Archive | March, 2016

NEWARK’S PUERTO RICAN PARADE TO HONOR ÓSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

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Since 1981 The Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc., one of Newark’s most important Puerto Rican institutions, has decided to honor Óscar López Rivera and call for his immediate release by the Obama administration on a humanitarian basis. The Puerto Rican Day Parade, which will be held on Sunday, September 18 in Newark’s North Ward, hosts a series of activities leading to the parade, many which will also be focused on the release of López Rivera. In 2016, the Puerto Rican Day Parade will celebrate its 55th Anniversary, a reflection of the vibrancy and importance of the Puerto Rican community in Newark. The Puerto Rican Day Parade joins the Newark Municipal Council who passed a resolution on December 2, 2015 calling on President Obama “to grant clemency to Óscar López Rivera so that he is immediately released from prison, as his continued incarceration is unjust and serves no legitimate purpose.” The New York City Municipal Council passed a similar resolution in April 2015. Óscar López Rivera was imprisoned in 1981, along with 13 other men and women, and charged with seditious conspiracy for their involvement in activities for Puerto Rican independence. López Rivera served 12 years of his sentence in solitary confinement. In 1999, President Bill Clinton offered to commute his sentence, as well as the sentences of all but two of his co-defendants, noting that López Rivera was never convicted of specific violent crimes resulting in death or injuries, and that the sentences were “out of proportion to their crimes.” López Rivera, refusing to leave any co-defendants behind declined the President’s offer of clemency. All of the other men and women sent to prison with López Rivera have since been released and are leading productive and responsible lives. Óscar López has now served over 34 years in prison. Óscar López Rivera has served more prison time than Nelson Mandela for similar charges of sedition. Many prominent persons, including President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King and other Nobel Peace Laureates, politicians and world leaders have called for his release. In 2013, Archbishop Desmond Tutu declared that “in any case or interpretation, justice cannot be served by keeping Óscar López Rivera in prison.” The United Nations Decolonization Committee has repeatedly called on the United States to release López Rivera. The movement to release Óscar López Rivera has become a unifying cause for the Puerto Rican people, bringing together all political parties, religious institutions, labor organizations and people of widely diverse political beliefs in a humanitarian campaign for his release. All the Puerto Rican representatives in Congress have joined their voices to this movement, along with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. In 2013, the present Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who has visited López Rivera in prison declared that this is “an issue that must rise above partisan affiliations and status preferences. […] it touches basic issues of humanity, justice and compassion.” It is with this humanitarian vision of compassion and justice that the Puerto Rican Day Parade lends its support to this movement, as part of the overwhelming support in the Puerto Rican community for clemency for Óscar López Rivera. Simply put, we are very excited to dedicate the parade to Óscar López Rivera. In addition to Óscar, the parade is also dedicated to the town of San Juan, and to those whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease. N e l s o n “ B u t c h i e ” Nieves, President of the Puerto Rican Parade, stated that the parade supports his release on a humanitarian basis and would like to see López Rivera march in September. Nieves stated that “after 34 years, it’s time to bring him home.” Jossue Torres, Executive Board member of the parade stated that “we are doing this because it simply makes sense. Óscar’s case has transcended and is an obvious miscarriage of justice. The parade as an organization is being explicitly clear that we are honoring him solely as his case is a humanitarian issue. We have no position or viewpoint on political ideology or standing.” Torres reiterated that “Now, it is our great hope that on Sunday, September 18th, Óscar will be with us. That is what we want. And to that end, our call to action is that every person, every group, every organization and entity that supports Óscar will march with us.” Those groups wishing to participate in the parade can register for free at www.prdpnj.org. Torres stated that “If in the very unfortunate circumstance that he is not with us that day, we want to lift our voices up so loud, so proud, that he hears the message all the way in Indiana.”

