Boricuas United:  Puerto Ricans from Across the Nation Gather in DC

After an initial delay due to weather concerns, Hunter College’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies, “Centro”, held the second annual Puerto Rico Diaspora Summit on October 26th, 2018 at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law.

The focus of the event was to gather Puerto Ricans from across the nation, of all ages and professions, to discuss important topics facing the island at the local level, as well as the actions we can take at the national level.

Margarita Varela, Cenadores de PR Board Member, hosted the event alongside other Puerto Rican leaders from the NGO sector. The two-day event featured a number of different panels tailored around the idea of rebuilding Puerto Rico after the devastating effects that Hurricane Maria took on the U.S. territory’s infrastructure and economy.

The first day of the event consisted of opening remarks by the organizers of the event, as well as a screening of the documentary “Bancarrota”. The documentary features a series of interviews to key figures from the government and non-government sectors discussing Puerto Rico’s debt issue, which reached its peak when it declared bankruptcy bank in May of 2017. The Director of the film, retired University of Puerto Rico Professor José Umpierre, was present during the screening and answered questions from the audience.

The summit continued on October 27th, which coincided with the celebration of the first Puerto Rico Day in Washington DC.   Mayor Muriel Bowser had issued a proclamation declaring the special day of recognition before the summit began.

“The Diaspora Summit was a historic event for our community in Washington, D.C., in which we celebrated the first ever Puerto Rico Day in the nation’s capital. I am grateful for all the sponsoring organizations for making this event happen,” said Margarita Varela, Puerto Rican Diaspora Summit-Washington D.C. Chairperson, who also serves as Commissioner of the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs.

Dr. Edwin Meléndez, Director of Centro, then went on to give a presentation on the status of the Puerto Rican migration to the mainland. He estimated that between 160,000 and 175,000 Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, had left the island in the year after María, mostly to the mainland United States; another 100,00, he argued, are expected to leave this coming year.

The program continued with four consecutive panels focused on training members of the Puerto Rican diaspora regarding the actions that can be taken to spur economic development and promote good governance in Puerto Rico.  A panel titled “Good Governance, Accountability, and Transparency” moderated by National Puerto Rican Agenda co-founder Gretchen Sierra-Zorita was among the most attended of the day. The panel discussed the importance of implementing policies and regulations within the government of Puerto Rico which prevent fraud and increase accountability and effectiveness, especially due to the increased amount of federal funds that have been pouring into Puerto Rico since Hurricane María. Mario Marazzi, the Director of the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics, also argued the importance of enacting Open Data laws in Puerto Rico which increase accountability.

The day ended with a workshop hosted by BoricuActivated and titled ‘How to be the best advocate for Puerto Rico’. The workshop featured prominent staffers from multiple congressional offices, which were assigned to different working groups with the goal of simulating a real-life meeting. Attendees were given the materials and talking points needed to prepare their arguments, and staffers gave feedback on how to best prepare for and approach these meetings in a real world scenario.

Overall, the summit was a highly-attended event that featured prominent leaders from all sectors. It ended with a selection of traditional Puerto Rican food, including a selection of local rums which was hosted by Friends of Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization that helped funnel supplies to the island in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

