Things That Matter

Voters In Puerto Rico Took To The Polls To Vote On Statehood And A New Governor

Aas hundreds of millions of Americans took to the polls on Election Day to cast their ballots (in record-breaking numbers), voters were also showing up to the polls in Puerto Rico.

People across the island are now anxiously awaiting the results following a heated contest that saw long lines of voters and produced a tight gubernatorial race in the U.S. Caribbean territory.

It was the first election held since Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017, causing damages estimated at more than $100 billion and killing an estimated 2,975 people. It’s also the first election since hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets to demand the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. The protests, now known as the “Summer of 2019,” were sparked by a leaked chat in which the then-governor and other officials made fun of hurricane victims, among other things, and made comments that led to an investigation into possible corruption.

The island’s top job is up for grabs for the first time since the last governor was forced to resign.

It’s been a rough couple of years for the island of Puerto Rico. Just last year, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets to demand the resignation of then Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. Now, for the first time since his resignation Puerto Ricans were able to choose their leadership.

Pedro Pierluisi of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party held a slight lead over Carlos Delgado of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the island’s current status. More than 12,000 votes separated the top two candidates after counting more than 95% of the ballots cast Tuesday as well as some returns from early and absentee ballots, which were also still being tallied.

Pierluisi briefly served as governor following last year’s protests and previously represented Puerto Rico in Congress for eight years. He and Rosselló are from the same party.

Much like Trump, Pierluisi prematurely celebrated the results at a news conference, while Delgado said shortly after midnight that he would await final results.

“It’s irresponsible,” Delgado said of Pierluisi’s actions.

The island’s top two parties had a disappointing showing as voters look elsewhere for change.

Credit: Xavier Garcia / Getty Images

This year’s elections are also noteworthy because it’s the first time in recent history that neither of the island’s two main parties secured more than 40% of the overall vote. This is largely seen as a result of new, younger parties and candidates eroding the grip that both parties have long had on the island.

Many voters leaving the polls said that they voted for a new party because he said the New Progressives and Popular Democrats don’t deliver.

“It’s one promise after another and they don’t do anything,” one voter told Business Insider.

The island is also facing a dwindling voter base as hundreds of thousands of residents have left the island for states like Florida and New York. In this year’s election, there were 2.36 million eligible voters, compared with 2.87 million in 2016 and 2.4 million in 2012.

Despite the drop in eligible voters, the diversity of parties and candidates has increased in recent years, slowly eroding the grip that the New Progressives and Popular Democrats have had on the island’s politics for decades.

Rafael Fonseca, an administrator, told Bloomberg News he had hoped neither of the two parties would win this year.

“They’ve been doing the same thing for years and there’s no change,” he said, adding that the island’s public education system needs to be improved and wages increased to prevent the loss of young people moving to the U.S. mainland in search of work.

Voters have also appeared to support a non-binding resolution on Puerto Rican statehood.

In January, as part of Senate Bill 1467, the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly added a referendum on statehood to the ballot. If it’s approved, the governor of Puerto Rico will appoint a seven-person commission to represent the island in statehood negotiations. If the governor then accepted the plan, it would be presented to the U.S. Congress and the president.

Full statehood for Puerto Rico would allow its residents constitutional rights that Puerto Ricans do not have: the ability to vote in presidential and congressional elections.

The non-binding referendum asked residents, “Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the union as a state?”

Support for U.S. statehood was leading with more than 52%, with more than 95% of votes counted. However, U.S. Congress would have to approve of any changes to the island’s political status.

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Olympian Laurie Hernandez Is Back And Just Gave A Powerful “Hamilton” Inspired Performance

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Olympian Laurie Hernandez Is Back And Just Gave A Powerful “Hamilton” Inspired Performance

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

She’s back! After an almost five-year hiatus, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez made her big return to competition at Saturday’s 2021 Winter Cup meet with moves to remember — set to some pretty unforgettable music, too.

