The crowning glory of this year’s Miss Puerto Rico was tarnished for 23-year-old Madison Anderson Berríos with the backlash since, unlike previous winners, she wasn’t born or raised on the island.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in Orlando, Florida to a white dad and a Puerto Rican mom, Anderson Berríos doesn’t speak Spanish fluently so the idea of her not being “Latina enough” quickly came up on social media. After her win, #NoMeRepresenta began trending on Twitter and during the telecast, she was booed by the audience when she explained her first language wasn’t Spanish.
Her poise and push for authenticity come after some practice on the pageant stage.
In 2014, she participated in Miss Teen USA and two years later represented Puerto Rico in Miss Grand International. In January, she was the first runner-up in the Miss Florida USA contest, although she has always identified herself as Puerto Rican, according to El Sentinel Orlando
Now she’s prepping to represent Puerto Rico in the 68th Miss Universe international contest taking place in December in South Korea.
“It’s my dream. This is not just for my beautiful people of Puerto Rico, but for the diaspora because being Puerto Rican is carried in the blood,” she said in an interview with Wapa TV. And that’s a sentiment that’s just like her Instagram bio reads: #SerBoricuaSeLlevaEnlaSangre
For those of you who may have been living under a rock, or just genuinely can’t keep up with the news now that there’s usually a new catastrophe or political gaffe from the Trump administration on a daily basis, it’s probably a good idea to recap what happened around Hurricane Maria.
On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, devastating the region and sparking an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. While recovery efforts have been in the works, abortion care has been largely ignored by authorities, leading to another set of problems that need to be addressed before Puerto Rico can really say that it’s moved on from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Granted: there’s so much more to consider than just simply boosting abortion facilities in Puerto Rico.
According to a 2008 study in the Journal of Population Economics, birth rates increase in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Let’s face it, anyone put in the same position would agree: if there’s no access to power, no way of really going anywhere, and there are zero things to do otherwise … you’re gonna have sex. Even though the world is pretty much falling apart around you! Part of the risks of this behavior, beyond focusing on bonking rather than safety awareness during a natural disaster, is the fact that condoms and other contraceptives aren’t necessarily readily accessible in this time. It means that if you’re not intending on getting pregnant, then this situation could put you in perilous circumstances.
The lack of regional resources after a natural disaster is not only hard af for new families – it’s also hard on people who are seeking ways to terminate their pregnancy. Where Puerto Rico is concerned, of the six abortion clinics on the main island, only one was in operation in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. However, it took nine days for that single clinic to get its doors open again. And from there, the damage from the cataclysmic storms meant that the centre didn’t have two air conditioning units or its heating system, and it had to run on a generator for three months. Because power was so expensive at this time, it meant that the clinic also had to cut its hours of operation. And if you think this is bad – that’s just the trials and tribulations of one clinic. Imagine the difficulty in trying to get others open.
Sure, there’s a problem. But aren’t there more important things to deal with in Puerto Rico, first?
Recovery from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has been mighty slow. In fact, it took an entire year for power to be restored to the region. Poor sanitation in the area led to the spread of water-borne sicknesses, while spoiled food and contaminated drinking water also harmed the population. Pests and bugs further caused havoc and spread disease, in addition to mold and mildew. Not to mention the fact that cleanup activities also introduced further hazards to locals, and opened the potential for further injury and infections. Natural disasters are associated with a decline in the mental health of a population, too, meaning that psychological services are in dire need in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, ‘why are we worried about access to abortion care when there are so many other, more urgent, things to think about’? And sure, you’re not entirely wrong. But the reality is that access to healthcare services in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is crucial for reducing further loss of human life. And that healthcare must be holistic. Because while healthcare is great for recovery from injuries and treating disease, these are reactive measures to the issue at hand. Family planning and abortion care fall into the category of preventative measures, to ensure that the unintended pregnancies don’t place further stress on very limited services and resources.
The issues we’re seeing now are part of bigger, systemic problems that must be addressed for Puerto Rico’s wellbeing.
As an unincorporated territory of the US, it stands to reason that Puerto Rico should have received considerable support from Washington DC. While no-one could forget the classic shot of Donald Trump basketball-shooting paper towels into a crowd of disaster-stricken Puerto Ricans, it’s been argued that the region was, overall, lacking in support and attention from the administration. And this criticism wasn’t a new thing. Puerto Rico’s been dealing with the Zika epidemic, which affected 1 in 7 newborns between 2016 and 2018, while also contending with the shutdown of 66 of 69 major hospitals in the region due to Hurricane Maria. It also has the highest poverty rate over any US state, while also getting less money and resource from the federal government for health programs. Yikes.
This raises questions around Puerto Rico’s representation in Washington: as it is not a state, it doesn’t have a vote in Congress. And, it only has one non-voting member of the House, known as a Resident Commissioner. Who knows what kind of improvements in assistance could have been made for Puerto Rico, if it had the right kind of political representation?
