Thursday, November 29, 2007

The American Dream via Puerto Rico

Illegal immigration is a serious issue affecting many countries in the world. The hope for a better life, and the search for economic opportunities, has driven many people to abandon their countries and begin a new life abroad. The Mexican border might be the most publicized frontier in which illegal immigrants enter the U.S. However, as the recent arrest of a group of Asian human traffikers in Puerto Rico may indicate, the "island of enchantment" is also on the radar. This latest incident involves a group of 15 Asian men, mostly of Chinese origin, who are accused of smuggling at least 11 people in a period of nine months. The smugglers received between $11,000 to $15,000 per person.

In this case, these illegal immigrants' long journey began in China and involved making stops in faraway places, such as Italy, France, South America and the Dominican Republic, before arriving in Puerto Rico. Eventually, most will make their way to the mainland U.S to fulfill their American dreams. Illegal immigration is a controversial topic in the U.S. There is no easy solution to this problem. I don't believe the construction of a taller concrete barrier or the increase of border patrol officers, and the coast guard will deter the drive and ambition of those who desperately seek a brighter future. Debates regarding this topic will only become more heated as the 2008 presidential elections draws near. This is an extremely important topic, and I think we need to be honest with ourselves. The U.S economy, as well as Puerto Rico's, depends on illegal immigration. We need to have a discussion and come to an agreement on how to resolve this issue. Furthermore, it also involves the dialogue and cooperation between the U.S and countries, such as Mexico, which most illegal immigrants originate from.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Beauty of Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is something I always look forward to. Although it's an American, as well as Canadian, holiday it is also celebrated here in Puerto Rico. For me, it's a day to give thanks to all of those who have made a positive difference in my life. Nowadays, I think many of us are so focused on our daily lives, with work, and so many other responsibilities, we've begun to lose sight of the importance of giving thanks. A few weeks ago, I got a flat tire and I was forced to pull over. There was simply no way that I was going to make it home. Luckily, I was able to make it to a garage, where the mechanic told me that they can change my tire for me. In just fifteen minutes, my car was good to go. I asked the gentleman how much I owed him. He just shook his head and told me not to worry about it. I couldn't believe it, he did all that for free? He doesn't know me, I'm a stranger! As I was driving away, I couldn't help but think not just how lucky I was, but also how grateful I should be.

We have all been blessed with the kindness and generosity of others. Unfortunately, as we are currently living in such a fast-paced world, we often fail to realize that we are surrounded by people who have touched our lives in many wonderful ways. I think we should slow down and reflect a little, while we gobble down all that turkey and stuffing. Thanksgiving is a reminder for us to recognize the beauty of humanity, and to appreciate those who have a kind heart. Regardless of your religious or cultural background, I believe it's a day where we can all celebrate together. It transcends boundaries. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Death of "Al Pacino"

Photo was obtained from

Please take note of the following: the "Al Pacino" I'm referring to in the title is not the actor himself, star of Scarface and other fantastic movies, but a Brazilian show dog. Yes, unfortunately, this is another entry about the death of animals. However, this one occurred under different circumstances. This incident happened last week, when the the owner of "Al Pacino" (aka "Bob") a Brazilian man who was in PR for the International Dog Expo, stopped to ask for directions. He left his rental car unattended and, upon his return, he found his car missing, along with "Al Pacino." The next day, the police found the car. "Al Pacino" was inside, but it was already too late. The poor dog died because the thief who stole the car didn't bother opening a window for him. They could also have let him go, a thought which probably didn't cross his or her mind.

As you can see by the photo, "Al Pacino" was not some little chihuahua. I highly doubt that they didn't notice a huge cage in the back. This was actually the first time that Puerto Rico hosted the dog expo, which "Al Pacino" won. Perhaps, it will be the last. I don't know, but this incident certainly won't help PR's reputation. The thief is still looming large, and he or she most likely had no idea of "Al Pacino's" fame. He's considered to be Brazil's top dog. Sadly, I believe many people simply lack morals. I think the way we treat animals also reflects how humans treat each other. Is it a coincidence that PR has a very high crime rate as well? For the time being, I think we need a pet detective here in Puerto Rico. We need an Ace Ventura-type to solve all these pet crimes. Seriously, something needs to be done. Any ideas would be welcomed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Battle of Testosterone

Photos above were obtained from

This morning, as I was reaching for the newspaper, I just couldn't believe my eyes. The front-page headline read as follows: "Como Heroé" (translation: "Like a Heroe") and it was accompanied by the second photo you see above. Here in PR, this past weekend, it was all about boxing. In fact, for two days in a row, the coverpage of all the local papers has been about boxing. This most recent match took place in New York's Madison Square Garden, and it was between the American Shane Mosley and (as you probably would've guessed by now) the Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto. As it turns out, there was no knockout. So, the judges had to decide the winner and they unanimously proclaimed Cotto as the winner. It was, by most accounts, an "excellent" fight.

