May 31, 2008

Hillary on the island

So tomorrow are the primaries in Puerto Rico. Real quick I thought I'd leave a few articles on Hillary's visits there, since I haven't really mentioned it much... or something like that.

First off, I have to link to this article for two reasons; 1, there is a cute kid dancing for her, and 2, the title is "After brouhaha, Clinton tries to look ahead". Points for the word brouhaha! That's really about it for that article, but I enjoyed that all the same.

Apparently right now she's traipsing around Carolina, San Juan, Guaynabo, Bayamón, and Trujillo Alto. Road trip! She also stopped by the Medical school to talk about Medicare blah blah (important issue there though). On the other hand, a bunch of latin artists including Don Omar and Voltio made a music video supporting Obama. Hmm...

Here's another one about what the election means to Puerto Rico; it's not really about the result but rather the attention, it's still a waste because very likely the politicians will forget about Puerto Rico immediately afterwards, etc. Oops, it's not about Hill. Ah well. I think everyone knows I'm a sucker for these now and real sick of the candidates. Yep, that's all on politics until tomorrow. I've gotten so cynical about this whole mess that just thinking about it makes my head hurt. So it's time for a break.

May 28, 2008

Oh American Airlines...

So it seems as if American's cuts are going to take a hit on Puerto Rico, starting this September. American Eagle is only going to have about 33 flights this fall, and a whole bunch of people are losing their jobs. More flights will probably be affected as time goes on, so... be careful, I guess.

And on an unrelated note: why, Ricky, why?

May 25, 2008

Another note on elections then I'll shut up

This was more along the lines of what I was looking for earlier today, I think. Thanks Times!

Recruiting from Puerto Rico

I just wanted to post this article about (mainland) employers finding more employees on the island; I found it an interesting read. I have to wonder what the implications are, though, if we're willing to admit that the professionals that Puerto Rico has are being drawn out, should someone do something? I'm kind of stumped... I don't want anyone to not seek out the best opportunities, but what will happen to the island once they're gone? Mass migration it is not, but these are all people who have important roles in society and any loss is a bad one.

Puerto Rico on the Front Page

So I grab this morning's Washington Post and excitedly notice that Puerto Rico is on the front page in an article about Obama's visit (Hillary also stopped by Aguadilla but so far I've seen very little about it). Reading on, though, I begin to lose some enthusiasm...

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, May 24 -- Sen. Barack Obama swept across this island commonwealth Saturday, a visit that had the markings of a coda to a grueling primary campaign.

"Hóla, Puerto Rico! How's everybody doing today?" Obama shouted to a crowd gathered in Old San Juan, before he led dancing supporters along the seaside battlements for a raucous caminata, the traditional candidate parade. "I am thankful, I am grateful. . . . If we do well in Puerto Rico, there is no reason I will not be announcing that I am the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America!"
Hóla?! Who does that? There's no accent by any means.

Anyways, the article goes on to talk about that elusive "Hispanic Vote" while hardly touching on the realities of the Puerto Rican primary or what Puerto Ricans want. Very frustrating read. Who let this guy write this?

Then I headed over to El Nuevo Día to find an interview with Obama, in which he basically says he can't do anything and that it's up to Puerto Ricans to decide their status. Also frustrating, I loathe evasive answers.

Well... we'll see what happens in a couple days. All this attention from the press certainly can't hurt his campaign. Hillary... I don't even know. You should be campaigning on the island!

May 19, 2008

Word of the Week: Zafacón

So we just happened to start talking about this and I thought posting it was imperative, since it's a real useful word.

Zafacón is the word for trash can. See, I told you it'd be useful. Supposedly it comes from the English "safety can", which is, as far as I can tell, a name for trash cans in labs. We theorized that, since there are so many pharmaceuticals on the island, and they probably had special "safety cans" for the chemicals, they changed the English name into Spanish. Maybe.

There you go.

Sie7e's New CD

So I just happened to catch on iTunes that Sie7e has released a new CD called Para Mí.

But wait... who is Sie7e? Okay, I have to admit that I don't really know much about the guy except that he's Puerto Rican. I just happened to catch one of his videos in Puerto Rican MTV one night while flipping channels and ended up enjoying the song. And about two weeks ago I figured out that his first CD was on iTunes, so I downloaded that, then lo and behold there's another one.