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THE RETRIBUTIVE INCARCERATION OF OSCAR LÓPEZ RIVERA

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

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Óscar López Rivera is a political prisoner who, at 74 years of age, has served 34 years in American prisons, 12 of them in consecutive solitary confinement, because of his ideas. Sentenced to 55 years for seditious conspiracy in 1981 and an additional 15 years for conspiracy to escape in 1987, López Rivera has never been convicted of a violent act. His only idea, overarching as it is, is the independence of Puerto Rico. His continued incarceration today, as the nation ponders the ills of disproportionate criminal sentencing, can only be justified by gross punishment and retribution. Why else keep a 74 year old man whose release is supported by Nobel Peace Prize recipients Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu and Mairead Maguire, among thousands of others, behind bars for this long? Punishment — that enduring characteristic of American exceptionalism, plain and simple — is the only justification. For our sake, President Barack Obama, please release him. Now. The two consecutive criminal sentences, totaling 70 years, shout out disproportionality thereby reflecting this country’s illogical and unnecessary criminal justice policies — which the Obama administration is trying to correct. Equally important, because Mr. López Rivera is widely considered to be unjustly sentenced for his political beliefs and his advocacy for the independence of Puerto Rico, his continued incarceration is inconsistent with this nation’s values. Seditious conspiracy in 1981 really had no parallel in the nation’s courts since it appears that at that time the only persons even accused of the crime were exclusively persons advocating for Puerto Rican independence. Thus, 55 years for that conviction — where Mr. López Rivera has already served 34 — is disproportionate especially considering that he was never convicted of any violent crime or crimes that caused injuries to others. His 1987 conviction for conspiracy to escape also belies any fair notion of just sentencing upon receiving 15 consecutive years of imprisonment far more than any other members of the conspiracy. Again, Mr. López Rivera was not convicted of actually escaping or even actually attempting to do so. The facts and circumstances of his conspiratorial acts were all part of the public record when President William Clinton offered Mr. López Rivera executive clemency in 1999, noting that the sentences were “out of proportion.” Mr. López Rivera chose not to accept the offer in light of the terms of the offer for his other co-defendants — but that has nothing to do with fair sentencing. In fact, the best practices of sentencing reform in the modern era were recently highlighted by the National Research Council of the National Academies in 2014 in “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences.” That body of academics concluded that incarceration in America should be balanced by four guiding principles: Proportionality (criminal offenses should be sentenced in proportion to their seriousness); Parsimony (the period of confinement should be sufficient but not greater than necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing policy); Citizenship (the conditions and consequences of incarceration should not be so severe or lasting as to violate one’s fundamental status as a member of society); and, Social Justice (prisons should be instruments of justice and their collective effect should be to promote, not undermine, society’s aspirations for a fair distribution of rights, resources and opportunities). When applied to a 74-year-old man who has spent nearly half of his life imprisoned for his political beliefs, these principles underscore how unjust this case really is. The sentences, as noted above, are patently disproportionate, and given that Mr. López Rivera spent 12 consecutive years in solitary confinement they go beyond any sense of justice. The sentences are also well beyond frugality or parsimony; belie any sense of the value of citizenship given Mr. López Rivera’s age and his life expectancy; and run counter to any modicum of social justice. Under these principles his sentences serve no value except, at best, retribution and we should be well beyond that debilitating and corrosive mind-set in modern sentencing reform. The Obama administration knows better. It has been steadfastly advocating for sentencing reform of late. The President visited a federal prison, a historic and welcome first, while speaking to the scourge of racial profiling, and addressing juvenile justice on one hand, and enduring collateral consequences on the other. The growing support for the release of Mr. López Rivera has unified each of the major political parties in Puerto Rico who along with clergy, unionists, activists and elected and community leaders have made his cause well within the mainstream. Moreover, such a request is not outside the propriety of the power of the executive since granting presidential clemency for prisoners who advocate for Puerto Rico’s independence is not a complete rarity. President Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and William Clinton have all done it. Instead, what America has in Óscar López Rivera is a beacon of freedom and a symbol of what needs to be rectified at the earliest possible moment in order to restore our standing in the world community and to make palpable the very criminal justice and sentencing reform that has wisely guided this administration. In addition to the support López Rivera receives from Nobel laureates, it was President Obama’s memorable speech in South Africa in 2013 at the commemoration of the life of Mr. Mandela that raised real hopes for his release. The President spoke of Mandela’s activism for freedom, inspiring both him and the whole world and then he spoke of Mandela’s reconciliatory outlook: “It took a man like Madiba to free not the prisoner, but the jailer as well … to teach that reconciliation is not just a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth.” I personally met with Óscar López Rivera in his prison in Indiana in 2015 as part of a delegation of three attorneys, including his own, the incomparable Jan Susler. López Rivera held no rancor, and was the picture of peace and benevolence. His mind was clear and spirit intact. His return to his cell that day as I exited the visiting room was an affront to everything I have learned about justice in our country. Should President Obama commute his sentence it will not only free Óscar López Rivera, but also the very system that unjustly jails him.

