November 10, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 24  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

Community Health and the Young Lords: Ivelyse Andino Interview

This week – I’m excited to share a conversation about focused on what it means to engage with your community. I chat with someone from a Social Impact organization about health in communities, as well as the history and work of the Young Lords/Black Panthers in public health.

Ivelyse Andino was a wonderful guest and provided some interesting insight into how we can use the power of the community to better the health of our people. She is the founder and CEO of Radical Health – the first #Latina-owned B-Corporation in NYC.

What struck me as we chatted was that she is part of a radical movement that has been around for some time, and the more we discuss these radical solutions, it will revolutionize the health of our neighbors and ourselves.

I was also really happy to hear that Ivelyse was so excited to meet another Boricua involved in #Healthcare #technology and who also explores the #SocialDeterminants of Health. Her advice to the rest of us in the Diaspora: Don’t stop learning about the Puerto Rican history and how you can keep building up the Puerto Rican community and connecting to the networks near you.

As Ivelyse says: “The beauty when we can come together” and take part in building up our people.

Don’t miss out on this important chat and share it. We love hearing from you and learning what you enjoyed about the podcast and what we can do to make it even better. []

Ivelyse Andino Bio:

Radical Health Social Media:

PBS Article on the Young Lords:


“Radical Health is a minority – women owned, social impact organization.

We started with a crazy idea – What if people – doctors, nurses, neighbors, family caretakers, got together without an agenda or any pretense and began talking about a way we can change health as we know it? Through these conversations Radical Health was formed. Radical Health turns the paradigm of top-down medical treatment on its head by activating  community members to become engaged partners in health care and to become change agents in addressing disparities in their neighborhoods.

The US healthcare system is broken. We spend $3T annually in clinical care to solely provide “sick care”.  Minorities and other historically marginalized populations, are disproportionately affected by health disparities, resulting in higher hospitalization rates,  lower life expectancy and over $60B in lost productivity annually.  Radical Health mobilizes  those from marginalized demographics such as LGBTQI, formerly incarcerated, undocumented immigrants,  and disabled populations to leverage their lived experience to impact health disparities, build community and generate supplemental income.

Radical Health mobilizes those suffering from health disparities to become agents of change in promoting health, thereby shifting knowledge, power, and resources to those who are most in need.

Radical Health is leading the transformation from a paternalistic, “systems know best” paradigm, to a community-driven approach where engaged and motivated community members influence the delivery of health care.  These are network of people not just invested in their own wellbeing, but in that of the community. Through our community-based approach we build out the networks and relationships that impact health outcomes which allows for enhanced provider – patient experiences and reductions in unnecessary ER visits. As a result, we see related impacts in education and public safety, and ultimately a flourishing economy. Our radical approach redefines the status quo and creates pathways to meaningful employment, community strengthening, and re-investment of funding to the people through health and technology.

We know that the task ahead of us is not an easy one, but we believe in the power of community – collaborating to create change. We invite you to share with us your thoughts on what Radical Health means to you. Sign up to be a part of the movement. Share with a friend. Partner with Radical Health to start a project in your community. Together, we can make a difference.”

November 4, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 23  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

Why we vote: #PuertoRicans and the #November6 #Elections

This week I invited my friend Stephanie Belk Prats to have a conversation with me about the upcoming elections.

Stephanie is a writer and strategist who completed her MFA at The New School in New York City. We met up and recorded our thoughts on the way Puerto Ricans are portrayed in the Media around these Elections, and specifically the narrative about those displaced by Hurricane Maria.

We want to give a shout out to Vamos4PR and BoricuActivated, two Puerto Rican Organizations in Florida who are working hard to ensure that those who can, actually  do vote on Tuesday. We hope all that were displaced can go vote… but though we are a community that suffered this Trauma together, it does merit mentioning that those displaced by Maria deserve dignity in the way they are addressed and the way they are mentioned in the Media. We hope you enjoy this conversation and I will certainly post a follow up episode with reactions on the results.

For those who are still wondering – “Why Vote?” – just let me say this:

It’s easy to feel defeated, but lets do the other thing instead. Let’s send a strong message to the powers who normally ignore us. In our vote – we send a message that we are present and we’re not going to negotiate on our Colonial status anymore. That we are united.

SO vote.

Vote even if you hate the options, vote even if you think neither party will give us anything. Vote because they shouldn’t be allowed to forget. Vote because you are owed an answer to the thousands of lives that DIED on Puerto Rican soil, en nuestra isla…. On our island.

Vote because my stepdad didn’t live, and I’m still here picking up the pieces, hoping that someday our collective efforts will give us back our dignity. Do this for the many Puerto Ricans on the island who are looking to us in the Diaspora for strength and hope and solidarity.