So I buy that one (got to support poor artists, you know). And... I don't know. It does show a lot more musical experience and just tighter sound overall, but I was really unhappy to hear the new version of his single; it has lost the looseness of the original. On the other hand, there are a lot less slow songs (I hate slow songs)--but the one song where it worked on the old CD was a song called "Y Te Vas", a very unoriginal song but beautiful regardless, and on this CD there's nothing to replace that.

One of the highlights on the CD is a song called "Te Repito", which has a chorus about repeating the chorus over and over again so that it sticks in your head (get it? the chorus is about the chorus... yeah). It's a parody of all the songs that are popular just because of that catchy chorus, while also discussing how he has to compromise his lofty career goals with the music he wants to make, and how being "rockero" (into rock rather than reggaetón) shouldn't have to mean absolutely no interest in other genres, particularly latin (he mentions liking Vico C--older, more traditional reggaetón--and El Gran Combo--salsa).

"Rockero, latino caribeño
It didn't work for me cahntar con el aceynto*
La cosa complicada no funcionó
Sonaba muy bonito pero nadie lo entendió."

"Rockero, Caribbean latino
Singing with an accent* didn't work for me
That complicated stuff didn't work
It sounded pretty but no one understood it."
*this part he's singing in a really thick "gringo" accent, making fun of a lot of rockeros who try to only speak English or speak Spanish with an accent to seem more authentic.

That is followed by his "manager" yelling at him to include a catchy chorus and repeat it over and over again. It's a good point to make, seeing as most songs (particularly reggaetón) only get popular because of the chorus and hardly anyone actually knows the other words or what the song is about.

Anyways, not only the song but also the entire album is a great example of how to reconcile this "rockero" identity with Puerto Rican music, which many see as incompatible but really isn't. As a consequence, Sie7e mixes traditional Latin sounds with his own guitar playing and some catchy pop... if you're expecting an actual rock CD, look elsewhere, but if you want pop with a little more umpf, you've found it.

Well, almost. I guess the problem with this CD is that it still sounds intermediary. While many of the topics dealt with in the songs are good, they are not fully developed, and the songs, while decent, are also missing something. They're just a little flat. However, I would definitely keep following Sie7e's music, because I'm pretty sure in a couple of years we'll be hearing something more dynamic from him.

Here's the video I was talking about in the beginning.

The song is called "Cógelo ahora porque después se va" ("Get it now because soon it'll be gone"; a slightly smoother name in English would be "Get it before it's gone"). It's catchy and has a decent message, and I like that he insists on "pa'lante, pa'lante, pa'lante", which is kind of awkwardly translated as "(Go) Forward, forward, forward". Point is we always (individually and as communities) always needed to be reminded to advance with what we're doing and not get distracted in the journey.

In the end I do recommend the CD, but if you didn't enjoy the video I would skip it and wait for his future releases.

Still unsure? Check out this video where he includes a whole bunch of samples of the CD, and here is the video for the title song.

May 18, 2008

100 posts at Speaking Boricua!!

So I've been putting off posting for a few days, not just because I have been busy (which I have) but also because I realized I needed to write something for my 100th post!

I have to admit I'm pretty proud, seeing as I'm not sure I've done 100 of anything. I am not a very committed person, I suppose.

A few thoughts:

  • When you google Speaking Boricua the blog finally is... well, higher up than it was before. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but most of the google results are for a book also called "Speaking Boricua", with a guide to the weird words you find on the island. When I created the blog I didn't realize there was a book with that name--until I googled the blog after a few days and realized I was about two pages into google because of it. Point is, I actually got a copy of the book for Christmas (go figure), so no one can pretend I'm against them since I've contributed to their funds indirectly.
  • According to the web counter at the bottom of the page we've had 6,300 views, just about... On the other hand, I don't really take it too seriously, since I'm sure half of those are mine. But we have had about 3000 visits since late January according to that handy little map on the side of the page, with the most visitors from the East Coast (of the U.S.) and the island. Not bad.
  • The number of subscribers is consistently augmenting, with an average of 29 this week with a high of 34 Friday. Thanks guys!
  • The top searches landing people here are: Puerto Rico (not sure how since it gets 161 million hits on google...), Speaking Boricua, la Comay (apparently people love bochinche as much as I do), and then instruments and the like...
Some of the most popular posts include (besides the links above)...
Anyways... I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for reading. I know I've said it before but I really do care about Puerto Rico, and loving it so much is what makes me want everyone else to learn as well. So it means a lot to me to know there are people reading. Thanks, guys!

