Things That Matter

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

Nelson Feliciano fills 16 empty soda bottles and milk jugs with brownish-yellow-colored water from the Ojo de Agua, a swollen stream in Aguadilla, a municipality located on the northwestern tip of Puerto Rico. “We’ll use this to bathe,” he tells mitú in Spanish, alluding to his five daughters, ages 5, 12, 13, 15 and 18. They’re the reason Feliciano makes the mountainous trek under the searing sun once a day, and why he is considering leaving his island for the U.S. mainland.

From 2006 to 2015, more than 700,000 people fled debt-ridden Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, to cities like Orlando, New York, Philadelphia and Miami. Many more are expected to leave in the wake of catastrophic storms. One month after Hurricane Maria’s 155 MPH winds shook the entire archipelago, 80 percent of Puerto Ricans still lack electricity and more than a third of the people don’t have potable water. All over the once lush land lies rubble of homes and businesses, battered, just like the fallen and leafless trees that sit beside them. Countless homes, restaurants, gas stations, shops and jobs were also lost.

According to experts, the massive humanitarian, climate and debt crises will prompt hundreds of thousands more to leave — many are expected to never return. In the three weeks that planes have been taking off from San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, already 10,000 residents have left. Puerto Ricans, who have an imposed second-class kind of citizenship, where they are able to serve in the U.S. military but not allowed to vote for the president or elect voting senators or representatives in the U.S. Congress, can legally migrate to any of the U.S. states. But the decision to do so remains complicated and difficult for most on the island.

“If I were alone, I’d stay. But I have young children, who don’t understand the situation, and us, who know that the hospitals aren’t functioning, if I have the opportunity to leave, I will,” Feliciano says.

We spoke with several Puerto Ricans on the island about their future. Here’s what they had to say.

Shakira, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi / PR on The Map)

“I’m staying. I think a lot of people are leaving the island because they can’t take the situation or to be with family. But I’m staying because I want to be part of bettering my island. If we all leave, there are few left to make change. I want to be a part of the new beginning here.”

Alba DeJesus, Hato Rey

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I don’t want to sound like a privileged class that says ‘Puerto Rico Se Levanta,’ because there are classes that can say that and see that and others that can’t, right, so I don’t want to perpetuate that. It’s intense what happened, and it’s intense what other people are living. They’re at zero. But I don’t want to leave, and I don’t want my family to leave. It’s a hard job, and it’s a job that will require us to really see what solidarity looks like.”

Nelson Rodriguez, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m going to try to fix my home. It’s not going to be fixed in one day, but if I work on it a little bit every day, then eventually it will be. Things aren’t going to be good, and it’s going to take a long time to rebuild. It will take years and years. If I can’t rebuild it, then I’ll go to the U.S. I have family in Boston and the Bronx.”

Lydia Osorio, Loíza

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“Honestly, my perspective is clear on leaving Puerto Rico. And it’s not just because of what’s happening now with Maria. No. It’s because what we are going through with the government. It’s forcing us to immigrate even if we don’t want to. You look for a job, and there isn’t one, or you have to wait or it’s complicated. There’s a lot of factors that go into play for a Puerto Rican to immigrate. If I go, I’d go to Orlando, Florida. My dad and my oldest daughter, who is 16, are there. And that’s where I’m at.”

Rubén, Vega Baja

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’ll stay here till I die.”

Sophia Rivera, Guaynabo

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m in college, and I’m going to stay studying here. I see myself at least helping as much as I can. If I’m outside, I will help as much as I can. This island, and everything in it, has helped me be the person that I am, and if I would be in another place, I wouldn’t be this good person. I know I’m a good person because I’m giving everything that I have to my community, and that’s the biggest opportunity that I could get here. It’s giving what I can to the people who need it.”

Joel Ortiz, Carolina (by way of the Dominican Republic)

(Photo Credit: Kat Lazo / PR on The Map)

“I would prefer to stay here and live here, but the situation is very bad. Even if you want to leave, it’s very hard to find tickets.”

