Culture

From the Past To Today, Puerto Rico’s Courageous Spirit Continues To Lift The Island Up

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If there’s one word to describe Puerto Rico and the people that have cultivated the land for thousands of years it is resilient. They’ve endured colonization — like most Latin and Carribean lands — natural catastrophes, economic plight, but through it all, they have persevered. Let’s dive into the turbulent history and astonishing way that Puerto Rico continues to thrive no matter what.

The first people of Puerto Rico.

Wikipedia: Arawak Indians

The indigenous group, known as the Arawak Indians (part of the Taíno population), inhabited not only Puerto Rico but also Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other islands. They are the first to have encountered Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus colonizes Puerto Rico.

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In 1493, Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain — as he also did with Cuba. The Roman Catholic Church also had a part in colonizing the island of Puerto Rico. In 1521, the island went from being referred to as Boricua (which the Natives called their land) to officially Puerto Rico.

Slavery in Puerto Rico.

Wikipedia

In the 16th century, the Spanish began importing slaves from Africa to Puerto Rico to cultivate their only economic resources including sugar, tobacco, and coffee. The Spanish also captured native Puerto Ricans as slaves as well.

On September 23, 1868, between 600 to 1,000 men attempted to revolt against the Spanish for their independence. This moment is remembered as the “Grito de Lares.” That call for freedom is still celebrated in Puerto Rico today.

The Spanish-American War

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During the Spanish-American war of 1898, the U.S. successfully occupied Puerto Rico at Guánica. The Spanish conceded and under the Treaty of Paris handed Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Cuba to the United States.

The Foraker Act

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In 1900, the U.S. president and other lawmakers signed the Foraker Act, which gave the U.S. more control over the island but also allowed Puerto Rico to have its government.

The Jones Act

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On March 2, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act which automatically granted all people born in Puerto Rico U.S. citizens. The Act also allowed Puerto Ricans to live under the same Bill of Rights and constitution as those living in the U.S. The Jones Act also came with some tax regulations that made it more expensive to import goods from Puerto Rico to the U.S.

Puerto Rico and America, united but not.

After World War II, Puerto Rico experienced several economic and governmental changes. In 1952, Puerto Ricans voted to become a commonwealth of the U.S., which established its own governing constitution. Their new commonwealth status meant that they were still U.S. citizens but were not allowed to vote in U.S. elections.

People flee the island.

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It was also around this time (between 1950 and 1970) that half a million people left the island of Puerto Rico and migrated to the U.S. People have left the island once again, after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. CNN reports that more than 130,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to the U.S. after the hurricane.

Exploring the tourism in Puerto Rico.

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Puerto Rico has always been a popular destination for tourists. At the end of 2016, more than 10 million passengers arrived on the island. Typically, the island generates $4 billion from tourism to its economy. Despite having setbacks including the Zika outbreak and Hurricane Maria, the island has is back in business.

Catastrophes and Tragedies

Wikipedia: Mameyes

The island has been hit hard by natural catastrophes including in 1985 when a landslide in Ponce killed 129 people. While Puerto Rico has experienced multiple hurricanes— the island has had only one Category 5 hurricane and that was the San Felipe Segundo hurricane in 1928. Three hundred people died during that hurricane. In 1899, a smaller hurricane killed more than 3,000 people.

Dual Languages

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In 1993, Puerto Rico declared that the official language of the island would be Spanish and English.

The Economy

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Puerto Rico’s economy has been volatile since Columbus first colonized the island. The tax laws that the U.S. has instilled onto the island resources has made the economy there unstable, ultimately hurting lower class Puerto Ricans. It is because of these laws that Puerto Rico generated billions of dollars in debt. Currently, the island owes the U.S. $70 billion, most of which was caused by a recession and laws that the U.S. implemented.

“Nasty” Politics

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan (the capital of Puerto Rico), is one of the island’s most prominent advocates. Ever since Hurricane Maria struck the island, she has been taking to social media to show the devastation, what people needed (and still need), and has not backed down even while being intimidated by President Trump.

Obama visits the island.

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You would think that because Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S. more U.S. presidents would visit the island. They do go on tours worldwide, but not to Puerto Rico for one reason or another. However, in 2011, President Barack Obama made an official visit to the island, making it the first since John F. Kennedy.