Beyond the federal level, Puerto Rico must also contend with the rise of conservatism.
Pushback against access to family planning services, which largely draws from pervasive religious doctrine, has risen in recent years. For example, 2018 saw a really aggressive attempts to restrict abortion access in Puerto Rico. While the Senator responsible for the bill, Nayda Venegas Brown, eventually pulled it from consideration, it was designed to institute a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, parental consent for minors, and a ban on the procedure outright after 20 weeks gestation. And sure, while these may seem like pretty common laws for those living on mainland US, these kinds of restrictions are basically unheard of in Puerto Rico.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, these kinds of limitations would add even more complexity to unwanted pregnancies in Puerto Rico. For example, without access to appropriate healthcare services, people may not have even known about their pregnancy until much later in their gestational cycle. Another thing to consider is that, should there be complications in the pregnancy, women may have their lives further jeopardized by restrictions on performing abortions. And, minors who may not be in contact with their parents would then become dependent on those same parents to access an abortion. Indeed, it is fortunate that Puerto Ricans were not subject to such blanket laws – particularly while they’re still dealing with the repercussions of Hurricane Maria.
So, for those of you sitting at home wondering what you can do about the predicament facing Puerto Rico, you’ve got a few options. It’s worth investigating charities in your local area that are dedicated towards providing support to Puerto Rico. Voting for candidates in the 2020 elections that have proposed policies to support Puerto Rico is also crucial. Additionally, improving awareness about women’s rights by sharing accurate information on social media – like this piece – can help break down the stigma around family planning.
It’s no secret that Puerto Ricans have been petitioning for statehood for as long as the island has been deemed a U.S. territory. But that doesn’t matter as much to Congress. Pues, it’s time to listen up, Congress, because a Gallup poll has recently shown that 66 percent of non-Puerto Rican Americans favor admitting the island into the Union.
That percentage average has remained constant since Gallup started asking the question in 1962. Only 7% of state-side Americans had no opinion and 27 percent opposed statehood.
Two years ago, Puerto Ricans polled at 97 percent in favor of statehood.
Credit: @no_rican / Twitter
Puerto Rico transferred into becoming a U.S. “territory” in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans pay for social security, income tax and other shared responsibilities of state residents, but they can’t sway the presidential election either way.
Forty-five percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats support statehood.
Credit: @HuttGia / Twitter
Given the corruption and its consequent protests underway in Puerto Rico, 45 has decided to chime in. In a tweet, President Trump said, “A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico. The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief.”
Puerto Ricans who support Trump are responding by telling him that they want him to include Puerto Rico as a U.S. state.
Others think Puerto Rico would be a moral drain to the U.S. government.
Credit: @ClydeFroggs / Twitter
Puerto Rico is calling on its Governor Ricardo Roselló to resign after a conversation was leaked during which he was using homophobic slurs against Ricky Martin, alongside misogynistic against San Juan’s mayor. The corruption is very real when it comes to Gov. Roselló, but he does not represent Puerto Rico any longer. Not in the hearts of Puerto Ricans after what is felt as a betrayal to the people.
Meanwhile, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has fueled the desire for statehood for others.
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The delayed response from FEMA, and the shuffle of Puerto Ricans from FEMA assisted housing to the U.S. homeless shelter system has led many Boricuas to feel “less than” American. In fact, Puerto Ricans are 100% American.
Although the majority of all Americans support statehood, politics seems to be the greatest obstacle to democracy at the moment.
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Trump has been in a pissing contest between San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for her criticism of his treatment of Boricuas. He did throw paper towels at us. On top of that, protests have lined the streets of San Juan demanding that Governor Ricardo Roselló resign.
Meanwhile, on the island, the very loud minority of folks who are anti-statehood are using the moment of chaos to express their views.
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Kelly Diaz tweeted a photo of “one of the protesters climbing to remove the American flag in front of the Puerto Rico Capitol and replace it with a black and white Puerto Rican flag.”
She aptly commented that it’s, “No surprise here, given that Ricky’s fiercest opponents belong to anti-statehood interest groups.”
With public opinion in favor, and the current events at hand, it may just be the perfect storm to put statehood on the political issue map.
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Democratic primaries are upon us and constituents are tweeting to the debate moderators requesting that the question of Puerto Rican statehood be included in the debate. So far, Julian Castro has been the first and only candidate to demand that #RickyRenuncia. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are notable candidates who have stated they want the Governor to answer to the Puerto Rican people.
It’s hard to imagine that Trump would look to Puerto Rico as a resource to the Union after Hurricane Maria, but it all depends on 2020.
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The running feud between Trump and Puerto Rican leadership means that the U.S. Senate, currently taken by the GOP, would likely never approve a bill for Puerto Rican statehood.
Although this guy has a very interesting new option for the island.