the suburbs but that she found the neighborhood too quiet, so he hired a guy to sit outside and break bottles. Freddie was a funny man.

I imagine there are many half Puerto Ricans living in the US and on the island, but are they outsiders because their other half is from another nationality? Piri Thomas never forgot his Puerto Rican heritage and neither did Freddie Prinze nor Tony Orlando. In fact, these famous people were very proud of their Puerto Rican roots and never once denied who they were. I feel that many full-blooded Puerto Ricans tend to reject half Puerto Ricans and I have grown to detest this form of bigotry. In my opinion, we full-blooded Puerto Ricans ought to embrace all half Puerto Ricans as our brothers and sisters, whether half Black, half Mexican, half Cuban, half Dominican or half whatever. These are very special people because in some point in their lives they will face an identity crisis. We ought to help them pass through this rough period in their lives by making them feel wanted and loved. We ought to show them that we will never reject them. What is your opinion? Can you name other famous half Puerto Ricans?

Quoted from Barnes & Noble.Com
Thirty years ago Piri Thomas made literary history with this lacerating, lyrical memoir of his coming of age on the streets of Spanish Harlem. Here was the testament of a born outsider: a Puerto Rican in English-speaking America; a dark-skinned morenito in a family that refused to acknowledge its African blood. Here was an unsparing document of Thomas's plunge into the deadly consolations of drugs, street fighting, and armed robbery a descent that ended when the twenty-two-year-old Piri was sent to prison for shooting a cop.

As he recounts the journey that took him from adolescence in El Barrio to a lock-up in Sing-Sing to the freedom that comes of self-acceptance, faith, and inner confidence, Piri Thomas gives us a book that is as exultant as it is harrowing and whose every page bears the irrepressible rhythm of its author's voice. Thirty years after its first appearance, this classic of manhood, marginalization, survival, and transcendence is available in an anniversary edition with a new Introduction by the author. 

Reader Comments/Article 10

Shanelle Jimenez writes,
My Name is Shanelle Jimenez. I am in the United States Air Force where I met my 100% Boricua husband that I love. I love your section In My Opinion . I am currently deployed, so reading your articles help my day go by quicker. I do have a question, and maybe you can make it a posting some day. My husband and I have been married for nearly 3 years and together for 4. It s been a hard road, a lot of people do not except our marriage. I am Black (with a mixture of a bunch of stuff) but look Hispanic from what I am told. You have the Black s who are upset because they feel he stole one of their good ones. And then you have the Puerto Ricans who feel I am not good enough for him because I am not Puerto Rican. Se habla muy poquito Español (and I am still learning) porque I was raised in Texas. I cook all the food (better than my husband), I know way more about the history than most Puerto Ricans I have met, I listen and sing most of the Spanish music better than my husband. But yet it s not good enough to people, I don t get it; we are all minorities. What is it that people have against our relationship? We are happy, we love each other s families, and we embrace each other s culture. It is a perfect match, except he is not Black and I am not Puerto Rican. I do all that because very soon we are going to be having kids, and I want my kids to know about their Puerto Rican culture, and I can help my husband teach them, like I will them about their Black History. Because I don t look 100% Black, already I get made fun of but to top it off because I listen to the music, try to speak the language and cook the food. It is said that I am trying to be Puerto Rican, or that I am not Black enough. WHAT IS THE BIG ISSUE &.I would love to know? Thank you for you time, and sorry for the rambling. 

Thank you for your email Shanelle, and thank you for your kind words, my dear. Frankly, I really don t know what to tell you.
People are plain fickle. When you think they re going to be pleased about something, they re not, and when you think they re not, well, they are. I have stopped trying to impress people. I have stopped living my life in a manner that people approve of man those days are so over! My philosophy is this: If you cannot accept me as I am, then it is you who has the problem and not me. And if you still have a problem with me, then you are not my friend and I don t need you. People need to stop being judgmental. As the saying goes, People that live in glass houses, shouldn t throw stones.  Shanelle, you go on living your life according to your ideals, morality, religious and personal points of view, and if anyone should have a problem with that, then they are not your friend and you don t need them. The only person you have to answer to is God, and He will not frown upon you for choosing a Puerto Rican, Chinese, Russian, or whatever, because in His eyes, we are all his creation, his children.

Johnny Ortiz writes,

I read the article "Half and Half". I must say that I was very pleased at the way you articulate in your writing and helping the readers understand what you write. I wanted to write and mention to you that I am a full-blooded Puerto Rican and proud of my heritage, and when I see the P.R. flag I smile, but I wanted to share something. There are times when few people try to make me feel out of place because I do not speak Puerto Rican that well or that I grew up in a different part of town than most Ricans. I grew up with my sister and my mother who worked three jobs at times to keep us out of the rougher neighborhoods. What gets me is that those same people who try to put me down because I can't speak the language or grew up elsewhere don't even know their history, can't tell you what part of the Island they originate from, or don't know how the Island of Puerto Rico came to be! I don't believe that being 100% P.R. is [about] knowing the language, hanging a flag, or lowering your car. It is [about] knowing and being proud of the Puerto Rican [that] you are in your heart. My children are half and half, and I take pride in sharing with them their history and knowing where they come from, who they are and will become. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. You write well and I look forward to reading your future articles. 

Thank you for your email Johnny. I would like to thank you for your compliments, too; believe me, they go a long way. Over the years, I have come to an understanding. People can say whatever they want to say, they can also react the way they want to react and nothing I can say or do will ever change their minds or opinions. With that in mind, I have resolved to disregard them and live my life according to me. Furthermore, I do not have to justify my existence to anyone except for God, the All Mighty. Johnny I praise your efforts in teaching your children all about their Puerto Rican culture, and do not feel bad that you do not speak Spanish as well as your island counterparts. Keep up the struggle, my brother, you have a great responsibility in raising your children. God bless you and your family!

Mindblowinscorpio (Sheila) writes,

I just read your article, Half & Half , and the comments submitted by other readers. Well I also have a story. I have been influenced by Puerto Ricans immensely; well most of my family is Puerto Rican. I grew up in Spanish Harlem, yo hablo Español and everything, pero paresco morena porque lo soy. My mother and father were born in Puerto Rico, they raised me and my two sisters and five brothers as one big family. Only four of the children were my mom s birth children, the others were foster children, which she later adopted. My mother used to say Mai es la que crea no la que pare  (meaning mother is not only the act of giving birth but raising a child with the emphasis on raising because its the hardest part). I grew up eating arroz con habichuelas, doing everything you can imagine that s Puerto Rican, and being exactly the same as any other Puerto Rican except for the fact that my biological parents were African-American, from Harlem. I remember as a kid, my mother and I coming into our building, my mother was ahead of me, I was little and a man asked me, Is that your mother?  It was amazing for me to have so many experiences like that and to have so many ups and down. I have my own family now, and I regret not teaching my kids how to speak Spanish. I'm starting to teach my little one, he's only two years old. But the thing I have an issue with is that nobody can look at me and see me for who I am. The only way they know I speak Spanish is if I come out and speak it, which I rarely do, or if I tell them, 'I speak Spanish'. When I do it's beautiful to be able to communicate in their language, especially other Hispanos who are not fluent in English and they love it. I've had neighbors from Guatemala, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, and it's been a pleasure being able to speak to them in Spanish. I feel for the guy who responded to your article, Half & Half , and says he just found out that his father is Puerto Rican and how he finds it lacking not knowing the language. Language is such an important part of any culture especially for Hispanos. I would tell him: stick to it, embrace your family and your culture and keep working on your Spanish, you can do it. I hope that one day my kids will study Spanish seriously so I can converse with them. But even though I share the culture, the language, and a [Spanish] last name, I feel like I'm not complete because I'm still a morena and seen as such. My mother was great, she passed away almost two years ago; does anyone know anyone like her, a person who would open her heart and home to children regardless of race? She used to tell a story that when she was joven (young) before she came to New York, there was a young man who liked her in Puerto Rico but her parents wouldn't let her date him because he was prieto (black-skinned). My mom was a very white-skinned Puerto Rican. My father was special, too, who also passed away years ago. They're both resting in Puerto Rico, and I tell you: when I was there, in Puerto Rico, I did see dark-skinned Puertoriquenos, some were dark but you could see they were not African-American, and I even saw this one women I swear to you she looked African. God bless them all. I just wanted to share part of my story, thank you. 

Thank you for your email Sheila. Wow! I just don t know where to begin. I think it takes a very special person not only to open her doors to parentless children, but to open her heart to them as well. When my sister and her husband first adopted their daughter, I thought they were making a mistake. As time went by, however, I saw this child grow into a beautiful, intelligent and lovely young lady, and I thought to myself and said: what a marvelous job my sister and her husband did!  I think the world of my sister because she did something that not too many people do. She opened her heart and her world to a child that wasn t hers, she gave all her motherly love to her, taught her, nurtured her and made her feel every bit a member of our family. Your mother not only shared her love with you and with your siblings but she shared her world with you, and made you feel Puerto Rican in every way. You are Puerto Rican, Sheila, and you should say that you are a Boricua to whomever you meet! You speak Spanish and you were raised in a Puerto Rican culture in the same way that I and many hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican-Americans were raised. Regarding your sentiments about how people perceive you, who cares? You don t have to prove yourself to anyone! You know who you are and that s all that matters! Concerning your regret that you didn t teach Spanish to your other children, I, too, share the same regret. My children do not speak Spanish, but thanks to their grandparents, they understand it well. As I read your email I truly felt the love and admiration that you have for your mother and father, and those feelings and reflections are your treasure; a treasure that I m sure you have already passed on to your own children.

Ms. Tiffany L. Williams writes,

Hola! My name is: Tiffany L. Williams. I'm also half Puerto Rican and half African-American. My father is Puerto Rican and my mother is Black. I read the article that you wrote on the El Boricua Web site, about Mr. Piri Thomas. I'm so glad that you wrote that article, I m very blessed because even though I'm half Puerto Rican, I'm still treated kindly by all Hispanics, and, of course, even by other Puerto Ricans. As a matter of fact, no one even acknowledges the fact that I'm half Puerto Rican; they pretty much treat me as if I'm 100% Puerto Rican, but I speak very little Español. However I'm in school right now learning more about my language, and hopefully one day I can be very fluent in my Spanish. It's funny how people view you as a person of Hispanic descent. I have a caramel or honey type complexion and sometimes I have Mexicans thinking I'm Mexicana, and others think I'm either Brazilian, or Dominican! Everybody guess me to be everything else except Puertoriqueña. But I proudly say, Yo soy Boricua pa que tu lo sepas! Just like the poem: My Puerto Rican pride I will not hide, My Puerto Rican race I will not disgrace, my Puerto Rican blood runs hot & true, my Puerto Rican peeps, I'll stand by you, through thick & thin until we die, but if you re Puerto Rican, you die with pride &  Muchas Gracias, Ciao! 

Thank you for your response, Ms. Williams. How wonderful it is to read about someone s personal discovery and full embrace of their Puerto Rican heritage. On behalf of all Puerto Ricans worldwide, I welcome you to La Familia Puertoriqueña! I encourage you to learn more about your heritage, your culture and your history. And yes, be proud to be what you are!

Ms. Yoly Semidey writes,

Hello Anthony I hope all is well and thank you for inviting us to comment our opinions on the various topics that you touch. I liked the article about Piri Thomas and have read Down These Mean Streets. I came about that book while I was working as a Library Page back in the early '80's and was fascinated by the cruel depictions of the misery he endured growing up. [It] goes a long way to show that racism still exists in our own "raza". There should be more articles about our Puerto Rican authors living in the U.S. and their experiences, such as Pura Belpre and Esmeralda Santiago, amongst others. Maybe you can write an article about Santiago's "When I Was Puerto Rican" and her experience. Keep up the good work Anthony and thanks for allowing us to post our opinions here. 

Thank you for response Yoly. However, as much as I want to read books such as the ones you mentioned, my time constraints prevent such a wonderful luxury. I do manage to read three to four books a year but for me this number is far less than what I am used to. With this in mind, I would like to take the opportunity to invite you and all of our readers out there to use the In My Opinion  forum to talk about these books. From time to time, I would like our readers to provide a short synopsis of the book and what impact the story and its author have made in your personal life.

To all my readers: Ms. Yoly Semidey hails from San Diego, California. I am happy to know that we are represented well way out in the west coast. I have received emails from Puerto Ricans living in Hawaii, Florida, Illinois, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. I have also received emails from Puerto Rico, Istanbul and Iraq. Our people have spread out and it is nice to know that El Boricua has the ability to bring us all together. Palante, mis hermanos y hermanas!!!

Khalid Draper writes,
Hola, I'm 1/2 Boricua. My mother is Black, my father a Boricua from Carolina. I identify myself as Black, mainly because the first 26 years of my life, I had no knowledge of my Puerto Rican side. I was not told until that time who my father was. He and I have since started building a shaky relationship, and in the first part of this year I journeyed to Puerto Rico for the first time, and met family I had not known existed! Because my biological father's nickname was "prieto" and "negro" - combined with the fact that my mother is Black - my physical appearance never led me to consider myself as anything but a "regular old Black man" in America [or Los Estados Unidos for those who are offended at our monopolization of the terms "America" and "American" ]

Since finding this out, it has been a struggle to connect with the Puerto Rican side of me. I have since made Puerto Rican friends and etc, but the source of my disconnection has nothing to do with my appearance at all! When I went to Puerto Rico, I saw that Boricuas are a very diverse people. No one, from what I could tell, treated people differently based on skin color.

My personal disconnection has to do with the fact that I don't speak Spanish. Well, I speak a little now, as I have been struggling to learn Spanish. I've acquired a taste for a lot of Puerto Rican cuisine like pasteles, tostones, mofongo, arroz con gandules, and for music such as plena and salsa - but to me, it is the language, the ability to communicate and interact with people that would really make me feel a connection.

I have family members who don't speak English, and that's okay. What frustrates me is my inability to express all of my thoughts and feelings in Spanish. I'm proud to be who I am, Black and Puerto Rican. Because I was raised to think of myself as just Black, I still consider myself as such, and do not
consider myself "mixed." But I long for a deeper connection with that Puerto Rican side of me. 

Thank you, Khalid for your response. Wow! Isn t it a wonderful feeling to discover something about yourself that you had no clue ever existed? It is great that you have taken your first steps to learn about your Puerto Rican heritage and I know how difficult it is to want to learn everything right away. But you shouldn t feel discouraged because you are at the beginning of a personal odyssey, a fantastic journey of discovery in which you will find many things about who and what you are. Learning a different language, especially for an adult already set in his or her ways, is always a difficult proposition. However, if you truly want to learn Spanish, and your heart and mind are open, then you will succeed. Be patient and try to practice your Spanish with your new Puerto Rican friends. I m sure they will be more than happy to share that knowledge with you. So, on behalf of all Puerto Ricans, I welcome Khalid Draper to Lo Nuestro!

Ms. Cynthia Figueroa writes . . .

I would like to address a point that Mr. Pena made in his comment on your article. That there are some of us "full-blooded" Puerto Ricans who are treated differently (by other Puerto Ricans) just because we were not born there. I can attest to that. I was born and raised in the Bronx, my sisters and I are first generation "Americans" born to parents from Guyama. I remember walking to school and hearing [Puerto Rican] girls talk about me calling me a "gringa" because, to them, I looked "white". I have blue eyes and "white" skin. I resented that for the longest time; I hated that my hair wasn't "kinky" and that I wasn't "triguenita". In fact, I was the "white girl" in my family. It was only after moving OUT of the Bronx and out of New York, that I was recognized as a "Boricua" by other Puerto Ricans who were also displaced by being in the Military. But I have a friend who was born in Puerto Rico, who tells me that I don't have the right to refer to myself as "Puerto Rican" because I wasn't born there. And that only people born on the Island have that right. She even tells her children (who are first generation American) that they are not Puerto Rican and should never call themselves Puerto Rican. I know who I am and where I come from but to know that there is that kind of prejudice amongst our own people is kind of upsetting.

Thank you, Cynthia for your response. I can commiserate with you because being white, like you, I suffered the same things in my youth. However, I came to realize that there is no real definition of what a Puerto Rican is supposed to look like. We come in all shapes and sizes; some of us are white, some black and some a mixture of the two. I guess that s what makes up who we are: an eclectic people, a convergence of many races. Regarding identity I have always referred to myself as an American of Puerto Rican ancestry. I guess that s the best way I can describe myself. I still hold on to my heritage and I still have ties to the island but in reality I wasn t born there and I have not lived on the island long enough to absorb the nuances, culture and language that make up a true, home grown Puerto Rican.. However, if you choose to call yourself Puerto Rican, then by all means do so and don t worry about what anyone tells you to the contrary.

Mr. Juan Peña writes,

I ve read Down These Mean Street and Seven Long Times. As a matter of fact Down These Mean Streets was the first book I ever read from beginning to end, twice. Piri taught me a lot through his pen and paper. It s been over ten years and I remember it all; Piri and his partner Brew, a true inspirational [story]. Just found out about a documentary called Every Child Is Born a Poet. I will be buying it! Half and Half is a sad story because it goes beyond a case like Piri's. What about those who live in the US who are full-blooded Puerto Rican but are treated differently because they were not born there or whatever the case may be? Hell we are half and half from the beginning anyway so what's the point? Sammy Davis jr. was also a half Boricua!!! Oh yeah. Stay Strong!!! 

Thank you, Mr. Peña for your thoughts. Indeed, Piri s frank account of his struggles is an inspirational story that all Puerto Rican-Americans, in fact, all minorities in the US should read. It is a gritty and brutally honest story told from the depths of Piri s heart. You mentioned a documentary titled Every Child Is Born A Poet . I want our readers to know that this is a documentary about Piri Thomas  life, his struggles, his coming of age despite insurmountable odds and his poetry. Any one interested in this documentary can go on line and type in Every Child Is Born A Poet  Getting back to your comments, you are right: We Puerto Ricans have been a mixed lot from the beginning, so what s the point in our rejecting half-Puerto Ricans? That was the point I was trying to make. In fact, my grandchild is half Puerto-Rican and half African-American and this child steals my heart everyday! There is no color barrier in my eyes, for all I see is a little boy who lights up my soul and brings me joy. Sammy Davis, Jr., how about that! Thank you for that one.

Our Spanish Heritage

October has been chosen as Hispanic Heritage Month, and so for the next thirty-one days we celebrate our diverse cultures in a myriad of magazine articles, television documentaries, shows and various other forums. But what does the word Hispanic mean? The word is derived from a settlement in the southern part of Europe s Iberian Peninsula that the Greeks called Hispalis. After the Romans conquered the peninsula in 25BC, it became a province of Rome and was renamed Hispania. The Romans divided the peninsula into two sections and named them Hispania Ulterior and Hispania Citerior. The language originally spoken in Hispania was Celt-Iberian but after the Roman conquest, Latin became the predominant tongue. In the 5th Century, during the Germanic influx, the Visigoths and Vandals fused Latin with Lombard and other German dialects, and through years of evolution it became Spanish, the language we speak today. The name Hispania evolved over the centuries to become what is today España. So, to be Hispanic is to be from or have origins in Hispania.

Then Christopher Columbus, in search a new route to the West Indies and despite the volumes of maps in his possession, got lost (really, he did) and stumbled upon the New World. Not long after Columbus s discovery, Spanish Conquistadores came in boatloads. The Spaniards colonized the islands of the Caribbean, the great lands of South and Central America and parts of North America. Spanish dominion lasted hundreds of years and left an indelible imprint on these lands, as well as the indigenous and Creole population.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries, Spain was embroiled in many European wars and suffered financial hardships as a result. The cost of these wars depleted Spain s coiffeurs and the Spanish continually lost their Caribbean and North American possessions to the English, French and Dutch. The 18th Century saw Spain losing possession of South America primarily due the revolutionary efforts of General Simon Bolivar. The last of Spain s possessions, Cuba, The Phillippines and Puerto Rico, were lost to the Americans during the Spanish American War of 1898. Puerto Rico and Cuba had the closest ties to the motherland because during the years of colonization and even up to the final year before the Spanish American War, many Spaniards settled in these two islands and brought over their distinct cultures from various parts of Spain. The years of Spanish colonization brought about the eradication of the Taino population in Puerto Rico, which created the need for the importation of African slaves to work on the plantation fields.

We Puerto Ricans take pride in our unique culture; a heritage that began in the 1500 s and is still strong today. We call ourselves Boricuas; a derivation of Boríken, the original name the Tainos gave Puerto Rico. We take pride in our Taino and African heritage but somehow neglect our most common and predominant heritage, namely, our Spanish heritage.

So what have we inherited from our Spanish ancestors? We have inherited the Spanish language, Christianity, surnames that are as ancient as Spain itself and idioms. Each of our towns has a plazita , which is an open courtyard in front of a Catholic Church a basic design brought over from Spain. In Old San Juan, the cobblestone streets and alleyways complement the tightly packed colonial houses and the bastions of El Morro fortress, jutting out to sea, are a constant reminder of a bygone era, a time long ago when Spain was mistress of the world. We do not celebrate Christmas on 25th of December but on January 6, again another practice inherited from Spain. Our Salsa is not only of African origin but a fusion of African and Spanish. On the island, unique dances and folk music find their origins in Spain. Our culture is mainly Spanish but it is laced with Taino and a little African too.

So why is it that we Puerto Ricans tend to embrace the Taino or African heritage quicker than we do our more preponderant Spanish heritage? Perhaps it is our need to identify with the island itself, and what better way than with the indigenous inhabitants of long ago? Perhaps there is a need to identify with the suffering of the African people during the harsh years of slavery, to identify with the rhythmic sounds they brought over from the Dark Continent and mixed with Spanish music.

Yes, I am of Spanish decent that much is self-evident. But how much Taino blood do I have? Is there any African blood in me? What do we really know about our genetic make-up? How can we tell? Do we take it for granted that we are the product of three cultures and accept the axiom because that is what we want to believe? There are places in Puerto Rico where African descendants have lived without mixing their blood. There are places in Puerto Rico where white, blue-eyed and blond-haired Puerto Ricans live. There are Mulattos, Trigueños, Blancos and Negros but the thing that binds them into a cohesive society is their unquestioning love of Puerto Rico. I may have Taino blood, but I have Spanish blood too and I have accepted this. It is my opinion that instead of rejecting our Spanish heritage we should embrace it also. What is your opinion?

Reader Comments/Article 9

Ms. Stephanie Walker writes, "Thank you so much for this article! I was raised both in the Bronx, NY, and the Island with some time in Florida as well. By looks alone, my family (my mom and her sisters mainly) come in all the colors of the Puerto Rican spectrum. I rarely hear them embrace any or all three ethnic ancestries. They are simply Puerto Rican. Interestingly enough, I used to drive a truck cross country and rarely could folks decide my race. I've been named many, from Native American, to Black, to White (military's opinion), to Italian, to Indian and even Indonesian. Every once in a while I am considered Hispanic, and many are surprised to hear me speak Spanish (I prefer English). But anywho, the need to identify with a race drives me crazy, and I simply tell folks that I'm a little of everything and have rich blood. As far as the cruelty of the Spanish many, many, many moons ago, I think it's irrelevant to our identity. If your parents were abusive, that doesn't necessarily mean that you will follow suit. The Spanish culture is beautiful and rich, and easily prominent from my experience alone. Again, thank you so much for posting; I was beginning to think I was the only one with an appreciation for the Spanish."

Thank you for your email, Stephanie. Indeed our ethnicity is a hodge-podge of Spanish, Taino, African, Corsican, Dutch, and who knows what else. I suppose that the vast majority of Hispanics in the Americas share more than one ethnic bloodline. Sometimes when people ask about my ethnicity, I tell them that I am a PLETHIAN. They give me a strange look and then scratch their heads. I could read their minds as they try to figure things out, and could almost hear their thoughts. 'Is he kidding or is he serious? Where is Plethia anyway, is it in Europe or South America?' After a brief moment, I let them off the hook and tell them I'm Puerto Rican-American. So, here it is folks, the start of a new race of people. I invite all Hispanic Americans: Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Colombians, Venezuelans, El Salvadorans, Guatemalens, Hondurans, Chileans, Peruvians, Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, Panamanians, Bolivians, Paraguayans, Argentinians and Uruguayans, to shed their former ethnic identity and become PLETHIANS! Of course I'm kidding, but wouldn't it be nice if we'd never have to preface any conversation with details of our ethnic composition?