May 15, 2008

Upcoming Debates in the UN

So, I know I mentioned before that a few countries are going to the UN to present debates about Puerto Rico's colonial status. José Delgado's blog on El Nuevo Día has fortunately come in to fill in the gaps (since most newspapers don't really care enough to say anything). Here's what he has to say. It will be starting June 9th and will involve international as well as Puerto Rican politicians from all three major parties (including Aníbal).

On the other hand... it's really doubtful it will accomplish anything. But it might be interesting...

May 14, 2008

An exciting new step for Puerto Rico on the internet

I'm in the middle of a paper but I just had to pass along the news that one of my favorite blogs for keeping up on happenings on the island, Dondequiera, and the "real" website with a network of all the events, businesses, and just about everything involving Puerto Rico, DondeEs, have completely revamped their sites. They look great (although I might be biased, since those are my favorite colors) and the content is even better and more organized than ever. I really recommend it as a resource for anyone looking to get out around the island!

Hmm... perhaps it's time for a make-over here too...

Boricua en la Luna

Nothing to say right now, since I'm swamped with work, so I thought I would leave you all with this. Have a nice night...

May 12, 2008


Dominicans in Puerto Rico is probably a topic I'll return to later, since it's an important issue, but for now I wanted to share these two articles.

Apparently the numbers of Dominican illegal immigrants crossing into Puerto Rico through the Mona Pass (named for the tiny unpopulated Mona island off the West Coast of PR) has drastically lowered. I'm hoping it's for good reasons (improved economy?) than bad (more people getting caught?). Again... I'll deal with this later.

Second article is on baseball in the Dominican Republic. I chose to share it because, even though Puerto Ricans aren't quite this fanatical about baseball, it does give you an idea of the dedication involved. I (and a lot of other people) like to joke that the three sports of Puerto Rico are baseball, dominos, and politics. Har har. Anyways, the article is really interesting.

May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day! An ode to Puerto Rican mothers

Today being Mother's Day I thought I would take a moment to talk about Puerto Rican mothers and list their four most outstanding characteristics.

1. Puerto Rican mothers are bossy... in charge if you want to be polite about it. I would dare to say that there are very few mothers in the island who aren't completely in control of their household. And they should be proud.
I recently read a book called Muerte de un Murciano en la Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana) and there was a mother character nicknamed la Mandonísima, aka extra super bossy. I can't help it, she reminded me of a few mothers I know! Obviously they aren't nearly as bad as she is, but...!

2. Puerto Rican mothers are overprotective. Again, not always, but I always get a kick out of mothers telling their older children not to get near the water "just in case" or not letting them out in the rain because apparently getting wet makes you sick. Obviously it just shows how much they care... speaking of which...

3. Puerto Rican mothers are definitely overly affectionate! They are generally very physical with their kids and are always telling them they love them. I'm always impressed with how much love they have for their kids and the sacrifices they make for them.

4. Puerto Rican mothers are, above all, hard-working! A lot of mothers are the breadwinners for their family and will devote hours and more effort than seems humanly possible at work... then come home and make dinner!

These are all true of my best friend's mom, especially the hard-working part... I don't think I've ever seen someone work so hard (7 years without a vacation with a very full-time job!) and yet come home and do so much for her family. So this is for her. I know she's not going to read it, but I wanted everyone to know about the extraordinary women in this island I love so much. ¡Besitos pa' mi mami en la isla! Te quiero mucho...

May 10, 2008

Confusing Latin American Geographies

So, this isn't so relevant, I think, but it is kind of humorous. Watching some Italian singing contest show (we get Rai here... I know, I know, it's no good but it's the only thing we have in Italian and, like a surprising number of Puerto Ricans, my friend studies Italian, so we have it on frequently), they have on some Argentine... I think footballer player? Guess what he starts singing... that's right, Ricky Martin, then Celia Cruz, then some more Ricky Martin. Nevermind that this could be the least Argentine sounding music ever, Caribbean music does get imported all over the world. Sad, of course, that Argentina kind of ends up standing in for all of Latin America, which is most recognizable for salsa and Ricky Martin. That's not really a problem since it happens so much everyone's used to it.