Hurricane Maria

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Just weeks after Hurricane Irma grazed Puerto Rico, leaving millions without power, Hurricane Maria landed on Sept. 20 as a Category 4. The island has been in recovery mode since, and while the island is open for business, many people are still trying to rebuild their lives. An estimated 3,057 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Trump vs. Puerto Rico

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, U.S. President Donald Trump did not serve the people of Puerto Rico. He downplayed the deaths, threw paper towels at survivors during his brief visit to the island, and balked at the severity of the hurricane. Relations between Trump and the island remain strained.

Famous Puerto Ricans

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There’s no way in hell that we could list all of the famous Puerto Ricans that have contributed to our society past and present. Since we have to list a few famous Puerto Ricans, we can start with Jennifer Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Roberto Clemente, José Ferrer, Ricky Martin, Esmeralda Santiago, and so many more.

The Best Puerto Rican Foods

Instagram/@puertoricogram

Mofongo, tostones (fried plantains) with garlic, olive oil, and chicharrones or bacon, has to be our top favorite Puerto Rican dish although we can take arroz con pollo, chicken asopao, or roasted pork any day of the week.

A Slow Recovery

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Puerto Rico has made great strides over the past year and a half, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans in the U.S. — both famous and unknown — have contributed to the success and perseverance of the island. While there’s still lots of work to be done, Puerto Rico continues to rise above tragedy.

Puerto Rico Today

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One of the most amazing things in Puerto Rico that occurred recently, as the island is still in recovery mode, is that people —mainly Lin-Manuel Miranda — has brought arts and culture back to the island. Through his production of “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico, he will be generating millions of dollars toward arts education for children in Puerto Rico. It’s only another sign that the island will go on as it always has.


READ: Some Puerto Ricans Plan On Leaving The Island To Give Their Family A Better Life, While Others Tell Us They Feel Guilty Leaving

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Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

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Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Flamboyan Foundation / Facebook

Maintaining funding for the arts is a challenging enough task during the best of times. For Puerto Ricans, those “best of times” have long been gone. A backlog of corruption scandals coupled with the most devastating natural disaster in the island’s history has exacerbated the arts organizations resources. Two years after Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Puerto Rico, hope for maintaining the culture and arts of Boricuas has arrived.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey Seller, the play’s producer, have partnered with the Flamboyan Foundation to establish an art fund for struggling arts organizations in Puerto Rico.

The Flamboyan Foundation was established just earlier this year, funded by ticket sales from “Hamilton.”

@theatermania / Twitter

Even better, the $14.7 million that was raised for the fund were all raised by Puerto Ricans. The “Hamilton” cast and crew up and went to Puerto Rico for a 17-day run. The Flamboyan Foundation, named after the flamboyán tree native to Puerto Rico, established the arts fund in 2018. “The Flamboyan Arts Fund is an extension of our deep commitment to ensuring that Puerto Rico is thriving economically and socially,” Flamboyan Puerto Rico Executive Director Carlos J. Rodríguez-Silvestre said in a statement. “We cannot be more excited to partners with our 12 inaugural grant recipients as well as the new grantees that we will welcome following this round of applications.  This is just the beginning!”

So far, at least 12 grant recipients have been named.

@ElNuevoDia / Twitter

“It’s the first time that we have funds guaranteed for the beginning of the year so it’s been very important, Lolita Villanúa, executive director of Andanza told NBC News. Andanza is a dance company and school that has been giving back to Puerto Rico since 1998, but not without struggles. “The search for funds has always been very difficult,” she said. One year, the government gave Andanza just $8,000 for a full year of operations.

Villanúa felt the grant “was like a big prize on our 20th anniversary because we [have been] working tirelessly and intensely for the country.”

The trickle-down effect goes to benefit young scholarship students.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

One Andanza dance student, Paola Morales López is just 15 years old and wants to make a career out of dancing. “I feel super grateful because I see that they support me and that they believe in me,” Morales López told NBC News. “Andanza is like my second family.” Another 18-year-old ballet student, Gabriela Arroyo, said that, “Dance has helped me. It’s a form to escape reality, and it’s also a way to stay healthy.”

Of course, the “Hamilton” funds will also go to help local theaters stay open.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Another grant went to a collective of seven artists who started the San Juan theater company, Y No Había Luz (“And There Was No Light”) when they were just students at the University of Puerto Rico. For the last 15 years, the group has continued to stay open, using their literal theater platform to advocate for social change and to humanize Boricuas.

