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‘The Boricua Way’ Slang Cards Teach Puerto Rican Lexicon Like ‘Brutal,’ ‘Corillo,’ ‘Pichea’ And More

In Puerto Rico, like most Latin American countries, the people have their own lexicon. Local slang, inspired by various languages and cultures, as well as regional pronunciations are heard throughout the Caribbean island. For islanders, it’s a way of life. For travelers, even those coming from other Spanish-speaking countries, it can cause confusion. But for Camelia Rojas, it’s cultural pride and a way to invite others to learn and enjoy what it means to be Boricua.

That’s why Rojas started The Boricua Way, an illustrated art and memento project that explains Puerto Rican sayings, traditions, food and more. The short lessons, which are fun, accessible and humorous, are taught by a bacalaito, salty cod pancake-like fritters beloved on the island, named Pablo. Whether through flashcards or social media illustrations, Pablo the Bacalaito, along with his fritura friends, teaches the “Boricua” way of things — and he’s starting with local language.

“Puerto Rican slang is very funny. We create words every day or give other words new meaning, and only we understand it,” Rojas, 25, told FIERCE. “We take different cultures and languages and mix them together en un pilon and get Puerto Rican slang.”

Courtesy of The Boricua Way

The idea for The Boricua Way came when Rojas, a Trujillo Alto-based freelance graphic designer, was working on her graduate degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. Away from her island, she was often on social media, laughing at memes and videos from her Puerto Rican friends that made her feel, even if for a moment, like she was back home. But the confused looks on her classmates’ faces when she burst out in laughter to jokes they did not understand soon reminded her that she was not. To get her new friends in on the fun, she began explaining Puerto Rican slang and customs in a way they could grasp: art and design.

“I took that approach because I didn’t want anyone to be intimidated by the language. You see the character and laugh and learn something,” Rojas said.

Through a crisp and golden bacalaito, a treat that always reminded Rojas of tropical beach days, she was able to create a scenario for each word that helped her classmates understand the meaning of the language and then the joke and also brought her an unexpected joy and closeness to home.

“When you live somewhere every day, you don’t notice your culture and tradition until you step back and look at it. I realized my identity and culture, and how awesome it is, when I moved to the US and had to explain it there,” she said.

Courtesy of The Boricua Way

Rojas’ class lessons turned into a school project and today is her own small business. Through social media, like Facebook and Instagram, she shares illustrations of Pablo the Bacalaito hilariously explaining the meaning of words like “brutal,” which refers to something or someone being awesome, cool or thrilling, “corillo,” which describes a close group or crew of friends, and “pichea,” which is to ditch or ignore someone or something, among other local terms and expressions.

Posting once a day, Rojas finds inspiration for new content everywhere, from casual conversations with friends that are filled with common slang to suggestions from her followers. She says just living on the island, where culture bursts through music, community and everyday activities, offers her a plethora of topics that keep her project flowing without interruption.

On Wednesday, Rojas released her first product: The Boricua Way slang cards, a set of 24 lesson cards that turn the illustrations fans love online into physical learning tools or keepsakes that teach Boricua jargon and phrases. It’s the first in a line of products that she hopes to begin selling soon, which includes stickers, clothes, T-shirts, tote bags and, hopefully, an educational card game.

Courtesy of The Boricua Way

Rojas, who hopes to get her items sold at airports and souvenir shops, wants her products to be fun, educational tools that could keep tourists who visited the island excited, interested and aware about Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture even after they leave.

But more importantly to her, Rojas would like The Boricua Way to be a connection to the island for all the Puerto Ricans living in the diaspora, whether they are longing for home after fleeing the devastation left by Hurricane María or they are second-generation Boricuas who are eager to learn about a culture and land they love but don’t know firsthand.

“I started this because I was in the US and missing home. I want this to be for anyone anywhere who misses Puerto Rico and wants a piece of home with them everywhere they go. I want to give them community, something to hold onto that’s part of their identity, so they don’t feel they lost connection,” she said.

To purchase Rojas’ newly-released The Boricua Way slang cards, send her a DM or email.

Read: This Puerto Rican Illustrator Uses Art To Explore Her Sexuality

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Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

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Hacker Attempts To Steal $4 Million From Puerto Rican Government In Phishing Scam

John Piekos / Flickr

Hackers attempted to steal $4 million from the Puerto Rican government using a common phishing scam. The scams referred to as business email compromises, target public and private entities every year on the U.S. mainland. Here’s what we know so far.

A hacker attempted to steal millions of dollars from the Puerto Rican government.

Credit: @DavidBegnaud / Twitter

According to reports, hackers were able to infiltrate various agencies in the Puerto Rican government through phishing emails. The hackers attempted to access $4 million dollars by targeting Puerto Rico’s Industrial Development Company and the Tourism Company.

The Industrial Development Company sent around $2.6 million while the Tourism Company wired over $1.5 million. According to the AP, the agencies received emails from a fraudulent employee claiming there was a change of bank accounts.

Federal officials say they were about to freeze the money to prevent loss to Puerto Rico.

