George Torres, the Urban Jibaro from #NYC
This week we talk to George Torres, to discuss his activism and his community work in Puerto Rico. George is truly an amazing community activist. He shares interesting stories around identity, in the way that Hurricane Maria brought a shift in how Boricuas in Puerto Rico view Boricuas in the US. We also talk about protecting our food supplies, food sustainability, water sovereignty, mental health, and many other issues affecting the people of Boriken.
By using his platform to raise up the issues affecting Puerto Rico, he is showing up for PR. He hopes that by helping to provide opportunities, and bridging people that are helping in the recovery, then we can work to build a better future for PR.
Using a frame of capacity building, George is hoping that he can support a true #JustRecovery for Puerto Rico… one in which Boricuas themselves get to choose their future.
His Advice to the Diaspora: Use your skills and experience to Help Puerto Rico and Adopt a town that needs your support. And importantly: Don’t colonize the recovery efforts by imposing your thoughts or beliefs for how things should go.
The articles mentioned at the start of the episode can be found below:
- Donations found 11 months after they were sent to PR:
- Puerto Rico Government acknowledges new death count:
A Puerto Rican Healthcare Tech Company #AbartysHealth
In this week’s episode I interview two amazing women in Puerto Rico who started a Healthcare Tech company called Abartys Health … and about the impact of Hurricane Maria on the accessibility of healthcare data. Thank you Dolmarie Mendez and Lauren Casio for spending time with me!
We chat about some really interesting topics such as patient outcomes, data accessibility, health portability, access to provider networks and data quality.
However we also talk about what it means to be a woman in this industry and the “thick skin” that needs to be cultivated in order to push through negativity and bias. While we’re all working to end bias in our society, their message of using the negative to “create a better product” was inspiring. I’m excited to see them grow and look forward to hearing more from them in the future!
At the start of the episode, I also share the following news/articles for the Diaspora – please read and share:
- Study released in the past week on the Death’s related to Hurricane Maria:
- Puerto Rico Syllabus: A website that provides a list of resources for teaching and learning on the debt crisis in Puerto Rico. They highlight how the crisis and solutions are impacting the lives of Puerto Ricans everywhere. Their goals:
- To understand how the contemporary Puerto Rican debt crisis has its roots in the colonial and capitalist relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States
- To show how the debt crisis is affecting the lives of millions of Puerto Ricans in the territory and the diaspora.
- To provide examples of Puerto Rican groups organizing against the austerity measures being imposed upon them by Washington and Wall Street.
- Contact them: PRSyllabus@gmail.com or Facebook
- Project Leaders: Yarimar Bonilla, Marisol LeBrón, Sarah Molinari, Isabel Guzzardo Tamargo
- Natural Reserves in Puerto Rico:
This week’s interview is very exciting because I got to talk to Melissa M Viverito who was Speaker of the New York City council and now is working on many exciting projects for Puerto Rico and Latinos.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico and a fierce defender of the island, she talks about using her platform to raise awareness, and initiate action in government so that we can elevate the voices of the Puerto Ricans on the island.
We talk about the work she’s doing with the Latino Victory Fund, to increase Latino Representation in government and I immediately signed up to help on 2 campaigns in MA. It is so important to realize how our representation is needed and makes a difference.
We also about the important work with Power4PuertoRico:
#Power4PuertoRico is a coalition of organizations, leaders, and advocates from across the nation working together to address the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria through advocacy, strategic communications, and direct mobilization. We are calling on Congress and the Administration to adopt an ambitious, new agenda that will put Puerto Rico’s economy on the road to future growth and prosperity. We are building lasting power for Puerto Rico and the diaspora.
She also provides a scathing criticism on the way that the federal and local governments have addressed the needs of Puerto Ricans which I found really eloquent and important for all Americans to hear.
I’m proud of Melissa and her advocacy- and hope she inspires others to raise their voice for Puerto Rico too and get involved. We have a lot of work to do!
Articles mentioned in this podcast can be found below:
Te Conozco Bacalao aunque Vengas Disfrazao- Phillip Arroyo Opinion Piece: https://www.univision.com/noticias/opinion/te-conozco-bacalao-aunque-vengas-disfrazao
The Washington Post Article about Boricuas in Florida registering to Vote:
My American friends are shocked that the status of Puerto Rico is a controversial topic among the residents of Puerto Rico.