by Juan Cartagena President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF

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Lin-Manuel Miranda: Give Puerto Rico Its Chance to Thrive

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

Screenshot 2016-06-08 13.01.59On Aug. 31, 1772, a hurricane devastated the island of St. Croix, the home of the teenage Alexander Hamilton. In a letter one week later, he described the force of the storm and the destruction it caused as “sufficient to strike astonishment into angels.” His letter included this plea for help for his countrymen: “O ye, who revel in affluence, see the afflictions of humanity and bestow your superfluity to ease them. Say not, we have suffered also, and thence withhold your compassion. What are your sufferings compared to those? Ye have still more than enough left. Act wisely. Succour the miserable and lay up a treasure in Heaven.” So vivid was his account of the disaster that the letter was published in a newspaper in the Virgin Islands, The Royal Danish American Gazette, and used to support relief efforts for the island. I’m invoking Hamilton’s words today, in this plea for relief for Puerto Rico. Much has been said about the dire economic situation pressing down on Puerto Rico. I am the son of Puerto Rican parents. What can I say to persuade elected officials and policy makers to act? What influence do I have to change the minds and hearts of those in Congress to put aside their differences and deal with the crisis confronting 3.5 million American citizens in the Caribbean? I’m not a politician or an economist. I’m a storyteller. More than 150 schools on the island have closed. San Jorge Children’s Hospital, Puerto Rico’s largest pediatric hospital, has been forced to close two wings and 40 rooms, and cannot afford to hire the nurses it needs. It’s estimated that a doctor a day leaves the island. Engineers, accountants, blue-collar workers and entire families are emigrating daily. According to the census, Puerto Rico has lost 9 percent of its population in the last decade, with 84,000 leaving last year alone. This is not the Puerto Rico I remember. Every summer my sister Luz and I stayed with our grandparents in Vega Alta, a small town on the northern coast. My grandfather managed the town credit union — a real-life George Bailey if ever there was one. My grandmother owned a travel agency, Viajes Miranda. My aunt Yamilla owned the school supply store next door, and I sold candy to returning students in August. In Vega Alta, I was “el nene de Luisito, que se fue a Nueva York” (“The son of Luisito, who left for New York”) but welcomed every summer as a cherished member of the community, despite my halting Spanglish. I walked from one end of town to the other, waving at the business owners, many of whom went to church with my grandparents, feeling a sense of community that often eluded me back in New York. Today, most of those storefronts — the school supply shop, the travel agency and many more — are boarded up, with little hope of housing new businesses. Residents like the town’s mayor, Isabelo Molina, and my uncle Elvin, who heads a Pentecostal church there, are working hard to change that. They have learned to stretch a dollar as far as it can go. But Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt, which is equal to about 68 percent of the island’s gross domestic product, thwarts efforts for economic development. There are remedies when governments run up debt. If Puerto Rico were an American city, it could declare bankruptcy, as Detroit did in 2013. If it were a state, the federal government would surely have already declared emergency measures to help the most vulnerable. But since it is a territory of the United States, there is no system in place to handle the financial and humanitarian crisis that is happening right now. Please let us not get bogged down in Puerto Rico’s status. If a ship is sinking, you don’t ask, “Well, what type of ship is it and what type of ship should it be?” You rescue the people aboard. What Puerto Rico needs, as a first step, is what almost any other company or government has — the ability to restructure its debt. Congress can make that happen. The island is in danger of defaulting on some of its larger loans and it is already being sued by creditors. An act of Congress in support of restructuring would help bring creditors to the table to develop a workable plan that could satisfy debtholders and relieve the punishment of the people of Puerto Rico. This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is an American issue. When 3.5 million of our citizens face the consequences of financial collapse, we should act. Because Puerto Ricans can vote neither for the president nor for congressional representatives, it falls to us of Puerto Rican heritage in the continental United States to amplify their plea. By chance, I picked up Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton in 2008 and found the inspiration that changed my life. I recognized, in Hamilton’s ability to write his way out of his difficult circumstances, a kindred spirit. I write about Puerto Rico today just as Hamilton wrote about St. Croix in his time. Congress, please don’t play politics with the lives of 3.5 million Americans. Succor the miserable and lay up a treasure in heaven. We are counting on you.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a composer, librettist, actor and the creator of “Hamilton” and “In the Heights.” This article originally appeared in the New York Times, March 28, 2016