Without the grant, Puerto Ricans may have never witnessed a play centered around an ancient tree that fell during Hurricane Maria.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Y No Había Luz created the play “Centinela de Mangó,” which retells the experience of the town of Orocovis, which survived Hurricane Maria only to find the tree that symbolized the island’s identity had fallen. The company has been able to bring the play to New York City, as well, where many Hurricane Maria victims were directed by FEMA. The company wants to turn the story into a children’s book, forever immortalizing the tree’s meaning into words that will be passed down for generations.

With rent paid, the art grant recipients can dream even bigger.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

“For three years I can plan and create a healthier structure for my team. I can make dreams more long-term,” Yari Helfeld of Y No Había Luz told NBC News. She added, “My dad always told us that we should do what we wanted and not let anyone tell you what to do.” Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the “Hamilton” family, dreams are being made a reality for art directors and young children alike. The arts will have a safe home in Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future.

READ: Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

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When Donald Trump began his campaign for president, one — if not the most important — promise he made was that Mexico would pay for the border wall. Trump’s border wall, which would extend throughout the south as a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, has been his No. 1 mission as president of the United States. Now, four years after making this promise, Mexico has still not paid a single cent for the construction of any such barrier that has been built or will be built. 

In order for Trump’s border wall to get constructed, he’s still very short on funds, and since Mexico is obviously not going to pay, the president is taking money away from Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery budget. 

Credit: @Nicolemarie_A / Twitter

Trump has allocated $400 million to go toward building the wall and will take it directly from funds that were intended to help Puerto Rico and their hurricane recovery. The Department of Defense announced that several hurricane-related projects in Puerto Rico would be halted because their funding would be diverted to building the border wall. Some of those projects include a National Guard Readiness Center, a Power Substation/Switching Station Building, and an Aircraft Maintenance Hangar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

According to NBC News, a senior Defense official said that people shouldn’t worry because these projects in Puerto Rico will get done, eventually. “We don’t see ourselves delaying those projects. We’re fully committed to that recovery,” the official said since many of them wouldn’t begin until 2020.

The president still needs billions more for the wall, at least $25 billion more, so he’s taking money from various military sources in the U.S. and its territories. The total amount he’s diverting is $3.6 billion.

Credit: @ChrisLu44 / Twitter

Aside from Puerto Rico, 117 other military construction projects will be halted and/or delayed now because of funds. People might assume diverting funds away from Puerto Rico’s recovery or other sources isn’t a big deal because it doesn’t seem like tangible needs. However, people familiar with the military centers and operations know that it is a huge deal and almost appears like robbery by the highest level office. 

“I visited the current RPA training facility at Holloman earlier this year. The building is falling apart, with some equipment being held together with duct tape. To say this facility, which supports training for 100 percent of the Air Force’s MQ-9 crews, urgently needs to be replaced would be an understatement,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement, according to NBC News. 

Other projects losing funds include $160 million of construction projects at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; $85 million operations facility at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico;  $40 million for an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Facility, and much more. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is planning to file a lawsuit to prohibit Trump from taking $3.6 billion away from Puerto Rico and the rest of the country and territories. 

Credit: @ACLU / Twitter

“The fact that the government sat on these so-called ’emergency funds’ for seven months further confirms that this is nothing but an unlawful power grab,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a statement, according to The Hill. “We’ll be back in court very soon to block Trump’s latest effort to raid military funds for his xenophobic wall,” he added.

Despite claiming that Mexico would pay for the wall for years, Trump already said that he didn’t mean that literally. 

Credit: @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

In January, the president tried to backtrack four years of declarations that Mexico would pay for the wall by insisting that he wasn’t speaking in direct terms but indirectly. We know, it makes no sense.

“When — during the campaign, I would say, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it.’ Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check. I said, ‘They’re going to pay for it.’ They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, called the United States, Mexico, and Canada USMCA deal.”

Yes, the president said he never said what he said. We feel a headache coming on. To illustrate how many times Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall, Factbase Inc. listed each of them. He has referenced the border wall at least 456 times

READ: New Border Wall Is Being Constructed In California But It Is Not The Same Border Wall Trump Promised His Voters