“But of course Puerto Rico should be a state – they should join our American Family” and
“It’s an injustice that Puerto Rico is treated differently, they should have the same rights as every other citizen in the US”
Even Puerto Ricans say that the dialogue is done – because the people of Puerto Rico voted for statehood. But the 97% in favor of statehood were only 20% of the population that went out to vote. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/11/us/puerto-ricans-vote-on-the-question-of-statehood.html?_r=0
Other referendums have also been split but have left most on the island feeling disillusioned because in the end … nothing happens in Congress.
As communities in Puerto Rico continue to lead the recovery and the discussion on how colonialism has affected them, we are all asking ourselves what the decolonization of Puerto Rico looks like…
What does it mean to be free in Puerto Rico?
This week we discuss the need for a Social Movement, one that’s non-partisan, and one that fully addresses what colonialism is and how it affects the psyche of Puerto Ricans. Efrain Vasquez Vera joins us to talk about their movement called MAP: Puerto Rican Movement in Action (Movimiento de Accion Puertorriquena). This is the first conversation I’ve had and hope to have many more with others on the island.
We need these perspectives to shine light not just on what needs to be done to decolonize, but also how to focus and elevate the voices Puerto Ricans… rather than impose our views on the island in the way that takes away their ability to self-determination.
Recently – there was a video released of the crypto-millionnaire’s meeting with locals on the island and the most impactful piece was that they stated that locals will have to accept them whether they like it or not, because it’s for their best interest.
Puerto Ricans have heard this again and again. The naked discrimination of that phrase shows us that even today… Puerto Ricans are being told they cannot choose for themselves.
This is a critical public health issue because colonialism created the high poverty rates we see in Puerto Rico.
Colonialism is really a macro-determinant of health, and it’s been a ignored far too long. And unless we stand behind Puerto Ricans- demanding that they be provided a forum to decolonize by negotiating the incredibly discriminatory policies that affect them, and vote in a fair and unbiased way… Puerto Ricans will continue to be colonized, de-humanized and stripped of their dignity.
So I ask every American… Puerto Ricans have been waiting 120 years for you to start this dialogue… don’t let them down.
Let’s pay attention to the ways that we can help bring about a true #JustRecovery and find the real meaning of #SocialJustice.
This story was not easy to recount, so I have to thank my guest Noris for sharing a difficult conversation about her mom’s application to FEMA.
It all began with a search bar, where Noris typed out but could not find her mother’s property on FEMA’s map. Reeling from the aftermath of the Hurricane and immediate needs of her mother who is diabetic, she eventually gave up trying to convince the skeptical FEMA officials on the phone that she was NOT trying to scam them.
There are stories of property titles not being provided with the application – and FEMA rejected those claims, but in this case – Noris could not even submit the claim for her mother. Every aspect of the FEMA response has been horrific to us in the Diaspora but even more so for the many who live with leaking roofs and children that wonder why the lights haven’t come on. NBC recently covered FEMA’s denial of applications and the Washington Post covered FEMA admitting failure in Puerto Rico.
This isn’t a story with a happy ending… but it is the story of a people that know we have to fight to be heard. Please share this story and follow the movement to decolonize Puerto Rico, and right a wrong that spans centuries. Next Monday, we share more on the movement.
Let’s tell the world that we deserve to be treated equally, not because of a citizenship that was imposed in order to fight in the wars of others… but because we are human and this suffering is yours too.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere” – MLK
This week we follow up on the Mental Health conversation with Dr. Vanessa Torres Llenza from George Washington University who is a psychiatrist with an organization called “Crear Con Salud” that she helped start. They lead mental health workshops in Puerto Rico and our discussion uncovers some interesting insights into what helps people cope with the effects of a natural Disaster. As we continue covering the mental health crisis in Puerto Rico, together let’s support these Boricuas that are doing the work on the ground by donating and sharing their important work! Listen to the episode and learn about how mental health workshops contribute to community health.
Donate to Crear Con Salud here!
And Follow them and share their Facebook Page here!
Staff of Crear Con Salud:
- VANESSA TORRES LLENZA MD
- HECTOR COLON-RIVERA MD CMRO
- CARISSA CABAN ALEMAN MD
- DIMAS TIRADO-MORALES MD
- AURALYD PADILLA CANDELARIO MD
About the Organization:
We are a non-profit organization founded by a group of Puerto Rican psychiatrists living and practicing in the United States. We are committed to Puerto Rico’s mental health and with the mission of fostering efforts that strengthen the island’s mental health services and workforce. In 2014 we started by organizing yearly mental health awareness tours in which we traveled to Puerto Rico to motivate students to pursue medical and mental health careers. Then we arranged community activities, workshops and interdisciplinary forums to educate and motivate communities and students and to share ideas with our peers practicing in Puerto Rico about how to improve and strengthen the island’s mental health care system.