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CHICAGO CHAPTER OF NACOPRW HOLDS FORUM ON PR CRISIS, CALLS FOR CHANGE

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Deborah López President,

Chicago Chapter, NACOPRW The Chicago Chapter of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPRW) commemorated Women’s International Day by being the first chapter to organize an informational forum on the crisis in Puerto Rico and its impact on stateside communities. The event titled, “A Women’s Perspective: Puerto Rico’s Human Rights Crisis” was held at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture on Saturday, March 12, co-sponsored by Screenshot 2016-06-08 13.00.58PRCC. Over 80 guests attended the forum, representing generations of women and men in solidarity who share our vision for a more equitable society. The crisis in Puerto Rico is chipping away at basic human rights such as education and health care, and we urge everyone to choose how they can help. Attorney Wilma Reveron Collazo, visiting speaker from Puerto Rico, described historical facts that led to this state of emergency affirming that this crisis has left the women, head of households, in the most vulnerable position in the society along with the elderly. An experienced presenter, Reveron presented a complex reality in a conversational way and helped put a face on the crisis. As she stated: “…es que la crisis tiene cara de mujer.” Clarisa López is one of many women directly affected. She shared personal anecdotes about her father Óscar López Rivera whose disproportionate sentencing have internationally galvanized all sectors of society asking for his release because it’s unjust. When confronted with injustices, it moves us to speak in one voice. At this juncture we call upon women of all sectors to join advocacy efforts to relieve Puerto Rico’s human rights crisis and to free Óscar López Rivera.

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In Chicago Political Leaders Establish Puerto Rican Agenda For 2016 elections