A few performances later, they invite a couple on and they, as part of the contest, start dancing to Brazilian music, Sergio Mendes and a strange version of "Girl from Ipanema". Afterwards, they take a moment to talk to them, and that's when the girl reveals that they're not actually Brazilian but actually Venezuelan. What? Why? Did they really change her entire nationality, language, culture... just because she was Black? Lord knows Venezuelan music is closer to salsa than Argentine music.

Yes, world, there are Black people all over the Caribbean, not just the French/English/Dutch islands, not just the Hispanic islands (yes, including Puerto Rico), but also the continental land in Central and South America. Did you know that Mexico has a decent sized Black population? That there is a large group in Central America, los Garifuna, based on an ex-slave culture? And that there are even more Black people in Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela? I'm not going to pretend I can talk a lot about them, since I know much less about any of them than I do about Puerto Rico, and even that I'm still learning about every day. But at least I know they exist... and I'm not about to assume that the only Black people in Latin America are from Brazil, and then force them to pretend to represent it through song and dance.

... not that I'm going to make anyone dance, either. I'm just saying.

Point is, Spanish-speaking America is not just White and Indigenous peoples, and Brazil is not just Black people. They don't have the same cultures, much less the same music.

This isn't a rant directed at anyone--in fact, it's not a rant at all. Okay, maybe it is. But I know it's kind of futile because no one reading this really needs the message. Actually, let's run with that. THANK YOU for caring about a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean that everyone else seems to have forgotten about. It sounds silly but it really is beautiful to know someone cares. Thanks for not being ignorant. Thanks for wanting to learn and debate with me. It takes a rare kind of person to be legitimately interested in other cultures and, excuse the cheesiness, but I'm so proud.

See you tomorrow!

(By the way, in case you wondered: the performances were also horrifyingly bad. But amusing!)

Speaking with Facial Expressions

So early on in the creation of the blog I made a post about the Puerto Rican accent in Spanish. I've gotten a bit distracted from talking about language and how Puerto Ricans speak... not entirely, of course, but of course everything comes down to politics, so a fair part of the blog has been, for better or worse, dedicated to that. I think it's about time I returned to a language topic though.

Two gestures are essential to communicating with Puerto Ricans in Spanish. They are the bunny and the kiss!

By the bunny I'm referring to the little nose crinkle. It's used when you don't understand something (where you'd use "what?" instead normally). All it is is a quick wrinkle or two (or three, or...) of your nose, real fast and it's over. If someone doesn't notice you're doing, you repeat it again it's getting silly and then, if it's still not getting their attention, you can throw in a kind of indignant and accusatory "¡¿qué?!" ("what is it?!").

I've watched this move be used by Puerto Ricans on non-Puerto Ricans with a lot of frustration, as either the person doesn't see it, doesn't understand it, or starts making fun of it. My good friend, when she first moved to the U.S., kept unconsciously using it on everyone, without any success, until it got to the point where she gave up except on those who got it. Eventually I ended up doing it as well, and now I know how she feels, because every once in a while it'll come out and people just don't know how to react to it. But on the other hand, for those who get it, it saves time and is quite effective.

The second thing is the kiss... no, not really kissing, but rather pointing with lips. The motion is the same as if you were blowing an extremely fast kiss. Again, very usual gesture since it saves times (and potentially rude pointing... although I don't know if this would be much better, honestly).

The kissing I know is used in a variety of other cultures, although I'm under impression that the bunny thing is purely Puerto Rican--if it isn't, someone please let me know. And if anyone has some good stories about the confusion caused by this, share!

May 9, 2008

Cockfighting is Still Legal in Puerto Rico

Cockfighting, surprisingly, is still legal in Puerto Rico, even though it's illegal in the United States (including Louisiana as of late). Interestingly enough, it's legal in Guam as well--maybe it's a U.S. territory thing?

It's pretty cruel that this tradition continues, but it's still very popular in Puerto Rico. In many neighborhoods you can hear roosters crowing at all hours of the day, and most (although not all) are for cockfighting. I've met a few people with roosters and the amount of pride they have in raising their birds is astounding.