We won’t forget you Puerto Rico. We will defend you.

October 14, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 22  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

Freedom Comes at a Cost in Puerto Rico: An interview with Jon Marcantoni on Cerro Maravilla

In Puerto Rico, Freedom has been fought for and lost. And the losses are not just in the actual battles that occurred in places like Lares and Ponce, but also in the minds of some Puerto Ricans.

This week we take a close look at those who have been so colonized, that they feel statehood is the right option for an oppressed society, and murdered two young men to enforce it.

Historically, statehood supporters in Puerto Rico have waged a war on the Puerto Rican Nation, essentially acting as an extension of the United States, who has kept the island colonized. The Statehood supporters submitted to the racist theories that Puerto Ricans cannot lead and are not capable of having their own nation. Their premise is that we have always been Americans… but unfortunately history tells a different story, and they cannot white-wash the identity we carry with pride.

Although they lost their identity to a country that has denied them freedom for 120 years, the rest of us who are committed to the ideals of democracy, freedom, and the understanding that all men are created equal….  believe it is essential to any Society, and no less a Puerto Rican Society.

“We hold these truths be self-evident”… Puerto Rico is a Nation that deserves it’s pursuit of Freedom.

The Cerro Maravilla Incident

This week we go way back to 1978, to a mountain-side in Puerto Rico where two young men lost their lives in pursuit of freedom and justice.

Their names were Carlos Enrique Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado Torres.

In order to tell the story of the Cerro Maravilla Murders, I had the help of a Puerto Rican Playwright called Jon Marcantoni. He wrote a play called Puerto Rican Nocturne that tells the story of these two murders from the point of view of the detective that master-minded the entire thing, and worked with local law enforcement to cover it up. This story also tells the story from the perspective of a family that never recovered from the brutal murders of their children.

About Jon Marcantoni: 

A Novelist, Playwright, and Founder of LCG Press: Unconventional literature by Latin American authors. He has been featured in the Huffington Post, LA Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, NBCLatino, Fronteras on NPR. His work has been featured in Across the Margin, PANK Magazine, Minor Literatures, Numero Cinq, The New Engagement, Latino Rebels, Enclave, and others. He works out the humanity behind the labels that separate us, and what keeps us from fighting capitalist exploitation. You can get in touch with Jon at

Don’t miss this riveting look at how colonized minds react to the dreams of two young activists who are simply seeking to have what many Americans take for granted: Freedom.

As an American, we need to do better. We need to ask ourselves how we can be comfortable in knowing that we colonize others, when we fought and won our own independence from the English.

I ask every American: don’t let the American values we hold dear mean nothing in Puerto Rico. Let’s learn together, fight together, and be part of the change that liberates this Island Nation.

Thank you for listening this week and be sure to share and follow/subscribe.

You may also find these links interesting:

  • Latino Rebels Article on the Murders and an interview with iLe, a Puerto Rican Singer:

Today in History: The Tragedy of Cerro Maravilla (VIDEO)

iLe Discusses New Video ‘Odio’ and Its Poignant Message During Live Interview

  • “Odio” Music video by the artist iLe, about the Murders:

October 2, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 21  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

I am Taíno. Dak’toká Taíno: An interview with Alba Garcia Rivas

The Taíno Lives… El Taíno Vive….

In Puerto Rico Taíno, African and Spanish blood runs through us. It’s a reminder that we are a beautiful mix of cultures. History, however, has sought to erase that identity or mold it to the calculations of those with power and influence. This week’s episode is insanely important because… we share the truth they wanted to hide.

Our Taino ancestors live on in us. We carry the DNA of Warriors.

For a long time many on the island and in the #diaspora were falsely taught that the Taíno had been erased, decimated… that none of them remained. But today those who would not give up on finding the truth, have shown us that in our #PuertoRican Nation… The Taíno Lives… El Taíno Vive.

This week Alba Garcia Rivas shares her work on a puppet film for children but also for all of us, that seeks to raise awareness on the issues affecting Puerto Rico, and also place it in the context of the first people to suffer colonization: The Taíno

History is important and through her art Alba draws us into the beauty our heritage, of those who came before… who still call out to us because they are not lost to history, they live within us… in our traditions and culture.

This week we honor the Taíno, we honor our island, and we continue to say proudly… we are #Boricuas and we do not forget.

From Alba’s Indiegogo:

“Experts and leaders on Taíno Community

I am working closely with Antropologist Dr. Yarey Melendez founder of the Naguake schools in Puerto Rico, she currently teaches a restored  version of the Taíno language in the school curriculum, and Luis Ramos a Taíno Community leader, a Bohike (Taíno Healer) and Activist of Naguake community.