One Comment

Dennis Freytes

Talk and criticism goes no-where! American Veterans-EQUAL RIGHTS-a Call to Arms (Civic Action-Justice)!
**FAIR Treatment-EQUAL Rights for US Puerto Ricans-US Veterans!**
SUM: Fellow 2d Class US Citizens-American Veterans (3.5 million) in the US Territory of Puerto Rico (PR), for 120+ years (since, 1898)-don’t have Federal “consent of the governed”; FACE unfair treatment-discrimination; an “Economic-Job; Fiscal; Infrastructure; Humanitarian; Status-Equality Crisis”- where each part affects the other; the Federal undemocratic Territorial (Colonial) Status affects everything–which ties Puerto Rican hands to compete fairly in a level playing field! This not only a Group question on the Status, but, a Moral one for FAIR Individual Equal Rights-Justice-consent of the governed; as we guard against a tyranny of a Majority!
FACTs- EVEN TODAY, there are two Groups of US Citizens-ONE with all rights, benefits, and responsibilities; ANOTHER with a 2d Class US Citizenship—Puerto Ricans—that:
• CAN’T Vote for their US President nor have just representation in the US Congress nor full blood earned Benefits nor Parity in Federal Laws-that includes about 42 Programs, like-Health Care (MEDICARE, MEDICAID), Social Security, Education, Infrastructure, Security…; nor a permanent US Citizenship (if born in PR, Congress can take a statutory US Citizenship away…)!
• ARE undemocratically controlled by our US Federal Government (includes borders, currency, laws, defense, Territorial Government,…), per the trite Territorial Clause (1787), and racist Insular Cases (1901-1925+) which state: “The US Congress can discriminate in applying the US Constitution to Territories …” (not applied to other Territories before Puerto Rico- which is discrimination)! Plus, Puerto Ricans pay unfair consumer fees under the 1920 Jones Act-Merchant Marine monopoly…
• Puerto Ricans are the 2d largest Hispanic Ethnic Group-9+ million strong (5.6+ million live in the States; 3.4 million in PR), but, there is an exodus to the States that tax State and local resources…
CONTRIBUTIONS- US Puerto Ricans have sacrificed; shed sweat, blood, and tears for our US Flag; cherish their US Citizenship; have integrated, and contribute in all fields of endeavor to our noble US “Union of States”-with STATE Identity; Constitution; Flag; and Sovereignty—work for the good of all!
• US-PR American Veterans have loyally & bravely served; fought, since 1898, in WW-I, WW-II, Korea, Vietnam until Today, under our US Flag, for the Good of All: Family, Community, USA, and Humanity! PRs have earned many Battle Blood Awards, includes-the US 65th Infantry-was awarded the “Congressional Gold Medal” highest honor our US Congress, with US President, can bestow…
• US Puerto Rican-Hispanic Ancestors came from PR (Boriken) in 1513 to our now USA (Florida)-107 years before the Pilgrims; brought Christianity, advanced civilization of the times; other good things; fought in the US War of Independence…; helped develop our USA to be the best in Human History!
PATRIOTISM- It is incongruent with the essence of our Declaration of Independence (“consent of the governed”); essence of our US Constitution-“WE THE PEOPLE”-made up by Individual Citizens with protected Equal rights…, that fellow US Citizens-American Veterans from the US Territory of Puerto Rico–STILL face Federal Institutional discrimination…! We must guard against the “tyranny of a majority”! The Federal Government should serve the People; not be their Master; ensure Fair treatment-Equal Rights for ALL! The People should not suffer for the sins of their Federal Government!
SOLVE- Contact Federal Government–to, along with PR’s Government—FIX the roots of PR’s “Economic; Fiscal; Infrastructure; Humanitarian; Status Crisis”- where each part affects the other; the Federal undemocratic Territorial Status affects everything! Remember: Puerto Ricans cherish their US Citizenship; elected a pro-Statehood Territorial Governor, Congresswoman, House, and Senate; voted for Statehood twice-2012 & 2017… Independence never gets more than 2-5% of the Vote…
*ACTION–The Federal Government must provide fellow PR 2d Class US Citizens-American Veterans:
EQUALITY+JUSTICE+PROGRESS= STATEHOOD with DIGNITY!
UNITED-With Truth, Reason, Courage, and Civic Action-for the Good of ALL!!
**ALTERNATIVE: US Congress does a Non-Territorial Plebiscite-per only constitutional options: STATEHOOD vs INDEPENDENCE (without or with a PACT- Free Association…).
PATRIOT QUESTION: Will you support Equal Treatment-EQUAL Rights for fellow US Citizens-US Veterans in the US Territory of Puerto Rico or will you be a Partner in political oppression by excusing or supporting Federal undemocratic-discrimination against US Puerto Ricans-going on for 120+ years?
Remember, you can’t have it both ways, you are either for Equal Rights or you support discrimination! **CONTACT: Post on Congressional Web Site; Send Emails; Resolutions…TO:
• US Congress: https://contactingcongress.org/
• US Senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm;
• US Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
• US President: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

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