Anyways, I have two videos that can tell you a lot more than I can, and if you want the nitty-gritty here's the Humane Society's page.

May 8, 2008

Wild Animals!

Two more thoughts about yesterday's post.

One is about the Puerto Rican parrot, that little green fellow you've probably never seen because there are only 30 to 40 left in the wild. Apparently they're not just being affected by the environmental factors, like human encroachment on El Yunque, their main home, but also hurricanes. Of course, that wouldn't be half the problem if the population were a better size, but in the meanwhile it's a bit of a race to figure out if anything can be done to protect them before hurricane season starts again in a couple months!

The other thing is saving satos (mutts). Ever since the dog massacre incident last year, a lot of press and attention has fortunately spurred various movements taking care of many of the strays, most sent to the U.S. for adoption. Anyways, here are two blogs talking about the effort.

I really applaud their efforts, since anyone that's been on the island has seen all the dogs roaming around, some with owners but many without. I hope they have lots of luck.

And now a short, cheerful story... in the neighborhood I'm usually in when I visit, apparently a family living down the street had a stray dog get its head stuck in their fence in front of their house. They ended up having to destroy it to get the dog out (and as far as I can remember they hadn't fixed it yet...), and by the end of the process, even though they had hated dogs before, they decided to adopt him! Things have just gotten better from there.

May 7, 2008

A Green Puerto Rico? Recycling and Environmental Care (or lack of!)

I know this is another El Nuevo Día inspired post, but this is one of the most optimistic things I've seen on there in a while. There's an article about new efforts to found a trash collecting, recycling, and re-forestation program in Carolina, called Carolina Bella ("Beautiful Carolina").

For a place known as a natural paradise, Puerto Rico has a ridiculously bad track record with the environment. I don't know if and where there is much information on this, but I can tell you from personal experience that it's a non-issue for most of the people living there. Unfortunately in many areas there is trash everywhere and recycling basically doesn't exist.

I have a friend who got a temporary job over the summer with the government in which she had to go from house to house surveying people about recycling. She told me, sounding more than a bit frustrated, that over the course of several days not a single person had expressed interest in recycling. Not only that, but some people actually started explaining why they opposed recycling and how they would much rather just throw everything away, even if the government provided bins for recycling and pickup every week. She then started to wonder why it was that people were so stubbornly against it, without coming up with an answer.

If I had to take a stab, I would say that a lot of Puerto Ricans are very comfortable in an exaggerated imitation of American lifestyle--SUV, cable television, and piles of garbage included. In their minds, any change, no matter how small, suggests a threat to all of this, which honestly many families have worked very hard to obtain. This doesn't mean that a change in this mentality is unreachable, just that it may be more difficult to achieve. I don't know what other reasoning would be behind this. Any guesses? I'd be interested in hearing some different opinions.

Anyways, good for Carolina, making change. While Carolina is one of the richest municipalities on the island, hopefully others will find the funds and ambition to follow and more emphasis can finally be placed on the land's most important resource.

Please, if you have any, share ideas for what could stimulate change in Puerto Rico's relation with the environment, since I know this is a hot topic for bloggers. Thoughts?

El Día de Soy Americano - A Brief History of American Citizenship in Puerto Rico

So apparently the Puerto Rican legislature is trying to get a(nother) holiday celebrating American citizenship added to the calendar (for May 20th). Well, technically, it already existed, but they're reviving it. The other holiday celebrating American citizenship is March 2nd, "el Día de la Ciudadanía Americana", in case you were wondering.

El proyecto de ley indica que el 20 de mayo los puertorriqueños deberán “rendir tributo, observar y conmemorar públicamente la ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos”. Ins[is]ta, además, a las organizaciones patrióticas, cívicas y educativas a que hagan lo mismo.
The bill indicates that on the 20th of May, Puerto Ricans should "render tribute, observe and publicly commemorate United States citizenship". It also insists that patriotic, civil, and educational organizations do the same.

I do agree with a lot of the comments left behind by readers saying it seems like a waste of funds and legislative action (although what isn't...), however, it does also raise the question of the appropriateness of celebrating American citizenship.