The Five topics they include in their Mental Health Workshops:
- Psychological Effects of a Disaster
And something I learned about recently was a EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program that will be offering trauma training (for licensed mental health professionals) in San Juan on August 10th!
Please share this important training that can be found here: https://www.emdrhap.org/content/event-registration-form/?eventID=1414
- The Puerto Rico Hotline/Linea Pas is 1800-981-0023
- AMSCA in Puerto Rico can be found here
- Hospital Panamericano: Outpatient Mental health option
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call 911.
This week’s episode, we cover three notable Puerto Rican Community Leaders, that were panelists in an event in Boston, MA on June 28.
The Community Leaders talk about their work after Maria, the call to Audit the Debt, and the revolution that Puerto Rico needs to fight the injustice of colonialism. Their thought-provoking discussion is a call to us in the Diaspora to stand up for the rights of Puerto Ricans.
I was encouraged by their hard work, their advocacy, and their encouragement to fight for Social Justice.
Towards the end of the event, we also hear from an audience member who notes that the local Governor stated removal of the Jones Act was “complicated” – and the audience member notes that Senator Corey Booker from New Jersey, receives donations from the shipping Unions that directly benefit from the Jones Act. It is clear from the discussion among diasporicans that we want to mobilize and organize to find ways to bring these types of barriers to light. Corey Booker’s Twitter is @CoryBooker – let’s ask him to stand by Puerto Ricans, and continue to call out our representatives here in the US.
Another question by the audience was regarding which political party can best address the issues Puerto Rico is seeing. The response from the panel highlights that the political class only advocates for Colonialism, and are essentially, a single party system. Predatory practices also were discussed, and therefore the need to audit the debt, since it seems the Puerto Rican government cannot be trusted.
“We lack leadership on the island with credibility”
I also share my story as well – and the names of two organizations that are working to empower Boricuas in the Diaspora about how they can engage their elected officials:
The event was hosted by Inquilinos Boricuas En Accion, a non profit dedicated to address displacement of low-income families due to urban development. Their mission is to empower and engage individuals/Families through high-quality affordable housing, education, and arts program.
You can find more info on IBA here: http://www.ibaboston.org/who-we-are/
WBUR reporter Simon Rios moderated the event, and more information on the panelists can be found below:
- Boricua Care Packages Project – podcast
- GoFundMe for Boricua Care Packages
- YouTube Video about Boricua Care Package Project
- For more info – search “Boricua Care Package Project” on Facebook
- Cidra Fundraiser/GofundMe
- YouTube Update From Puerto Rico
- Local Article about Donations trip
- Egleston Square Facebook page
- The Boston Foundation creation of the MA United For Puerto Rico Fund
- Organizations mentioned: Taller Salud (Facebook), PECES (Facebook), Casa Pueblo(Facebook), Projecto Matria (Facebook), Projecto Enlaces (Facebook)
Please watch the performance photojournalism done on Hurricane Maria below which was showcased by IBA in their Gallery Center:
This episode will be a bit of a surprise for some of you! Listen in to see why!
Art is a powerful way to heal, as well as an important tool for addressing social issues. Two theatre artists, Eury and Zuleira, from the island join us to speak about their initiatives since Hurricane Maria, giving us hope and showing me that indeed our culture is rich in it’s own distinct music and art. Their collective’s name is Vueltabajo Sitio.
“Vueltabajo is a collective of transdisciplinary artists that adopts its name with the initiative to enable and activate a space for research and artistic training focused on theater as a medium. We provide networks, collaborations, presentations and community. Theater is our tool.”
I hope you’ll give it a listen but definitely donate and support these amazing artists and groups that are seeking ways to transform public spaces for their community. They truly inspired me and I was honored to be able to have them on this podcast!
The group’s webpage: http://www.vueltabajositio.com
Their Podcast episodes can be found on YouTube here:
The group’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/colectivovueltabajo/
You can also just donate via paypal by using this email email@example.com
This week’s episode is on stigma, suicide and the actions we can take to help amidst the mental health crisis in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, as the crisis deepened we heard stories of loss, we heard that suicide hotline calls more than doubled, and saw our loved ones experiencing so much anxiety and stress.
We in the diaspora and in Puerto Rico have seen those we love change.
We ourselves have changed… there’s a fragility and vulnerability in what we experienced. But to talk about our feelings is not easy and in this episode we discuss the stigma as it relates to Puerto Rican Culture as well as ways to combat stigma.