Diego, from Orlando, FL, writes,

You know, I was planning to write a much longer and thorough response to the article about our Spanish heritage. I just want to clarify real quick that not all Spaniards that came over came with the conquistadors. Many came later, whether to bring their much needed skills, or to find some land to cultivate where there was none in the old world. To condemn all Spaniards as bloody conquistadors is unfair and ignorant. 

Thank you for your email Diego. You are right! We should not condemn all Spaniards as bloody conquistadores! You must be referring to the email responses from our readers, which varied in opinions. I invite you to read my article again, and note that I wrote positively about our Spanish heritage. I cannot say that my readers are right or wrong, just respect their opinions though I may not necessarily agree them.

Aurora writes,
Today I was surfing the web on the look for information about Puerto Rico, my husband and I are interested in visiting the island next time we are in the States. I came upon this page and started reading through some of your articles and peoples  responses. I found it very interesting.

First of all I must say I come from Spain, lived most of my school years in New Jersey but moved back to Spain after high school. I always had problems interacting with Puerto Rican kids because they seemed to hate me for some reason, and I never understood why. I must say I had some very difficult years where some Puerto Rican girls made my life miserable, ganged up on me, etc. I never understood why but grew very wary of Puerto Ricans for that reason. Afterwards in high school I became friends with a Puerto Rican girl, and she didn't seem to care where I came from.
I've never had this rejection from any other Latin American and I always wondered. Now reading through all these comments I realize why. I find it very sad though.

I live in Spain and I'm married to a German. I don't care where people come from as long as they are good people and I believe racism is one of the most horrible things one can be.

For all the Puerto Ricans out there, I'm Spanish, excuse me, I speak Castellano and I'm white with blue eyes, excuse me. I think the people that act like those people did with me are just full of complexes and are simply ignorant. 

Hello Aurora and thank you for your email. Your email saddened me though, so on behalf of all Puerto Ricans (including those awful girls back in high school) I would like to extend you a sincere apology. You must know that we are all not like that, and please, do not judge Puerto Ricans based upon those terrible experiences from high school. Racism and Bigotry are the darkest and meanest forms of hatred that the human race has in its heart. Instead of getting to know someone, people would rather hate. I don't know why people do those things and I can't even begin to rationalize the human psyche behind this behavior. I guess people are, well, just people!

That being said, let me be the first Puerto Rican to extend you and your husband a warm and kind welcome to our beloved Borinquen. The beaches are as beautiful as the aqua-blue waters surrounding the island. The splendor and majesty of the rainforest we call El Yunque is unmatched in any islands of the Caribbean. Stroll through the halls of the old Spanish fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and see the beautiful vista from the Atlantic side of the island. While in P.R., don't forget to visit the local restaurants and get a taste of down home Puerto Rican cuisine. Visit the oldest church in the Americas in, San German, and try the seafood in Ponce. I would invite you to Orocovis, but that's way up in the mountains. Orocovis is a quaint little town nestled in the rolling hills of the cordillera, mostly populated by Spanish descendants. And just one more thing: Send us pictures!

Mr. Alejandro Luciano writes,

I want to comment on your article about our Spanish heritage. First of all I know the article was posted a very long time ago but I just read it and I felt that I really needed to post a comment since it is a topic of great interest to me. I was surprised by the negative reaction of those who replied to your article. They have a very strong sentiment against Spain which is very sad and, in fact, unfounded. It seems to me that Puerto Ricans from the U.S. are very different in mind set from those who were born, raised and still live on the Island. I was born and raised in San Juan, and have lived in Florida for a few years. Most Puerto Ricans over here were either born on the island or their parents were, so we're very different from those [Puerto Ricans living] in New York or Chicago.

Saying that the African heritage is the most influential in Puerto Rican culture is quite ridiculous for various reasons. First, it is noted in the 2000 census that only about 10% of Puerto Ricans (on the Island) are black while those who classify themselves as white or of mostly European origin account for about 80% of the population. This means that most of us are at least mainly European in origin and this is evident in our culture. In Puerto Rico we do not have this hate that I have seen in many Puerto Ricans from New York, towards Spain or Spanish culture. In fact, the most popular restaurants in P.R. are Spanish [cuisine], the Casa de España [for example] is a very important cultural center, and Spanish music and artists [have been] very successful in P.R. Flamenco [music and dance] is commonly seen in festivals and carnivals, and everybody knows what Tapas and Campo Viejo are. The Spaniards did commit atrocities against the Tainos and the Africans, but [their acts were] not sanctioned by the monarchy, which always declared that the purpose of colonization was to bring Christianity and civilization [to the New World], not violence.

It must be understood that many of the men who [accompanied] Columbus [to the New World] were ex convicts and were not attentive to the queen's words. Unfortunately, many Puerto Ricans in the U.S. know little of our history. During the 19th century P.R. and Cuba were overseas provinces of Spain with delegates in the Spanish congress (Cortes), in fact, in 1812 Ramon Power y Giralt, a Puerto Rican, became vice-president of the Spanish congress. Puerto Ricans were active in the Spanish anti-slavery movements in Madrid and Barcelona. Many Puerto Rican patriots studied in Spain and wrote beautifully of Hispanic culture. Jose de Diego, one of the most important P.R. politicians, was dubbed "El Caballero de la Raza" for his defense of Spanish culture and tradition. Puerto Rico was the preferred destination along with Cuba, for thousands of Spanish families that emigrated Europe during the late 19th century when P.R.'s population doubled. The Corsicans (from the French-Italian island of Corsica in the Mediterranean) were also very influential to the point that around 20% of Puerto Ricans have a Corsican surname. P.R. has strong ties to Spain to this day and owes most of it's traditions to the different regions of Spain. That is not to say that the African and Taino components were not important, because it is true that Africans have influenced our culture deeply in every aspect of it and that Taino heritage is actually more prevalent than thought. According to a study by Ricardo Alegria (whom every Puerto Rican should know) about 67% of Puerto Ricans have Taino matrilineal DNA indicators, which means that the genocide is not exactly as some put it. And some historians have said that the slaves were in many ways the first Puerto Ricans since they had no ties to their country of origin and therefore had to adopt P.R. as their country more quickly than the Europeans did. 

Thank you for your email Mr. Luciano. A well said and well researched statement. I think that there is an inherent inclination in all of us to accept someone else s idea or written statement rather than performing our own in-depth research and formulating our own opinions. Some books are subjective and slant toward the writer s ideologies on a particular theme, and some are full of accusatory and negative statements against the state, certain establishments and/or institutions. You mustn t be too hard on your Puerto Rican-American brothers and sisters because they were born here, and have grown up in the American culture, with little or no exposure to their culture. I was born here, too, but I have researched the history of Puerto Rico and of my family, and I know who and what I am. That is why I have taught my children to embrace their culture and know who they are. My children did that many years ago, and their faces, especially during the Puerto Rican parade in New York, radiate with pride. So, Mr. Luciano, let s you and I say to our Puerto-Rican American brothers and sisters: Do your own research, learn about your culture and form your own opinion about Puerto Rican history and about your Puerto Rican heritage.

Marshalla Ramos (no relation) writes,

My name is Marshalla Ramos, and I reside in Brooklyn, New York. I first clicked on your profile to find out where you are from because you have similar features to my father, Emilio, and my uncle, Johnny ( Papo ). However, after reading your biography I have to say that in many ways, I disagree with the point made about being proud of our Spanish heritage. I think that this has been something I have been grappling with for quite some time now. I am completing my Master's degree in T.E.S.O.L, and am an avid researcher and reader. I have been researching my roots since I was very young. All the facts point to the Spaniards ( Conquistadors ) being oppressors and not valuing the Taino and African peoples' culture. I understand that they are a part of my heritage, and when asked about my ancestry I include them. I am aware that my ancestry is what has contributed to my identity. Yet, how can one be proud of having been raped, killed and not being accepted for who they are? Does your book delve into the other cultures that make up Puerto Ricans? If so, I will be interested in reading it. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. Stay focused, positive and strong. 

Thank you for your email, Marshalla. First of all, I am proud of my Spanish heritage, but I am equally proud of our culture s Taino and African heritage, too. I have never omitted these contributing factors to our ethnic make-up. While it is true that Spaniards mistreated the indigenous peoples of Borinquen, as well as their African slaves, so too did other Europeans in the Americas during that violent era. The fact still remains that our culture is predominantly Spanish. We speak Spanish, our surnames are Spanish, our Catholic religion came from Spain, and our customs and ideologies are Spanish in origin. My new book, entitled: The Angel Falls , deals with the issue of slavery and the mistreatment of the Taino population during the colonial days of Puerto Rico (circa 1625). In my first book, Profound Crossroads , I romanticize the Spaniards, but in my second book, I vilify them. So, you see, Marshalla, there will be a balanced look at our Spanish heritage from these two books. I hope to have it available on the net via Barnes & Noble and Amazon very soon. I plan to make an announcement as soon as it is released from my publisher. I may also print excerpts from the book in one of my monthly articles.

Juan Peña writes again,

First of all my brother I didn't leave anybody hanging if I give you a name as important as Rafael Cordero the first thing you should do is research, you know, go online hit search and find information but since you want to be spoon-fed rather than to go to, you will find a full book with his biography. As a matter of fact, go to El Boricua's home page click on Afro-Borinquen scroll down to the people link and the first name you will find is Rafael Cordero (this is where I first read about him). Now concerning freemasonry it goes back way before these knights of templar it goes back to the mystery schools of ancient Egypt for example explain to me why the freemasons (no matter what race they are) give honor and praise to the pharaoh Khufu whom they acknowledge as a black man? And explain why the women all strive to become true sisters of Isis (another Egyptian deity) and then explain to me why the Pope still worships the Black Madonna who is really a duplication of Horus being held by Isis. Egypt influenced everybody!!! As far as the Tainos go they came from South America and in South America all your tribes link back in one way or another to the Ancient Olmecs which means the people of the rubber because they were bringing rubber trees all the way from Uganda (in Africa). For example, explain how the Hopi Native Americans ended up with the same traditions as the Dogon tribes of Mali? As far as comparing religions how can you say that the Sumerians are pagan and polytheistic and that the Jewish are monotheistic? If you take a look at a Jewish calendar you will find that some of their months are named after those same pagan Sumerian deities. For example, Tammuz: does that make any sense? It does if you realize that the Bible that you read everyday came from those tablets like the Gilgamesh epics and the Egyptian book of the dead, read the 10 commandments and then read the 10 declarations of the pharaoh in the Book of the dead and than come back to me. What do you think Noah and everybody before Abraham was going by? Monotheistic religions came through the children of Abraham, and the Gilgamesh epics and their story of creation laid a foundation for the Bible. I see your point and we are made up of different cultures and no I wouldn't chastise anybody for loving their so-called Spanish heritage, but tell me: what Spanish heritage? I mean what did we really inherit from Spain, what did they give us to grow with? As far as people who relate with what they look like, it can go either way and I'll give you a perfect example. Take a look at Adalberto Santiago does he look Negrito? Does he look Taino? No he doesn't. But still he can relate like when he and Ray Barretto did De Donde Vengo  from the Together  album listen to the lyrics "si blanco fue Adan y Eva tambien, entonces porque es negra mi piel' and check this one yo vi en el teatro la muerte y passion, mas no vi un negrito en ninguna ocasion' and what about Barretto does he look Black? But still he was called El Watusi coming from the name of an African tribe; brothers to the pigmies. Now, on my final note, you said we have roots in Spain. If Spain is our mother country, then don't leave us HANGING, I'm sure all of us would love a history lesson on this mother who abandoned her children!!! 

Thank you again, Mr. Peña, for your rebuttal. I must be honest. I didn t know anything about Rafael Cordero until you mentioned his name in your previous email. But then again, you had no idea who this person was either, not until you came across his name in El Boricua s website. Your comment that I want to be spoon-fed is unfounded. You see, Mr. Peña, when you bring up an important subject such as Mr. Cordero, especially in a site where thousands of people visit everyday, it is always good to tell readers little about that subject. When I read what you wrote about Mr. Cordero, I thirsted for knowledge, that s all. Regarding your notion that Freemasonry goes back before the Knights Templar you are dead wrong, my brother. Freemasonry emerged in the period between the Black Death, 1348 and the War of the Roses, 1453. Before that date there are no trends or events that can be identified as leading definitely towards Freemasonry. Freemasonry s tenets and practices are founded upon Egyptian and other historical ideologies and practices and perhaps that is how you drew your conclusion that this secret society goes beyond the middle ages.

History tells us that the people of Asia crossed into North and South America through a land mass that connected the two continents. These people of antiquity became the Native Americans you speak of, Mr.Peña. They emerged out of Africa and spread out throughout Europe and Asia, so I must agree with you that Africa is the mother of us all because that is where humanity was born.

Regarding religions, all I said was that despite the differences in theological philosophies, many religions share similar origins and stories. I have read the Gilgamesh epics, as well as the Hindu epics Ramayan and Mahabharata, I have studied Judaism and Islam, as well as Buddhism. So what I said holds true, Mr. Peña, many religions have similar origins and I invite you to read my comments again. Of all the cultures I have come across in my studies, the one that fascinates me the most is the Sumerian culture. I am presently studying this culture because it is the earliest known civilization on earth, going back as far as 6,000 BCE and predating the Egyptian civilization by 2,000 years. Regarding your comment that I left people hanging concerning our roots in Spain, please, please read my article again and see that I did mention Spain s legacy and contributions to the Puerto Rican culture.

On a final note I want my readers to know that although I disagree with you Mr. Peña, I respect your opinions. You never cease to amaze me, my brother. I also want to let you know that I didn't mean to insult your intelligence in my response to your previous email and if I did, please accept my sincere apology. Your replies and opinions are the kind that I look for, my brother! I look for sincere, tough and thought-provoking responses, ones that will stimulate El Boricua s readers and push them into emailing their opinions. Once again, thank you for your reply.


Ms. Cynthia Figueroa writes,
I was reading the comments posted--OUCH!! Man, they did NOT go easy on you!! I understand what you were trying to convey--simply stating the fact that Puerto Ricans are a combination of the three cultures/ethnicities. But I have to say that I share the same opinions as Ms. Alvarez-Fung and Mr. Pena. However, I think most Puerto Ricans usually tend to identify more with only one or another of these groups (African/Taino/Spanish) based on their own family lineage, their physical characteristics (or features) and also the culture and traditions they (or their parents) observe. Regardless of which culture or ethnic group we identify with, I think that the bottom line is that without this "mezcla", we wouldn't be the beautiful people we are; nor would we have the proud, noble history and unique heritage that we ALL identify with. That's what we need to remember, pass on, and celebrate!! 

Thank you, Ms. Figueroa, for your response. I think the ethnicity factor is a sensitive issue for many Puerto Ricans, one that lies dormant inside all of us but that every now and then roars out of our souls to defend our pride. I believe that a significant percentage of Puerto Rican descendants living in the United States, know very little about Puerto Rican history. We ve got to remember that Puerto Rico s history dates back to the 1500 s, a past that is imbued with slavery, torture, violence, struggle, hopes, dreams, pride and the perpetual cry for independence. To minimize the significant contributions that the Spanish made to our culture is tantamount to denying who we are because our heritage is a triangulation, a fusion of three distinct ethnicities. Each part by itself is weak but when all three parts come together, they form a beautiful thing called a Boricua . Now some will say that they don t have any African blood running through their veins or that there is no evidence in their family history of Tainos. I believe the claims made by these people are true but then again, are we really talking about genetics here? No, and I want everybody to understand what I am saying. All I am saying is that OUR CULTURE is based upon three ethnic cultures and despite our families  genetic history, we cannot deny this fact.

Mr. Juan Peña writes,

I have to disagree with you on that brother! You got it all backwards when you say [that Puerto Ricans are] a little African, some Taino and mostly Spanish. African influence is the biggest influence of them all; I m talking music, art, science, religion, etc. Music is only a small part of it. The Moors who have their origin in ancient Egypt are the ones who civilized Spain, as well as all of Europe. We may speak Spanish but look at how it happened. The black man in America may speak English but he doesn t call himself a European. Who brought rice and beans over to Spain? The Moors did. Who educated the Europeans on Freemasonry? The Moors did. Even the Taino culture has its roots in Africa. What is a Cemi? A Cemi is an intermediate between the humans and the gods in Taino culture. The same happens in Egypt where the priests of Shem or Sem were the mediums between the gods and men. I can go on and I ll give you one more example straight from Puerto Rico. Who is our father of education? The man who is in the process of being made a saint in the Catholic Church: RAFAEL CORDERO, un negrito de quien Puerto Rico nunca debe de olvidar! Keep up the good work . . . SUAVE. 

Thank you, Mr. Peña, for your response. It s always a pleasure to hear from you even it has been a long time in between responses. Despite our disagreements, I do look forward to reading your comments with great anticipation. I am not denying the fact that African culture has influenced the evolution of Puerto Rican culture. In fact, our music is rooted in African rhythms and so are many other things like dancing, Santeria, etc. I think, however, you may be wrong about the Moors. Derived from the Latin Maurus  Moors was the name given to the people of Mauritania by the Christians. Today about 70% of Mauritania s population consists of Moors. In Mauritania, the term Moors  is synonymous with both light-skinned Mauritanian descendants of Arabs and Berbers and dark-skinned Mauritanians of Sudanese descent. They do not have their origins in Egypt but you are correct that they originate from Africa. Mauritania is located on the western coast of Africa. It is bordered by Western Sahara and Algeria to the north and by Mali to the east and Senegal to the south. There is no doubt that the Moors were the keepers of scientific, mathematical and philosophical works and their vast libraries had no comparison in the ancient world. I do agree with you on this point. I further agree that African-Americans do not refer to themselves as Europeans but as African descendants. But then again, I think that everyone in America harks back to their origins like Irish Americans, Polish Americans, Italian Americans and so forth. We Puerto Ricans do the same. Regarding your notion that the Moors educated the Europeans on Freemasonry, I m not so sure you are correct. During the Christian Crusades, a secret French organization known as the Knights Templar discovered ancient documents in Jerusalem. These documents were so controversial that it is widely believed the Catholic Church, in an effort to maintain their secrecy, paid the Knights Templar exorbitant amounts of money. The Knights Templar became rich and very powerful for hundreds of years and transformed themselves into Europe s first bankers. They became so powerful that the French king, in concert with Pope Clement V, accused the Knights Templar of heresy and other sacrileges in order to break their financial hold on Europe. On October 13, 1307, nearly all of the Knights Templar were rounded up and executed. This date marks the origin of Friday the 13th . The few Knights Templar who escaped the mass executions fled to Scotland, England, where they continued their secret society under its new name: The Freemasons.

Regarding Taino roots in Africa, I do not how you arrived at this conclusion. Just because two cultures have similarities in their religion, it doesn t mean that they are connected to one another. Case in point: the great flood and the ark. Judaism s story about Noah and the flood is similar to that found in the Sumerian culture and yet no two religions could ever be so diverse; one being monotheistic and the other pagan and polytheistic.

Our people have evolved into a distinct society, Mr. Peña; they are racially diverse and unique. Puerto Ricans born with African physical features tend to embrace the African culture more quickly than they do their Spanish or Taino culture. Likewise, those Puerto Ricans born with Taino physical features tend to embrace the native culture more than they do the African or Spanish cultures. But what about the many Puerto Ricans whose blood was never mixed with African or Taino blood? What do you tell them, Mr. Peña? Would you stop them from embracing their Spanish heritage? Would you chastise them because they do not embrace either the Taino or African cultures? They are just as Puerto Rican as any Negro, Trigueño, Mulatto or Mestizo and if they want to embrace their Spanish heritage, then so be it, let them.

On a final note, you talk about Rafael Cordero being the father of our education but you did not elaborate. You left us all hanging. I m sure our readers would love a history lesson from you on the soon-to-be saint, Mr. Cordero.

Ms. Shirley Alvarez Fung writes,

I found your biography interesting. I am writing because I had a defensive reaction to your affection with the Spaniards and I am struggling to sort this out for myself. I am just recently learning about Puerto Rican history. I am Puerto Rican and I was raised in Brooklyn, NY. The schools in Brooklyn taught little or nothing of Puerto Rican history. I m now in search of a critical analysis of our history. Every time I read about our roots going back to Spain I cringe. I cannot get past the horrible atrocities brought upon the Taino by the Spanish people. I cannot seem to get past this or maybe I just don t want to. I think our true ancestors deserve more. To honor the Spaniards who persecuted and annihilated the Tainos just doesn t make sense. Can you help me understand this? 

Hi Shirley,

Thank you for your candid response. It is very true that Spaniards were cruel to the native populations under their dominion but it is also true that we have descended from them. Despite our eagerness to believe that we have as much Taino blood as we do Spanish, there is no conclusive evidence to support this notion. You must remember that most of the Tainos were eradicated within the first one hundred years of Spanish occupation, either through violence or disease. That means that by the mid 1600's the Taino population was virtually non-existent. So what was left? What remained was the Creole population, which consisted of Spanish descendants born in Puerto Rico, and the black men and women imported from Africa; many of whom married inter-racially and bore mulatto children. During the 1700 s and 1800 s right up until the Spanish America War, many Spaniards came to Puerto Rico and settled there that s two hundred years after the disappearance of the Taino population.. The vast majority of Puerto Ricans are of Spanish descent, Ms. Alvarez Fung, but there are many Puerto Ricans with both African and Spanish blood. There might be a few of us with some Taino blood but how can we tell? There are a vast number of books on the Taino natives of Boriken and many books on Spanish colonial life. You might want to research some of these books to get a better handle on your ancestry.

As a Puerto Rican descendant you cannot hide the fact that your very name is of Spanish origin, the language your parents speak is Spanish and the world of Puerto Rico was founded upon Spanish traditions. I am currently writing my next novel, which dramatizes the struggles the Taino population faced during the turbulent period of the early 1600's. Unlike my first novel, Profound Crossroads , where I romanticized Spain and her struggles against the Moors, this one vilifies the Spanish for their atrocities and disregard toward native populations. I hope to publish The Angel Falls  by early next year.

The Question of Puerto Rico s Future: Commonwealth, Statehood or Independence

The Cry for Independence

On the night of September 23, 1868 a militia of 400 men, armed mostly with knives and machetes and led by Manuel Rojas, marched into the town of Lares to begin their revolution against the Spanish government. The fight for independence had begun! The cry for liberty was born! Today, we remember that fateful event as El Grito De Lares. 

The militia was led by a small cavalry, carrying with them the new rebel flag designed by Dr. Betances. By the morning of September 24, 1868, Manuel Rojas and his militia had occupied the town of Lares with very little resistance, declaring a provisional government for La Republica de Puerto Rico.

The idea for an armed revolution was not based upon a spur of moment thought. It was spawned in the western part of the island and had been brewing for the past twelve years. But the date for the armed revolt was set to take place later in the month, on September 29, 1868. However, the Spanish authorities had gotten wind of the insurrection and began preparing for the confrontation. Fearing the revolution would be foiled before it could get started the leaders were forced to move up the date, which may have contributed to its demise.

Having secured the town of Lares, Manuel Rojas, on September 24, ordered 200 men to take over and occupy the town of San Sebastian but the Spanish authorities were already there and waiting for them. The two hundred militia men were cut down in a hail of gun fire and retreated in total disarray. Thus ended Puerto s quest for independence . . . or did it?

The Right of Self-determination

It is my firm opinion that all people have the right of self-determination. No other document on earth expresses this tenet so eloquently as that written by the founders of the United Sates of America: The Declaration of Independence. I quote: When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 

This profound ideology is the foundation upon which the people of the United States sought to achieve their independence in the 18th century. It was a principle they believed in so much that they were willing to make the supreme sacrifice upon the battlefields of freedom.
During the 19th century the cry for independence was made loud and clear in South America. A revolution, led by General Simon Bolivar, succeeded against the Spanish government and South Americans gained their independence.
During the latter part of the 19th century the same cry for independence stretched to Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Though there were sporadic moments of insurrection, nothing tenable had prevailed, either by force or ideology. It wasn t until the Spanish-American war in 1898, when the United States defeated Spain that the fate of Spain s remaining colonies changed. As part of the treaty to end the war, Spain ceded all three colonies to the United States.