Also more leaders of our Taíno community have been interested and gave us advise, here they are: Bert Correa, Bobby Gonzalez, and Ramon Rivera. I thank you all for your input and kindness.”

For more information on the Taino Indians:

This year there was an exhibit in NYC at the National Museum of the American Indian. I had the opportunity to take pictures and you can see them here.

Also check out the museum’s page for more information and below also some links to content mentioned in the Podcast:

CNN Latino Article

Alba is also featured in CNN Latino this week! Check it out below:

“Yo soy boricua y me van a escuchar con mi arte”: la respuesta de una artista puertorriqueña a Donald Trump

September 22, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 20  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

The Puerto Rican Diaspora Mourns: Jacquie Acosta shares her family’s loss

This was a tough week – and it took monumental effort to keep my head high and my will strong. But as we mourn the deaths of thousands on our beloved island, I’m reminded that the Diaspora and Puerto Rico are more united than we’ve ever been. I know that through our tragedy, we can build a better future for our Puerto Rican Nation.

This week I interviewed Rosa Clemente, and got to meet her in NYC for the 1 Year anniversary. It was an impactful conversation because we discussed what it means to free Puerto Rico from colonization.

And it does not involve a vote – it involves acknowledging that as a colonized Nation – Puerto Rico deserves to lead their own country on their own terms, and for their own people.

A couple of weeks ago I came to NYC to speak with Jacquie Acosta who said she would be willing to share her family’s loss after Hurricane Maria. There are no words that I can say to comfort those who lost someone. I can only say I see you, and I feel your pain.

We have our memories but it’s only in the act of sharing these stories and raising awareness for Puerto Rico, that we can find some sort of peace.

Thank you to all that shared their pain, and to all that are willing to stand up for a Free Puerto Rico, a Free Boriken.

September 17, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 19  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

Rosa Clemente – A Puerto Rican Activist, Scholar and the fight for Puerto Rico’s Freedom

“They said… ‘and now Puerto Rico has to be Free’ ….” – Rosa Clemente on the people she spoke with when she went to the island after Hurricane Maria.

This week I’m pretty excited to share the voice of Rosa Clemente, a community leader and activist who was in Puerto Rico for 10 days after Maria hit. She took some time to chat with me about how she became an activist and she also recommended some readings for us.  I was particularly captured by the psychology of colonialism that she said is covered really well by Franz Franon.

One thing that really had me thinking was the fact that colonialism inflicts lasting damage on a culture and it’s people and trying to organize any vote to pick the best option for Puerto Rico does not actually address that. Instead everyone should be fighting for the right of Puerto Rico for self-determination, liberty and self-governance. It’s clear that the exploitation of the People of Puerto Rico has affected the health of the island. Being affiliated with the United States has not given Puerto Rico any advantage, because when history and facts are on the table… it is clearly only the United States that benefits. They impose the austerity, they drain the Puerto Rican economy (since 1900 when they took 50% of revenue) and continue to pull resources off the island while children and students go hungry and our elders are left without their basic needs.

She started PR on the Map after the Hurricane and visited the island for 10 days after Maria hit to cover the issues in Puerto Rico from the colonial context, which was not being done by mainstream media. She stated “FEMA has a bad record for a reason”… and tells us about what she saw FEMA doing in Puerto Rico. The image of FEMA officials partying while people were waiting for aid will always stay with me, when I think of my mom and stepdad waiting for water.

We also cover race and she explains how important it is to understand that engaging the political system is – and not just highlighting hair and skin in the fight against Racism and racist structures.

Listen in to the incredible stories and this thought-provoking conversation on what we can do to move forward.

Rosa’s Website can be found here:

PR on the Map can be found here:

Listen to the Interview on our website here:

September 11, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 18  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

Toldos Pa’ Mi Gente – Tarps for the People

Toldos Pa’ Mi Gente is a Puerto Rican organization that provided tarps to their neighbors without roofs when they noticed that a month after Maria – many were still waiting on FEMA and the local government to provide them. They pointed to the fact that a year later a space was found with abandoned tarps that never made it to those that needed it most.

As the anniversary of Hurricane Maria quickly approaches, many of us can reflect on those first efforts the Diaspora and Puerto Ricans on the island made to help the people. Especially when it became horrifyingly clear that we were not going to be receiving the same treatment as other Americans who suffered a natural disaster. With the almost 3 thousand deaths and climbing… this week I wanted to share the work one group did to show their neighbors that they were not alone. That’s what makes me proud to be #Boricua. For all those that provided meals, water, abrazos/hugs, and the blue tarps that their neighbors needed for shelter…. You have my deepest admiration and respect. Your work saved lives, and your commitment gave us a vision for a Puerto Rico made by Puerto Ricans. Thank you for giving us this important reminder of who we really are.

