Podcast

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.

 

Podcast

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: http://rosaclemente.net/

PR on the Map can be found here: http://pronthemap.com/

 

 

Podcast

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:

https://www.facebook.com/toldospamigente.pr

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

 

Podcast

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:

https://www.80grados.net/listening-to-puerto-rico-curso-en-linea-para-concientizar-al-mundo-sobre-la-isla/

Listening to Puerto Rico Course:

https://www.coursera.org/learn/listeningtopuertorico/

 

Podcast

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:

https://www.prdiasporasummit.com/

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