A U.S. military government presided over Cuba and ran the island from 1898 until 1902, the year in which the United States granted Cuba the right to become a republic. It was different for the Philippines. At the turn of the century, many Filipino nationalists attempted to fight for independence, but the United States quelled the rebellion and established a colonial government. The United States held the islands from 1898 to 1935 when the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. The United States then granted the Philippines independence on July 4, 1946.

Puerto Rico, perhaps, suffered the worst fate of all and her future proved to be much different than that of Cuba or the Philippines. Two years after the Spanish-American war, the status of Puerto Rican citizenry remained in question. They were no longer Spanish citizens but they weren t citizens of the United States either. The Foraker Act of 1901 established a new relationship with Puerto Rico and a new government. The new government had a governor and an executive council appointed by the President, a House of Representatives with 35 elected members, a judicial system with a Supreme Court, and a non-voting Resident Commissioner in Congress. In addition, all federal laws of the United States were to be in effect on the island. The new relationship established by the Foraker Act, however, did not address Puerto Rico s citizenry question. The Jones act of 1917 finally answered that question. Puerto Ricans became American citizens and Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the United States. Partial self-government was granted in 1947, which, for the first time, gave citizens the right to vote for their own governor. In 1952 a new constitution made Puerto Rico an autonomous part of the United States called the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or Estado Libre. And so, Puerto Rico has remained a commonwealth of the United States since 1952.

The United States never granted Puerto Ricans their independence. Why? Of the three former Spanish territories, Puerto Rico was the smallest. Most of the people were poor and uneducated and the infrastructure was non-existent. Puerto Ricans were in dire straits and needed economic assistance. Perhaps there were political forces on the island that desired closer ties with the United States in order to benefit from her deep pocket book. Perhaps no one stepped up to assume the mantle for freedom. Perhaps the United States felt the people were inferior and did not have the wisdom and political savvy to run their own country. But whatever the reason, Puerto Rico remained a dependent state. Securing a military base in the Caribbean also gave the United States much needed security. A part of Vieques Island became target practice for the U.S. Navy. During the Cold War in the 1950 s and 1960 s the United States needed to keep an eye on Cuba to ensure Communism would not filter into Puerto Rico and spread throughout the Caribbean. But now that the Cold War is over and a New World Order is in the making, why is Puerto Rico still a commonwealth of the United States? We must look to the people of Puerto Rico.

Consensus Regarding Self-determination, Commonwealth & Statehood

Puerto Rico, in my opinion, is a nation divided. Many Puerto Ricans are pro-statehood and politics on the island have reached a fever pitch over this issue. Many Puerto Ricans favor the status quo and would rather leave well enough alone; commonwealth status is preferable to them. Yet, there are many Puerto Ricans that cry out in their hearts to see Puerto Rico a free and independent nation. So what is the cause for such a division? Quite simple: Puerto Ricans are human beings and their ideas and opinions are as diverse as those found in any nation. The subject of politics can never be argued because it is entrenched in ideology. A good example of this is found in the United States, where two ideological elements dominate the political scene: Conservatism and Liberalism. Members of each school of thought clash everyday and their ideas are the subjects that motivate the electoral process. In the end, elections are held and the issues are decided by the majority of the people. The losing party still believes in its opinions and ideologies but they will wait until the next elections.

The decision to remain a commonwealth or seek statehood or claim independence must be made by the people of Puerto Rico. It must be the will of the majority of Puerto Ricans to decide the fate of Puerto Rico s future. Statehood and independence are two possible futures that would have tremendous repercussions on the island and its people. The pros and cons ought to be fully explored and voters should be well informed of the advantages and disadvantages before they go into the voting booths because once the decision is made all Puerto Ricans will have to live with it. There is no turning back.

Financial Means to Achieving Self-determination

During the American Revolutionary War and after, the fledgling United States borrowed money from France to help pay for the war and to help start the new government. For the first few years, the United States struggled and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Due in large part to the visions of Alexander Hamilton, the United States repaid their debt to France and with its natural resources became a rich nation.

Does Puerto Rico have the financial resources to achieve independence? This brings to mind Operation Bootstrap, the brainchild of Teodoro Moscoso, which incepted between the years 1910 and 1912. Operation Bootstrap was a program designed to attract worldwide investment and by the mid 1950 s had transformed Puerto Rico from virtual obscurity into an industrial nation. Moscoso s Operation Bootstrap gave tax incentives to industrial corporations while at the same time offering cheap labor. The companies listened and they came and built plants and factories on the island. Many people think that this program was a sell out because the industries reaped huge profits while exploiting cheap labor and benefiting from tremendous tax relief. A case for this claim can be made with the Sugar companies, which exploited Puerto Rico s labor force and natural resources while offering virtually nothing back to the island. Today, however, cheap labor does not exist in Puerto Rico because the Federal minimum wage applies to everyone on the island. Aside from this, Mr. Moscoso s ambitious program helped launch tourism and many other programs that, in the opinion of many, helped Puerto Rico emerge out of the dark economic ages.

Among the many industries presently conducting business on the island are pharmaceutical companies, electronics, textiles, petrochemicals, processed foods and clothing. Among the natural resources are dairy, livestock and sugar production. Tourism remains an economic staple with nearly three million visitors a year. In spite of these strong industrial and agricultural elements, Puerto Rico still receives economic aid from the United States. What does that tell us? It tells us that in order to become a fully independent nation, detached from the U.S. s purse strings, Puerto Rico may have to cut back on the tax incentives currently afforded the industrial companies or employ personal income and property taxes as they do in the United States. If they cut back on industrial tax incentives, they run the risk of losing those companies to other nations. On the other hand, citizens of Puerto Rico may not find the idea of personal and property taxes too appealing. The money to run a nation must come from somewhere. So we must ask ourselves, what are the benefits of all three futures?

Benefits of Self-determination vs. Statehood vs. Commonwealth

Commonwealth status would bring no change to the islanders. Puerto Ricans will continue to live as they have lived for the past 107 years.

Statehood would bring Puerto Rico into full membership in the United States, though I m not so sure that many hard-lined conservatives would welcome that prospect. And although statehood would force Puerto Ricans into paying property and federal income tax, it brings with it full representation in the United States Congress. In the years to come, English may become the dominant language and the Puerto Rican culture may take a back seat to American culture.

Independence would free Puerto Rico to seek financial opportunities on a global basis, as Operation Bootstrap did nearly 100 years ago with success. Puerto Ricans would retain their identity and culture. And as with any nation gaining its independence, especially in the burgeoning New World Order, Puerto Ricans may face an insurmountable struggle to achieve financial success. Puerto Ricans will have to make personal sacrifices and face extreme hardships before they can reap the benefits of independence. Is all that worth it? There are those that ascribe to the adage: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  While this may be a noble thought, caution, prudence and due diligence, must be exercised before steps are taken toward independence.


The issues of commonwealth, statehood or independence cannot be motivated by ideology and emotions alone. These issues must be studied under a microscope and the socio-economic ramifications objectively and pragmatically explored. I love Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is in my heart and in my very soul and as any Puerto Rican living in the United States will tell you, I want the best for Puerto Rico. I will accept whatever future Puerto Ricans decide for the island because in the final analysis, they alone will bear the burden or the fruits of their decision. What is your opinion?

Reader Comments/Article 8

January 2009 - Jorge L. González writes,
I was reading your column and I realized the enormous amount of Puerto Rican descendants that are in the USA. I know that this little Island, which was planted in the most beautiful point [in] the world, between the Caribbean [Sea] and the Atlantic [Ocean], is hard to forget to all who see it and get to know of its existence. But people, if by some reason you are from P.R., but don t live in P.R., maybe because your parents determined not to do so looking for the American Dream, please stop whining about P.R. s political future. If you live [in] a State of the Union, let us [say] for example New York, Florida or Chicago [Illinois], [then] tell me in your own words: [why] is it wrong to live in a State? [Why would it be] wrong if P.R. [becomes] the 51st State of the Union? Why would you oppose this? Let us, BORICUAS by birth and heart, determine our future. It s not our fault that you or somebody in your family decided to live outside of Puerto Rico. Look for your roots, come visit Puerto Rico, maybe you will find that it s not as bad as they say it is! 

Thank you for your email Mr. González. While I understand it wasn t your fault that someone in our families decided to leave Puerto Rico in search of the American Dream, you must also understand that we descendents had nothing to do with that decision either. During the 1940 s and 1950 s the poverty was so great in Puerto Rico that many left the island not in search of the American Dream as you have stated, but in search of a simple job. They came into a world where Spanish was not spoken, a world that did not truly welcome them, and a world filled with bigotry. A great number of us were little children when our parents immigrated to the United States, but most of us were born in the United States and became Americanized. We spoke two languages and coped with the conflicting ideologies of two very distinct cultures. We grew up in America uncertain of who we were as a people, or where we came from. We learned about our culture through our homegrown parents. Oftentimes we would sit with our parents and listen to their stories about life in Puerto Rico. As we grew into our teenage years in search of our identities, we learned more about Puerto Rico and we embraced the little island as our motherland, we embraced our culture because we finally learned who we were. As we entered maturity, we clung evermore to our culture, we visited the island, we met our cousins and our extended families, and we immersed ourselves with the culture of Puerto Rico, our very own culture. You see, Mr. González, there is more to us than you may think. Although we may not live on the island itself, we still love Borinquen, we still call ourselves Boricuas, and we still care with everything that goes on in our beloved island. As a Puerto Rican-American, I can tell you that I do care about Puerto Rico s future, but I feel any decisions in that regard should be left up to Puerto Ricans living on the island.

Ms. Margarita Afandor writes,
I am writing on one of your articles on the Statehood of Puerto Rico. As a natural born Boriqua from Utuado, and raised in N.J., I am really fearful of the idea of liberating the Island (if you want to call it that.) I follow the news that comes from the Island and there is a lot of corruption in many areas of the infrastructure. The drug problem is rising and the divisions are getting even greater between political groups. Please let us see and learn from what has happened to Cuba. We were lucky to have been rescued by a Government (U.S.) that at least did not suck the life out of us, [as] Castro has done to his so-called "beloved Cuba"! We are backed by a government that we can negotite with (Freedom)!

But fret not, it could have been Puerto Rico as well! We could be in the heartless grips of a [tyrannical] government like Castro's and could be just like Cuba now, destroyed as a nation, with no hope in sight, had we not accepted the US. Can we govern ourselves? Look at the past! We need the U.S. government s backing if we do not want to end up like Cuba or some other Island and that is the truth!

I love my little Estrellita en El Mar , my flag and cultura . I would prefer to leave it as it is now (Free Associated State of the US), but I feel that we are not economically stable enough to be on our own and am fearful of the negative (communist) forces that are looking at mi Borinquen to turn it into a next Cuba! I pray for my Island where I was born and where my roots are. My father loved his Island and always said that even though we had to fight (have our voices heard) to be one day on equal terms with the mainland people, it was the best thing that could have happened to our Borinquen! I pray that my people in Puerto Rico love their Island as much and see the beyond the shores of the Island to see who is looking back at her! I pray for God to bless mi Isla and for my people on the island to see the light! 

Thank you for your email, Ms Afandor. Sometimes it is easy for people not living on the island to say, Puerto Ricans, join the United States of America and become the 51st State,  or to say, Release yourselves from the vile clutches of imperialistic America and become a free nation!  But who s to say what s best for Puerto Rico and her island-dwelling people? It would be terribly selfish for us outsiders to dictate any such courses of action simply because we are descendents of the island. Obviously, you were born in Puerto Rico so you have stronger feelings for the island than those who merely claim hereditary descent. But here s the thing, you are now living in the United States just like me, and by virtue of your residency you have given up the right to change things on our beloved island. Don t get me wrong, I totally understand your feelings, and I can relate to your passions for Borinquen. Honestly, I do not know what Puerto Rico s best option is right now, and, frankly, I cannot begin to fathom a thought in that regard. All I can do is pray, as you have stated, that the residents of Puerto Rico do what is best for their island. As far as Puerto Rico falling prey to communism, I think even the communists of Cuba know that Communism is a thing of the past; it did not work for the Russians and has not worked for Cubans. Communism will not rear its ugly head again in this hemisphere. Government corruption and the drug problem, however, are different; these two monsters have been prevalent in Puerto Rico for many years. But is Puerto Rico any different from the United States or any other country in the world? No! Governments can root out corruption and fight the drug problems, so whether Puerto Rico becomes an independent nation or remains a commonwealth, drugs and corruption will always be there.

Ms. Bernadette Szollosi writes,

I just stumbled across this website [El Boricua] by chance and I have to say, your articles (or actually, your opinions) are very refreshing. I know it's a little late, since I don't know how long ago you wrote those pieces on Statehood, Independence or Commonwealth, but I do have something to pass along to all my Boricua brothers and sisters. Check out this website: Here is a nation that was basically taken by the US government. In the end, the native Hawaiians did not choose to become a state. And look at what's happened to their way of life. Too much of their culture has been compromised thanks to all the "non-natives". Now there is an initiative to take back the islands for the natives. Isn't it wonderful what a group of people can do for their land? My heart breaks knowing that the people in Puerto Rico aren't taking the island back completely from the U.S. I mean really kick the U.S. out! Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward and you can't let the fear of the unknown keep you from attaining a goal. The goal of Puerto Rico should be complete independence from everyone. 400 years of Spanish rule and now basically more than 100 years of U.S. imposing their rules is just about enough. It's like whatever Jose de Diego, Pedro Albizu Campos, and those brave men who died at Lares [Lares uprising September 23-24, 1868] tried to instill in the people is forgotten. And please, I beg everyone's pardon. I don't want to insult any of the Puerto Ricans on the island. But I wish a fire would be lit inside everyone, a beacon, something that will keep everyone from choosing statehood as an option. The U.S. has deceived many people of many nations. I can't bear the thought of that beautiful island having to assimilate to the American way of life. What, then, can we teach our future children - that the rest of Latin America gained independence from Spain but Puerto Rico ultimately got absorbed by America? May the inhabitants of Borinquen do something completely surprising to the U.S.  say, "Adios y gracias para toda su ayuda. Nosotros lo podemos tomar de aquí." Forgive my Spanish; this is what happens when you grow up on the mainland and not on the island. All of this pored out of me since reading that article on cock-fighting. You think PETA is a problem? Hah! If P.R .takes on anymore US policy as their own, then they can be sure that the ACLU will be next [American institution] imposing what they think is constitutionally correct and really mess up the culture. After all, white Americans who will ultimately end up on the island to take land will need to have their civil rights upheld (but not the Puerto Ricans). 

Thank you for your email Bernadette. It is obvious from your email that your passions for Puerto Rican independence run deep. Not to dampen your fiery spirit, Bernadette, but I think Puerto Rico has already assimilated much of the American culture. One need only examine the island s infrastructure (highways, bridges, transportation systems, etc.) and conclude that Puerto Rico s metropolitan cities, in many ways, resemble those of America s. American presence and influence is everywhere in Puerto Rico, from its legislative and judicial systems (which mirror that of the U.S.), to television and commerce, etc; even the English language is taught in schools. In the end, however, it will be up to the people of Puerto Rico to decide their island s future. As the older generations fade away and take their visions of independence to their graves, the younger generations, which have been born under the American reign on Puerto Rico, will be more apt to welcome the notion of statehood. The idea of Statehood for Puerto Rico has been gaining strength over recent years and catching up to the number of those desiring independence or status quo. In time, Puerto Rico may very well become a state. But the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Let us say that the pro-statehood people in the next ten to fifteen years mount a successful campaign and win the people over to the idea of statehood. And let s say that a referendum or plebecite officially determines Puerto Rico s willingness to become a state. Will the United States agree to Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state? We need to ask ourselves, what gain is there for the United States in Puerto Rico s statehood, that they have not already gotten from the island as a commonwealth? As I said many times before, the people of Puerto Rico must look closely at all three futures and make a sound decision for their island, their lives, their children and their children s children.

KM8077 writes,

I agree with a lot of the statements I have read except reasons for independence. Although the idea of being independent sounds like a beautiful idea, I doubt that most of us would want to live in an independent Puerto Rico. I like the fact that I can freely come and go there, and that my relatives can freely do the same.

To all those who are Pro-independence , take a good look at our neighbors in all Latin America. Do you want to be in their shoes? I have seen first-hand how much Latin Americans have suffered. They might come from an independent country but who cares when the economical and political atmosphere is so bad that they have to flee to the US and other countries just to survive. Immigrants are dying to leave their so-call independent countries.

Remember, Puerto Rico s economy revolves around mostly American industries that are on the island simply because of its association with the US. This alone has made Puerto Rico s economy the most stable compared to the rest of Latin America; statistically speaking. If Puerto Rico were to become independent, all these companies, including most of the private and tourist industries will inevitably leave Puerto Rico in fear of dealing with a new and undoubtedly unstable independent government.

I think this forum is a good example of how a new independent Puerto Rican government would be like during its initial, who knows how many, years; full of different opinions and radical views.

I love Puerto Rico and God forbid it becomes another Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, etc. Puerto Rico should remain a commonwealth and try to work with this system so that all Puerto Ricans benefit [from it], or, it should become a state of the US. Also, I believe [that] the Puerto Ricans living on the island should decide that, [and] not those living in the US.

On another note, I would like to say that most Puerto Ricans are hard working and have made it" in the US. Both my parents and their relatives came to the US back in the 1950's, and they worked so hard to buy their own homes and get a good education for their children. Hence, we have shown our appreciation for their support by graduating college and becoming professionals in our own right. [Many] of us live in the suburbs, and have [assimilated into] the upper and middle classes of this county. We don t fit the negative stereotypes that a lot of people [tend to] see in urban areas, like NYC. Many Puerto Ricans do not live on welfare. 

Thank you for your opinion, KM. I gave your statements their due consideration but have had some difficulty in responding to them. Your belief is that Puerto Rico should remain a commonwealth and try to work the system in order that they may benefit from it. But Puerto Rico has been a commonwealth of the US since the 1940 s, and has had over 60 years to work the system. How is it that they still remain a commonwealth? Are they still working the system? Your concern is that businesses may leave Puerto Rico for fear that an independent government may not afford them the luxuries they now enjoy. Such luxuries include inexpensive real estate, tax benefits and low employment wages, among many.

Becoming independent is not an easy task to accomplish, and many things can go wrong. American businesses may wish to leave out of fear of what an unknown government might do to them, but we must remember that these businesses have invested millions, if not billions, in Puerto Rico; they re not going to up and leave just like that. Moreover, I believe that an independent government would not want to antagonize these industries or put fear in them, but encourage them to stay and continue to do business. This brings me to another point. If an independent government can succeed in working with international businesses, then why can t this be taken a step further?

Why is it that all Latin Americans feel that they have to come to the US to better themselves? Why is it that we are programmed into thinking that our people and our countries are inferior to the US, England, France, Germany, China or Russia? Who coined the phrase Third World Nation ? The hard fact of the matter is that we accept that stereotype and actually believe that we are inferior. I strongly believe that by combining forces, in the same manner as the European countries combined their forces, Latin America can become a strong economic power, able to participate in world economics and politics. We must diffuse our fears of the unknown and supplant them with confidence in ourselves. As you said, many Puerto Rican Americans have succeeded in the US and have assimilated into its fabric of society.

I agree that Puerto Ricans living on the island are intelligent and hard-working, but what good does that serve when the mindset is stalled in abject dependency? How can they grow mentally and economically under a cloud of inferiority and fear? Perhaps you may be right, KM, Puerto Rico should change the system from within; it may take another 60 years, though. Perhaps Puerto Ricans might not want to be independent or become the 51st state of the United States of America. The only way to know for sure is to put all three futures to a vote. Let the Puerto Ricans living on the island decide what they want for their country. As I have said from the beginning, I will honor whatever the people of Puerto Rico decide.

David Ortiz writes,

Regarding the above mentioned subject matter, I would like to put in my two cents. I was born in Ponce and lived most of my life there. The truth of the matter is that Puerto Ricans have become completely dependent of governmental assistance and have done away with hard work with dignity. They think they are above having to work the earth and "fincas" that are totally going to waste. Getting cupones  and welfare is so much easier than working. Another problem is that even though a lot of PR's are educated, when it comes to politics they are absolutely ignorant. They vote PPD because grandpa and grandma were "populares" or "PNP's" [so] they have to vote that way. They do not give any thought to the important issues that affect their daily lives. Politics have become a disgrace and a disgusting endeavor. And you know who is guilty of these problems? The country [is]; the people that vote for officials because of their popularity [and] not because of the essence of their stance [on] the issues. Let me ask you this: In the past thirty years, [has] Puerto Rico moved forward economically, morally? Of course not, every year things get worse and more corrupt politicians are stealing from the country. What has the ELA done for PR? [They ve done] absolutely nothing. In Puerto Rico everybody steals. From the governor all the way down to the garbage collectors.

If you have a murder in a public residential in PR, the police [have] to go "in force" for the investigation because the same citizens will throw rocks or shoot at them; there is no respect for authority. Of course PR would benefit from statehood and he who thinks differently is very ignorant. Has Hawaii lost their identity as Islanders? Of course not, their economy is booming and there is lots of progress there. So in conclusion, let's keep the status QUO and keep breeding useless people with no aspirations and dreams of progressing instead of having everything handed to them and let's keep fomenting the traffic of drugs and forget about values. Puerto Ricans have exactly what they deserve, they placed themselves in that situation and they want to blame someone else instead of taking responsibility and put a person in the governor s chair that will put the needs of the country above their own. Thank you for listening. 

Thank you for your response Mr. Ortiz. How can I begin to rebut or respond to such a seemingly cynical view of Puerto Rico s current political and sociological status? It is sad to think and difficult to accept the notion that the mindset of all Puerto Rican people is similar to the characterizations you have just given them. One can only surmise that one hundred years of complacency has bred nothing but dependency and great lack of will among the Islanders. But I dread the thought, and cling desperately to the hope this is not the case for every Puerto Rican because if this is so, then their future is bleak and hopeless. I have faith that in time, the people of Puerto Rico will rise to the occasion and vote for the proper man or woman to lead them to the next phase in their evolution. If that phase turns out to be statehood, then so be it, and if that next phase is independence, then so be it, too. But one thing I can agree with you on is the fact that commonwealth status must be done away with; it is a thing of the past, a relic that should be buried along with the hardships and repressions of Spanish colonialism.

I don t want to seem like I m slamming my brothers and sisters on the island but perhaps that is why Puerto Ricans living in the US tend to think differently than those living on the island. Puerto Ricans who live in the mainland grow up in a nation that believes firmly in the notion that education and hard work are the keys to success; it is this mindset that separates us from them. We prefer to earn our living rather than accept food coupons and a monthly welfare check. Notwithstanding the above comments though, I want to believe in my people, and I pray that one day a strong leader will emerge to take Puerto Rico to the next level. I invite you, Mr. Ortiz, and every Puerto Rican living in the US, to pray for our brothers and sisters on the island. Let us ask God, the Almighty, to wake our people from their one-hundred- year repose, and show them the light.

Ms. Yoly Semidey writes,

Hello Anthony and readers. I liked what Marisol Jimenez wrote regarding our "ELA" (Estado Libre Asociado) status of Puerto Rico. I lived in PR until I was 15 yrs old, I'm 44 yrs old now, and I try to keep up with the latest news about the Island. Suffice it to say that the situation there now with the local government is a shame. Can you imagine if our Island was an independent nation? I agree with Ms. Jimenez that the schools in PR should teach our students more pride, civil or otherwise, about our status and help understand the ramifications of each political status. I agree also with other readers about the way the so-called "Independentistas" try to voice their beliefs on island residents but yet, they live out here, etc, etc.