I interviewed Amarilis from Toldos Pa’ Mi Gente and she provided a much needed look into what it was like after the Hurricane and still today.

Amarilis started off by saying that the hurricane uncovered the poverty that was there, that they were only able to see after the trees were laid bare. She said it was so frustrating to see people living in fragile conditions. Seeing older people take out their clothes every day to dry.

So she decided to put up a facebook post that she wished she had tarps to help put them and they received their first tarp from Australia. And 2 months later they had almost 100 tarps. She was worried she would receive more than she could put up.

She and the neighbors got together to organize and at least 30 volunteers showed up the first day.

They did a needs assessment because someone had skills is social work. And from there they grew but she pointed something out that was very important.

Tarps are temporary – they are not meant to be on there for more than 3 months. So they decided to move on to the next phase of actually putting up roofs instead of tarps for long term solutions.

She mentions that soon they will have a donate button on their page but what they are most in need of at the moment is a Truck or large vehicle to transport materials and people around.

But in terms of the fragile conditions in PR she speaks about one woman they are helping who has gotten so tired of scooping out the water that gets into her house that she just lives with it up to her knees. She refuses to leave and refuses to do any more work pushing water out.

It’s a clear example of the extremely frustrating and mentally draining day to day that happens among those caught up in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

She also pointed out the fact that even if someone receives electricity in their home, it does not resolve the most important issue – that they don’t have a roof. What good is electricity if you are living in those conditions?

I hope you will donate to this important organization and will consider volunteering as well, next time you are in Puerto Rico.

This is their facebook Page:

Reach out to them to donate! They are currently looking for a vehicle to help transport materials for building roofs for those without one!

September 1, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 17  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

My Dad, the Janitor: An interview with Otoniel on PR and Labor Unions

As a kid, the one question I often dreaded was – “What does your dad do for a living?” because people’s perception of me would immediately be written on their face. The quick dismissal. I grew up though, and thankfully learned that there’s no shame in what you do for a living. I feel proud of my dad for the fact that he worked so very hard to provide for his family and give his daughters love and joy. For the janitors out there, and their daughters and sons… you matter and your voice also deserves a seat at the table.

This Labor day weekend – it worked out that my interview with a Labor Union advocate would be released. This one is a critical episode in understanding why Puerto Rico got into debt, what we in the diaspora can do, and importantly for me as well – we talk about Class.

It’s often seemed a missing piece of the conversation about equity and Justice. I hope you all enjoy the episode and as always – below are the links to the topics discussed.

80Grados article about the Course:

Listening to Puerto Rico Course:

August 29, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 16  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

The new Death Toll and an interview about Poverty, Taxes, and Government

This week I share an interview with Victor Ramirez Garcia about many of the issues affecting Puerto Rico covered in the essay he published  and we talk about housing, parking and decentralizing the government. Victor studied software engineering and later urban planning. I’m very glad I got the chance to know him and speak with him!

We also learned this week about the new death toll released by George Washington University, in which an estimated 3,000 deaths occurred as a result of the Hurricane.

It’s important to remember that these numbers are people, and it’s my stepdad, and someone’s grandfather and another person’s mother who died due to the incompetence and injustice we know exist. The sadness in the hearts of Puerto Ricans this week is heavy….

I wanted to take time to mention that the work done through this podcast is to elevate the voices of Puerto Ricans because in many aspects they are forgotten, pushed aside, and dehumanized. However, we see that Puerto Ricans continue to organize, publish, speak out, and engage those around them to vote. We are warriors in a long struggle and we’re not done fighting.

No study can bring Justice to the tragedy that occurred on our island and to our people, but it’s a start. Only WE can fight for that and only WE will find a resolution to the question of who really deserves to be free.

The next Puerto Rican Diaspora Conference happens September 14-15 in D.C. and I’ll be there – hope you can join us too:

Below are the links to content mentioned in the podcast. Thank you for listening… until next week.

August 20, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 15  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

The Return to Borikén – Contra La Corriente

For years, I’ve looked for ways to connect to my roots/mis raices… and understand who I am. After the Hurricane disconnected me from my family, and after my stepdad died shortly after, my broken heart started to imagine that some day I could come to live among my family and my people…

This week, I want to share my decision to move to Boriken.

I will be a Puertorriquena moving against the current, contra la corriente, back to my patria, as many others who cannot stay, who are forced into exile, have to leave.