Joselin, Old San Juan

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“It’s a compromise we have to make to stay, to stay to uplift, to construct. We don’t just want to reconstruct the country. The country that is behind us didn’t work. We need a new one.”

Vanessa Foy, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I won’t leave my country. I was born here, I grew up here and here I’ll wait to die.”

Genisis Quiñones, Loíza

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I can understand why people are leaving. There’s no money. …We’ve been thinking about leaving even before Irma or Maria happened, but I think my mom wants to stay because she doesn’t want to leave her father. … We don’t want to leave just because this happened and there aren’t any jobs. No, just because things are bad and then when things get better we want to come, ‘cause that’s gonna look bad, you know? We’re Puerto Rican, and we’re supposed to stay with the people that we love, even though things get bad. I think we are going to stay.”

Luis, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m not leaving. I was born here, I lived my whole life here and I will die here. Where would I even go? To the cemetery. That’s where I’ll go.”

Diana Cassanova, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“A lot of people are leaving, and that’s a big mistake. If it’s hard to survive here that it’s cheaper, most of these people are going to end up in a shelter because the rents out there [in the U.S.] are ridiculous. I cannot survive no more in New York. I did it for 30 years. Once I retired, I cannot survive on my social security. So I came back here. And I won’t leave. I don’t want to be a burden to my kids. I’m here.”

Mariana, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi / PR on The Map)

“I am staying for now, but I lost my job, and so I need to leave to make money to return with more competitiveness and more money. We can’t judge the people who are leaving because of necessity because it’s a reality. We are going through a humanitarian crisis and an economic crisis, that already existed but now intensified with what just happened. If I have the opportunity to leave and work for a month, I’d do it. But ultimately it is necessary for us to stay, and, if we leave, for us to return so that we can continue to work for our community.”

Gabriel Díaz Rivera, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m planning on staying. That’s why we are doing what we are doing, to construct a Puerto Rico for ourselves. The rich and the millionaires will stay on the island. … And it’s important for us to stay to enjoy our terrain and to have a greater influence in the fixing of this country and getting out of this crisis, to create a country that’s for the people and not for the same small few that has benefited.”

Reporting for this article was made possible through PR on The Map, a Latinx independent media team put together by grassroots organizer and former Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente to produce unfiltered, unapologetic and intergenerational coverage on Puerto Rico. Donate to PR on The Map here.

READ: Puerto Rico Is Completely Flooded And Could Go Months Without Electricity. Here’s How People In The U.S. Are Uniting Beautifully To Help

Let us know how you are helping out the people devastated by natural disasters in the Caribbean and Mexico in the comments.

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Puerto Rican Boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez Pleads Not Guilty To Charges Of Killing Of Pregnant Woman

Things That Matter

Puerto Rican Boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez Pleads Not Guilty To Charges Of Killing Of Pregnant Woman

Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez is charged with murdering Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz, who was pregnant at the time. In a virtual court hearing earlier this week, Verdejo Sánchez pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to the murder.

Boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez is being charged with murder in connection to the death of Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz.

Earlier this month, news broke that Rodríguez Ortiz’s body was found floating in a lagoon. The news shocked Puerto Rico because Rodríguez Ortiz was pregnant when she was killed. Verdejo Sánchez, who is married and has a young daughter, was quickly arrested and charged with murder in connection with her death.

According to an FBI complaint, Verdejo Sánchez is accused of punching Rodríguez Ortiz in the face before injecting her with an unknown substance. She was then tied up and heavy blocks were attached to the bindings before being thrown from a bridge. Verdejo Sánchez then allegedly shot at Rodríguez Ortiz’s body before fleeing the scene.

Verdejo Sánchez and Luis Antonio Cádiz Martínez were both indicted in the crime.

According to reports, Cadíz Martinez helped Verdejo Sánchez commit the crime and has worked as a witness for the FBI as they investigate the murder. Both men have pleaded not guilty to one count of carjacking resulting in death, one count of kidnapping resulting in death, and one count of killing an unborn child. Verdejo Sánchez is also facing one count of carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

The two men are facing federal charges that could come with federal death penalties.