American citizenship is a heavily contested issue. Most people don't realize that American citizenship was indeed imposed upon Puerto Rico with the Jones Act. While it was in a sense a "gift", as in it was optional, for all practical purposes it was mandatory, since anyone who didn't have it was sentenced to unemployment (after the switch American citizenship was required for jobs). So, although there were surely many dissenters (although there were many people excited about it as well, let's not forget), only a few hundred Puerto Ricans decided not to immediately become American citizens, about 400 if I remember correctly. This was 1917, after nearly 20 years under the United States.

Luis Muñoz Rivera, grandfather of Puerto Rican politics and father of an equally famous politician, Luis Muñoz Marín, the one who came up with the holiday being discussed now (and for whom the airport is named), left us with a quote that still is as thought-provoking for Puerto Rico today as it was in 1909 when he spoke to Congress:

If you wish to make us citizens of an inferior class--if we cannot be one of your States; if we cannot constitute a country of our own then we will have to be perpetually a colony, a dependency of the United States. Is that the kind of citizenship you offer us? Then, that is the citizenship we refuse.
The next large challenge to this setup comes from Juan Mari Brás in 1994, when he renounces his American citizenship in Venezuela in favor of a Puerto Rican citizenship. Because of the rules involved in renouncing citizenship, he would have to be deported to his birthplace, and yet he had just refused it. Therefore, in Puerto Rico he was both legally forced to be there and yet illegally in a land he wasn't a citizen of, a strange situation indeed. To add to the confusion, in 2005 the Puerto Rican State Department (finally?) awarded him with "Puerto Rican citizenship", which technically doesn't exist and is something that still hasn't been resolved with the U.S. government.

Anyways, history aside, what's most disconcerting to me is the need to celebrate American citizenship. Not that I think most people waste time and money celebrating, because I can't imagine they do (although I don't know, I've never been around for either of the dates). And I do think that Puerto Ricans benefit a lot from being American citizens, the many examples of which I don't think I need to recount here. But by making an official holiday it's kind of paying tribute to the colonial dependence and second class citizenship that Muñoz Rivera brought up a hundred years ago. After all, Puerto Ricans are Americans that are not protected by the Constitution; they can be drafted and yet have no vote in Congress to declare war; they have their own government but the U.S. has complete, if underabused, control over its every action. Statutory citizenship leaves Puerto Ricans in a strange place, where they are both the same and yet different from their fellow Americans.

I say, if Puerto Ricans want to celebrate American citizenship, let them celebrate it on July 4th with all the other Americans, as equals. There's no sense in celebrating inferiority.

May 4, 2008

A night with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra

So, I know it's been a while (papers and illness have taken me down) but I do have exciting things to share! First though, I have to say that tonight I went to go see the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. I know, perhaps it seems strange for those of you paying attention, I pathologically avoid Nuyorican things, not because they're not of quality, since they are, just that Puerto Ricans and Nuyoricans are two different groups of people and I can only stretch myself so far! I guess that'll be something else for me to explore later on... not that I could learn everything there is to know about Puerto Rico, of course.

Spanish Harlem Orchestra is a world-famous, Grammy-winning salsa group. And Spanish Harlem, in case you didn't know, is a barrio in New York that is filled with descendants of all the Puerto Rican immigrants (among others). It's a birthplace of many creative movements just as its sister district, Harlem, was for the Black community there a few decades before. Combined you should get some pretty damn good music. And we did.

Point is I went to this concert sitting front row right in the center! So we got lots of attention from the group, including kisses from the singers. What can I say, I'm adorable.

Afterwards my close Puerto Rican friend went to talk to the trumpeter about his last name--they both share the same, kind of rare apellido. They started comparing family trees, found nothing in common, decided they were family anyways and embraced each other. It was cute and very Puerto Rican. At least I think so... I hate to try to force the family-closeness and hospitality stereotypes on them, since I know plenty of people that definitely don't match that (sorry but it's true!), but I did see a genuine sense of that tonight and I found it kind of touching.

Actually, in general everyone in the band was incredibly friendly and they all had lots of character. And of course, the music was great. Very "clean" and professional, and by the end everyone was shouting for an encore (which we got). Basically, if you have a chance to see them, go. And if you have a chance to go to any salsa concert at all, go!!