David Begnaud of CBS News took to Twitter to update people on the latest developments. According to Begnaud’s conversation with federal authorities, the hackers had not received the money from Puerto Rico and they were able to freeze it. They are working to send the money back to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is not the only victim in a phishing crime. During the same time as the hacking of Puerto Rico, a school district in Manor, Texas lost $2.3 million and another $800,000 were stolen from officials in Griffin, Georgia. More than 23,000 of these scams stole $1.7 billion from businesses and agencies in the U.S. mainland last year. The FBI was able to recover around $300 million.

The news is surprising people on social media.

Credit: @MilagsCon / Twitter

Corruption in Puerto Rico’s government has been a topic of discussion since Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Puerto Rico was recently devastated by a series of earthquakes while still recovering from the 2017 hurricane that devastated the island. Missing relief funds and misplaced supplies have angered Puerto Ricans in recent months as it comes to light.

This latest financial and security shortcoming of Puerto Rico’s government is not helping its reputation.

Credit: @J_Fort47 / Twitter

Puerto Ricans have been showing their displeasure with the elected officials on the island for years. Recently, Puerto Ricans protested and marched until Ricardo Rosselló resigned from his office. The former governor was caught in a group chat scandal in which he made derogatory comments about the LGBTQ+ community and women. There were also allegations of corruption and misuse of funds within his admi9nistration that led to a series of investigations.

READ: The Puerto Rico Department of Justice Is Seeking An Independent Investigation Into Ricardo Rosselló

A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

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A Warehouse Full Of Forgotten Supplies From 2017 Was Just Found In Puerto Rico After More Than 1000 Earthquakes Hit The Island

@IGD_News / Twitter

Over the past two and a half weeks, Puerto Rico has experienced more than 1000 earthquakes. This number may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 7—the largest earthquake to hit Puerto Rico in more than a century—aftershocks have continued to jolt the island, leaving hundreds of people homeless, lacking supplies and electricity. Among the aftershocks was January 11’s 5.9 magnitude quake, which caused even further devastation, particularly to the southern part of the island. So far, the earthquakes have cost an estimated $200 million in damages, including the destruction of more than 800 homes.

But the damage hasn’t only been structural—several people are experiencing extreme anxiety as tremors continue to strike the island.

Credit: Facebook / ASSMCA Online

Officials from ASSMCA, Puerto Rico’s  Office of Mental Health Services and Addiction Prevention, have been making their rounds at outdoor shelters where displaced individuals and families have taken refuge, offering mental health support to those most affected by the quakes.

“These aftershocks are triggers for people,” Abdiel Dumeng, an ASSMCA employee, said in Spanish in an interview.”But I have to admit that we’ve seen a decrease in these kinds of crises, because we’ve been working together for a while, teaching people how to stay calm.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), aftershocks will continue to decrease in frequency over the next month and will be exponentially “lower in magnitude”. But in the meantime, Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people are staying in these outdoor shelters—fewer than half are in government-run shelters, while the rest are taking refuge in either informal spaces or shelters run by non-government organizations.

What exactly constitutes an “informal” shelter? Well, some folks have simply taken their beds outside, staying close to home while avoiding the potential dangers of being indoors. Others are crashing with relatives in towns that have experienced less damage than other areas.

Credit: StarTribune

In response to the 5.9 earthquake on January 11, Governor Wanda Vázquez said that she had declared a major state emergency following an initial assessment of the damages incurred. Vázquez also announced the immediate disbursement of $2 million for the towns of Guánica, Utuado, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce and Yauco, which experienced the most damage due to their proximity to the earthquakes’ epicenter. This $2 million was defined as a way to meet the towns’ most urgent needs—but now, ten days later, la gente está harta, because these needs still haven’t been met.

Just a few days ago, Vázquez fired two high-ranking officials in her administration: Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar. She also fired former Emergency Management Director Carlos Acevedo. The Governor’s reason for the dismissals was an alleged lack of information regarding aid collection and distribution centers.

This lack of information had to do with the discovery of a warehouse in Ponce that was filled with seemingly forgotten disaster supplies. But these supplies were not sent in response to the current crisis—they date back to when Hurricane Maria (a Category 4 storm) hit the island in September 2017.

Credit: Carlos Giusti / Associated Press

And people are understandably angry. On January 20, scores of demonstrators gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion in San Juan to demand her resignation. While the Governor seems to have tried addressing the issue with the dismissals mentioned above, several people are accusing her of not taking accountability for this appalling error, urging her to step down. And with demonstrators vowing to stay in the streets until Vázquez steps down, the current situation looks a lot like last summer’s demonstrations, which ultimately caused Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.

When asked by NBC News what the “human impact” of this mistake is, Rafael Gonzalez—President of PROFESA, a Puerto Rican Professional Association that delivered aid during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria—said, “We saw it on [sic] Maria. We saw what happens when you don’t deliver the supplies that people need. People die.”

Indeed, more than 3,000 people died as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria (not to mention highly insufficient disaster response on the part of the United States government). At this point, the recent series of earthquakes has resulted in one death and nine injuries. In an attempt to keep that number from rising, Jennifer Gonzales, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner to Congress, joined forces with five other members of Congress to send a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to sign a major disaster declaration that would bring federal funding to the recovery effort.

On January 16, Donald Trump responded by designating six hard-hit towns in the southern part of the island as major disaster areas. Hopefully this will result in an appropriate disaster response—one that will not negligently result in more forgotten aid.