Boxing, along with baseball and basketball, is extremely popular here. Personally, I just don't find boxing interesting. Inflicting pain on someone, and basking in the glory of it, is not something I enjoy watching. However, I think the popularity of boxing has to do with something more profound. Latino men are often stereotyped to be the macho type. From what I've seen, although there are always exceptions, I beg to differ. On the contrary, I see women as being more dominant and in control. Most of the gentlemen that I know are very attentive and loving to their wives/girlfriends and their mothers too! So, what to do with all that testosterone? Naturally, when they are amongst other males, they tend to talk a lot and they refer to their significant other as "mi mujer" (translation: "my woman").

The second outlet for Latino men to release their testosterone is through boxing. Perhaps, it allows them to maintain a sense of manhood. Sure, the men here are more aggressive and flirtatious. However, beneath that facade, you'll encounter a lot of love and tenderness.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Musical Implications

The image above is from

I am embarrassed to say this, but my first concert ever was to see Menudo. For those of you who have never heard of Menudo, believe me, you're not missing out on much. They were very popular in the 80's, a teenage boy band from Puerto Rico. Interestingly, Ricky Martin began his career as a Menudo member. Needless to say, Ricky has certainly moved on to bigger and better things. Latin music has also evolved over the years. As demonstrated by the 8th Latin Grammy Awards, which were held last night in Las Vegas. Most importantly, it is an example of how important the Latino population has become in the U.S.

According to the latest statistics published by the U.S Census Bureau, in 2006, Latinos comprise 14.8% (roughly 44.3 million) of the U.S population. Thus, making this the largest (and the fastest-growing) minority group in the U.S. Growing up in New York, many of my Latino classmates were Nuyoricans (New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent). Unfortunately, although they spoke Spanish, we only spoke to each other in English. Thus, last night, when Ricky Martin urged young Latinos not to lose the ability to speak their language, it struck a chord in me. I have numerous friends and acquaintances, whose parents immigrated to the U.S from other parts of the world, that can't speak their parents' native tongue. Obviously, it's not entirely their fault. However, I think it's a shame when we focus too much on being "American." There are many who strive to assimilate into mainstream society, to be accepted, which means to focus on speaking English only. However, I think last night's awards ceremony illustrates the conscientious effort of those who realize that you can be both Latino and American.

The Latin Grammys is a wonderful celebration of the beauty of Latino music in the U.S. It also goes to show that things in life are not necessarily always in black or white. The definition of being American can be very difficult and complicated, and it comes in many different layers. Instead of considering the U.S as a 'melting pot', I've always preferred the 'salad bowl' description, and this is one of the things I love most about the U.S. By the way, since this is my blog, I'd like to congratulate a friend of mine who worked on the Calle 13 album. He won a Grammy last night!! Woo hoo! Congrats!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Invading the South

Pictures of Guayama's town center

Being the coffee lovers that we are, I wanted to go visit Hacienda Buena Vista, which is a working coffee plantation located near the city of Ponce. It is the second largest city in Puerto Rico, and is located in the southern part of the island. So, my Mother and I hit the road. Driving around the island is something my family and I have always enjoyed. We love road trips. Amazingly, we rarely carry a map around with us. After all, we're in an island, how lost can we get?

Well, as it turns out, we got lost. We never made it to Hacienda Buena Vista. It certainly didn't help that the highway, which was newly constructed, didn't have any signs posted anywhere. We asked several people, but they just pointed us in the wrong direction and it also started raining quite hard. To make the most of our trip, we decided to visit Ponce instead. Unfortunately, we didn't find anything interesting. We started heading back to San Juan, when I saw a sign for Guayama, which is a small city not too far from Ponce. I was curious, and feeling a bit adventurous, so we just took the exit. We drove around this small city and came across various local bars and the town center. It was practically deserted, but I thought it was really pretty. Unfortunately, these days, most people prefer to visit the local shopping mall instead of taking a stroll in the plaza. What a shame!

All in all, it was great getting out of San Juan. We didn't end up at our intended destination. However, it was a fun and spontaneous road trip. Nevertheless, I'm going to purchase a map and put it in my car.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Quirks of Island Living

I am no stranger to island living. However, life in the island of Manhattan is quite distinct from life in the island of Puerto Rico and I embrace the differences. For starters, strangers actually greet each other here. The other day, when I was at the dentist's office, I found myself saying "buenos dias" to every person walking through the door. This is something I enjoy tremendously about this place, in general, people are just very warm and friendly. In New York, people don't even look at each other!

Needless to say, I've been breaking a lot of the social behavioral rules I followed from my days as a New Yorker. These days, I talk to strangers too... (gasp)! I suppose the local people find it fascinating... a chinita (translation: Chinese girl) who can speak Spanish without much of an accent. So, I am often approached by people who are simply curious. They usually ask me how long I've been living here, if I own a restaurant and if I have children. Oh, how I love defying stereotypes! People often look at me in awe, or perhaps they're just a bit disappointed. I suppose that's just one of the quirks of being me...