Most of you know the story of Juan Mari Blas, his party and others like him. But no matter what ideals some others might want to instill on our "Islanders", this is the mere truth. Just go to Plaza Las Americas on any given day . . . or any other major shopping center like Plaza Del Caribe in Ponce. Do you all think Puerto Ricans are ready to give that up? I think not. If many of you are familiar with the agricultural story of our island back like in the 40's and 50's and even way before that when "la zafra" or sugarcane harvest was the main industry in PR and if you have ever read Abelardo Diaz Alfaro's book "Terrazo", you'll understand the vicissitudes the Puerto Rican Jibaro has had to endure. Who wants to revert to that?

The truth is: No one! Certainly not me! Because the truth is that leaders like Luis Munoz Marin were responsible for bringing "Operation Bootstrap" to the Island; and it is to their credit that the people living on the island today enjoy a better way of life. After the successes of Operation Bootstrap , you could see lots of "urbanizaciones" springing up all over Puerto Rico, all thanks to "ELA". Puerto Rico has seen progress, but there is still much more to be done and it is my opinion that the "Independentista" movement won't ever, ever solve it. Like Mr. Ramos said, all three political parties need to be analyzed, pros v. cons, etc. 

Thank you for your response Ms. Semidey. Puerto Rico s status is a very sensitive issue that seems to have divided Puerto Ricans into three distinctive groups or three schools of thought. That is why I am very pleased that El Boricua has graciously given us this forum to hash out our opinions on this terribly important subject.

There are so many factors to consider when a decision is made to change the course of a country s destiny, and these factors must be analyzed to their fullest extent before making such a fateful choice. Though Mr. Luis Munoz Marin s ambitious program did bring Puerto Rico out of the dark ages, it forever linked the island to the purse strings of America and its corporations. There is always a price to pay for everything you do in life. Mr. Marin s program may not necessarily have been the best plan for Puerto Rico in the long run, but it might have been what Puerto Rico needed at that time.

If you ask me how I feel about this issue, I will tell you what I said in my latest article. I strongly believe that Puerto Ricans and perhaps all Hispanics have the ability, the God-given right, and the brains to become a collective world power. Instead of coming to America to seek a better life, let us combine our forces to become one economic entity. As part of this economic conglomeration, Puerto Rico could contribute its natural resources, its engineers, scientists, physicist and, labor force, and reap the profits much like the countries of the European Economic Market have done so successfully. Let us become the builders of automobiles, airplanes, and machines. Let us go through a renaissance period where we start believing in ourselves, and where we can shed the ideological shackles of inferiority! Our Lord Jesus Christ said: If your faith is a big as a mustard seed, you can move mountains.

Do I believe that Puerto Rico can go it alone as an independent country? It probably can, but with great difficulty. Do I think that Puerto Rico can become a state? Yes, but it may lose its identity in the long run, will have to pay property taxes and so on. Is Puerto Rico better off remaining a commonwealth? It has been that way for many generations, and the financial dependency to the US remains very strong. But, as a member of a powerful economic conglomeration, a world-class player, Puerto Rico can become independent and have a voice in the global economic arena.

Ms. Marisol Jiménez writes,

Tengo 40 años, nacida y criada en PR, y quisiera expresar mi opinión referente a todo esto que se comenta sobre nuestra isla. Creo que en las escuelas, especialmente las superiores y universitarios donde los estudiantes tienen mas capacidad para entender la historia de nuestra isla, deberían de instruirlos en esta parte tan importante que tiene que ver con el futuro de nuestra isla. Los jóvenes en Puerto Rico tienen que entender que esto es un asunto bastante serio. Nuestra isla tiene unos privilegios muy importantes que tenemos que aprender a darle bastante valor, porque no es hasta que uno viene a vivir acá a los EU que uno se da cuenta lo importante que es mantener el ESTADO LIBRE ASOCIADO ( ELA ) que tenemos con los Estados Unidos ( EU ), y que otros países Hispanos envidian.

Hay países como México, Panamá, Cuba etc., donde los ciudadanos de estos respectivos países tienen que inmigrar hasta aquí, y hasta muchos perecen en sus intentos para a llegarse aqui. En Puerto Rico no le enseñan al Puertorriqueño la importancia del ELA con los EU y lo que mas duele es que los partidos independentistas y otros tienen la mente de tantos jóvenes Puertorriqueños engañados con una independencia que solo traería más pobreza a nuestra isla la cual ya esta súper poblada. El ELA que tiene nuestra isla es muy importante para que los Puertorriqueños de estos últimos años no lo sepan valorar yo creo que en mi patria querida todavía queda gente inteligente que pueden defender este asunto. El ELA debería ser defendido con todo lo que se pueda y si quieren mejorarlo porque creen que hubiera que hacerlo OK pero no desechen lo que fue un gran sacrificio para lograr en el tiempo pasado seamos agradecidos por los que lo lograron y lucharon por un Puerto Rico mejor.

Don Luis Muños Marín fue un hombre que lucho por nuestra isla hasta que logro alcanzar lo que ningún otro país a logrado. Que estamos diciéndole a este gran hombre de la historia de Puerto Rico? Que no sirve su sacrificio? O vamos a hacer mas agradecidos y trataremos al máximo de defender lo que nos dejaron, como esperanza a un Puerto Rico que en aun en este tiempo necesita las ayudas que de los EU recibe? No nos hagamos los fuertes de que se puede solo, porque solos no se puede; seamos realistas. Muchas gracias por esta oportunidad de expresión una prueba mas de los beneficios de la libre expresión tanto en PR como en EU. Si se puede poner en el periódico para que otros lo lean se lo agradecería .Creo que es tiempo de que la juventud de PR lean y se preocupen un poco mas por la historia de nuestro país y los adultos que todavía quedan les orienten y los eduquen al respecto. 


I am a 40-year-old woman born and raised in Puerto Rico, and would like to express my opinion regarding all these comments concerning our island. I think schools, especially the High Schools and Universities, where students have more capacity to understand, is where we should focus our energies as they will play an important role in the future of the island. We should concentrate on this phase of our students  academics because they have to understand just how serious the talk of independence really is. Our island has many privileges and we do not realize or appreciate how much value those privileges have until we come to live in the United States and learn how important it is for Puerto Rico to maintain its commonwealth status, and how other Hispanic countries envy that status.

There are countries such as Mexico, Panama, Cuba, etc., where the citizens have to immigrate here, and many perish in their efforts to get to the United States. And yet, I see that in Puerto Rico the students are not taught the importance of maintaining the commonwealth status with the US. What hurts the most is that advocates of independence share the same mentality as our youth; they are misled by the idea of independence, which can only bring poverty to an overpopulated island.

The commonwealth status that Puerto Rico has with the US is very important, especially for latter day Puerto Ricans who do not seem to value it, and I think that in my beloved country there are intellectual people who can stand up and defend the commonwealth. The commonwealth status ought to be defended with all possible efforts, and if it can be improved because we think it should, then okay. But we should not reject what took great sacrifice and hard labor to achieve so many years ago. We should be grateful to those who fought and achieved a better Puerto Rico.

Luis Munoz Marin was a man who fought for our island until he achieved what no other Hispanic country was able to achieve. So what are we saying to this great man who played an important role in the history of Puerto Rico? That his sacrifice was worth nothing? Or are going to appreciate and try our very best to defend his legacy of hope to a Puerto Rico that today still relies on the aid of the US? Let us not get swept away with the idea that we can go it alone because alone we will not survive; let us be realistic.

I give you many thanks for the opportunity of expressing myself; a benefit of free speech found in the United Status, as well as in Puerto Rico. If you could print this reponse on your site, where everyone can read it, I would appreciate it. I think it is time that the youth of Puerto Rico read and become more involved with the history of our country, and that the adults encourage them along the way. 

Thank you for your response, Ms. Jiménez. I understand how you feel, and I m sure many people in Puerto Rico think the way you do. As I have said many times before, the idea of independence is a noble one but it is not something that can be rushed simply because it is the current trend or fashionable ideology. If Puerto Ricans want to become independent, they must analyze the benefits, as well as the consequences. They must think long and hard before making such a fateful decision. I agree with you that our youth must be taught the value of Puerto Rico s commonwealth status, but at the same time I think they should be taught the value of independence. Having a balanced education will turn our youths into level-headed decision makers. Alter all, the future of Puerto Rico will one day fall in the hands of these students.

Mr. Ramon Morales writes again,

Mr. Ramos, I was not trying to downplay your comments, just simply expressing my feelings about Statehood v. Independence or Commonwealth, and that we, residing in the United States adapted to the way others live. It has not changed us in any way, and as far as the taxes, we keep the receipts of deductible items, interest on our home [mortgages], banking, donations, children attending schools, home repairs, tax on cars we buy etc. In the end it is not that bad. Anyone who does not have an income pays no taxes. Those living on State assistance pay no taxes except what they buy at stores. If your income is not high enough, sure you pay taxes but in the end you get it back. There are many deductions listed and some take advantage of all of them. [Property] taxes on homes are based on their value. Those on section 8 are exempt since they are on section 8 based on their income. Citizens must be educated so they too can understand about taxes. So why the fear about taxes? Thank you. 

Thank you again, Mr. Morales. I agree with you that those of us who live in the United States pay our taxes, and perhaps it is not that bad. But you say that we have adapted to the way others live. Adapted from what? We were born in the United States, and so we have been accustomed to this system of taxation from the moment we started working. The ones who must really adapt are the Puerto Ricans living on the island who have never paid property taxes. This would be a sudden change that many might not welcome. What I am trying to say is that the right to self-determination is in the hands of our brothers and sisters who live in Puerto Rico. Like you, I would like for all of them to fully acquaint themselves with the pros and cons of each possible future, whether Independence, Statehood or Commonwealth. Fully versed in all sides, they can make an intelligent choice. But in the end, it will be the majority of the people, the collective vote that will decide Puerto Rico s future. Isn t Democracy a good thing?

Mr. Ramon Morales writes,

My father immigrated to the US in the early 50's, my brothers, sisters grew up in New York, and we later moved to New Jersey. My father fought very hard while living in Puerto Rico; he belonged to the Populares party. We know very little about Puerto Rico. I have noticed that when we visit [Puerto Rico] we are treated as foreigners. Though we speak Spanish it is easy to notice that we are not from there. As far as we are concerned we have been living in the United States, paying taxes and it has not killed us. We Puerto Ricans can adapt and live like anyone else anywhere. I do not believe that statehood will harm us in anyway. On the contrary, we will gain. Puerto Ricans in the US in most parts are not accepted as Americans. Funny, I visited Puerto Rico in November 2005 and while talking to some Americans at the Westin Hotel in Rio Grande at the beach, they did not know that Puerto Ricans were American citizens. That's just to show you how ignorant some folks are. Well, my wife set them straight real quick. Afterwards they became very friendly. We hope that when the time comes our brothers in Puerto Rico will make the right decision but only they can decide their future. The bit about the taxes is really not an excuse to decide the future of our beautiful island. We will not lose our culture, language or heritage for we have not. Do some research on other Latin Americans countries and the way they live. There is no way you can compare them with the way we live in Puerto Rico. We are free to travel to the US without a passport, the only time we need a passport is when we leave the US. How many other Latin American countries can do this? Do your homework please! Viva Puerto Rico y nuestro futuro y piensen en sus hijos y los hijos de ellos. 

Thank you, Mr. Morales, for your response. Puerto Ricans living on the island can certainly detect a foreign Rican , whether he or she may be a Nuyorican or a Chicagorican or a Florican. And that detection is easily made by the manner in which we speak the Spanish language. What I mean is that our enunciation of Spanish is much different than that enunciated on the island. We also bring with us our American style, which also differs from those of the islanders. So it is no real surprise that they can easily detect us. Regarding the tax issue, you are right in that as US citizens, we have been paying taxes and it has not harmed us. But then you must consider that we live in the US, where there are more jobs and higher salaries than what Puerto Rico can offer her citizens. I did not use taxes as an excuse to detract anyone from the notion of Statehood. Puerto Ricans that live on the island do not have to pay property taxes. Many islanders are on fixed incomes and many do not have high paying jobs. All I said was that the issue of taxes must be considered thoroughly before any decisions can be made. Regarding the loss of the language and culture if Puerto Rico becomes a state, I said that this could be a possible byproduct of the status change. One need only to look at Hawaii and see how much it has been Americanized since it became a state. Your statement that most Americans are unaware that Puerto Ricans are American citizens is true. Most Americans lump all Spanish-speaking people into one category and as sophisticated as they want to portray themselves they are quite ignorant. I m afraid there isn t much we can do except to do as your wife did, and that s to let them know right away. The United States is a vast country with an enormous economy from which we all benefit. Enjoying these benefits, it is easy for you to say that Puerto Rico can become a state and not suffer the pains of change. But you do not live there and you have no clue of the issues that concern the islanders. I did my homework, Mr. Morales, I have looked at all sides of Puerto Rico s status and raised pros and cons for each of them. Perhaps it is you who should do a little research before making your statements. I invite you to read my article again and understand what I said.

Musashi writes,

Sir, I only wish to say this: my mother is a Fernandez y Lopez. However, her father, my grandfather and for whom I named my son after, moved to the U.S. to be one thing, an American. He never forgot or loss pride in his heritage, but realized that the people who move to another country were not entitled to continue being what they had been. The culture of Puerto Rico was and is great but it only belongs in one place. 

Thank you, Musahi for your response. I think that by and large most immigrants come to the United States to seek better fortunes but quickly realize that societal acceptance is achieved through assimilation. Within several generations, their descendants become Amercianized , their native tongues are forgotten and their heritage fades into oblivion. I find nothing wrong with assimilation to gain acceptance because that is a personal choice made for personal reasons. On the other hand, I find nothing wrong with keeping a firm hold on one s culture, language and heritage. Perhaps that is why Puerto Rican Americans and many of their fellow Hispanics feel they have never achieved acceptance.

But how do we define acceptance? Does it mean living in a white neighborhood? Does it mean a successful career, earning a six figure salary? Does it mean entering politics? America is the land of opportunity and success in this country is achieved through personal sacrifice; it is what you make of your life. There are many Puerto Rican lawyers, CFOs, company presidents, judges and politicians and though these brothers and sisters have achieved great measures of success, they still cling to their heritage. A good example of this is Edwin Torres, a New York judge and successful author who penned Q&A  and Carlito s way . The stories were centered on Puerto Rican characters and through Mr. Torres s writing Americans got a glimpse of our way of life in the United States. Both books were made into movies. Perhaps we may never be accepted but we are a determined people and we will always find a way to carve out a niche for ourselves. I agree with you that our culture belongs exclusively to Puerto Rico and that is why many of us return to the island. We return to Puerto Rico to reacquaint ourselves with our culture, to see friends and families and to maintain a grip on our heritage.

Ms. Cynthia Figueroa writes again,
In response to your question: Yes, I work for the Coast Guard/Department of Homeland Security but fortunately or unfortunately, I am not overseas. However, as a former Marine I do appreciate the outpouring of support that EL BORICUA has for our armed forces serving throughout the world. Thank you for taking the time to read my response. 
"Pa  lante"

Thank you for your response. I am always happy and honored to hear from my brothers and sisters in the armed forces. We still post comments from readers for previous articles, if you are interested in responding to any of them.

Your PR brother,

Ms. Cynthia Figueroa writes,

First and foremost, we must consider our Taino brothers and sisters and respect the fact that the Island is rightfully theirs. We must appeal those who have the financial means to invest in their homeland--people of Puerto Rican decent. I think that our people need to be prepared for a struggle regardless of what decision they make. However, I strongly believe that it's time we fight for our Island and the independence of the Puerto Rican people. Most importantly, we must unite to keep our culture and our history true to our roots. So much has been taken from us, from our land, from our ancestors; it's time to put an end to it. 

Thank you for your response, Ms. Figueroa. Indeed, the island rightfully belongs to the people of Puerto Rico. The struggles for the inhabitants of that wonderful island will no doubt be great but with determination and support from their brothers and sisters in the U.S. they can achieve whatever goals they set out to accomplish. As a Puerto Rican-American, I will support any decision taken by the people of Puerto Rico, whether they choose independence, commonwealth or statehood.

On a side note, your email suggests you are a civilian working for the military. Are you currently in Iraq? If so, then please let our readers know this and write back with some reflections of your experiences overseas.

Mr. Eddie Cruz writes,

I'll clarify my opinions [on] what I mean about a broader picture on how the U.S. Government conducts things on Puerto Rico. How 59% of able working class is unemployed, how insufficient money is spent, how they neglect most of Puerto Rico's needs, how we are a slave-entrapped colony, how much Puerto Rico generates and the Government continues to take, how we are still put down as welfare recipients, its incredible. And I am sure that Puerto Rico has enough resources and able brains to see to [it] that Puerto Rico stays afloat. Puerto Rico was well off before colonization from Spain and I'm sure it can flourish without unsupportive aid. But is there any will from the youth to succeed and try? Pro-statehood puts into the elders  mind that without the United States they can not support themselves but there is so much more to Puerto Rico and everyone can lead with a helping hand. Puerto Rico is a Paradise that belongs to the United States to the rich and business-minded not to the people, not to the Tainos, and not to anyone from Boriken. Only with leadership and will, more than anyone else will realize, [will Puerto Rico succeed]. So I [have] already made my say [as] clear [as possible]: Independence is for the continual survival of our culture. 

Thank you, Mr. Cruz, for your response. Frankly I don t know where to begin. You said that 59% of the working class is unemployed and accused the Puerto Rican government of neglecting its people. Well, Mr. Cruz, the island of Puerto Rico is not that big and over population tends to increase unemployment, as well as various human needs. I did not understand your statement referring to Puerto Rico as a slave-entrapped colony  and hope that you can amplify your comments to me, as well as all of our readers. You may be right that the notion of pro-statehood puts fear into the minds of Puerto Rico s elderly people. I also think that your statement concerning Puerto Rico s independence is a noble one. People generally have a fear of the unknown and unless someone brave enough steps forth to assume the mantle for independence, Puerto Rico may remain a dependent territory forever. I do not mean to imply that I personally espouse Puerto Rican independence, I mean that if the consensus of Puerto Ricans shifts toward self-determination, then I will support that change. However, with change comes sacrifice and I am not so sure that all Puerto Ricans are willing to undergo such a turbulent shift in political and financial ideology. We are living in a New World Order, Mr. Cruz. With the exception of China, Communism has given way to global Capitalism. Competition is fierce, global financial markets are the new arenas where governments trade and battle for world domination. If Puerto Rico is to join the New World Order as an independent nation, then it will have to become a fierce gladiator and will undoubtedly have to make enormous concessions to world industry.

My Little Piece of the Island

My first memories of Puerto Rico date back to 1962, when I was five years old. The memories have faded over time but a few fragmented images still exist deep within the recesses of mind. I went to Puerto Rico with my grandmother and stayed in my aunt s farm for two weeks. The most vivid images that I can recollect are my first encounters with pigs, cows, chickens and mosquitoes. The second time I went to Puerto Rico I was seventeen and uncertain of who or what I was. The trip to Borinquen was very special to me because I had heard so many colorful stories about our motherland from my parents, uncles, aunts and from my maternal grandparents. Also it was a good opportunity to see my father s side of the family because I had never met them.

The first thing I remember was walking outside of the airport and realizing that everybody in Puerto Rico was just like me! I had never felt so at home, so relaxed and so good inside. I remember that my grandfather came to pick us up in his jeep. We climbed onto his jeep and he drove us up into the mountains, along an ascending road with no guard rails. I remember that he honked his horn every time the jeep approached a bend in the road. I found out later that this was a warning to oncoming vehicles. To me, a casual visitor, this journey was a harrowing experience and a stark contrast to the locals who seemed unfazed by the precarious road.

Two hours later, we finally arrived at a wonderful town called Orocovis. I instantly fell in love with Orocovis. To me Orocovis was quaint, colorful and peaceful; a lovely town high up in the central mountains of Puerto Rico that seemed frozen in time.

My paternal grandfather s family emigrated from Castile, Spain, and they were among the first settlers of Orocovis. My grandfather gave me a tour of his lands (about 800 cuerdas) and I was awed by the rolling hills and lush vegetation. He grew all kinds of things, such as bananas, plantains, etc. I then met all of my cousins, aunts and uncles and they treated me so good that I didn t want to leave Puerto Rico.

During the two weeks I spent in Puerto Rico I traveled to San German, Mayagüez, Toa Baja, Toa Alta and I even went to Luquíyo Beach. I went to Bayamón, Cataño and Isla Verde. To my great disappointment, I couldn t go to El Yunque because we had run out of time. One of my best memories was when I went to Old San Juan. The old colonial houses were still there as well as the narrow, cobblestone streets. As I walked the streets of Old San Juan, I couldn t help imagining how the Spanish colonists lived during the 16th and 17th centuries, how beautiful the island must have looked backed then in its pristine state. I have gone back to Puerto Rico several times since then and while visiting El Morro fortress on one of those occasions, I became fascinated with the history of the island. I bought many books about Puerto Rico and discovered that this little island was rich in history and heritage. This was my inspiration for my new novel, The Angel Falls, which is in its final stages. It s a story about colonial life in the Spanish Caribbean lands, the Taino natives and the issue of slavery. The story encompasses the Greater Antilles but takes place mainly in Puerto Rico.

I have not been to Puerto Rico for many years but I am planning to visit very soon. This time I want to see El Yunque, Ponce and other cities and towns. Of course Orocovis will always be my first stop; it is where I left my heart (la sangre clama). The best thing I got out of visiting Puerto Rico was that it gave me the identity I had been searching at a crucial time in my life. I knew then who I was and where I came from and it filled me with pride. I fell deeply in love with Puerto Rico and embraced my heritage with open arms. I also embraced all Puerto Ricans as my brothers and sisters. I took a little piece of the island and buried it in the depths of my soul. That is why I am such a fierce defender of Puerto Rico and my people! In my opinion Puerto Rico is our motherland, the place where we go to rejuvenate our pride, to reinvigorate our passion about who we are. In my opinion I think all Puerto Ricans living in the US should bring their children to Puerto Rico so that they can learn about their colorful history and great heritage.

I know that many Puerto Ricans living in the United States feel the same way I do. So don t be shy, express yourselves and share your recollections about our beloved island, La Perla del Mar, La Isla del Encanto! Dios Bendiga Puerto Rico!!

Reader Comments/Article 7

Professor Jeremy Lignelli writes,

This is my second article to you about PR. I am a gringo from Maryland living on the island. I have been here for three years or so now. I have had all sorts of experiences living here. After reading many of the articles I know what it feels to truly have a sense of appreciating and loving this wonderful place. My culture is from mixed background much like those here. I have been welcomed into the family (if you'd call it that) and though of as one of your own. With all the positives I can or could express there are some definite drawbacks to living here. As [I] said before in numerous articles, the government has no sense of itself. The economic situation is terrible. People [are] trapped in a slumber induced by the government. I have learned that being political doesn't make much sense here. No one has a real sense of what needs to have happen. Taxes are rising and jobs are scarce or low paying. I have been lucky to have my education and opportunities to try to succeed here. However, as a teacher, you can not survive on the wages here. My fiance (Puerto Rican) and I were born in the states and we do long for the diversity of the U.S. I know this might be contrary to what you have said, but music, food, and other various avenues are one way or no way. We long for the security and options that the U.S. offers. It is true: more and more people are leaving the island. Everyone in my Masters program has left or will leave at the year s end. You can also see the push to leave in the property market. Just take a drive and you will see sign after sign for sale (se venta). I wish it was not the case. I wish there was hope in the future. But looking at the political situation here, I see no signs of that happening. I started out so positive and have headed down a negative path. For everyone that reads this take the trip and experience it for yourself. PR has a lot of potential, the island and its people. Puerto Rico will be in my heart forever no matter where I go or what I do, I will always have a special place for PR and I will always return. In my final sentence, those that speak about the island from the viewpoint of the US, you have no idea what is going on. More of you need to become aware and take action to improve the situation. 

