Things That Matter

Georgia Is Discriminating Against Puerto Ricans Trying To Get Driver’s Licenses With A Cultural Questionnaire

Georgia has been requiring Puerto Rican natives seeking Georgia driver’s licenses to answer a special set of questions such as “identifying ‘what a meat filled with plantain fritter’ is called; where a specific beach is located; and ‘the name of the frog native only to Puerto Rico,’” according to a lawsuit filed against the state this week.

A Puerto Rican man has filed a lawsuit against Georgia for alleged discrimination and voter suppression.

Credit: @southerncenter / Twitter

A man is accusing Georgia of discriminating with driver’s licenses and requiring Puerto Ricans to answer trivia questions about fritters, frogs, hillbilly hats, baseball players and customs on their native island.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the US District Court for Northern Georgia, accuses the state’s Department of Driver Services (DDS) of violating the Civil Rights Act by engaging in “race-based stereotyping and implicit bias against Puerto Ricans.”

The lawsuit says Georgia holds residents of Puerto Rico, who are American citizens, to more stringent requirements than it does transplants from American states or the District of Colombia.

The quiz and other discriminatory practices prevent Puerto Ricans living in Georgia from traveling to work, school, and even doctor appointments. They also subject Puerto Ricans to the threat of a $500 fine and a year in prison if they drive without a license, the lawsuit says.

LatinoJustice obtained a copy of the quiz questions and shared them in a report.

A DDS document titled “Puerto Rican Interview Guide,” provided to CNN by LatinoJustice, includes numerous questions about the island, some of them are allegedly trick questions. Among them:

  • How long is the San Juan-Fajardo train ride? (There is no train.)
  • Who is Roberto Clemente?
  • What is the name of the frog native only to PR?
  • What is a pava?
  • What is alcapurria?
  • How do you celebrate San Juan Day?

A note in the interview guide says the questions are designed to better identify possible Puerto Ricans and discourage fraud. “While this guide can in no way positively determine if a person was born in or lived in Puerto Rico, it will help determine if the individual has a normal base of knowledge of their claimed birthplace,” it says.

Many on Twitter were using this as yet another example of Puerto Ricans being treated as second-class citizens.

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“Puerto Ricans who are trying to start a new life in Georgia deserve access to the same benefits that are afforded to other citizens of the United States,” LatinoJustice PRLDEF attorney Jorge Vasquez said in a statement.

Driver’s licenses and identification cards issued in Puerto Rico aren’t subject to the same reciprocity extended to those issued in other states, the lawsuit says. Puerto Rico driver’s license holders must successfully pass the written and road exams to get a driver’s license, unlike other out-of-state license holders.

While others pointed out the shocking resemblance to a time when segregation was still a thing.

Credit: @KeithHi40841914 / Twitter

“The so-called quiz, applied to Puerto Rican drivers, bears a strikingly disturbing resemblance to the tests applied by segregationists to block voter registration of people of color,” Southern Center attorney Gerry Weber said.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s governor has come out swinging against the possible acts of state-sanctioned discrimination.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has weighed in, calling the alleged special requirements “absurd” and demanding that Puerto Ricans receive equal treatment in all US jurisdictions.

“If true, I ask Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to address the disturbing irregularities immediately,” Rosselló said in a statement. “The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico cannot be subject to illogical and illegal requirements when procuring government services.”

There are more than 93,000 Puerto Ricans living in Georgia, according to the 2017 census estimate.

To many, this is just another sign of Puerto Ricans having to work extra hard to prove themselves as American citizens.

Credit: @carlitocenteno / Twitter

Other examples of Georgia’s allegedly discriminatory practices include refusing to accept any birth certificate issued in Puerto Rico before July 2010 and flagging Puerto Rican birth certificates for fraud review, the lawsuit states.

READ: Bad Bunny And Ricky Martin Killed A ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill In Puerto Rico Furthering LGBTQ+ Rights In The Caribbean

Ritchie Torres Is Running For Congress To Give His Community The Representation It Deserves

Things That Matter

Ritchie Torres Is Running For Congress To Give His Community The Representation It Deserves

ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

Politics is getting particularly young, and we like it. From Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to State Senator Alessandra Biaggi to Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou to legislator Caleb Hanna, all of these young politicians are bringing a breath of fresh air to their policies and to the political discourse. Now, there’s another name to include in the list that is breaking barriers in more ways than one.