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Hannah Rank As Published in Medill Reports Chicago, March 8, 2016 A quiet chatter filled the cafeteria of ASPIRA Business and Finance High School on March 4th, Friday night. Loved ones and old friends greeted one another heartily. On a vaulted stage positioned on the other end of the room sat a group of seven chairs lined up in two rows. The chairs began to fill slowly. First a professor from Hunter College, then two top administrators of the the high school took a seat. Then the 30th ward alderman, Ariel Reboyras, positioned himself in the front right chair. On the other end of the row sat the up-and-coming 35th ward alderman, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who after less than a year in the City Council has already made quite a splash. Finally, State Senator Iris Martinez of the 20th district and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-4th) entered. Once the Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.59.31elected leaders had settled on the stage, José López, leader of the Puerto Rican Agenda, the organization hosting Friday’s event, motioned for the attendees to take their seats. The crowd had a familiar comfort. But this was no casual get-together; Illinois pre-eminent Puerto Rican leaders don’t often gather publicly in the same room. The topic of discussion: Puerto Rico, their “tierra.” It’s in serious debt, and they’ve come to galvanize support and discuss solutions. “Tonight is the first time Puerto Rican elected leadership, along with leaders from the local Puerto Rican Community are publicly coming together to discuss these concerns,” Cristina Pacione-Zayas, the co-chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda, said in her introduction. “This presidential election is very critical, and we really have a grand opportunity to put these issues on the map and to really do something for our community.” First to speak was Edwin Melendez, Director of The Center for Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College. He explained the scale and implications of the current debt crisis plaguing the island. “Because we are in junk bond territory – there is no value to the debt that Puerto Rico has access to – the most recent administration cannot borrow any money,” Melendez said. “So, the fight right now is that we need some kind of territorial bankruptcy to protect the commonwealth and the corporations from the debt that they have to pay.” Right now, because Puerto Rico is not a state; under U.S. law the island’s municipalities may not file for bankruptcy protections. Meléndez said nearly half of Puerto Ricans on the island are living in poverty. “Because of that, we have an unprecedented migration to the U.S. All our communities are receiving newcomers,” he said. Melendez noted that one state receiving new Puerto Ricans is Pennsylvania, poised to be a swing state in the elections. Gutiérrez was the keynote. Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.59.46The congressman, who like the other speakers seamlessly alternated between English and Spanish, used his time to frame the need for political unity of all mainland Puerto Ricans. In his speech, Gutiérrez announced a plan to establish a National Coalition of Puerto Rican elected officials. Though he noted there were other Latino delegations in elected leadership, he said it was important now to establish a particular cause for Puerto Rico. “We are going to celebrate that we are one. It doesn’t matter if we are Dominican or Colombian. It doesn’t matter if we came from Ecuador or Salvador or Puerto Rico or Cuba,” Gutiérrez said. “But we all have a very particular responsibility and that’s with the island of Puerto Rico. So I’m going to continue to champion the cause, but I’m also going to raise my voice for Puerto Rico.” He argued the debt was not the entire fault of Puerto Rico, but instead illuminates larger policy problems implemented by the U.S., where the mainland has impeded industry from flourishing. Specifically, he noted the lack of agricultural development on the tropical island, with a majority of the produce being imported via U.S. Customs. “When are we going to be given the ability to harvest?” Gutiérrez asked. “In Puerto Rico, we produce what we don’t consume and we consume what we don’t produce.” Martinez publicized a national summit of Puerto Rican leaders, to take place in New York in April, two months before the Democratic caucus in Puerto Rico on June 5 and another six weeks before the Democratic Party convention at the end of July. “That’s going to be a very powerful message, bringing together all the Puerto Ricans all across the United States together in Nueva York and starting the movement that we need that’s long overdue,” she said. Ramírez-Rosa closed by reiterating what others throughout the night addressed: what they see as a hypocrisy that underlies the notion of the Puerto Rican debt repayment. “No, we reject this notion that the island of Puerto Rico has to pay this debt. Because you have exploited us for hundreds of years,” the alderman said. “We need to reimagine what it is to advocate in the face of this economic crisis, and I think that we should say no to paying that debt.”

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IN PA DEMOCRATIC PARTY PUSHES FOR COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR PUERTO RICO

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Norman Bristol Colón,

National Puerto Rican Agenda HERSHEY, PA – The Pennsylvania Democratic Party adopted the Humanitarian and Fiscal Crisis in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as the focus for their spring meeting. More than 300 state committee members and state democratic leaders gathered in Hershey to hear from Governor Wolf about the budget impasse. Candidates for U.S. Senate, PA Treasurer, PA Auditor General and PA Attorney General were among the guest speakers. The resolution was adopted unanimously by members of state committee who are elected by Democratic voters in Pennsylvania. “The current fiscal and humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico has indispensably provided an enormous opportunity for the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans living in the island and the 5+ million more living all across the United States to embrace in unison a voice for justice and equality. On March 2, 2017, it will be a 100 years since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act granting US citizenship to Puerto Ricans. This historic event was as much driven by global circumstances as it was driven by the security interests of the United States. Yet, almost 100 years later, Puerto Rico has never experienced the challenge of today,” said Norman Bristol Colón, PAforPR Coalition. “It is our goal to cultivate partnerships and garner support from all sectors of American society in respectfully asking President Obama and Congress to address the American Fiscal and Humanitarian Crisis in Puerto Rico. I thank the PA Democratic Party for joining their voices with the countless voices of those impacted by this crisis emotionally, socially, politically and economically,” he concluded.