Thank you for your email Professor Lignelli. I think you have underestimated the Puerto Rican people. I strongly believe that Puerto Ricans very much are in tune with the political climate on the island, as well as possess a good sense of what changes ought to occur in their homeland. In most cases, those who achieve a sound education have a tendency to leave their surroundings in search of better opportunities. This is not only seen in Puerto Rico as you have said, but also in cities across the Mid and Southern United States where people leave their rural surrounding in favor of a large metropolis such as Los Angeles or New York City in search of better jobs. There is nothing wrong with that because it is a human trait to want to better oneself. But I say this, Professor: Rather than leaving Puerto Rico with a sound education, stay there and use that education to improve the conditions on the island. Graduating students ought to use their educations in Economics, Chemistry, Finance and Investments, Engineering, Law, etc. and apply that knowledge to improve the future of their homeland. They should not abandon Puerto Rico simply because they can, but rather devote themselves to a worthwhile cause! Further, I say to you Professor: Do not travel down that road of despair and defeatism but rather lift your spirits and embolden yourself in the notion of victory. Instead of giving up, as a professor you should set the example for others to follow. Ideas take root with but only one seed, and though you may not have been born on the island, it has found a place in your heart and has become a part of you. You may very well become that seed. As a professor, teaching numerous students every year, you have the power to impart philosophical, political and economic ideals. Convince your students to stay and give Puerto Rico a try. Impart these ideals to your students, become a planter and one day Puerto Rico will reap the harvest of your seeds. It has to start somewhere and with someone, right?

Arsenio A. Cruz writes,

I was born in P.R. and came to the U.S. when I was five years old. I am now sixty years old and I am getting ready to retire. I have just recently bought land in P.R. to retire to. My cousin, who has lived in both P.R. and the U.S., tells me that the economy in P.R. is getting very bad, and that many people are leaving P.R. for the U.S. Is this true? I know that many people are also returning to P.R., like I am. I am a Boricua who has been gone too long. I look forward to my retirement and spending the rest of my years in Paradise. 

Thank you for your email Arsenio. It s nice to know that you are returning to our beloved island; not too many of us have that opportunity. Some of us never return because most of our families now reside in the U.S. Some of us never return because the opportunities for work and advancement are greater in the U.S. than in Puerto Rico. And yet, there are some that decide that no matter what the circumstances or the consequence may be, they will return to Borinquen. You have made the choice to return because it is your homeland, and I think that s cool! Regarding the economic situation in Puerto Rico, all I can say is that people all over the world leave their countries and come to the U.S. seeking a better life. Puerto Ricans have been doing that since the 1940 s and 1950 s, so it is not something new. Yes, Arsenio, the economic situation is not good in Puerto Rico, and it could stand a little room for improvement, but the bottom line is that there are over 3 million people living on the island, so the job opportunities simply aren t there. You will retire soon to the island, so hopefully you won t have to worry too much about finding a job. I hope you enjoy your retirement and I wish you good fortune in your golden years, living and having fun in Paradise!

Mr. Benjamin Cintron, SFC, a soldier serving in the United States Army, writes,

Yes. I left the island about twelve years ago, searching for the American dream. I enlisted in the army. However, everything is fresh on my mind, but my kids that is another story. Tony, with your article you have challenged me to make sure those memories and history continue. I probably wont be back to live in PR, but our culture, history and heritage deserve to be shared with our kids. There is only one, Perla del Caribe, and only we can make it shine. 

Thank you, Sergeant Cintron, for your response. I think that although we are far removed from our blessed island, our love for Borinquen remains deeply rooted in our hearts. I am planning to visit in October and I just can t wait. I need it, I want it and I just got to have a piece of that beloved island! On another note, I just wanted to tell you that I truly enjoy hearing from our brothers and sisters serving in the armed forces. I think people such as you deserve all our respect and admiration for the courage, bravery and selflessness you display every day of your lives. I must say thank you to all our brothers and sisters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those serving all over the world or currently in bases throughout America. You are all in our thoughts and in our prayers. Come home safe and proud to be Puerto Ricans!

Mr. Zoary Cruz, from Philadelphia, PA writes,

I could not help feeling the same way, born in PR but like many Puerto Ricans in search of a better economical life my parents decided when we were very young to move to the United States, not knowing the hardship that they would face. Later at the age of seven I was sent to my grandparents  house in Trujillo Alto, PR. for the summer. My fine memories of the Island were similar to yours: the fresh mountain air, colors, sites, palm trees and my grandmother waking me up to farina  and jugo de parcha ; a shower in the morning, afternoon, and night. There were long days of endless bike riding, hide and seek, playing games with the neighborhood kids, and lots of swimming in Luquillo beach, and I can't leave out the eating; some of the best home cooked meals I ve ever had. That made my experience one that I could never forget. Sadly, at the end of the summer I had to return to Philly where in one hand I was happy to come back home to my parents, brother and sisters and on another very upset to leave this Island that I grew to love so much. On my plane trip home I couldn't help but wondering what were my parents thinking when they decided to move? Later I would understand. Since then I spent my teenage years and early adult life in the States always having the urge to one day return. In the meantime I was a little discouraged of all the rumors family visiting the island would come back saying on how much PR had changed and how bad things had gotten. But nevertheless I was determined to return one day. Gratefully to God that day came. Recently in my adult years I have visited at least 5 times since. And the experiences and love I have for the Island never leave me. All the trash talk of it changing well let s just leave it as good all Puerto Rican bochinche . There is nothing negative you can tell me of my Island. I now have a beautiful wife three young ones that indeed go with me every trip we take, and I wouldn't trade it for any other location to visit on vacations. Why? Why would I, I have everything I want in a vacation in what I consider my first home Puerto Rico. The pride of my people history culture the joy in my heart when I see my kids playing and laughing in our great and blessed Island, there is no comparison. Every now and then I find my self sniffing on some kind of passion fruit drink reminding me of my beloved Island and those memories I had as a boy. But sadly there are many that are lost in this (THEIR IDENTITY HISTORY and CULTURE). That is why I am seeking support on a project aimed tours making awareness of our history here in the States. And hopefully I can share them with you, as it has to do with literature and history that will spark the minds of not only Puerto Ricans but Latino nations and if GOD'S will more. GOD bless you brother for you are a true TAINO in heart. Hope to here from you. 

Thank you Mr. Cruz, for sharing your memories and feelings about Puerto Rico with all of us! As I read your response, I re-lived some of my own memories and images of other places on the island that re-kindled my desire to return once again. Regarding the changes in Puerto Rico, there isn t much we could do about that as we live in a modern world. Crime is everywhere, Mr. Cruz, even in Aruba where a young American girl recently vanished. We cannot ignore crime and violence, for it is part of human nature and perhaps attributable to current economic constraints on the islanders. Puerto Rico has a great police force and laws to punish criminals just like here, in the United States, and these violators are but a few in the overall population. As far as your project, I commend you for your efforts and agree that many Puerto Rican-Americans have no sense of their culture and identities.

Polls & Surveys and the Demographic Quandary

This month s article is longer than all of my previous articles but this is a subject that I felt I needed to share with my brothers and sisters and with all minorities living in the United States of America.

Have you ever listened to the radio or watched the news on television and heard reports that begin with these words? A new study shows that 45% of African Americans and 35% of Hispanics . . .  When I hear these words I often wonder: why are these reports made? For whom are these studies performed? What benefits do they provide?

After careful consideration I can only conclude that these studies are made to reinforce the notion that we minorities are still inferior, lacking and dependent. My perception is that the results of these alleged scientific studies are published and broadcast nationwide so that African Americans and Hispanics can hear them and actually believe that they are inferior, that they re not as good as their white counterparts because of the deficiencies brought about by these reports. But ask any African American or Hispanic American whether they pay any mind to these reports or lend any credence as to their validity. I know that I don t. You know what else? I DON T CARE!!!!! Let me say this one more time: I DON T CARE!!!!

What I do care about is that we are constantly being singled out for these ridiculous, insulting, denigrating and superfluous studies. I have a proposal for a new study. Let us perform an in depth study on, let s say, HIV victims among Polish Americans or how about this one, a study in the increase of heart attacks among Italian Americans. How about a detailed study on sickle cell anemia and its effects among Irish Americans? Ridiculous, right my brothers and sisters? Would you care? Would Polish, Italian and Irish Americans want to have these kinds of reports appearing in their newspapers or broadcast on national television? I don t think so. And you can bet the bank that they would sound off against such ludicrous reports. So why are the studies made and focused primarily on the minority population? Where does the funding for these studies come from? Why is the media allowed to propagate these reports without accountability?

Here is another example. I was reading a New York newspaper several weeks ago and came across an interesting article. Now this is my favorite New York newspaper so I will not reveal the name. The article was about the city s mayoral elections. The article itself was a normal, everyday, garden variety political piece about the constituencies in the 37th District of the Borough of Queens. What caught my eye, what sent me reeling with absolute disgust was a grid they displayed below the headline. The grid described the neighborhoods that comprise the 37th District, its political affiliations and the ethnic makeup. It was the latter category that gave me cause for concern my brothers and sisters. Let me show you the grid so that you all can see for yourselves. Please pay close attention to the section titled Ethnic Makeup .

What did you notice about the grid? I would like to direct your attention to the eleven lines of this grid. Of these eleven lines, ten are for non-whites. It is interesting to note that the newspaper took the time to break down by ethnicity the number of non-whites living in that district; it is also commendable to see that they actually did some work here. Or did they? What is not commendable is that they did not take the time to break down by ethnicity the number of whites as they did so meticulously with the non-white. Why didn t they? Maybe I would have been interested in knowing the ethnic makeup, would you have been interested? Perhaps I might have been interested in viewing a true demographic study. Since the newspaper didn t provide one, I decided to create a more detailed demographic grid. See for yourselves.

* The above statistics were not based on any scientific study or taken from any US Census data. I made up the statistics solely for the purpose of illustrating a point of view.

I think the above grid is comprehensive but perhaps it would represent a true makeup of the district s diverse ethnicity. I should also point out that the newspaper s grid did not equal 100%, but totaled to only 95.40%; it didn t add up, hmm. So what happened to the other 4.6%? I guess they must be aliens from another world. Now do you see how insensitive it was for this newspaper to print that grid? Now you see that after all the pains taken by this newspaper to write objectively without any racial proclivities, it still perpetuates the same old prejudices and bigotries. Though it is not blatant, it is there nonetheless, hidden, subliminally implanted within the writings. The newspaper does quote the Census Bureau as its source of information, but does the US Census Bureau really gather its ethnic information in the same manner? When the Census Bureau collects data for whites, does it break down the data by their ethnicity? Can someone write to me and let me know how the US Census Bureau records its data for the white population? Do they lump all whites into one category?

It is my opinion that newspapers should be a little more sensitive to the ethnic issue. When they place information in their newspapers, such as the demographic break down I displayed earlier, they must show every detail or show nothing at all. I mean, what was the purpose of that grid, except to show how many non-whites populate that particular district of Queens? Some of you might say that fighting these injustices is an exercise in futility and that no matter how much we vent our anger or how much we complain nothing will ever change. You might say that changing a manner of thought that is so well entrenched in the minds of people is impossible. But I say if we do nothing, then nothing will ever happen. I say that if you see something that insults your pride and heritage, COMPLAIN about it!!! Write to the publication or broadcaster what you feel. Chances are they might not listen to one writer, but if enough of you complain then they would be forced to listen. Income for newspapers and broadcast television is generated through advertising. Advertising is done by manufacturers and retailers. Income for manufacturers and retailers is generated by you, the people, the consumers, so if you do not achieve results from the media, write to their sponsors, the ones with the bucks. Hispanics are now the number one minority group in the United States. This means that collectively we have the power to influence the manufacturing and vending industries, we also have the collective power to influence the political process. I wrote a letter to the editor of that newspaper but so far I ve received no responses. It doesn t surprise me.

So my brothers and sisters and any other minority who might come across this site, this is my opinion. What is yours?

Next Month s Topic: My Little Piece of the Island

A New Language?
By Anthony Ramos

Hey Tony, have you seen my zapatos? No me acuerdo where I put them! Si no me ayuda buscar los zapatos, I swear I m not going to the movies with you!  This is an example of how my wife talks to me. I don t think that I ve ever heard her complete a sentence in either English or Spanish. And I really think that sometimes she s not even cognizant of the fact that she has interspersed Spanish words with English and vice versa. It s become a common thing these days among Puerto Ricans living on the mainland. I hear this new language on the trains, buses, sidewalks, family events and just about every other social gathering. Many people refer to this manner of speaking as Spanglish .

Spanglish has become a rather unique form of communication for Puerto Ricans because it affords us the benefit of easily falling in and out of both languages whenever convenience suits us. Let me explain this a little further. Say two Hispanic women are inside a train car and are talking in English, there are non-Hispanic riders sitting next to the women but let s say that their conversation is benign thus far. All of a sudden, one of them, in mid sentence, switches from English to Spanish because she wants nobody else to hear a certain part of her conversation. Then, when there is no further need for secrecy, she reverts to English.

I always thought that Spanglish was something altogether different. I thought that Spanglish was the offspring of the marriage between the Spanish and English languages. I remember during my prepubescent years, the kids in the neighborhood (Williamsburg Brooklyn) created words using a combination of both English and Spanish. For instance, one might say, My rinyons hurt!  Rinyons in this case meant kidneys, get it? Riñones. How about this one: Man, she s got beautiful nargs!  Nargs, in this case meant, backside (butt)? Nargas! Well, I could go on but you all get my meaning. Now that I ve explained what I think Spanglish truly is, I wonder: how many Puerto Ricans or Hispanics out there have created such words? It would be kind of fun to see some of these words, wouldn t it? Send in your words in true Spanglish so that we could share in the fun, who knows, perhaps we could create a dictionary.

In my opinion, Spanglish, whether using both languages in one sentence or creating words using a combination of both English and Spanish, is something truly original and proprietary to us Puerto Ricans. Using this form of communication harms nobody. So to all my Puerto Ricans herms out there have fun because not everybody can speak two languages, let alone create one out of two! ( Herms , pronounced with the strong h , is the Spanglish word for Hermanos & Hermanas).

Reader Comments/Article 5


Article # 5 - A New Language

Mr. Juan Peña writes,

You got me with this one. The computer thing is a trip. I remember cuando fui a replace my ratoncito con uno a little more carito, si se lo explico en English it´s cool but en Español I could turn out bien JIBARITO. I feel you brother!!!. Keep up the good work. 

Well done, Mr. Peña, your Spanglish is impeccable!

Jose Rivera of New Orleans, LA writes,

Just had to write (a personal note) to you about Officer O'Hara. You know, when I was a kid I often wondered why we used to say La Hara for policemen. Every time a police car rolled up we heard the term, La Hara. As a child I used to regard it as a warning that the police had arrived and it was time to get going. Funny how things become defined throughout life isn't it?

Well, this subject is dear to me because it allows me to laugh at what life does for and too us. I can think of many instances when my relatives here used words to make a point. At times those words were a culmination of imagination and need. I remember being in New York and hearing older people (when your a child anyone over 30 is old) speak about things like buildings and use creative words like bill-ding instead. I know that some may say that those were just words that were pronounced incorrectly, however I assure you that was not the case.

On another note I have taught computer literacy to Spanish people at the community college level. It is here that I have heard the best Spanglish life has to offer. Here are some of my favorites: Windows is commonly referred to as Ventanas, Motherboards are known as Placa Madre, Hardware is known as Equipo Fisico, and Blank (as in blank disk) is known as Diskette Blanco. I tell you, when you hear them in class you must take into consideration the heart of the speaker. For many Spanish speaking people, especially here in Louisiana, computers are new. The terminology is something special but the laughs are endless. 

Indeed, Mr. Rivera, it is a good thing when we can laugh at these things and not take life too seriously. Thank you very much for your response, keep them coming.

Ms. Delilah Perez of Bayside, New York writes,

My husband pokes fun at me for the very same reason--I often begin a conversation in English and complete it in Spanish (or vice-versa). I was born in New York City and raised in Fajardo, PR so I was equally exposed to both languages. However, the Spanglish phenomenon didn't occur until I lived in the Lower East Side of NYC (a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood). I agree with your statement that Spanglish has become a rather unique form of communication for Puerto Ricans because it affords us the benefit of easily falling in and out of both languages whenever convenience suits us. 

Here are a few "Spanglish" words my grandmother (may she rest in peace) often used: cakey (for cake-pronounced cake-y), rufo (for roof), and guisky (for whiskey). My cousin who happens to be Puerto Rican and Dominican often uses chileando (for chillin'). Thank you for writing interesting and fun articles. 

I couldn t stop laughing, Ms. Perez! Those words brought back memories of my childhood when the old folks would speak to us. How about this one: La Hara! In the 1950 s in New York City, there was a policeman named O Hara who used to walk the beat in a Puerto Rican neighborhood. His name unwittingly became synonymous with the word cop. Aqui viene la Hara!  or Van a llamar La Hara! . Thank you, Ms. Perez!

A word to my brothers and sisters out there: Keep sending us more Spanglish words!!!

Are Latin Women Really Hot or Is That Yet another American Myth?
By Anthony Ramos

I am not quite sure how to tackle this one without upsetting my Puerto Rican sisters out there. But what does it mean when they say She s a hot Latin babe ? Does it mean that Latin women are passionate, wild in bed or does it mean that they have fiery tempers and should not be messed around with? Heck, I don t know! I ve never thought of our Latin women as anything but my female counterparts. In fact, the first time I heard about this Hot  thing was when I first began working, from my non-Hispanic co-workers. Then I saw ads that subliminally implanted these thoughts through street signs and through provocative television commercials.

Frankly, it is a mystery to me that our lovely women have been so inappropriately labeled. I think that because we perpetuate this stereotype or the fact that we do nothing about it is the reason why it is so prevalent in the media today. Music videos perhaps are the major contributors to this categorization. I think that these vehicles of art give out the wrong message. We see scantily clad Latin female singers (I will not mention any names) exposing their bodies and expressing themselves in seductive ways. No wonder people think the way they do.

In my opinion I think that sex sells. It s that simple! No one wants to see an ad with a Latin woman portrayed as an executive of a major company, doctor, or lawyer. No one wants to see a music video showing a fully dressed Latin woman singing in front a fireplace: BORING! Let s be truthful my brothers, sex is what we truly want to see! And that is the reason why non-Hispanics view our women as hot Latin babes.

But what do our sisters think about this label? I told one of my co-workers, a Boricua sister, about the article I was writing and she very staunchly said that she considered herself hot . I sensed a certain degree of pride in her tone of voice. So I asked myself: are Boricua women comfortable with this moniker? Is it yet another stereotype?

Getting back to my question, are Latin woman really hot or is that yet another American myth? In my opinion I think that Latin women are just that: Women!! They come in all varieties, passionate or demure, evil or kind, thoughtful or indifferent, saintly or devilish. Yes, my brothers and sisters out there, it is a sad thing to say but it is yet another American myth! Now for the tricky part of this month s article: Do our sisters like being labeled hot  or would they prefer simply to be called women? Let me know my Puerto Rican sisters. And for my Puerto Rican brothers here s one for you. Which one of these would you choose: a vivacious, hot-looking Latin woman with a fiery disposition or a homely, demure but considerate woman? Many of you will say that this is an unfair question so you may not want to answer it truthfully. I say, be honest and tell me what traits in our Latin women do you love most and which do you despise.

Reader comments/Article 4

Ms. Elizabeth Magobet-Rodriguez (Waminster, PA) writes,

I am a 100 % American Latina born in the USA descendant of Puerto Rican parents. Regarding the issue about: Are Puerto Rican or Latina's Hot Babes? I think all women are exactly that, regardless of race, and it is not about the sex it is about the woman in general we all have or have been hot babes in our day. I least I know for sure I was a brick house, one hot mama in my days and not because I let myself go but I think it's just about the way you carry yourself you can come off promiscuous and not be promiscuous at all. At least I know that's the way I was perceived but let me tell you I let everyone know they had to respect me as a young lady in my day and now. And I truly think it's not about the sex a lot of other nationality women and men both have said the Puerto Rican women are hot because they are very caring they take care of their family, children, men, whatever it is it gets done. We are also great leaders and there is history to prove that. We have good and bad in all races regardless. It all has to do with upbringing and if you don't have good upbringing, like myself, then you make sure you change that cycle for the better of your children's future. I managed to do just that and I have a wonderful daughter who is one hot mami , she is 25 in the military with no children [and will] make a career for herself. [And] no, it will not only be [in] the military; she has [another] dream that I know she will make come true. She will [become] a doctor one day; she was meant to be something of importance and not because of her nationality, it is because [of] who she is and what she wants to do with her life. 

Thank you for your email, Ms. Rodriguez. You must have grown up in my era because I have not heard the phrase brick house  for quite some time. I agree with you in that it is all about how a woman presents herself, and all this can be attributable to a sound upbringing by considerate parents. I am also happy to know that you have guided and mentally nourished your daughter to become a leader and a well-adjusted member of society. There is no doubt in my mind that she will become a doctor one day. Imagine this: a woman doctor who also happens to be a hot mami  and a Boricua? Now that s a wicked combination! Too hot! But seriously, I think you deserve a lot of credit and you should be a very proud mother.

Jose River from New Orleans writes,
        This article is full of fuel, the matches are lit, and the forest is dry. Having said that we can stop looking at the individual items and concentrate on things individually. I realize this may not be the most entertaining vantage point for examination but I think it is necessary to ensure we take a look at root causes.
         You asked men what type of woman we would choose: a vivacious hot looking Latin woman with a fiery disposition or a homely, demure but considerate woman?  I think this question is fair, it asks each man to expose what he feels is important in a woman. The sad part here is that outer appearance is not a factor that can significantly contribute or solidify a successful relationship. I know many may disagree with that statement but I believe it has merit.
         Both woman described in your question can be part of a relationship and contribute greatly to it. On the other hand we can say the contribution may be good and that it may also be bad. That condition however is not relative to their appearance. Yet, I think that a stronger point is at the root of the issue. The strong root is personal likes/dislikes.
          Many people are affected by that root. They are driven by our own selfish drives, lusts and even personal needs. My problem with this line of thinking and action by choice is that it often ends in failure. We have seen movie after movie describing this condition. We have also seen real life stories within our neighborhoods that spelled out the dangers and failures associated with this particular root. A major point here is that the lesson somehow does not produce knowledge that changes attitudes. By that I mean that the root still affects many today. Some may call it a human condition within society and perhaps they are right.
         I strongly feel we need to get by the outer person in order to know who they truly are. If we make choices regarding only the outer person we will often find out that that is not who they are and they may not appreciate our judgment. I have heard stories that reflect the following types of statements, you don t know me, all you see is this, (referencing the outer body) or you want only what you see.  I could go on but I know you see my point.
          I believe that all men know the above point. I also believe that all men make choices sometimes not based on the above but on lusts, preferences, control issues, lack of confidence in some cases and finally just plain lack of experience in love and what it truly is.
Love is not something that is derived from outward appearance. Outward appearance may call you, but it is the inward person you grow to truly love and want to be with.
          So, who do I choose: the outward beauty or the homely, demure woman? Only time will tell as I get to know them. In all honesty, there was a time when I wasn t this wise. It was a time of learning. 

Thank you, Mr. Rivera, for your response. While reading your comments, I found myself asking this question: How can we men alter 100,000 years of evolution? We are drawn to women today in the same manner as men were drawn to women in the Stone Age a primal, visual attraction. Yet this is the fuel that feeds our biological need to procreate and though some women think it is a primitive trait that men ought to shed, it is the manner in which they themselves attract men! When women are in the hunt, they dress provocatively and exude an air of sensuousness; signals that men, who are also in the hunt, can read. So to me, it is a natural, biological function inbred in every heterosexual man. We are first attracted to women by their looks then their personalities.

Ms. Suleida Carrera writes,

Porque muchas de las mujeres son dysfunctional and how can we let go of our past upbringing? 

Thank you for your response, Ms. Carrera. First, I laughed (I got the joke), then I thought about your question. I don t think that many of our women are dysfunctional. I just don t like the labels given to them. Our women are just women and that s all. As far as letting go of the past upbringing, that s a matter of choice. Some women are comfortable the way they are and some are not. Those who want to shed their past upbringing do so because they want to evolve or fulfill their particular goals. To me, my Puerto Rican sisters come in all shapes and sizes, colors and lengths. They are the best that my little island has to offer, they are our mothers and our sisters, our friends and lovers. What I am trying to achieve is to make my sisters aware of how beautiful they are and how much we Puerto Rican men adore them.