Meet 31-year-old Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres who is running for Congress. If he wins his next year, he will be the first openly gay black or Latino member of Congress.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

Do not think for a second that Torres, while young, is new to the game. Born and raised in the Bronx, Torress has been in the political world since 2013, bringing change on a local level but making a considerable impact. Currently, he is the chair of the Committee on Public Housing and is a deputy majority leader. He is also the chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee. 

Next year, Torres and 12 others will seek to replace Rep. José Serrano in New York’s 15th Congressional District. His competition includes Assembly Member Michael Blake, Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Tomas Ramos, among others, Buzzfeed reports. But he is a frontrunner in the campaign, and here’s why. 

While Torres is running against several other Latino politicians, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has officially announced they are officially endorsing him and helping to fund his campaign.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

“In a crowded field, Torres has been able to build a strong and diverse coalition of support from labor groups, LGBTQ groups, and many of his own colleagues on the city council,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas, chair of BOLD PAC, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “He knows the issues that keep Bronx families up at night — not just from his time as a city council member — but from growing up in the Bronx and being raised by a single mother. He’s proven to be the stand-out Latino candidate in this field, and BOLD PAC is proud to put our full support behind his campaign to bring home a victory next November.”

Of this endorsement, Torres tweeted, “Honored to earn the endorsement @BOLDDems which has been at the forefront of strengthening Latinx representation in Congress. The backing of @BOLDDems is a game-changer in the #SouthBronx, which is home to one of the highest Latinx populations in the US.”

The ambitious politician is half Puerto Rican and half Black.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

“I was raised by a single mother who had to raise three children on minimum wage, and I lived in conditions of mold and vermin, lead and leaks,” Torres said in his campaign video. “I remember asking myself, why would the city spend $100 million on a golf course, rather than on the homes of struggling New Yorkers like my mother. I knew at that moment that I had to fight for people like me.” 

Here he explains further why he chose to become a lawmaker and serve his community in the Bronx.

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

“As a product of public housing, public schools, and public hospitals, I had a dream of fighting for my community in the hopes of building a better Bronx,” he said on his website. “At 25, against all odds, I became the youngest elected official in New York City, and the first openly LGBT elected official from the Bronx. I have represented Bronx communities on the New York City Council, and now I’m running to represent New York’s 15th Congressional District – because the Bronx needs one of our own to fight for us in Washington.”

His motto is: “If you do nothing, nothing will change.” 

Credit: ritchietorresny15 / Instagram

Torres is inspiring significant change already. Several of his staff employees are young people of color. One of the young Latinos that work for Torres said in a video published by the New Yorker that most kids that are from the Bronx work hard to leave the area. He said he remains there to give back to the community, which is why he works for Torres. 

Fun fact: he was named Ritchie after you guessed it: Ritchie Valens.

According to a 2015 interview in Newsweek, Torres said his mother wanted to name him Ritchie after she watched “La Bamba.” Well, that does it. He’s got our vote.

READ: This Is How Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Plans To Tackle Poverty In The US

Latinos Mourn The Death Of Astrological Legend Walter Mercado Who Died During Día De Los Muertos

Entertainment

Latinos Mourn The Death Of Astrological Legend Walter Mercado Who Died During Día De Los Muertos

@OfficialJoelF / Twitter

Latinos are in disbelief to learn that the infamous Puerto Rican astrologer, Walter Mercado, died, at age 87, on Saturday. For more than 50 years, Mercado’s televised passion for astrological predictions, refusal to conform to gender roles, and mucho, mucho amor for his fans has secured a beloved space in the Latino zeitgeist. Whether your memory of Mercado was hearing your mom yell, “Callaté!” when his segment aired or memorizing your horoscope for the following day, every day, Mercado’s daily presence on your living room TV made him part of the family.

The public expects his immediate family to announce the cause of his passing, though San Juan’s Auxilio Mutuo Hospital spokeswoman, Sofia Luquis, did confirm his death on November 2, 2019.

Walter Mercado, a Pisces, was born at sea but lived and died in Puerto Rico.

Credit: @JuhemNR / Twitter

According to a biography published by Puerto Rico’s Foundation for Popular Culture, Mercado was born on March 9, 1932, on a ship traveling from Spain to Puerto Rico. He grew up in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where he later began his career in Puerto Rican telenovelas. Though his fame grew to all of Latin America, Mercado largely remained in Puerto Rico throughout his life.

The astrological legend Walter Mercado gifted us decades of accurate and life-changing predictions.