The 20-year-old gold and silver medalist hit the mat with a “Hamilton”-inspired floor routine.

Laurie Hernandez just gave a stunning floor routine at the 2021 Winter Cup.

Please welcome Laurie Hernandez back to the floor! After a four-and-a-half-year hiatus, the 20-year-old Olympian showed off her strength, proving, like Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, she is inimitable and an original.

“My first priority [at Winter Cup] is to go in and hit clean routines and show that I can be consistent,” Hernandez told NBC News. “But my next one is to enjoy myself.” It sure looks like she accomplished her goal, with nonstop energy and a smile on her face throughout her entire choreography.

As “The Room Where It Happens” played in the background, Hernandez flipped and danced her way to a 12.05 score in the event, good for an 11th-place finish in the floor exercise.

And after the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup in Indianapolis wrapped up, the noted theater fan shared her routine on Twitter and asked for feedback from “Hamilton” creator Lin Manuel Miranda and actor Leslie Odom Jr. — who sang “The Room Where It Happens” as Aaron Burr in the original cast.

This weekend’s performance was her first since stealing hearts during the 2016 Rio games.

Hernandez was part of the Team USA “Final Five” squad that won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But following those games she took a step back from competition, later revealing that former coach Maggie Haney was emotionally and verbally abusive toward her. The gymnast dealt with depression and eating disorders as a result.

Hernandez said it wasn’t until years later that she realized her love of the sport could be separated from the trauma she experienced. “I thought I hated gymnastics, and it wasn’t until mid-2018 I realized that it was the people that made the experience bad, not the sport itself,” she explained on Instagram.

Though she already has a gold medal from the team all-around and a silver medal from her 2016 individual performance on the beam, Hernandez is now ramping up for more challenging competitions over the next several months with the hopes of qualifying for the Olympics this summer. But with a crowded field vying against her for just four roster spots, securing a bid to Tokyo will undoubtedly be an uphill battle.

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Legendary Astrologer Walter Mercado’s Home In Puerto Rico Is For Sale And At A Discount

Entertainment

Legendary Astrologer Walter Mercado’s Home In Puerto Rico Is For Sale And At A Discount

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Prediction: You will want to check out Walter Mercado’s house in Puerto Rico, and maybe even buy it up and call it home. And what perfect timing, because the stars have aligned to bring you his Puerto Rico pad at an unbeatable price.

That’s right! Walter Mercado’s home in San Juan is up for sale!

Located in an “exclusive area” of San Juan, according to the property listing, the six-bedroom, five-bathroom estate is on sale for just $395,000.

Since you likely won’t fly to San Juan right now (thanks, COVID), you can check out the flamboyant cape aficionados sweet, two story tropical oasis on Realtor.com.

The listing photos show the home’s vibrant interior, which appears in the documentary, with yellow, red and green walls. The first floor boasts a large living room, kitchen and dining room. Tile-work leads up the stairs to the second level, where there’s yet another living room, dining room and a smaller kitchen — plus two balconies.

Outside, there’s a pool area with a gazebo and a patio, as well as a covered carport for at least four cars.

The home seems to be having trouble finding a buyer.

The estate originally hit the market for $495,000 in September 2020 but with no buyer in the cards, it then had its price slashed to $430,000 in December, according to Realtor.com. It’s now asking just $395,000.

Mercado already sold his Miami property in 2017 to cover financial difficulties.

While in Miami, Mercado maintained an apartment at The Grand in downtown for many years until 2017 when he decamped part time to New York.

Many in his family had hoped to turn his Puerto Rico home into a museum to the late icon, but due to zoning issues the family decided the best step forward was to list the home for sale. Regarding Mercado’s belongings that were contained within the home (so many of which we came to see in the Netflix documentary), one of his nieces told Pledge Times, that though family members have each kept some items, many were given to the Miami History Museum, and some items will go to Mexico. However, his cape with the Puerto Rican flag is being sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

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