Ms. Delilah Perez of Bayside, New York writes,

I truly enjoyed reading your article about this "American myth" as you call it. As a Latin woman of Puerto Rican descent, I find it demeaning that most people associate the following words with female Latinas: hot and sexy. Women are hot regardless of their cultural or racial background. It is sad that a woman's nationality be associated with sexuality. Is Jennifer Lopez hotter than Beyonce' Knowles? Is Paulina Rubio hotter than Kylie Minogue? All very attractive (real "hot") women, but not all Latinas. To answer your question, I consider myself an intelligent, attractive, sexy, strong, sweet and thoughtful woman. Keep writing these articles that make us delve into our inner-selves. 

Right on Ms. Perez! Keep thinking of yourself as an intelligent, attractive, sexy, strong, sweet and thoughtful woman! Be proud of what you are and not what people think you are or ought to be!

Ms. Mirna Clavell writes,

My name is Mirna Clavell and I am from Ponce, and even though I have lived in the US for 37 years I can assure you I am 100% Puerto Rican. As you say, sex sells, but to say that Puerto Rican women are 'hot' is to perpetuate the demeaning of our race. What gringos mean by this is that their women are demure and that we are not, if you know what I mean. When you repeat things like that you are helping to belittle all Latinos, men and women. As a rule, passion is begotten by love, people respond in accordance. There are always the exceptions, of course, but you can find those in any race. When they put down your women what they mean is...'la mujer es puta y el marido es un cabron' and that we are less than them. If you perpetuate one myth you perpetuate the other.

These people never wanted us here; they only wanted a strategic place in the Atlantic. Don't be fooled by the citizenship or lured by riches, the government really never wanted us and the people have done everything and more to put us down from segregating us to using our own people to massacre us and keep us under control. People have short memories when the green is waived. Well, if they want to put us down let them do the work, please don't help them.

We Latin women are hot, yes, because we are loving, passionate, tender and mean when we have to be. We are also charitable of feeling and tough as a lion to defend our loved ones or to fight between ourselves when the occasion warrants it. But I don't have to tell you this because I'm sure you have lived it.

We already have enough people putting us down, please choose your words if you need to write about the intensity of feeling that makes our people unique or I'm going to have to go and get my chancleta...Que Dios bendiga a mi Puerto Rico y conserve a mi gente como son, calidos de espiritu y caritativos.

God Bless you too, and good luck in all your endeavors and feel free to answer me with your opinion about my opinion. 

Thank you Miss Clavell for your response but I think that you might have misunderstood my message. I deplore the fact that our women are labeled hot  and frankly what I said was that our women are just that: women; no special tag or monikers necessary. At the same time, some our sisters do take a sense of pride in being called hot  and we cannot ignore this fact. I despise all kinds of stigmas, stereotypes and labels associated with any race of people because it is the darkest form of bigotry. Contrary to what you said, I write about these things not to perpetuate the demeaning of our race or to belittle all Latinos but to make our people aware that if we do nothing to correct this, it will go on. I refuse to let anyone put us down and so long as there is an ounce of strength left in me, I will defend my people. The question I posed at the end of my column was for a reason, Ms. Clavell, I wanted to know how our women see themselves and what our men look for in them. El Boricua s In My Opinion  column is written for my Puerto Rican brothers and sisters; it is our thing and if we cannot be honest with ourselves, then how can we tackle the greater issues? On a final note, though the United States of America did have a need for a strategic location on the Atlantic and perhaps Americans may not have wanted us in their country, we cannot dilute ourselves into thinking that we could have fared better under Spanish rule, independence or perhaps a Communist regime. Though it has not been easy for us, Puerto Rico has progressed favorably under the US banner.


Here we go again, giving the ignorant and Machistas  more wool with which to cut. Your column merely analyzes women s sexuality but does not include men s sexuality. The idea of
Hot  is as much applicable to women as it is to men, something which, unfortunately, is a generalized mentality and demeaning.

Just because I have the freedom to enjoy my sexuality, it doesn t necessarily make me promiscuous. Many times we try to find fault in the way people perceive us, but we never accept the idea that is our own fault when we cater to the superstar sexuality that is given to Latin women.

Have you seen soap operas on TV lately? If they re not happy showing bosoms, they squeeze they re butts tight. I don t think it is necessary to comment on music videos or Paulina Rubio s butt.

Sexuality is a blessing and not a game. It is something that we should live by example, for our children. We ve had enough of seeing how some parents dress their young girls, or seeing how we try to convince our young boys that they have to control girls or have many girlfriends.

One of the more visible and real images are the manner in which our young girls wear sensual and provocative clothing that inarguably makes them appear as prostitutes in training. And the sad part is that some people tend to view that as something cute, and this robs them of their youth and innocence. These girls also believe in the concept that all they re good for is to have children; this is something that hurts our society. For many people this is nothing until it affects their own daughter, niece or sister, the one who is pregnant while still a teenager. That is when we come face to face with the problem, when these young girls become young ladies and want to continue dressing provocatively and have no idea that they are now adult women who attract attention. But unfortunately it is still embarrassing to us to talk to them about protection and sexual education.

We should understand that people dress according to their personalities. An adult person acts according to the image they want to project. The majority of girls and young people today do not allow themselves to develop into full maturity in order to deal with situations that they might not understand.

It then becomes our responsibility to teach them the necessary values and dignity so that they could make their own decisions in their sexual behavior. We should also stop worrying about what others think about us but worry more about what we really are and want for our next generation.

I Hope that my comments reach a valid human reaction.

Jibara Azul
Thank you for your response, Jibara.

I had a little trouble trying to understand your response. On the one hand you say that we should stop worrying about what people think about our young girls and their sexuality, and on the other hand you comment feverishly against the idea of how our young ladies are dressing today. It seems to me that although you want to project yourself as a liberal person who believes in sexual freedom, there is a strong undercurrent of staunch conservatism in your comments. I cannot conceive how these incongruous ideologies can co-exist inside a person because I tend to see things in a more pragmatic sense; either you re to one side completely or to the other side completely. I agree with you that it is up to us, the parents, to teach our children values and virtues that they can carry with them into their adult lives. Perhaps with a little luck and prayer, they might take some of those values with them.

Mr. James Nadal of Las Marias, Puerto Rico writes,

Saludos amigo.....

These are random thoughts, falling as they may on your topics. I combined them as they are intertwined, kind of joined at the hip. If we review our history as a people, all ships lead to Spain. The Spanish in their isolation on the Iberian Peninsula were a very uptight and introverted culture, throw in religious fanaticism and oppression of the masses by a few zealots who held all the cards.

The notorious Gypsy women were the prototype of the hot Latin woman though they were of mixed lineage. The image of a smoldering Esmeralda, with the classic olive skin, surfaced in the area of Al-Andalus, campfires, guitars and caravans. The fact that they were elusive made them even more desirable; never tamed, never conquered, always just out of reach.

The Spanish man was always very proper and was expected to be in control of his home and business at all times. Be this the seeds of the macho man. The women were very domesticated and kept a very low profile. Historical images abound of them always in black as if in perpetual mourning.

The sailors who stumbled into the new world were drawn to the local native women, by natural instinct, and maybe fate bad for the natives but good for the Spanish. Through the mixed relations a whole new race of people were introduced. The tropical settings and allure have certainly been beneficial for this species.

Let us fast-forward about five hundred years . . .

Though for a time the image of the sleepy Latino man was very popular, this was not the case in day to day life. The man was the head of the household, and women were still very domesticated, and expected to serve the man. The macho man was very dominant in Latin society in all its strata. The women who did become, shall we call them "liberal", were branded as putas  and shunned. But we may add {that] they were very popular on Saturday nights; very hot indeed.

With the introduction of the American way of life, and the advent of popular culture via the media, all hell broke lose. Five hundred years of Spanish, Indian, and African blood boiling in our veins, and man, something s got to give. What slowly crumbled was the oppressed status quo.

The terms macho man and hot Latina were probably coined by frustrated Americans who, as outsiders, were drawn by the mystery of the culture. The women branded as hot for their flirts and flaunts but probably more for their elusiveness. The men {were branded] as macho for their not taking any more crap from anyone, the first badass.

So, mi amigo, these are just random thoughts on a Sunday, saludos desde la isla.

Thank you, Mr. Nada,l for the history lesson. Perhaps the Macho and Hot Latina thing is indeed well-rooted in our distant past and therefore difficult to extricate from our culture. At any rate, I do appreciate your response. Saludos!!

The Hispanic Man and the Machismo Thing
By Anthony Ramos

What is this strange phenomenon we call Machismo? Why is it so closely associated with the Hispanic male? And why do Americans tend to view it as some form of negativity. In fact, the very word is Spanish. I have come to believe that anything in America that isn t Lilly White  or representative of wholesome living is slapped with a non-Anglo label. Hence: Spanish Fly , Hot-Blooded Latino , etc. But what does this enigmatic word mean? In my opinion Machismo does not refer to the representation of physical strength in a man but rather his state of mind.

In our culture, the male has always played the dominant role between men and women. Perhaps there was a point in time when man s physical attributes transcended his psyche and that physical domination evolved into a mental domination.

I believe that by and large, Hispanic men portray that mentality. Now I m not talking about male chauvinism, which I believe is something all together different. I m saying that we Hispanic males have this intrinsic belief or tendency that we must be in charge of everything and that we must be the head of the family and that nothing can be done without our consent. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. I think every family needs a leader.

And yet, in this day and age, we find that our female counterparts have asserted themselves and have challenged the so-called Machismo tradition in our societies. Look at single mothers today and see how well they ve done raising a family while working one and sometimes two jobs. Can Hispanic males do the same?

With the Americanization of many Hispanics, will the male Machismo thing  give way to create a more balanced relationship between Hispanic men and women? Has it altogether ended here in the states? Is it still flourishing in Latin American and Caribbean countries?
In my opinion, I think that Machismo is not a bad thing. I also believe that our Hispanic sisters look for Machismo in their men because in some way it is, albeit minor, a contributing factor in the attraction of our species. But I also happen to think that our lovely sisters accept Machismo only to a certain extent; it must never dominate their lives.

In my opinion Machismo is not represented by physical domination; that is a gross misrepresentation created here in America. Machismo should not be connoted with negativity. For Hispanics, I believe that Machismo is the representation of strength in character, wisdom, leadership, the ability to love and the guts to cry. But that is my opinion. What is your opinion? What do you think Machismo is and what does it represent? I want to hear from you, especially our lovely and beautiful Hispanic sisters!

Reader comments/Article 3

Jenny (no last name) writes,

I may be a little late in responding but I have to disagree with this article. I don't find anything positive about machismo or being una machista. Machistas are cowards. A real man is an equal partner to his wife, who shows her respect, helps her out in the home, with the children (if there are any) is hard-working and responsible. Not someone who wants to dominate or control his wife, sit back sipping a Budweiser talking crap with his friends, and expects dinner at the drop of a hat.

I grew up seeing the negative effects of machismo watching my own mother suffer. I vowed never to take crap from any man and if I can't be his equal then I will be nothing of his. I don't find anything nice about machismo nor look for it any relationship, so the fact that you say women look for this is very unusual to me. 

Thank you, Jenny for your response. I think that people tend to look at Machismo as man s way to control his woman, children and home. However, my definition of Machismo is best expressed by Ms. Ivonne Figueroa s opinion, which appears under my article. I invite you to read her response. I also think that many Puerto Rican men, in order to keep up with the times, have shed or are attempting to shed the stigma that all Latin males are domineering. You and many of our Latin sisters today are much more sophisticated and have outright dismissed such antiquated customs. You look for a man with whom you could become an equal partner, a man with sensitivity, wisdom, love and honesty. However, I must say that many women also look for virility and manliness in their men; physical attributes that are and will always be an integral part of attraction. This is what I call Physical Machismo, Jenny, and not Mental Machismo, which you find so abhorrent.

Mr. Eddie Cruz of the Bronx, New York writes,

Once again I'll voice my opinion on a topic about this "Hispanic" Machismo. Their [Hispanic men] way of controlling women is not of origin throughout many of the indigenous cultures especially with the Tainos in the Americas, being that I'm of Taino ancestry from both sides of my parents I looked and I have researched (Goddess of Tainos Atabey) that they like most Native American cultures held the women in high regard and respected them. I would like to note that being called Hispanic is the same way as calling Puerto Ricans or Latinos Spics I believe it s a term for Spaniards who had settled in The United States as I was told by a professor named Jose Hernandez who played a role in creating a census for Latino Americans. Back to my point this Latino machismo is a thing brought on by the Spaniards through the use of Catholicism. Since we were so ignorant not to realize how precious our women are by degrading them from all points in our everyday life I feel it is terrible and it should stop otherwise we will have a stamp and a stereotype by all Latinas. As I was brought up by my abuela and madre to respect every single women and elder no matter what and I hold true. I would never like for my sisters or female family members to be disrespected by any man, so I do my best to respect every women not just Latinas. I love everyone Boricua and Latina the same and I feel they deserve more respect. 

Thank you once again, Mr. Cruz for your opinion. If I understood you correctly, you said that the Machismo thing is not grounded in our Taino heritage but on our Spanish heritage. Okay, that s cool.

However, I don t think that I can agree with you that referring to us as Hispanics is the same as calling us spics. The word spic is a heinous, derogatory label meant to insult us. I might agree with you that perhaps Spaniards did invent the word Hispanic but its origin goes further back in history. There was a Greek settlement in Spain called Hispalis. When the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula, they divided it into two sections, Hispania Ulterior and Hispania Citerior. Hispania is what the Romans called Spain in Latin before the Spanish language evolved. To be Hispanic is to have origin or roots from Spain. Anglo-America, as always, needed to differentiate Whites from Non-Whites and so the question of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban and South Americans confounded them. They weren t black but they weren t white either, so what were they? They were Hispanics! Regarding you opinion on our women, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I regard our women highly and respect them because they are the flowers of our people.

Iris Reyes wrote,

If Machismo is the representation of strength, [what] do you call a woman who can also have the same level if not more of that same strength. Also the comment about woman still looking for some degree of Machismo , you are dead wrong mi Amigo, I am a Puerto Rican woman looking for an equal partner and I think I am the voice of many compatriots , But thanks for your opinion. 

I laughed out loud when I read your email! Thank you so much for your wonderful response! You must read my article again because I do mention the fact that women in this day and age have asserted themselves and have challenged the so called "Machismo" thing. I go on to give excellent examples too. I invite you to read Ms. Ivonne Figueroa's response, which I happen think best captures the essence of what I was trying to say. By the way, what didn't you respond to the current article? I'd love to hear your opinion on that one!

Ivonne Figueroa writes,

What do I consider a real macho?  A real macho  is a man who takes his responsibilities seriously. One who works hard to support his family both financially and emotionally. One who is not insecure and treats his wife and children with love, dignity and respect. A real macho  to me, is one who stands by his family both in times of need and in times of happiness, and a man his family can count on for support, and strength. A macho  is a man who is a partner with his wife, who loves his wife thru thick and thin - and supports his family emotionally as well as financially. A real macho is rare these days. There are very few and I am one of the lucky ones to have a husband who is a real macho.  

Thank you, Ms. Figueroa, for your response. I think that you have captured the essence of what I was trying to get across in my article. I think that Americans tend to view the Machismo  thing as something negative but we know the real deal, don t we? I should let everyone know that Ms. Ivonne Figueroa is the founder and editor of El Ivonne, good luck with your Macho  man! I hope that I can fulfill your wonderful description of a Macho  man to my very own wife and family.

Are Puerto Ricans accurately depicted by Hollywood?

I suppose we should be grateful that a fellow Puerto Rican, a young actor by the name of Franky G (from Queens, NY) has landed a title role in a new television series. The show is titled, Johnny Zero and premiered on Fox broadcasting network on January 14, 2005. I must remind everyone that this is a pilot show and that nothing is certain except high ratings.

Why the title of Johnny Zero? I ll get to that later. The real name of the character is Johnny Calvo, an ex-con released on parole from prison after serving time for murder. According to the story line, Johnny Calvo, a former bouncer at a nightclub committed murder in self-defense. But as soon as he is released from prison, his old boss (a mobster with an English accent?) and his goons try to recruit him back into their fold in order to run a new legitimate  nightclub. On his way to see his parole officer, Johnny Calvo makes a pit stop at a kiddy playground to watch his young son play but he is soon confronted by his ex-mobster friends and decides to bolt out of there. Later on, the parole officer sets Johnny up to work in a restaurant where he meets his new sidekick, a hip-talking white boy who moonlights as a DJ and lives in an abandoned building. Soon afterwards, Johnny Calvo finds himself sharing space with his new friend at the abandoned building and tries to cope with life in the outside world while staying one step ahead of the goons that are trying to cull him back to the dark side. While joining his sidekick on a gig at a nightclub, Johnny Calvo lends aid to a man who is searching for his daughter and thinks she is inside the nightclub. The bouncers have thrown the father out of the nightclub because his appearance is not hip enough to enter the dance spot. He gives Calvo a picture of his daughter and asks him to help him find her. After spending reasonable time inside the nightclub looking for the man s daughter, Calvo gives up and returns the picture to the father. At this point the father hands money to Calvo in an attempt at hiring him to find his daughter. Well, you can see where this is going. As Johnny Calvo searches for the man s daughter he finds that the girl s father is connected to the underworld and an even sinister twist is added to the story. Why Johnny Zero? In one scene, his former mobster boss tries to convince Johnny Calvo that there is nothing in the outside world for him and that Johnny is nothing without his help; hence, Johnny Zero. Throughout the one-hour episode, Johnny Calvo is beat up by mobsters and run over by a car on more than one occasion. I m not going to say anymore just in case you might want to see the pilot episode.

The show has plenty of action and cute moments but and you know there is always a but  is Hollywood properly depicting the Hispanic people or the Hispanic culture? I cannot help but to think that there is a middle-aged Anglo couple somewhere in the Mid-west saying, Now isn t that something special, a Hispanic man, an ex-criminal wants to turn his life around by doing good deeds on the streets of New York City. I guess the system really does work.  I also get the feeling that Hollywood thinks television viewers are not happy unless Hispanics are portrayed as the dregs of society. Though there have been shows where the lead character has been a Hispanic, such as NYPD Blue s Jimmy Smits, they have been few and far between. So I have to ask this question, really I do. Why can t Hispanic males or females have the title role in, say, a show about doctors or hospitals or a law firm, or anything else for that matter? How about the title role in one of the CSI or Law and Order franchises?

So, is Johnny Zero a slap in the face to all Puerto Ricans and Hispanics or are the Fox Network and their Hollywood producers making a real attempt at targeting the Hispanic audience? Now, my brothers and sisters, I don t want you to think that I am a cynical person or a militant Hispanic but come on now, don t you think there are many of us doing well? I know Hispanic doctors and lawyers and many that are quite successful in business. Is Hollywood getting it right? Or do they believe that the preponderance of the Hispanic population consists of thieves, rapists and murderers?

My opinion is that Hollywood has yet to get it right. What we need are more Hispanic producers and writers in Hollywood so that our voice and our culture can be better represented through our very own point of view. What do you think?


Reader Comments/Article 2

Yoly Semidey, Paralegal from San Diego writes . . .

Hello Anthony, I liked your article and to answer your question, no, we are not depicted as it should be. I live in San Diego, and the Puerto Ricans here are mostly professional people. There are not many deadbeats here like in the Eastern cities and there are many engineers that were recruited from the CAAM in Mayagüez, one of the best. I'd like Steven Spielberg, Anthony Zuiker (creator of CSI), Gary Marshall and his sister Penny, and all the big name producers north of me to come down here and do a movie about the Puerto Rican Diaspora in the West. I'd like to see a sitcom where the Mom and the Dad are like lawyers, and the kids are all in school and are smart. I'd volunteer my 13 yr old daughter to play in it; she is gifted and has always been in such classes in school. I won't be watching Johnny Zero because the notion of another dumb, predictable, moronic show insulting my intelligence is enough to lend a deaf ear to the network. We need to let Hollywood know that there is more substance to us than what they portray on TV. Also, how come there are so many black shows on the WB channel? I always wonder why is it that they have never had a good Hispanic comedy, without making us look like hoodlums from the ghetto. I exhort everyone to boycott that Johnny Zero show--it is same ol, same ol. 

Thank you Ms. Semidey. Frankly I didn t know that the Puerto Rican population was that large in San Diego, CA. I m glad that we are represented well in the Southwest and laud the progress that we ve made there. At the same time I don t know what you mean by deadbeats  in the eastern cities. If you mean that the eastern cities are more populated by Puerto Ricans of lesser economic means, uneducated and unprofessional, then that thought falls into the same ol same ol  mentality that you spoke against in your response. There is not one ethnic group in America that is entirely professional or extremely well-off, Ms. Semidey. In every group there are rich and poor, educated and uneducated, law-abiding and lawless. It is true that the scales are tipped more to one side than the other but all in all, there just isn t a perfect ethnic group. What people like you and I should do is to set the example, become the paragons, the standard by which our youth should follow. That is how we can make progress. I share the same feelings as you: I despise the manner in which we are portrayed and long to see a show that truly depicts our people and our beautiful culture. I have not seen Johnny Zero since the first two episodes and, quite frankly, don t care to see it again. Like you, I feel as if my intelligence has been insulted. I mean, does Hollywood think that we re going to tune into this show simply because the lead character is Puerto Rican? Come on now! Are we that shallow and brainless? Perhaps we can write to the producers of Johnny Zero and express our displeasure at the show s character and background. Perhaps there is still time to save the show from becoming yet another Hollywood stereotype. Who knows? Maybe they would listen.

Mr. Juan Peña writes:

You're 100% on point my brother. I didn't know about the show till you mentioned it and I'm not interested. Whether we accept it or not, we have to learn from the black man's example. They went from playing watermelon man to Denzel Washington. Felipe Luciano [a noted journalist from New York City] said it best when he said that in order for us to get anywhere or become anybody in this country we have to learn from the black man's experience. Gracias, mi hermano. 

Thank you for your opinion, Mr. Peña. I agree with you. In order to go from rice & bean-eating, broken-English-speaking, ghetto-living people (the way Hollywood portrays us), to some form of respectability and acceptance, we need more Puerto Rican directors and producers; our very own kind to better portray our people. You are right, sir, we can take a lesson from our African American brothers and sisters. Now, there are black movies with substance--I mean well-written scripts that truly portray the black people as they should be portrayed. These movies are written, directed and even produced by African Americans. These movies are so good that they have forced Hollywood to pay close attention to this relatively new and burgeoning genre. Another reason is because these movies target a specific market and they make money. And money is what Hollywood is all about, my brother!

Luz Galarza of Brooklyn, NY, writes,

Your article is right on target. This is another example of actors taking roles that promote the stereotypes typical of Hollywood...people should inform themselves of the influence Puerto Ricans and Hispanics in general have in the US. It is time that Hispanic actors start demanding roles that promote our culture and represent Hispanics in a positive role and not sell out. I do not watch or promote such programs. The public has to react and demand respect from these kinds of negative portrayals. Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion. 

Thank you for your opinion, Ms. Galarza. Oh but if it were not for the almighty dollar, we could all take a firm stand against such negativity. But hungry actors have to eat and so they take on whatever roles they can get. All I say is that once that coveted role is attained actors can do something about improving the representation of our culture. As actors they can persuade writers and producers to showcase our culture in a more favorable light.

Mr. Gene Rodriguez writes:
You do not sound like a Hispanic militant. Your feeling is the right one. It's just taking too damn long. We are more than ready to be primetime. The vessel is built and is ready to be launched the Nat'l Hispanic Foundation for the Arts needs to kick it in gear... The Foundation's mission has two principal goals: to offer graduate scholarships to Latino students at prominent colleges and universities; and to expand career opportunities for existing talent in all aspects of entertainment and the performing arts. The Foundation is the initiative of actors Jimmy Smits, Sonia Braga, Esai Morales and Washington, D.C. attorney Felix Sanchez. 

Thank you, Mr. Rodriguez, perhaps the network will continue to grow to the point where we can all benefit from it. It is to my great delight to see our youth involved in such programs. We must encourage our children to complete their education, to reach for the stars, to set goals and achieve them. And this must start at home with the parents. My brothers and sisters out there: Hear me! Talk to your children and praise them for their good school work, give them your time and your mind. You will see that these efforts will pay off in the long run!