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DR. WILLIAM SANTIAGO ADDRESSES APRIL PUERTO RICAN AGENDA ON FISCAL CRISIS

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Puerto Rican Agenda

On Saturday, April 2, 2016, Dr. William Santiago, Visiting Professor: University Michigan-Dearborn (African & African American Studies) & National University of Senegal, West Africa (African Studies Laboratory) presented an excellently researched speech on the fiscal crisis of Puerto Rico. It focused on the players on the hedge funds in Puerto Rico and the connections to then local political elite on the island. He referred to the US Congress proposal to create an oversight board, as a coup d’etat. He outlined four mayor premises for his presentation: 1) The majority of those who are here (as emigres or exiles) were expelled from Puerto Rico against our wishes; 2) The socioeconomic crisis in Puerto Rico cannot be understood without explaining it as a colonial (situation) enterprise which annually invests/circulates $17 and profits $35 from these 3) The decision-making process, here and there, are controlled by the same military/economic monies who don’t respond to elections. These monopolies and their caste are two wings of the same vulture, as evidenced in the tables in appendix. (See reproduction of this speech in the March- April 2016 issue of QOS). 4) That collective problems don’t have individual solutions. A lively question and answer session followed the presentation

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PUERTO RICAN ELECTED OFFICIALS DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY FROM U.S. CONGRESS

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

by Kevin Garcia, PRCC Staff

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On Wednesday, March 19th, Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, Ald. Roberto Maldonado and other Puerto Rican elected officials held a press conference at the Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture to discuss the Puerto Rican fiscal and humanitarian crisis. Gutiérrez demanded the U.S. be held responsible for debt that has affected Puerto Rico and its citizens. He and Maldonado spoke about the legislation enacted by Congress in 1984, which denied bankruptcy for Puerto Rico’s municipal governments, agencies and bureaus. Under U.S. law, cities and towns can file for bankruptcy, but states and territories can’t; Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Ald. Gilbert Villegas, Ariel Reboyras and Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. spoke briefly at the press conference. ASPIRA of IL Board Chair Fernando Grillo and PRCC ED José E. López also participated. Jessie Fuentes, Puerto Rican Agenda co-chair, emceed. Over 60 members of the Puerto Rican Agenda, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and activists attended the event.

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Conference to Host Stateside Puerto Ricans Act Against Humanitarian Crisis On The Island Of Puerto Rico