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Mercaado happened to be at a studio when the star of a guest segment didn’t show up. Producer Elín Ortíz asked him to use a 15-minute segment to offer astrological divinations. Boricuas loved him, and he was soon made a regular.

Recently, Mercado opened up about his gender-nonconformity.

Credit: @Carrasquillo / Twitter

“I’m so into who I am, and I do [what] feels right for me,” Mercado explained to Remezcla. “I’m so connected to people and to the divine for that. That I look feminine with a cape? Everyone knows we have two energies – yin and yang – and I know how to balance them. If I have to be a warrior, then I’ll be that. If I have to be soft and subtle, I can be that, too.”

“He never identified as queer,” one mourner tweeted, “But it felt like he refused to be constrained by gender norms and antiquated ideas of masculinity. He even rejected our understanding of time. When an interviewer once asked his age, Walter Mercado responded “Soy ageless.” AGELESS NEVER DIES, BEBÉ.”

Mercado was a pioneer and icon in the LGBTQ+ Latino community.

Credit: @SheisDash / Twitter

Mercado never discussed his sexuality but courageously expressed his gender to millions of viewers decades before rampant machísmo and homophobia were regularly challenged. Like an actual LGBT superhero, Mercado was known for wearing bejeweled and sequined capes.

At one point, Mercado owned more than 2,000 capes, twelve of which were put on display in Miami in August.

Credit: HistorryMiami Museum

The HistoryMiami Museum put on a popular exhibit of his “costumes, mementos, and ephemera, on display for the first time ever” in its exhibit, Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado, according to the museum website.

Mercado made a dazzling grand entrance, on a gold plated throne that was wheeled through the crowd.

Credit: @OfficialJoelF / Twitter

Wearing a gold sequined three-piece suit, 88-year-old Mercado blew kisses to his fans and posed for photographs as he met the cheering crowd one by one. Some received a coveted reading from the internationally acclaimed astrologer, which were likely some of the last divinations in his 50-year long career.

Mercado garnered 120 million Latino viewers every day for more than 30 years.

Credit: @hagtastic / Twitter

Basically, you, your abuela, and your mamá would gather in the living room every day to watch the icon deliver the wisdom we all needed. Today, Latinos are trying to tap into what made him so special to us all. “Our mothers, tias and tios relied on his advice,” one Twitter user shared, “but I think what captivated his 120 million daily viewers was his positivity and how he radiated mucho, mucho, mucho, amorrrrrr.”

Latinos are lamenting the loss of a decades-long tried and true New Year’s Eve tradition with Mercado.

Credit: THE NEW HERALD / YouTube

At the end of every year, Mercado gives a special segment on what each sign can expect from the new year. The mourning process for Mercado will extend at least until the New Year, as Latinos celebrate NYE without him. “I’m not an astrology buff but Walter was an icon and part of the family,” a mourner tweets, “New years will be so different without his segment his messages/horoscopes promoted optimism, love, and perseverance. Every evening he gave us hope, despite struggles, the stars showed a great future.”

Last year, Mercado predicted that Trump may be impeached in 2019.

Credit: @no_mamex / Instagram

Ok, so his exact Miami Herald-translated words were, “Donald Trump, the controversial president, will face his worst year and perhaps even impeachment.” This headline was published in The LA Times on January 2. Trump is currently undergoing an impeachment inquiry.

Beyond the loss of Mercado, it feels like a piece of our childhood died this weekend.

Credit: @lizzhuerta / Twitter

Ms. Lizz Huerta isn’t the first Latino to tweet about how Mercado’s death feels like the loss of something so innocent and pure from our childhoods. We all have such rich memories of how he was able to unite generations, though in varying ways. “My Tía would sit there and watch him weekly,” one dubious Latino tweeted. “I loved her dearly and while I would shake my head at her, if it made her happy to watch him, it was fine with me. She never sent money either which is why I was ok with it.”

We hope Mercado’s feeling mucho, mucho amor from wherever he is now.

Credit: @mijadoris / @cyberguurl / Twitter

Mercado passed on the final day of Día de Los Muertos, prompting Latinos to reaffirm Mercado’s destiny to transition to the stars themselves. Que descanse en Paz, Walter Mercado. You truly were a celestial being on this earth.

READ: Walter Mercado Got Real About His Flamboyant Style And Why He’s Long Said ‘No’ To Extreme Gender Conformity And Machismo