Our guest this week is Dr. Ruben Piñero Fuentes. A good friend of mine who is a psychiatrist and was gracious enough to share his story after Maria and also the current status of mental Health in Puerto Rico through accounts of friends on the island who practice. We discuss Disaster Psychiatry as well and the surprisingly easy thing we can do to help those experiencing depression, anxiety, PTSD or other related issue.
We also discuss religion and the role that many religious leaders play in getting their community help. We know that mental health is not easy to talk about but we hope this discussion helps you initiate that first small step towards self care, mindfulness, and treating your mental health the same way you would any other illness.
We invite you to share this episode with those you care about and take a minute to check in with yourself as well.
The Puerto Rican hotline for those on the island is: 1-800-981-0023
The National Prevention Hotline can be found: 1-800-273-8255
For more information and resources, go to this website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
This subpage covers resources for disaster survivors too so check it out: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/disaster-survivors/
For anyone who is curious, as I was, about the literature on Disaster Psychiatry – you can check out this article:
As always – share this episode and follow us on Facebook / Instagram / and Twitter.
Also share these 2 resources for those wishing to advocate for Puerto Rico:
A Call to Action for Every American, and every child of the Puerto Rican Diaspora
Today we are releasing a Call to Action for all Americans and Boricuas in the Diaspora, and their advocates.
The Diaspora has been critical at combating contracts or policies that would cause irreparable harm to the Puerto Ricans on the island. Take #Whitefish and the temporary lifting of the #JonesAct
We need your attention and your action on an issue that involves 1.5 Billion dollars in funding going to Puerto Rico for housing disaster relief: The Housing Plan for use of Federal Funds created by the local government.
Please share the information and pictures provided below and use the Call to Action Template to discuss with your local representatives why we should be concerned over the Housing Plan’s imminent approval.
This is a critical moment that we cannot ignore or wait on. Please join me in sharing this important interview with David Carrasquillo from the Puerto Rican Planning Society (SPP).
HUD is about to approve a plan of 1.5 billion dollars that does not address the actual communities impacted.
The Deputy Secretary of HUD admitted she did not read the Housing Plan during a meeting but said they will approve it anyway. Again, we see that Puerto Ricans are treated in a discriminatory manner, being told that their input is needed but then their input and public comments are not used to revise the plan.
The issues in the Plan identified by the Puerto Rican Planning Society are as follows:
- No link is established between the money to be allocated and the communities worst affected by the hurricanes (which are also not identified);
- It is based on a process of public hearings that did not engage the relevant communities/stakeholderse;
- The plan opens the possibility for closed-door decision-making processes and corruption;
- It is characterized by a vision to create more or newer development without taking into account the overwhelming amount of abandoned properties on the island;
- Adds programs to use funds outside the amount indicated for the assignment;
- Does not use official information collected by FEMA to estimate non-covered needs;
- It does not take into consideration recommendations from civil society groups that were commissioned to generate reports and recommendations for the development of the Plan;
- Does not take into consideration the local public policy on planning issues such as: the Land Use Plan (PUT), the Municipal Plans for Territorial Planning (POTs), the Multi-hazard Mitigation Plans, the Adaptation Plans to Climate Change , among others;
- It does not recognize rights to the people affected by the Plan’s proposals, especially the persons and communities with potential to be displaced;
- Does not comply with the law regarding the role of licensed professional planners in the development of the document.
This could have very tangible impacts on which communities will actually receive the Block Grants or how much of it they receive. We need to make some noise.
This is the Housing Action plan that was released for public comment (Note: there is no plan to even consider the public comments that were already submitted by the May 25th Deadline):
The Puerto Rican Planning Society released the above points on FB in Spanish and they can be found here
Call to Action Template
When I was a little girl visiting family in Puerto Rico, one of my favorite things was all the local food and products. The memory of waking up in the morning, with the aroma of abuelito’s coffee and pan sobao still brings a smile to my face. With the continuing migration of many Boricuas to the US and after Hurricane Maria, all of us in the Diaspora have felt a desire to find these products and also contribute to the local economy.
In this latest episode of Boriken Podcast I wanted to invite Alan Taveras, the co-founder of Brands of Puerto Rico to tell us about his journey to bring Puerto Rican Products to the world.
The conversation is an important one, because we discuss not just how we in the Diaspora can be part of the movement to buy locally, but also address a cultural barrier that Boricuas have faced for centuries. We discuss how the colonial status has permeated the cultural consciousness, and how awareness can be a powerful first step towards a free Boriken.