The death penalty is illegal in Puerto Rico but special circumstances in the case could mean federal death penalties. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico said in a statement that the crime was done “by payment or the promise of payment.” That is enough to escalate the matter to a federal crime.

“Keishla Rodríguez-Ortiz was taken from a family that loved her, and she and her child were denied the most fundamental right of life, and the joy of knowing what that life could have been,” United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said in a statement. “We hope that this process brings some measure of solace to Keishla’s family. This case also underscores the message of cooperation with law enforcement that I have been repeating to the community – If you have knowledge of criminal activity, even if you are a participant in that activity, do the right thing and come forward to authorities. The prosecutors and the law enforcement agencies that have worked tirelessly, and who continue to assist in the ongoing investigation of this case, are to be commended.”

Rodríguez Ortiz’s death has sparked outrage as the island confronts a spike in femicide since January.

Twenty-one women have been killed in Puerto Rico since the beginning of the year. According to Observatorio de Equidad de Género, 60 women were killed last year in Puerto Rico, which is a 62 percent increase from 2019. Puerto Ricans are demanding justice and answers as the same femicide gripping the rest of Latin America is on the rise.

This story is ongoing and mitú will update on the story as it develops.

READ: Radical Feminists Have Seized Control of a Federal Building in Mexico in Protest of the Government’s Apathy Towards Rampant Femicide

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Singer-Songwriter Kany García Speaks Out Against Conversion Therapy in Puerto Rico

Entertainment

Singer-Songwriter Kany García Speaks Out Against Conversion Therapy in Puerto Rico

As the Puerto Rican government is debating a bill on conversion therapy, Kany García is speaking out against the controversial practice. The Boricua singer-songwriter wrote an open letter to the senators in favor of Senate Bill 184, which would help end conversion therapy on the island.

Kany is one of Puerto Rico’s most-decorated artists.

García is one of the Puerto Rico’s top artists. She’s won six Latin Grammy out of a career 20 nominations. In March, she was also nominated for her third Grammy Award for her latest album Mesa Para Dos.

This year Kany celebrated five years since coming out.

On Valentine’s Day 2016, García revealed that she was in a relationship with her partner, Jocelyn Troche. The couple is still going strong with Troche appearing in last year’s “Lo Que En Ti Veo.” She and García share beautiful moments in the video. At November’s Latin Grammy Awards, there was a big wave of artists in the LGBTQ+ community in the major categories, including García, Ricky Martin, Pablo Alborán, and Jesse y Joy’s Joy Huerta.

She’s telling Puerto Rican senators to pass Senate Bill 184 in her letter.

Since coming out, García has remained at the forefront of queer issues in Puerto Rico. The passage of Senate Bill 184 seeks to prohibit conversion therapy. The controversial practice has long harmed LGBTQ+ communities. It’s thought of as a way to rid them of their queer gender or sexual identities.

“Puerto Rico deserves that every girl and boy, every young woman and young man can be who they want to be and love who they want to love,” García wrote in her letter. “This measure has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the protection of Puerto Rican children and youth.”

García speaks from her own experience. “I am an example of how to be faithful to who you are. I am a woman who deeply loves her partner and who is loved by her family and by our people. There is nothing to change. There is nothing to repair. There’s nothing to heal. We have to give the same opportunity that I have had, to be who I am, to all our children and youth.”

García further writes that the bill should be passed as-is without any amendments. According to Al Día news, Popular Democratic Party Senators Gretchen Hau, Elizabeth Rosa Velez, and Migdalia Gonzalez have filed several amendments to Senate Bill 184 as of Wednesday. Puerto Rico’s governor Pedro Pierluisi has indicated that he’s ready to override the senators if necessary.

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Read: Thalía, Alejandra Gúzman, Anitta And More Lined-Up for ‘Ellas y Su Música’ Mother’s Day Special

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