Ms. Gina Olmeda writes,

Very well written article.....However, I'll bet the bank that there aren't too many middle aged Anglo couples watching Franky. The show is aimed at a younger audience more interested in how "hot" Johnny Calvo is. I work in a high school and I'm more interested in the fact that high school girls watching this show, as well as fellow co-workers in their 30's, find his character far too appealing. I shamefully include myself in the club. It's a television show. Not all Anglos act like those characters on Melrose Place and the OC. I'm barely getting over the stigma that all Puerto Ricans are loud and obnoxious like Rosie Perez, and that was her real persona! Keep up the good work! 

Thank you, Ms. Olmeda, for your candid remarks (it s a breath of fresh air). Isn t it strange that we are attracted to television shows in such ways? Perhaps we should be more selective and demand shows with more substance, shows that truly portray our Hispanic culture. You mentioned that you work in a high school. That means that you are in the front lines , as it were, and must know the mentality of our youths today. Perhaps you could make the issues discussed In My Opinion  topics in your class. If you are not a teacher, then perhaps you could suggest this to a Social Studies teacher. I would love to hear from our youth. Also, please encourage your students to log on to El so they can see for themselves the beauty of our culture. And yes, Rosie Perez was terribly annoying and embarrassing and she did stifle the progress we were making, but thanks to Raul Julia and Benicio Del Toro we ve moved ahead. Do you know which Puerto Rican man won the Oscar!" for best actor? It was Jose Ferrer. Jose Ferrer won the Oscar!" in 1950 for the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac. He was married to Rosemary Clooney and was the uncle of actor, George Clooney.

Ms. Irma I. Vazquez writes,
I agree with you a 110%. But then again what about the person that is offered the part [?] They can refuse it too. And let them know we are not doing [these] parts anymore. And work harder to achieve better positions in society all around. If you are a good actor you can do about anything, not only the negative parts. 

Thank you, Ms. Vazquez. And you are right, unless our Hispanic actors take a stand and refuse to take such parts, Hollywood will always perpetuate the negative stereotype. I think that once an actor takes on such a role, he or she can influence the writer or producer of the show or movie to better portray the Hispanic character.

Do I Have A Say?

I was born in Wilmington, Delaware and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. My parents were both born in Puerto Rico but emigrated from the island to the United States during the influx of the 1950 s.

As I grew older, I became aware of who and what I was but was never interested in learning about my culture. It wasn t until my early teens that I was confronted with a question by my social studies teacher. The question was: Should Puerto Rico become a state? Unwittingly exposing my naiveté, my answer was that I thought Puerto Rico was already a state. Several years after that incident, during my late teenage years, I came to embrace my Puerto Rican heritage with open arms and began learning about my culture.

Since that time I have pondered that question and have explored the benefits and consequences of each side of the issue. I have also given thought to the following question: As an American born Puerto Rican, how much of a say do I have on the issue of Puerto Rico becoming a state or remaining a commonwealth?

In the Census of the year 2000, a total of 281.4 million people were counted as residents of the United States of America. Of this figure, Puerto Ricans accounted for 1.2% or 3.4 million residents. In the April 2000 Census, a total of 3.8 million people were counted as residents of the island of Puerto Rico.

As can be seen from the above census figures, there are about as many Puerto Ricans living in the United States as there are on the island itself. Should that make a difference? I do not think so. I believe the future of Puerto Rico s status with the United States ought to be determined as it has always been determined: through referendum or plebiscite. I believe that this controversial issue should be decided upon the consensus and will of the people. And I further believe that only those Puerto Ricans born and currently living on the island have the right to that determination.

What do you think? Sound off my brothers and sisters!!!!

Reader Comments/Article 1

Mr. Eddie Cruz of the Bronx, New York writes,

I think all Boricuas have a say in the future of Puerto Rico. Even though we don't live in Puerto Rico, we have a clearer picture of the United States and how they truly conduct themselves. The residents of Puerto Rico don't have the luxury of seeing it for their own eyes. And most don't care for politics, and the Governor and most of the politicians in Puerto Rico are looking to make a quick buck and sell out Puerto Ricans. Independence is the only way to go, even Pat Buchanan said it himself, and I quote from his book, A Republic, Not An Empire: The campaign to make Puerto Rico the 51st state must be defeated. Puerto Rico is a nation, with its own language, history, culture, and flag. To make this island a state means making America a bilingual nation and denying to Puerto Rican patriots and nationalists, forever, their right to join the family of nations. We cannot do that and remain true to our anti-colonial heritage. Puerto Rico should forever retain the right of self-determination.  The Republicans, led by WHIP Leader Tom Delay along with some PUERTO RICAN POLITICIAN SUPPORT are itching to make Puerto Rico a state, which most corporations would love so they can induce there minimum slave labor. So, my fellow Boricuas what do you think of YOUR given right to exercise a vote. Because I feel it's all ours, given I'm a second generation Nuyorican and being that my family came from Puerto Rico and I plan on going back someday. 

Thank you, Mr. Cruz for your opinion. You stated that even though we do not live in Puerto Rico, we have a clearer picture of the United Sates and how they truly conduct themselves, but what exactly did you mean by that statement? How do Americans conduct themselves and how does this, presumably negative, conduct affect the residents of Puerto Rico? You have accused the Governor and most of the politicians of Puerto Rico with making a quick buck and selling out Puerto Ricans. But how exactly are they doing these things? What evidence, in your possession, substantiates your allegation that Puerto Rico s elected officials are selling out their fellow Puerto Ricans? You further quoted Mr. Pat Buchanan s right-wing rhetoric concerning the opposition to Puerto Rico becoming a state of the union. While I consider myself a conservative and most of the time I agree with Mr. Buchanan, I think that America is not only a bilingual nation but a multilingual nation. You also stated that Republicans in the United States along with some Puerto Rican support are itching to make Puerto Rico a state, which would green-light American corporations to exploit Puerto Rican labor. But hasn t this already happened in Puerto Rico? What did sugar companies do in the 1920 s and 1930 s? Isn t Wal-Mart already a permanent fixture on the island? Aren t many pharmaceutical companies and other industrial corporations already doing business there? Who owns the many hotels and resorts in San Juan? My brother, Puerto Rico was sold out years ago. Perhaps because the people were too weak to oppose a stronger nation or perhaps because they were so poor under Spanish oppression that they welcomed America, but whatever the reason, American exploitation has existed on the island since 1898. Also, we cannot ignore the fact that Puerto Rico has prospered considerably as a commonwealth of the United States. I ve been there and I have seen Puerto Rico s infrastructure (i.e., autopista, electricity, water, housing etc.) When Puerto Rico was under Spanish rule, the people did not fare as well, they were poor and totally ignored by Spain and a basic education was non-existent. I m not trying to equate these benefits with the exploitation of Puerto Rico, Mr. Cruz, just stating a fact. We should not be so rash in making bold statements without exploring all sides, positive and negative; we owe that much to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico.

There are many factors to consider when a referendum concerning statehood or commonwealth is made; it s not that simple just to vote yes  or no  without considering the repercussions of such a vote. It is extremely important that we should allow only Puerto Ricans living on the island to make that determination. We, as Puerto Rican Americans not living on the island, should keep out of Puerto Rican politics.

Ms. Yolymami writes,

Hello Tony como estas bro? I have been reading your articles and tremendously enjoy your input and opinions and views. I see how it welcomes debate on some articles that are hotly argued amongst Puerto Ricans. One of the hottest argued debates is that of the right or non-right of Puerto Ricans not living on the island to vote on the future of the island. To tell you the truth, at one point I felt like many, that I had the right to vote cause hey, after all, I was born there and lived there until the age of 15, after which I moved to San Diego. I keep abreast of all political issues going on there thru my readings in the internet and I can tell you all the latest "refranes" that are being used there. I can also speak almost perfect Spanish because I have made it a point not to speak Spanglish, which I truly despise. Okay all of this is beautiful and it has made me more of a "Puerto Rican" than a lot of people that move out here and well for whatever reason (and I am not putting anyone down, I am merely stating my facts) forget their culture. But the truth is that I don't live in Puerto Rico anymore, even though mami and my cousins, aunts, uncles and everyone else do. By living in California, I no longer have a right to decide thru a vote on the issues affecting my island because by living out of the island, I have given up that vote. By living in California, I cannot go to let's say Nevada and register to vote just because I lived there 3 months...not even if I had lived there 20 years. We do not have any right to contribute our vote in any state, including Puerto Rico, just because we used to live there or we were born there. Those of us that live on the mainland have no right to decide the future of Puerto Rico. What for?? We don't live there and we don't have to put up with the consequences of a passing plebiscite. Only the islanders do and they are the ONLY ones that have the right to decide on the best course for them. After all, they are the ones that have to live with the consequences---not us. 

Thank you, Yolymami, for your opinion. Unfortunately there is a great ideological divide among the Boricuas living on the mainland. Though I disagree with the opinion that they have a right to vote in Puerto Rico s affairs even though they do not live on the island, I understand that these views are driven by their love of the motherland and passion for their heritage. We cannot change their minds anymore than they can change ours, and so a stalemate of sorts has occurred and heated debates about our rights to vote have risen. Yet through it all we must remember that in the final analysis, we are all brothers and sisters and we should endeavor to achieve the best results for Puerto Rico.

Mr. Joseph Raphael Mojica writes,

In answer to Mr. Raphael Sierra in Iraq: YES, I demand a say from the mainland. Born in Arecibo and an old Vietnam vet, I know, that I'm more informed about PR than my cousins there. They are sick and tired of the politics and make every effort to avoid listening to the news. Puerto Rico is either born in you or not. Many people born in Puerto Rico never connect with their culture, yet the late singer-composer Tony Croatto, born in Italy and coming to PR in his thirties was more Puerto Rican than Pedro Rosello. I can relate to that. PR lives in me more so in California than when I lived in Puerto Rico a few years back. I make every effort to inform myself every day about my beloved island. I'm also uniquely aware of the true feelings that stateside Americans have about Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state. Having lived in the mainland for 50 years and looking more Irish than Latino (with reddish hair and blue eyes), I can honestly say that statehood is NOT welcomed by 78% of mainlanders; and that's stating it nicely. We are viewed in a similar manner to Hondurans, Nicaraguans or Mexicans coming across the border. The fact that we're citizens carries only a little more merit.

In a recent survey we took, almost as many continentals were confused as to whether Costa Ricans were the American citizens or Puerto Ricans. To many of us Puerto Rico is the center of our Universe. The sad fact is that MOST Americans and other Hispanics think that Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and others are of Mexican descent. Our unique culture is lost. It's similar to all our contributions to Salsa. Around the world, salsa comes ONLY from Cuba. In the same manner we are proud of having 4 Miss Universes, but even most Latinos think that Venezuela has more. I guess this is normal, most people never see the uniqueness of the individual cultures. The same is true if one is African, Arab, Asian, or Latin; all cultures get grouped into the best known one. We are just a little bit of paradise in the sun. I guess that's just fine for me.

In reality, people here could care less about Latin cultural differences. Puerto Ricans in the island were shocked when I mentioned the feelings of stateside Americans towards Puerto Ricans. The most shocked were those that favored statehood. These are the facts! I'm a professional pollster (I organize the taking of polls). It's been my profession for 31 years...And the numbers aren't even close! The answer to the question: Can Puerto Rico survive as an independent Republic? YES, YES, YES! Our coach and mentor has been the greatest nation on the planet! We have been managing our affairs for 60 years better than other Latin states. The relationship with America is purely financial, not emotional. We'll never be accepted as Anglos, and they will never know how Latinos truly feel. US companies are in PR 'cause they make money. They'll make money if it becomes the independent Republic of Puerto Rico. PR would be free to make deals with the USA and the rest of the world. The world economy has changed the need to be dependent on only one nation.

Remember, Puerto Rico has incredible talent in every sector. Of course, those looking for a free ride will take the first plane to Miami to live off the cupones . The birth rate in PR will soon even itself out so there is no fear that we'll become the D.R. or Cuba. Unfortunately, too many Boricuas are like the 28 year old son who still lives at home with his parents. Although a talented engineer, he's afraid to be on his own. 500 years of colonization has created that mind-set. Honestly, I'm NOT an Independentista  or Estadista  or Popular . My years of independent research tell me that Puerto Rico can succeed as a State, or in a superior Commonwealth relationship than now, and also as an Independent Republic associated in some way with America.

Finally, to Mr. Raphael Sierra, although I'm totally opposed to the war in Iraq, I support our troops 100%, especially mis hermanos Boricuas . Come home soon!

Thank you for your sacrifice and may God bless and protect you. 

Thank you, Mr. Mojica for your response. I think the topic of Do I Have A Say  was the decision on whether Puerto Rico should become a state of the union or remain a commonwealth. I don t think that I mentioned anything about Puerto Rico s future as an independent nation. However, I find that this is a hot subject and one that merits its own forum for discussion. I will address this issue in an upcoming article. Now, regarding your views I understand the reasons why you feel you should have a say in Puerto Rico s future (whether statehood, independence or commonwealth). However, I feel that your reasons are subjective because they are based upon your emotional ties to our beloved motherland. You strike me as an educated and sensible person, so I must ask you to set aside your feelings and look at the issue in a more objective and pragmatic view. You live in California and have become a citizen of that state. You work in California and pay your state, local and municipal taxes. And because you are a hard working bona- fide taxpaying resident of California, you have earned a say in the future of your state by virtue of your very important vote. I don t think that as a resident of California, you would welcome someone from New York to have a say in the future of your domicile state or municipality, or to meddle in its affairs.

You said that in a poll you conducted, 78% of mainlanders did not want Puerto Rico to become a state. Were these mainlanders Puerto Rican? What were the alternate views of these 78% ers? Regarding your comment that continentals confuse Hispanics or lump all Latinos into one category, there isn t much we could do about that; it s convenient for them but tragic for us because they do not take the time to know about a person. Regarding this point, I invite you to read In My Opinion  No. 6, which deals with Polls and Surveys.

Jose Rivera, from New Orleans, Louisiana writes,

This is a very good subject, one that holds much feeling, although it is also one that requires thought based on what is best. I agree with you in regard to only Puerto Ricans who live on the island should vote regarding Puerto Rico. Granted, there are occasions when people leave the island; there are also multiple reasons for their leaving. However, I do not think those factors are relevant to whether or not they should be allowed to vote in Puerto Rico s affairs.

If a person leaves a country, or even a state, takes up residency in another country or state, that person changes more than residence. They change interests, economies and yes even rights too. Each country has its own laws which govern what its inhabitants can or cannot do. However, each state within that country also governs its populace by laws that are designed to govern all and establish well being. I know many may argue that last point, but states govern how state taxes are spent, yes, yours and mine. Therefore, those tax dollars go to schooling, and roads and other arenas that are designed to improve our well being within that state. So, as a resident I get to vote, appoint leaders, establish laws and even decide how tax money is spent.

If I leave a country or state, I no longer reside there. I loose track of living conditions, current economic factors, the local feelings, and more importantly, the needs of the people. I suppose one could argue that reading newspapers and searching the WWW can bring one up to speed, and I suppose that is true in some regards. However, it does not provide the experience to you, therefore you are not affected. You may become angry when reading about some law, some negative factor or condition which people are imposed to, but the fact still remains that that emotion is temporary. Would it be fair to say that a vote made in that condition is well thought out, something that is being made to invoke change for the betterment of a people, or that it even assists in change that is beneficial on a whole for all? Certainly a point requiring another commentary in my opinion.

I believe that people have a right to vote for what they believe will provide what they need in the best interests of the country or state they are in. Sometimes that vote produces something less than positive, but only time bears that out. However, only someone affected experiences and sees that conclusion and only they can determine if what they did was positive or negative. Those who are watching from the sidelines do not get to experience anything. Therefore, no affect; perhaps only emotion in reading or hearing outcomes at best can be realized. Is that effective? Who was affected?

I agree that only Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico should vote for what happens there. They are in the best position to understand their needs. I am not, my mother who was born there and left is not, my father who was born there is not. Both of them left Puerto Rico in the early 1920's, the reasons are not important. What is important is what they know, today. What a person knows is what affects how they vote for something. People who have left a place only have memories. What they may read or hear about in newspapers or on the WWW can be skewed. If you agree with me there you must also agree that any action based on that logic is also skewed because it is reactionary, not based on experiences or learning through living within or under the condition. I know there is an argument that can be rendered in that last sentence, and I am open to discussion anytime.

So, I think we need to allow Puerto Ricans who live in Puerto Rico to decide how and in what fashion their land is governed and who it is under. I cannot do that for them, no one who lived there and left can do that. Only someone in the game on the team can decide what is best for the team, not the fans. People who have left Puerto Rico cannot decide what is right for Puerto Rico today. Only those living there can. 

Jose Rivera
New Orleans, LA

Thank you for your response, Mr. Rivera. Indeed though we do try to stay abreast of the current moods, trends, news, fashion and overall feelings about our beloved motherland, the hard reality is that we are removed from the island and therefore, as you say, our views maybe somewhat skewed when it comes to voting intelligently. Many of our brothers and sisters have vehemently disagreed with this point of view and they are entitled to voice their opinions but certainly they must come the understanding that the right to vote is a privilege that it is proprietary to residents of a particular domicile. In this case, only Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico have the right to vote in Puerto Rico s plebiscites or referendums concerning its future.

Carlos A. Martinez, Chicago, IL wrote,

Dear Mr. Ramos

This is the first time I read any of your articles and I was quite intrigued by the comments form both you and your readers.

My family moved to Chicago 35 years ago when I was only 12 years old. Even though I keep The Island  close to my heart, I avoid talking openly about political issues relating to P.R. in fear of being labeled unpatriotic or worse "UNPUERTORICAN". I want to thank you for giving your input on the issue relating to voting rights for residents vs. non-residents. It really helps me to put things into perspective and clarify my own thoughts on something that has been disturbing me for years.

I ve traveled often to Puerto Rico. I consider myself bicultural even though I ve lived in Chicago most of my life. I am teaching my children to speak Spanish and learn the roots. I have never felt the need to dwell on problems and/or political issues that I have no vote or control of. Thus, I never understood the need of some "Independentistas" that come here to the USA and start preaching independence for Puerto Rico. What's the point? Can't they see that our struggles in the U.S. are different than the struggles of the people in the Island? They can't possibly be trying to get our vote. If they themselves cannot vote for change in the Island because they reside in the US, then they must be either full of "hogwash" or in a crusade to recruit U.S.-Ricans to overthrow the government in Puerto Rico.

Can you imagine, Mexican politicians coming to the U.S. to recruit Chicanos to overthrow the Mexican Government. What a futile cause. If you don't like Mom and Dad's rules you don't go to go to your uncle's house and ask your cousins to help you overthrow Mom and Dad back home. You either show (by example) that your rules work better than theirs or move out. And if you don't even have the back up and support of your own brothers and sisters then good luck trying to drag your cousins into a family feud with their Aunt and Uncle. That would only create dysfunctional chaos.

After reading your article and your points of debate it all became clear to me. All who preach independence do not reason the same way. However, there is a large flock of Independentistas who exhibit arrogance and feed their egos with a false sense of being more Puerto Rican); especially those that preach independence here in US, and yet depend on their U.S. residency to feed their children. Those can never practice what they preach. I know where I stand politically with regards to the Puerto Rico s self determination and I don't care if I am called unpatriotic anymore. As long as, I am not butting into anyone's political business I've earned the right to express my opinion and will do so with conviction. From now on, I will no longer feel offended or intimidated by anyone who dares to question my allegiance to my Puerto Rican roots. QUE VIVA LA LIBERTAD! 

I found your response quite interesting. In the coming months I will have an article regarding the issue of Puerto Rico's independence or commonwealth. I'm sure we will receive many responses like yours and I'm sure it will be lots of fun to debate the issue. In the meantime, feel free to respond to any of our previous articles. Your opinion will always be respected, even if we disagree, my brother! Give my regards to all my brothers and sisters in Chi Town!! Encourage them to log on to El, a website just for Puerto Rico.

Reader writes . . .

Why if in Puerto Rico we are instructed to speak proper  Castellano, why do people refer to Puerto Ricans or Borinqueños, as Boricuas when, in fact, that would be a Spanglish  term? Can you explain this to me? I get offended when I am referred to as Boricua  when I am a Borinqueña, because I was born in Puerto Rico, La Isla Del Borinquen. 

(A note from Ivonne Figueroa, Editor of EL BORICUA . . . . "Boricua" goes back centuries. The island was called Boriken by the native Taínos. "Boricua" was derived from Boriken - most likely coined by early colonial Spaniards. All those names Boricua, Borinquen, Borincano, Borinqueño - are very old Puerto Rican terminology found in old Puerto Rican history books, and poems that are over 200 years old, etc. If you have not studied in Puerto Rico and read these words in our own Spanish literature (in school textbooks) and native poems then you might think of them as "foreign" but they are not. You are right they are not "proper" Castellano, but only Spaniards speak "proper" Castellano. These terms are actually "criollo" - developed in the island. They are true Puerto Rican terminology.)

I really don't know the answer to that question. My personal feelings are that perhaps the "Boricua" phrase might have originated here in the US, by Nuyoricans. I applaud the fact that Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico are taught to speak proper Spanish. But I seriously doubt that Puerto Ricans enunciate words like "cielo" as "thielo" or "Gacias" as "Grathias", as it is commonly enunciated in Spain, in the more traditional Castilian Spanish. To Puerto Ricans living in the United States it is an honor to be called Boricua because it ties them to island in some manner. I guess the end result is all the same, whether you prefer to be called Borinqueña or Puerto Rican or Boricua; the bottom line is that you know who you are and where you come from.

I hope this answers your question. By the way, I love your name Fiera Callada!

Mr. Armando Virola writes,

I d also like to comment, if you would permit me, on last month s topic regarding whether Puerto Rican non-residents should or should not have the right to vote.

There are those who would say that there is no reason that non-residents should have the right to vote, I disagree. Most Puerto Ricans who left the island for the states did not come here because they wanted to, but because they had to. My mother s family came to New York because of economic and political issues. Her father, who belonged to the Independence Party at the time, was harassed and could not work freely; he needed to provide for his family. My father came with his family because they were poor and hoped to find a job in the states. The same was true for many others in my family as well as friends and neighbors I have known through the years. One common denominator, felt by the majority of these people, was that they would one day return to their home.

Through the years, while growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I have seen how my family and friends have worked, saved and also sent money to other members of their family in Puerto Rico. Many have also paid taxes to Puerto Rico; non-resident property owners must pay taxes which helps to support Puerto Rico. I have seen many excel in education and their careers, paving the way for many Puerto Ricans and Hispanics; many of these skills were taken back to Puerto Rico. I have seen many Puerto Ricans, including my parents, struggle, provide for their family and also return to the land they so much love.

I think it is important to understand that we do not have as many as the hardships that our parents and those before them had, though there are still many obstacles. We should also be grateful that this nation has afforded us so many opportunities, while at the same time realizing that its history in relation to Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans was harsh at times (i.e.: Ponce Massacre, discrimination, etc.) Many of our parents and many others who came to the states paid a certain price so that we might live a better life. Their absence from home and the sacrifices that they made should not preclude them or those they did it for (their children) from the right to vote on their island s future. 

Thank you, Mr. Virola, for your eloquent and compelling opinion on this most sensitive issue. All of the Puerto Rican men and women who came to the Untied States before us indeed paid a dear price so that we may live better lives. We must praise their valor and determination to come to a foreign country and learn a different language and get used to a different culture. I think that we, as descendants of these brave pioneers, owe them a debt of gratitude. However, many people in America own land and property in states outside of their domicile state. They pay taxes, which help support schools and municipalities, in the states where they own those properties but they continue dwell in their own state. Do they have the right to vote in that state or city simply because they pay taxes, which help support the municipality? No. They vote in their own state because that is where they presently dwell. The fact still remains that for whatever reason, economic or political, these people left the island. Even if they left Puerto Rico with the intention of returning one day and even if they have sent money to loved ones throughout the years, the fact still remains that they left the island. When they return to live there for good, then they will have the right to vote in Puerto Rico s future, as all residents of the island do.

George Santana writes . . .