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

NEW YORK, NY – As the crisis in Puerto Rico intensifies, one group remains under reported by media and scholars alike: stateside Puerto Ricans. The number of United States based Puerto Ricans continues to increase on the heels of the crisis, and today more Puerto Ricans (5,266,738 million) live stateside than on the island. Yet little is known about the true social, economic and political implications of the crisis on this community. To demonstrate the scale and impact of the Puerto Rican crisis on the stateside community and the rest of the nation, on April 22 and 23 the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.27.38Hunter College, CUNY, will host stateside Puerto Ricans. Policy makers, scholars, religious and community leaders, as well as other Puerto Ricans and their allies from across the nation, will come together to map out solutions for the future. “The Puerto Rican population needs to be treated as a whole; we are 8.6 million people as one and we need to begin to understand our collective power. Only by seeing ourselves under one singular identity can we make the most progress as a people. Together, we can generate the strongest response to the crisis on the island in political spaces and create viable alternatives,” said Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, who will be joining the April event. A range of other key voices including Congressman José Serrano, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Illinois State Senator Iris Y. Martinez, New York State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Counselor to the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Antonio Weiss, labor leader Dennis Rivera and journalist Juan González, among others, will come together to take a deep dive into topics like civil rights and political participation, environment and community development, education, healthcare and more. Monseñor Roberto González Nieves, who was born in New Jersey and is today Archbishop of San Juan, will be speaking on the crisis stateside for the first time. Screenshot 2016-06-08 12.29.13“Puerto Rico is facing one of its most critical challenges in its history,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We’re seeing medical professionals leave the island, people are losing their jobs and the healthcare system is negatively impacted. The federal government has to let Puerto Rico restructure its debt. The current crisis is affecting 3.5 million on the island and for many living stateside as well. This is a humanitarian crisis. We need to stand in solidarity with the people in Puerto Rico, and it is critical that our voices are heard. There is still much work to be done, and that’s why we need to continue to drum up support here in the U.S. and on the island. We are more powerful together, and together we will be a voice for justice that cannot be ignored.” The event expands on several events in Florida and Washington, D.C. and throughout the rest of the country that have addressed the economic crisis on the island, focusing on its implications to the rest of the nation. “Partly as a result of the dire situation of friends and families in the island, and partly due to the challenges posed by the reshaping of the stateside Puerto Rican communities, the Puerto Rican diaspora has engaged in a solidarity movement unprecedented in our history. This is a new activism, an emergence of new civic and political leaders that we haven’t seen before. We are offering up our space, our research and knowledge about stateside Puerto Ricans to advance the understanding of the economic, fiscal and unfolding humanitarian crisis in support of the active engagement of our community in finding solutions to such historical challenges,” concluded Edwin Meléndez, Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, CUNY, the leading think taScreenshot 2016-06-08 12.29.21nk on Puerto Ricans in the United States. The event is free and open to the public. Those interested in participating should RSVP at https:// www.eventbrite.com/e/puertoricopuertoricanstickets. Contact Suset Laboy and Maria
Laboy via email at Lalaboypr@Lalaboypr.com or phone at (212) 772-5692 for additional information.

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UTC Revels in Successful Run

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Kevin Garcia

By Dolores Diaz, PRCC Staff

UrbanTheater Company celebrated the final performance of José Rivera’s “Adoration of the Old Woman,” directed by Juan Castañeda, on Friday March 13 with a sold-out closing party complete with music, food and family at their newly renovated Bat
y Urbano space on 2620 W. Division St. The rainy afternoon began with coquitos and a performance on Spanish guitar by Armando Quintero that set the tone for the event with intriguing melodies and rich percussive beats foreshadowing the dramatic moments of the play. As lights grew dim, the thick feel of a closing performance hung in the air and delivered – actors dug in deep for their final portrayals in front of a packed house for the Midwest premiere. The cast rose to the challenge of navigating the changing landscapes presented by the play – part ghost-story, part political cScreenshot 2016-06-08 12.25.22ommentary and part love-triangle – with especially notable performances for the demanding roles of Adoración (Melissa Duprey) and Doña Belen (Nydia Castillo). Following gran aplausos at curtain call, the audience filed into the lobby for a homemade dinner of arroz con gandules and mostaccioli enjoyed over jazz saxophone and guitar accompaniment by JL Music, wit
h Roy Mc- Grath on saxophone and Hans Luchs on guitar. Community attendees included Juan Ramírez, founder and artistic director of the former Latino Chicago Theater Company who paved the way for UTC; UTC Co-Founder Madrid St. Angelo; Juan Linares the Executive Director of LUCHA (Latin United Communit
y House Association); Monica Torres-Linares, Managing Counsel at Justicia Attorneys; and Melinda Power of West Town Law. Out-of-state visitor Vicki Grise, playwright of The Panza Monologues, was also in the audience visiting from New York. Up next at UrbanTheater Company is “Lolita de Lares” by Migdalia Cruz that will run from June 10-July 10 with previews June 6-9. The play explores the remarkable and real-life story of Dolores (Lolita) Lebrón, a Puerto Rican Nationalist Party member who served 25 years in prison for spearheading a 1954 armed attack on the U.S. House of Representatives. Tickets are available now at urbantheaterchicago. org. UTC is currently in its 10th season with funding from the Chicago Community Trust.

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