February 22, 2009

Nación nómada - Nomad Nation

El Nuevo Día has got an interesting article up at the moment about Puerto Rican migration. Today's level could potentially overcome that of the 40's and 50's--which wouldn't surprise me one bit. With the economy of the moment hitting Puerto Rico even harder than it is the U.S., I'm sure we could easy reach unprecedented levels of migration soon. This migration wave is very different though, as the article points out. Skilled, educated workers are unable to find jobs on the island and are accepting offers on the mainland instead. Worth reading.

February 16, 2009

Word of the Week: El Difícil, and Puerto Rico does not speak English

Sometimes it seems near impossible to find people who won't speak to you in English on the island: one tiny whiff of gringo-ness and you may find yourself having to explain in your native tongue* that no, you don't know their second cousin living in the state adjacent to yours. But the truth is that plenty of people of don't speak English well on the island. I was particularly interested in this article which claims that an entire 137 potential jury members couldn't serve in the jury for the famous Aníbal case (still ongoing, of course) because their English wasn't at an appropriate level.

They make some interesting points in the article, mostly because they start drifting into politics in a way they normally avoid. Honestly it reads more like something I'd write than something produced by El Nuevo Día based on the positions they take, surprisingly.

La mayoría de los que saben inglés en el país pertenecen a la clase media y alta, mientras que la inmensa mayoría del país es de la clase pobre, subrayó el antropólogo Jorge Duany.

“La distribución de las destrezas lingüísticas en inglés está mal distribuida, la mayoría de las personas que lo hablan vienen de escuelas privadas, donde se enseña inglés como único idioma. Esto crea un discrimen por razón de clase, porque sólo la clase media y alta pueden pagar por el colegio donde enseñan en inglés”, expresó Duany.

Las razones que explican el escaso dominio del inglés en la Isla incluyen las deficiencias en la enseñanza pública; la poca migración de estadounidenses hacia la Isla, distinto de Texas y Hawai, donde el inglés no es la lengua original; y que en la vida cotidiana en Puerto Rico no hace falta inglés, dijo Duany. Además, en Puerto Rico ha habido una resistencia lingüística, porque en la primera mitad del siglo XX se trató de imponer el inglés como idioma de enseñanza.

“El español se ha visto como un símbolo de la identidad puertorriqueña”, dijo Duany.

The majority of those who speak English in Puerto Rico belong to the upper and middle classes, while the country is mostly comprised of the lower class, emphasized the anthropologist Jorge Duany.

"The distribution of linguistic skills isn't even; the majority of people who speak [English] come from private schools, where English is taught as the only language [as in all the classes are taught in English]. This creates class discrimination, because only upper and middle classes can pay for schools that teach in English," Duany expressed.

The reasons for scarcity of the command of English on the island include deficiencies in public education; the lack of American migration to the island, unlike Texas and Hawaii, where English is also not the original language; and that English isn't necessary for daily life in Puerto Rico, said Duany. Additionally, there has been a linguistic resistance in Puerto Rico because in the first half of the 20th century the U.S. attempted to impose English as the language of all education on the island.

"Spanish has been seen as a symbol of Puerto Rican identity," said Duany.

Along with this point the scholar Jorge Duany makes (shoddily translated by yours truly--although to be fair some of the writing wasn't too great), I'd like to point out something in the title--"el difícil".

El difícil (literally "the difficult one") is a Puerto Rican term coined to describe English. I think the term is very telling, especially in this context: while no other countries have similar nicknames for English (as far as I know; fill me in if you know anything), Puerto Rico, due to its uneasy and persistent relationship with English, has nicknamed it in a way that reflects its position as an obstacle, rather than a method of ascension (professionally, socially, politically, or otherwise)--while it can be used that way, more often than not it isn't.

Anyways... I'm not really sure where I'm going with this and it's getting a little longer than I'd like, so I'll cut it off here. Comments, criticisms, and the like are, as always, welcome.

* This occasionally happens to Puerto Ricans as well if they happen to seem like gringos for whatever reason, despite having lived their whole lives on the island. So don't take it too hard if it happens to you.

February 11, 2009

Pretty much the most ridiculous thing I've seen all day

This one really takes the cake: Mayagüez politicians are suggesting funding a search for sunken treasure in order to pay for the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. Now I understand the importance of hosting this, but the chances of them pulling this off are slim. I mean, come on now!

February 10, 2009

A triumphant return and disheartening news

Well, I'm back. Perhaps reluctantly... I was in Ecuador all this time and had a great time. It was impressive how many times I got questioned about the accent ("Where are you from, exactly?" or better yet, "How come you look like a complete gringa but you have this crazy accent? What's that about?"). I must admit though that the fruit is significantly better in Puerto Rico, even if it was good in Ecuador; I noticed a huge difference with papaya and mango especially.

I'm updating for a more somber reason, however. I was shocked to see Puerto Rico make the front page of the news the other day; I was even more shocked to find out why. As most people probably know, a 6-person plane coming from the Dominican Republic crashed into the ocean near Quebradillas. Of course as soon as the victims' names were revealed, showing (I believe) all of them to be Puerto Rican, the news disappeared. I'm not really sure this is a coincidence. Anyways, they've just decided to suspend the search today, since it has been so far fruitless. Many sympathies to the families of the victims for their losses.