After making this decision for myself, I found an article on Repatriating Puerto Rico by a Brooklyn born artist named Yasmin Hernandez, and I knew I needed to reach out to her. In this episode we talk about the migration of Boricuas out of the island, and the local government providing incentives to stay on the island only to non-Boricuas. There’s nothing surprising about that, but there is something we can do to reverse this trend.

We are a people who through oppression, and suffering, have had to find alternatives to survive, and for hundreds of years we adapt, we evolve, and we create spaces to #decolonize our island. I’ll be returning to our island to support the people who are fighting for self-determination, for their rights to live without oppression, and will continue to raise the voices of the Boricuas everywhere.

This is a story that spans centuries – this is the story of a country denied a voice, denied an identity, denied their freedom for hundreds of years.

Who will stand up against the strongest military power in the world, to demand that a people be given the right to self-determination? I stand in solidarity with the people of the island in saying – what is happening in Puerto Rico needs to change. As Yasmin said, there is an “untapped power” that we are now starting to see… And with over 5 million Boricuas in the Diaspora, you can use your votes to push back and demand justice for Puerto Rico.

I hope you enjoy the episode… and I really look forward to joining my sisters and brothers on the island to continue fighting against those that threaten our culture, our identity, and our people.

We are connected you and I #Boricua, and together we’ll move mountains…

#Boriken #Boricua #PuertoRico #PublicHealth #SocialJustice #DeColonizePR

The Return to Borikén – Contra La Corriente

August 12, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 14  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

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.

If you’re interested in collaborating with him in his work, please reach out to him on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook via @UrbanJibaro

The articles mentioned at the start of the episode can be found below:

  1. Donations found 11 months after they were sent to PR:
  2. Puerto Rico Government acknowledges new death count:

August 6, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 13  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

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:
    • Latino Rebels Article: Researchers Estimate 1,139 Hurricane María Excess Deaths in Puerto Rico Through December 2017
    • CBS Article: New study sheds light on death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
  • 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: or Facebook
    • Project Leaders: Yarimar Bonilla, Marisol LeBrón, Sarah Molinari, Isabel Guzzardo Tamargo
  • Natural Reserves in Puerto Rico:

July 31, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 12  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

Melissa M Viverito on why Boricua Votes Matter

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.

Check out the Politico Article on the Latino Victory Fund here

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:

The Washington Post Article about Boricuas in Florida registering to Vote:

July 24, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 11  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

What Does It Mean to be Free in Puerto Rico?

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.

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.

July 18, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 10  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and now STITCHER!

Shocking story: FEMA denies existence of property

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

July 15, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 9  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play!

Crear Con Salud: Mental Health from La Diaspora

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:

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:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Hope
  3. Burnout
  4. Psychological Effects of a Disaster
  5. Resilience

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:

Mental HealthResources:

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call 911.

July 8, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 8  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play!

Stories from the Diaspora: Estelas De Maria

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:

WBUR reporter Simon Rios moderated the event, and more information on the panelists can be found below:

Jossie Valentin – Holyoke City Councilor

Edgardo Cotto – Egleston Square Org Executive Director

Pedro Reina-Perez –  Director of the Harvard Puerto Rico Winter Institute

Please watch the performance photojournalism done on Hurricane Maria below which was showcased by IBA in their Gallery Center:

July 1, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 7  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play!

Vueltabajo Sitio: Support local Artists!

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:

Their Podcast episodes can be found on YouTube here:

The group’s facebook page:

Donate here!!!

You can also just donate via paypal by using this email

Article on Suleira:

June 30, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 6  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play !

The Unspoken Illness: #MentalHealth #Suicide

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:

This subpage covers resources for disaster survivors too so check it out:

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:



June 24, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 5  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and Soundcloud!

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).

The Issue

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

June 22, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 4  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and Soundcloud!

Buy Local Products: #BrandsOfPuertoRico

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:

Facebook   Instagram    Twitter

June 17, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 3  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and Soundcloud!

Sundays News Report con Sandra

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:

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.

Follow Sandra on Twitter @SRCSandra  and on Facebook here.  Sandra’s Blog can be found here and her book can be purchased on Libros787 here

Her Noticel Column can be found here

The links discussed at the end of the interview can be found below:

June 15, 2018 | Listen in: Episode 2  AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes , Google Play and Soundcloud!

Fighting for Transparency: #QueCuenten

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!

LatinoRebels Podcast

Health Affairs Podcast

BBC: Statistics v Politics

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

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS

June 8, 2018   |   Listen in: Episode one AVAILABLE NOW on iTunes and soundcloud!

Why Public Health?

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….