I was certainly inspired by the mission of Brands to empower small businesses in Puerto Rico to believe in their brand and products. I hope more local products make it out to us in the Diaspora!
To buy local products from Brands of Puerto Rico follow this link.
You can follow Alan on twitter @AlanTavares2
You can also follow Brands of Puerto Rico on:
De Puerto Rico para la Diaspora:
A reporter in Puerto Rico provides us an insightful look into current news in Puerto Rico.
We chat about the migration due to the economic recession, including the Housing Crisis Report by Centro for Puerto Rican Studies released just a few days ago. We also talk the role of the Diaspora in Puerto Rico’s future, including what events are happening in Puerto Rico right now that they should know about and should stay informed on.
She also shares her experience being on the only radio station that was still live after the Hurricane, and you don’t want to miss her stories. I asked her whether there have been improvements to communications to prepare for this hurricane season, and she provides insights there as well.
Three things that Sandra recommends the Diaspora focus on currently happening are:
- Ley 80: a law that protects workers from unjustified dismissal/firing facing repeal by the local Government
- School Closures in Puerto Rico and how it will affect families and children on the island
- FEMA: Delay of payment and services, especially the recent news that over 60% of applications were denied by FEMA
Other issues discussed are the number of dentists that have left the island; some towns lack any dentist at all. Mortgage foreclosures are also another topic that she recommends you follow. With regard to the debt she mentioned local bondholders are losing a lot of money and most of the people that loaned the government money are being very affected by not getting paid. Other interesting things points she brought up: That most jobs are created by the government and not private sector. That the last election had 6 candidates so the current governor won with about 40% of the vote.
But we spoke about what gives her hope and what she sees as the reasons Puerto Rico has a chance to rise above the challenges.
Her Noticel Column can be found here
The links discussed at the end of the interview can be found below:
- CNN Webpage to help determine cause of death after Hurricane Maria
- FEMA rejects 60% of Requests for assistance in Puerto Rico
- Latest News on CNN and CPI findings regarding mortality rate in PR
- Nonprofit Abre tu Escuela that puts out data on Schools in Puerto Rico
- Adrian Florida Twitter Thread on School closures
Data on mortality after a natural disaster is critical to providing pubic officials and others the information necessary to help communities in distress and focus efforts and personnel. This episode will provide insight into the first study after Maria that sought to bring clarity into what really happened even as the local government continued to insist the death count was low. Alexis Santos joins us to discuss his study and also his perspective on what the recent study by Harvard School of Public Health found. To hear more and follow Alexis you can follow him on Twitter at @AppDemography. Please read his most recent article as well, on his survey of Puerto Ricans regarding quality of information being provided to them – you can find it here.
Alexis has also been on a few other podcasts providing more perspective – so check those out as well!
After this episode was recorded, the death certificates were finally released to journalists for investigation into the number of deaths after Hurricane Maria. More info here in this CNN article. And the Centro for Investigative Journalism also published a story yesterday on the data they received – more info here.
For those who wish to stay tuned into that story please follow these people on twitter:
@cpipr @Omayasosa @jdsutter
Puerto Rico is experiencing a public health crisis and thousands on the island are still struggling without power.
This episode will be an overview of what this podcast is all about and will touch on recent news as well. For example, I discuss the study by the Harvard T. Chan School of Public health which reviewed excess deaths that occurred after Hurricane Maria, and a video that came out in the past week on the transport of cadavers in vehicles that were not approved for that purpose.
From Puerto Rico to Boston and all across the US, the Diaspora is fighting for the rights and dignity of all Boricuas.
DISCLAIMER: The first episode was recorded in multiple places from Puerto Rico! So some background noise and editing was necessary but for our next episode we’ll have a special guest so don’t miss it!
For all the important links and info from Episode 1 click here!
June 1, 2018 | Episode one out soon!
Fighting for our Island
Welcome to the first podcast dedicated to looking at the issues affecting the island through a public health lens.
After Hurricane Maria, I returned to Puerto Rico to bury someone I loved… in his memory and for all those lost to us… I dedicate this Podcast.
The Mission of this Podcast:
To Inform on the social, political, & economic factors that impact Boricuas everywhere.
To help Organize and be a sounding board for organizations in the US and Borikén that are making a difference.
To Mobilize the Diaspora and provide visibility into the issues, especially those not shared in the media.
The Purpose of this Podcast is to ask *how* we can all be a part of building a better future for our people?
Stay tuned for the first Episode coming soon….