Mr. Ramos, you have touched on a sensitive issue but you merely scratched the surface. Though you mentioned that you have explored both sides of the question, you did not talk about it. I agree with you that only Puerto Ricans currently living on the island should vote for statehood or independence. But what would be the ramifications if Puerto Ricans decide to become independent? Could Puerto Ricans survive? 

Thank you Mr. Santana but I think the central issue in last month s opinion was who had the right to vote on Puerto Rico s status to either remain a commonwealth or become a state of the union. I don t think that I broached the subject of independence. But the subject of an independent Puerto Rico is a terribly good one and one that is worth debating. We could discuss this issue later.

Mr. Juan Cruz writes . . .

My friend, I agree with everything you say, in relation with the Puerto Rico political status. But Sir, you are wrong when you said that only the people living in Puerto Rico have the right to decide the future of the island. I am an American born in Puerto Rico and I believe that I still have the right to take part on it. And no one to take it away, I was born with it. 

Thank you, Mr. Cruz. You say you are an American born in Puerto Rico, are you from Puerto Rican descent? It seems to me that because you were born on the island you feel that you have the right to vote in its future even though you are no longer a resident. But I must say one thing: I am a New Yorker in my heart and I will always be a New Yorker. I live in Pennsylvania now and though I listen to the news about the city and its affairs and though I wish I could vote in the city s elections, I cannot because I am not a resident of the city. It would be the same for all Puerto Ricans living away from the island.

Mr. Gene Rodriguez (OCFS) writes,

Because you do not live in the US does not eliminate you from voting, why should someone that was born in Puerto Rico not have that right to determine its future. Do Puerto Ricans that were born on the Mainland and moved to Puerto Rico have preferential liberties[?] I was born in NYC, but my parents who were born there [Puerto Rico] and have recently returned to retire, and their siblings that remain should have their right to be counted equally. This is an issue that require[s] much more research than your beliefs 

Thank you, Mr. Rodriguez for your response. I think what you were referring to in the beginning of your email was absentee votes. These are for US citizens that for some reason (work or vacation) find themselves abroad on Election Day. Though they are away from the US, they remain citizens and therefore do have the right to vote in the elections. There is no similarity with Puerto Ricans who make a conscious decision to leave the island in search of money or perhaps a better life. The fact still remains that they did leave the island. On the other hand, people who have left the mainland and have moved to Puerto Rico and fulfilled whatever time is required for residency on the island, very much do have the right to vote in Puerto Rico s future. They have the right because they live there. I disagree that this issue requires much more research; it is quite simple: only Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico have the right to determine the future of their island. On a final note, Mr. Rodriguez, though I disagree with you, I respect your opinion.

Mr. Rapahel Sierra of ITT TAC-SWA, Iraq Total Logistics Support  writes,

Reading the comments that were sent to you, I have to say if you [Puerto Ricans living away from the Island] feel so strong about your right to vote then move back to Puerto Rico. I did, I too served in the military for 22 years and currently find myself working in Iraq. So please don t tell me about how we as veterans have earned the right to vote. The issue is not your voting right but [whether] you should vote in a place [where] you are not a resident. If you don t live in the island you should not be a desisting factor on what is going on [there]. If you feel that strong about it, COME BACK HOME. 

Thank you, Mr. Sierra, I couldn t have said it better myself. It must be tough to work in Iraq these days but I want you to know that you and all of our brothers and sisters currently serving in Iraq are in my prayers. Let s finish the job there and come back home safely. God bless you, my brother! Palante!!

Ms. Emily Herrera Hernandez writes,

I just want to comment on last months subject about the right to vote for the future of Puerto Rico. I was born in Puerto Rico and lived there all my life (18 years) and now live in California for the past 5 years. And YES you can vote in the Puerto Ricans elections. Of course, if I say like I was born in PR and moved to FL when I was 4 month old well, hello!!! Or if my parents are puertoricans but I was born in the US and I've never been in PR then &(se cae de la mata!!) just because I was born in a place doesn t mean I'm from that place? So I think if you are a puertorican that lived in the island for quite a time (deRafael Hernandez Colon paca) and know about puertorican politics and issues then yes you have the right to vote and specially if you have voted before and have a credential. I didn t vote this year because I was away in November but I did in 2000. I still have mi tarjeta electoral.

Thank you Ms. Herrara for your response. Whatever your reasons were for leaving the island, the fact still remains that you are not a resident any longer. You now live in California and for the past five years you have been a resident of that State. I m sure that you value your right to vote (as we all do), and so I m sure that you have voted in California s elections. Being a resident and voter of California, you also want to vote in Puerto Rico s elections? It sounds to me like you want to have your cake and eat it too. For me there is no middle ground, Ms. Herrera, either you live in Puerto Rico and take part in the electoral process or live away from the island and abstain from it altogether.


Letter to the Editor . . .

October 2010 - Morenita from Humacao in North Carolina writes, "I am a brown Latina (Morenita) of Colombian & Puerto Rico descent. It hurts when my own people (Boricuas y Colombianos) look at me in disbelief as to my heritage. I'm aware that all of us know many of our ancestors are brown [skinned] so when they look at me like I'm an alien, it hurts. Where did we learn this from? It's bad enough the morenos hate us for looking like them, but not being like them and therefore expect us to denounce our heritage! What is it that makes us treat our own kind this way?"

Thank you for your email Morenita. It saddens me when I receive emails such as yours, and it saddens me even more that I do not have a sound answer for you. It is unfortunate that the seeds of hatred and bigotry are sown by our parents, who, in turn, are sown by their parents, and so on. This world of ours is replete with hatred for Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It is saturated with hatred for race and creed, for sexual preference, obesity, and many, many other things. We have become a judgmental society in which people must fit into a certain fold or school of thought, in order to be accepted. What makes people treat you this way? The answer may lie with ignorance, stupidity, lack of sensitivity and perhaps fear. I have had to deal with these misgivings all my life. I have learned to live with them because, frankly, there isn't much I can do about it. There will always be hatred in this world, and you cannot change that mentality anymore than you can change the course of a river, the waves in the ocean, the stars in the skies, or the brightness of the sun. You must learn to rise above it all and know that it is nothing but ignorance. Although it will always bother you, in time, you will learn to tolerate it, and it will make you a better person. You are a product of two Hispanic cultures, and you have learned the ways of each of your heritages. You are unique because there aren't many like you. Teach your children to be tolerant and communicate your tolerance to others. If they reject you, then you move on. If they accept you, then you've made a friend. Good luck to you Morenita!

August 2009 - Ben writes, I have read your site and you make a lot of interesting points and ideas. But one question I have regarding the Puerto Rican population in the USA is why aren't they moving to the southern states in droves? Not Florida, but Georgia, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Tennessee etc. The reason being is that there are many, many Mexican immigrants who have difficulty with English and may need help from bilingual people. Puerto Rican people are citizens and they have good, solid educations so they would be ideal people to help with Hispanic immigrants. I live in Michigan and there is a large Mexican population here due to factory and farm work. There are a small number of Puerto Rican people here and they tend to be in positions where they use their bilingual skills such as management positions for retail outlets or teachers and so forth. But the Mexican population in Michigan largely speaks English now so being bilingual here is not too important. On the other hand, I have been to many places in the southern states where there are large Spanish-speaking populations that need bilingual people to help them. There are firefighters, police, teachers, nurses, lawyers, hotel and restaurant managers, construction crew leaders etc. These are good jobs and pay pretty well. I just see this as a gold mine for ambitious Puerto Ricans to come to help the Mexican immigrants. I am just curious as to why Puerto Ricans aren't moving down south in droves. Thanks for your time.

Thank you for your email Ben. I don t know the answer to your question, but I will post your comments and perhaps get some responses from our readers.

December 2008 - Mrs. Irmgerald Gade writes, I came across your website and I really enjoyed it. I noticed that it didn t have a link to search by topic within the website. I also couldn't find the famous "Bombas" for Christmas. Thank you for providing the richness of our culture to everyone. 

Thank you for your email, Mrs. Gade. Frankly, it s not my website, I only write for El Boricua. However, I do take pride in being a member of the writing team and in providing the richness of our culture to all non-island-dwelling Puerto Ricans across the world. I will, however, direct your comments to Ms. Ivonne Figueroa who is the Editor and founder of this lovely website.

May 2007 - Ms. Sharon Highsmith writes,

I was reading your articles from "In my opinion." I am a white female, dating a Puerto Rican male. I m curious to know if you have any articles regarding interracial relationships. 

Thanks for writing to me. I have not written any articles about inter-racial relationships but I've touched on the subject of bi-racial people. As you can see from some of the responses, the topic of race and ethnicity is a sensitive one, and one that causes much debate among Puerto Ricans. I think that by and large most Puerto Ricans don't make an issue of race or inter-racial relationships. Of the few that do, they are no different than the bigots and their prejudicial proclivities that you find in America. But then again, prejudice and bigotry is prevalent throughout the world, and it is a monster that cannot be destroyed.

So what attracted you to the Puerto Rican man you are dating? Was it just the curiosity of dating a Latino? Or was the attraction a normal one, where you were just attracted to a man? Is he any different than the white males or non-Puerto Rican men you dated before?

It is a good thing that you exploring the Puerto Rican culture; it shows that you are committed to this relationship. When you are alone with him, ask him about things. Ask him about the "parrandas" in Puerto Rico during Christmas time. Ask him about the beautiful places of interest in Puerto Rico. Ask him about "pasteles" and "pernil asado" and "arroz con gandules". I'm sure he will be happy to tell you all about our culture.

We are a proud people, Sharon; a people who have never had the taste of independence. After 500 years under Spanish rule, Puerto Rico fell under the territorial dominion of the United States. Though Puerto Rico has been an autonomous commonwealth, under the United States, the idea of independence has never died. There are basically three schools of thought: Pro-Statehood, Independence and continued commonwealth status. The stakes are very high should change other than commonwealth take place.

As for me, well, I can tell you that my eldest son fell in love with an African-American woman, and their child, my grandson, is the heart of my soul. I love him dearly and when I look upon him I see no color and no race, just a little boy that captured my heart.

I hope I wasn't long-winded but you caught me at a good time.

May 2007 - Mr. Alex Villegas Trinidad writes,

Well, my name is Alex Villegas Trinidad. I'm from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico and I'm the oldest son of six. Today I was reading some poetry from one of our most talented Puerto Rican poets, Julia de Burgos, and I got to this site by chance. It is very refreshing to find a place where you feel at home. I live now in the State of New Jersey with my wife Hui-luan Lay (she s from Taiwan), and I'm a man that, to be honest, have had many careers. I have done a little bit of everything. Probably it s due to the spirit that is in me that keeps me moving in the many trails of life; adding to this that I have become an autodidact person. My passion is music, poetry and the arts.

I'm very concerned about Puerto Rico's future, and the need that we have to become more united and develop a different attitude to address a change for Puerto Rico. We must give to our children a better place to live. For this we need a compromise, a positive attitude and unification. This is not about politics because politics and politicians in Puerto Rico have destroyed our identity, our trust and our spirit. In the past few decades, none of the politicians, trusted with the responsibility to lead our people, have been honest enough, abundant and balanced. Corruption has taken the place that belongs to humanity and you see a country at this stage in 2007 with a very poor educational system, health, security and mental care all in a collective pattern. Well I'm sorry that this is my first time writing to you and I took this opportunity to let my thoughts come out. 

Thank you for your email Mr. Trinidad. I m glad to know that you have found a home here at El Boricua. You are always welcomed and we encourage you to tell your family and friends about this wonderful web site. Your concerns about Puerto Rico are genuine, and many of us Puerto Ricans here in the United States share the same sentiments. It is high time for the Puerto Rican politicians to listen to their constituencies and do something about our beloved island before it is too late. .

(April 2007) Michelle L. Anderson writes,

I m a young Boricua teen but not fully Boricua though. My dad s side of the family is and so are my cousins as well as my godfather. So I grew up around it [Puerto Rican culture]. You have really inspired me to write more because I really haven't had anyone close to me to expose me to my culture, but when I listen to the music or watch the movies I feel so complete. Just knowing someone of this race isn't trying to be a stereotype and fight those negative things makes me want to do what I love to do and that is to write. I just want to say thank you Mr. Ramos for inspiring me to be more than what I am. 

Thank you for your email Michelle. I am very happy to know that you have undertaken a new voyage of discovery, a journey that will teach you all about what it is to be a Boricua. Let me know from time to time your progress and all of the new discoveries you make. Also, I am very pleased to know that in some small way I have inspired and encouraged you to continue with your love of writing. If that is what your true love is, then embrace it, nourish it and make it a part of your life. Write whenever you can, whether at home when it s raining outside, or riding the trains or buses, or while waiting at the doctor s office, etc. Make English Literature or writing your major in college, join local writing workshops and hone your skills until you become proficient at it. The publishing field is a tough business to get into and tougher still to become a success, but if you have determination and will to succeed, you will become a writer. Good luck to you in all your endeavors.

Jose Rivera, (August 2006) from Dallas, Texas writes,

In reviewing El Boricua I looked at your definition of Boricua. It is listed as follows: What does Boricua mean? The term is derived from the original island name given by the native Taínos. Boriken became Borinquen, and thus Boricua. Today it is used as a term of endearment. A Boricua is a real Puerto Rican . The use of the word "real" in your definition prompted me to think. In review, as an adjective it means not fictional, authentic, true, and genuine.

I remember when my uncle remarked to me that I was not a real Puerto Rican; I was just an American of Hispanic decent. My uncle was strongly opinionated and he made no bones about separating those born on the island from those born in America. Yet, does where one is born truly make or break [his] heredity or ancestry? In my opinion: no.

When I view us as a whole, I see a people geographically separated, yet [as] one. Is that wrong? Not for me. Perhaps we, as a people, need to look beyond where we were born and see where we are now. Perhaps we need to view each other and accept feelings, beliefs, and the variance in our roots. Perhaps we need to look at each other and see no difference, no real, no fictional characters, [and] no false or non-genuine beings. We need to look and see the person, and not just the birthplace.

While the above may not directly fit your definition, I believe it has some merit.
I hope my commentary does not offend you in any way. I respect you and all you do for all of us through El Boricua. I also appreciate how El Boricua has helped me discover things about my past that had totally escaped me. It is that knowledge that makes me view things regarding my roots and question why.

I appreciate your listening and if you want to share your feelings about this email I would love to hear them. 

Thank your for letter Mr. Rivera. It is unfortunate that there are many native Puerto Ricans who share the same sentiments as those of your uncle. However, we cannot escape the fact that we Puerto Rican Americans were not born on the island, and, by reason of separation, have not absorbed the Puerto Rican culture as we would normally have had we been born on the island. In reading your comments, I cannot help but to draw similarities to the Spanish during Puerto Rico s colonial era. You may recall that Creoles (sons and daughters, of Spanish colonists, born on the island) were never considered true Spaniards. But what did that mean for the Creoles? Did it mean they were a lost people without a proper identity? It meant absolutely nothing. In time, the Creoles developed their own culture and heritage, and became a separate and distinct people with their own identity. We cannot deny that the geographic separation between native and non-native Puerto Ricans is real, or the fact the cultural separation continues to widen within each new generation. We live in the United States of America and have grown up in a different culture, and sometimes though we may not want to believe it in our hearts we tend to forget this. That is why I visit the island from time to time, to reinforce my ethnicity, to reinvigorate my belief in who I am and where I came from. I visit different towns, talk to people, and take in the beautiful sights of the island. As I visit different towns and meet people, though, it becomes clear to me how different I am to the native Puerto Rican. But I do not let this difference get in the way. I think we should all make at least one trip to Puerto Rico just to remind us of who we are.

Michelle Gonzalez (Confused) writes,

Who am I? I am a 24-year-old woman born in New Jersey. My parents are from New York and my Abuelos are from Puerto Rico. I am not fluent in Spanish however I understand it, speak it a little and can write and read it. I cook [Puerto Rican food], dance [Salsa] and listen to it. I was raised in a very traditional Puerto Rican-American home. I embrace my culture and try to study its history. I try to speak [Spanish] whenever I can but unfortunately there is no one around that speaks Spanish, so I can't practice. Americans don't consider me American, despite my US birth and upbringing . . . and Puerto Ricans don't consider me Puerto Rican especially because I am not fluent in Spanish. Mind you, my parents are fluent and had a hard time learning English, so they taught my brother and I English first, hence a semi-language barrier.

I am proud to say [that] I am an Amer-Rican and I embrace my Puerto Rican culture. [I] grew up celebrating Christmas, New Years, and Dia de los Reyes following PR traditions. I learned to cook pernil, arroz con gandules, pasteles, alcapurrias, relleno de papas, tostones . . . everything. We went from house to house playing instruments and singing songs and gathering more and more people as we moved on. I feel very Rican and I feel very American. Why won't either claim me?  (December 2005)

Thank you, Ms .Gonzalez for your wonderful letter. You are not alone. In fact, nearly every American born person of Puerto Rican extraction faces an identity crisis at a certain point in his or life. For me it happened when I was seventeen, for some it happens later on in life. But no matter when it happens, it is still a difficult period of adjustment. You have obviously embraced your Puerto Rican heritage but at the same time you are proud to be an American. My answer to your question is simply this: don t get too caught up on the acceptance thing. You are who you are: a human being. And if the prerequisite for acceptance is based upon someone s race or nationality, then the problem does not lie with you, Michelle. Be the person that you want to be, not the person that someone else wants you to be. Enjoy your life, make the best of it, live it honorably as your parents taught you and be a good person. That is all we can ever hope to be.

Jose Rivera writes,

Lots of time has passed and for the most part it has not been good. I left New Orleans the day before Hurricane Katrina hit; it was devastating as you know. I arose that Sunday got ready for church and as my beloved wife was dressing I noted the weather reports and told her we needed to go. So many other hurricanes had come our way only to turn east and land elsewhere, yet Katrina was earmarked for Louisiana. While it was not a direct strike, it tore us apart. New Orleans as you know was wiped out. Metairie where I live (about 15 minutes away) was hit hard. Needless to say, lives were lost, commerce was severely impacted and this city has a long way to go before it regains its former position. Yet, from what I see that journey has already begun. God provided for us, He led us to friends and we have been with them the whole time. Funny, the lady whom we are residing with until November 1st is the lady who introduced me to my wife almost thirty years ago. How's that for friendship? God is good.

Presently I am in Louisiana to pick up what is left and leave this home. I will be relocating to Plano Texas where we have been living for the past month and a half. Plano offers much and business thrives there. I will no doubt find plenty to do. I visited El Boricua last night and saw the interesting conversations regarding our people that you recently started. I will definitely add my thoughts to those once I get resettled in Texas. Right now I can only think about the task at hand, the packing and of course the move. It is bitter sweet. My daughter and grandchild are remaining in Louisiana, at least for the time being. Her husband Anthron, is in construction, this is a great time for him. One thing I know for sure, that time will end and it is my hope that they too will relocate.

Well my brother, stay well, stay focused and stay safe. I will talk to you again. 

Thank you, Jose, for providing us with a glimpse of the horrors suffered by many people during this devastating catastrophe. My prayers go out to you and your family and to everyone suffering today because of this calamitous event. I know it will not be easy for you but through your past responses I can tell that you are a resourceful and determined man who will no doubt land back on your feet! I will post your email in the Editor s section so that everyone can read about your experience with Katrina. I do hope to hear from you again and keep me posted on your progress. But as I write these words, Hurricane Wilma looms in the back of my mind as it slams into Mexico and, sad to say, possibly the southwestern United States. You are in my prayers, my brother, and I hope you are far from Wilma s tentacles.

Hello Anthony,

I wanted to write to you and express my gratitude for your work at El Boricua. Before I go too far, I need to give you a little background so you can understand where I am coming from.

I was raised in New York City, primarily by my mother who was born and raised in Santuce, Puerto Rico. Her feelings about Puerto Ricans were that we were the best of all Hispanics, second to none and below no one. To say she was proud of her heritage was not properly elevating her thoughts about being a woman of Puerto Rican birth.

However, when she came to this country she decided that assimilation was necessary to ensure survival. She insisted that we (her children) spoke English when outside the home and that we never spoke with a Spanish accent. When I was a child I did not like this but I had no choice in the matter. Back then (40's 50's) you did not ask your parents why, you just obeyed.

My mother also insisted that we learn everything placed before us in school. She was not very understanding when you did not achieve your full potential. She was happy with what God gave us when it came to intelligence, however, if we belittled that gift in any way we knew about it. Again, you have to recall, this took place long ago, before time-out was invented for disobedient lazy children. Oh, that sounded judgmental, perhaps so, but I have come to appreciate how I was raised.

At the age of twenty one I decided that I would join the military and see the world. In so doing, my life s journey began. It was then that I realized that there was more to life than New York. I discovered new people, new races, different values and most of all new loves in life. It was a tremendous growing period. I met my wife (married 29 years this October 1st) Cheryle and together we grew a family under God's blessings. In all that time I moved further and further away from my Puerto Rican heritage.

During my tour of duty within the military 1971-1993, I was stationed in many states and many countries. When I was in the United States I was mainly stationed in the South West. I spent a considerable amount of time in California and later Arizona. While in those arenas I met many Hispanics, all Mexican. Mexican's were new to me; I never met one before joining the military. I found them to be a proud, strong people, not afraid of life or what it brought. I learned much from my new friends and still correspond with some.

Towards the middle of my military duty in 1980 I had to go home and see my brother. At that time he was 52 and had suffered a stroke. He never regained consciousness and passed on seven days after the stroke took over his life. The time I had with him was good and he knew I was there, yet by then we were not as close as we once were. Don't get me wrong, I loved him, I just felt apart from him, both time and travel had done that. Later in the later 80's and early 90's my mother, the strong one developed Alzheimer's. I went to New York and brought her to live with us until she passed also. That was a special time, a time when I realized how inner strength gained early in life can come to carry you much later in life. My mother had taught me much, yet at the same time I had missed much.

That brings me back to today, El Boricua, and your effort. I just want to thank you for contributing to El Boricua. Through your work and the work of others I can see those things I learned and forgot long ago in my life. I can even correspond with others who may be like me. I can even learn from others who are closer to their roots and share their feelings with me through your column. For that I thank you.

I will be glad to both learn and contribute my opinions on whatever you discuss from time to time. Until I speak to you again, may God bless you and all who work with you at El Boricua. I once heard a woman say, "Yo no naci en Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Nacio en me." I agree with her and I am living it today. Thanks my brother.

Jose Rivera

Hello Mr. Rivera:
Thank you for kind and heartfelt words. Letters like yours are what give me the strength to continue. In the coming months I will be writing some intriguing and thought-provoking comments. Perhaps you might want to express yourself in these coming months or if you like, you may comment on the previous articles; it's never too late. I hope you don't mind, I passed along your email to my editor at El Boricua. You have an interesting story, my friend, and I'm so happy that you have embraced your Puerto Rican heritage.

Once again, thank you for your letter.

Tony Ramos

Hello Tony,

I am glad you passed my letter along to your editor, like you I feel it expresses much.

I look forward to contributing to your comments/questions and I am excited about beginning dialogue with many at El Boricua. One such person is Carmen Pilar Santos de Curran, the Rican Chef. One thing I must learn to do properly is to cook some of our native dishes. I see her recipes and I remember the foods my mother cooked for me. I remember the flavors, the smell you sensed when opening a door in your home when cooking was in progress. It is my hope to explore that and begin a journey there.

Another person I plan on reaching is Nellie Escalante-Dumberger, I think she can help me learn a little about our art. I know she can point me in the right direction. I love learning, my life has been influenced much through education and experience. My degrees however are all in business, culminating in a Masters Degree.

Well, my friend, I guess this is all for now. Please pass on my comments to the above two individuals. It will help when I write them, I won't be a stranger if you introduce me first.

Take care and know that I am your brother in Louisiana, if you ever find yourself contemplating a trip to New Orleans, let me know ahead of time. We can meet, and I and my family would be glad to show you our city. Take care.


Hello again, Mr. Rivera:

Thanks for your email. I will pass this one along too.
It is comforting to know that if I'm ever in New Orleans I can call on you. Thank you very much for your kind offer.
Your friend & brother, Tony

PS - Don't forget to send in your opinions