Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Emotions Running High

This week is turning out to be quite an eventful one at the State Capital (el capitolio), where police clashed with protestors today, and had to use pepper spray and lacrimogenic gas to disperse them. It all started on Monday, when the pugnacious State Senator majority leader Thomas Rivera Schatz (PNP) made an inappropriate homophobic remark towards Senator Eduardo Bhatia (PPD), who also fired back with an insult. For the integrity of this blog, I won't delve into the details of this exchange. Truth be told, the actions of these two gentlemen makes me wonder about the direction of Puerto Rico's future. When two elected officials have to resort to cat-calling, and behave like children, one can't help but do some soul-searching. Like the popular public service announcement slogan says, "¿Que nos pasa Puerto Rico?" (Translation: "What's going on with us in Puerto Rico?")

Mr. Rivera has seemingly not given this question much thought, and decided to grab as many headlines as he can possibly get. Yesterday, he finally bowed to pressure and allowed the public and the press to attend congressional sessions. He had gradually been limiting such access, especially after the intense media coverage of the arrest last week of Sen. Héctor Martínez (PNP), who is facing charges of corruption. The Senate majority leader's restriction on the press has been called unconstitutional, and various local press associations have gone to the Puerto Rican Supreme Court to demand the re-opening of the plenary sessions to the public.

Today's skirmishes occurred when University of Puerto Rico students attempted to enter the capitol building to attend the congressional session taking place. Some journalists and photographers were assaulted by the police as well. Today's session was the last before the start of the new fiscal year 2010-2011. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have not been able to find common ground on various budgetary measures. During a period in which Puerto Rico is experiencing some very tough economic challenges, as well as social problems, such events serve no purpose in helping the island move forward in resolving its issues.

(The image above was obtained from

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mayagüez 2010 Games

With the vuvuzelas buzzing in the background, I'm watching the U.S vs. Algeria World Cup soccer game as I'm blogging. Although I already know who won this exciting match, I can't help but feel engrossed. I have soccer (or fútbol) fever! This summer is indeed a great time for sports fanatics. While most of the world's attention, including mine, is currently focused on the World Cup, another quadrennial sporting event will soon be taking place. I am referring to the XXI Central American and Caribbean Games, which is the longest running regional sporting event in the world and is superseded only by the Olympic Games. This will be the third occasion in which Puerto Rico will be hosting the games. It will be held in Mayagüez from July 17th through August 1st.

Back in late 2008 and early 2009, there was a lot of speculation as to whether the island would be able to host the games at all, as the Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico warned there were insufficient funds to finance this event. However, as the games are seen as a good opportunity to help give the Puerto Rican economy a boost and promote tourism, the government fought hard to ensure that the games would remain on the island. Cuba, which has won the most medals in the history of the Caribbean and Central American Games, will not be participating in this edition. However, there will be 27 other countries present to compete in a whole variety of sports, ranging from basketball to badminton. Some of the tickets to these events will be raffled out. For those of you who are interested in attending some of these games, please visit Ticket Center or the XXI Central American and Caribbean Games' official Web site.

(Image obtained from

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Status Issue

Should Puerto Rico, essentially a U.S colony, become the 51st state, maintain its current status quo, or become independent? The island's political status has always been a perennial issue, one which has provoked much heated debate and sharp divisions in Puerto Rican society. HR 2499, known as the "Puerto Rico Democracy Act," is the latest attempt introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierlusi to once again address this issue. It calls for two-step referendum every eight years. The first would simply ask eligible voters (including Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S) whether they wish to keep the island's current status as a commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado) or to choose another political direction. If the latter receives the majority of the votes, a second referendum would then ask voters to choose among the following options: statehood, independence, current commonwealth status or "sovereignty in association with the U.S."

Should statehood receive the majority of the votes, Congress must vote on whether to allow Puerto Rico to become the 51st state. HR 2499 was passed in the House of Representatives, by a vote of 223-169 this past April 29th, but it has been stalled in the Senate. Critics consider this latest attempt to favor statehood supporters. This is the argument of some U.S politicians of Puerto Rican descent, such as Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-NY), who are against HR 2499. On the other hand, Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) supports this initiative, saying: "I support it because for the first time in 112 years the people of Puerto Rico will have an opportunity to express themselves."

Contrary to what Rep. Serrano was quoted as saying, the island has had plebiscites in 1967, 1993 and 1998 allowing citizens to decide on the political status of Puerto Rico. Unless island residents get just two options, independence or statehood, I do not see an overwhelming majority wanting to see Puerto Rico become the 51st state. Culture and economics are two of the reasons why most Puerto Ricans prefer to keep the status quo. Spanish is the predominant language spoken, and residents do not pay any federal taxes on income earned inside the island. After all is said and done, there is simply a lack of interest and desire amongst most of the electorate to change Puerto Rico's current political status.

(Image obtained from

Monday, June 7, 2010

Island in Mourning

This past weekend, in a rare show of solidarity and camaraderie, many of Puerto Rico's politicians, across party lines, gathered to pay their last respects to William Miranda Marín. The mayor, who is known as "Willie," of Caguas, a city in central Puerto Rico, died at the age of 69 of pancreatic cancer last Friday morning. He was an extremely well-regarded local politician who had a very long record of public service, as well as in the private sector, and many believed he would have been elected as the next governor. Flags across the island were flying at half-staff in honor of Willie and the local papers and TV stations had special coverage commemorating his life. Pres. Obama also issued a statement on Willie's death.

As one of the leaders of the Partido Popular Democrático (the Popular Democratic Party-PPD), Willie supported the island's current status as a U.S commonwealth, and he particularly emphasized the importance of Puerto Rican sovereignty. One of his most prominent achievements was the introduction in 2005 of the 1% municipal tax, which people started calling the "Willie tax." Its success led other cities throughout the island to levy their own municipal tax as well. His death is considered by many to be a tremendous loss, as Willie was seen as someone who had the potential of uniting Puerto Ricans from all walks of life, and from all different political ideologies. This we certainly need in an island where divisions along party lines runs so deeply that a common consensus is seldom reached.

(The image above was obtained from

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rediscovering Yoga

After nearly six years of leaving behind my yoga practice, I recently decided to re-embrace it once again. I attended my first class last week, and left feeling both mentally and physically levitated. I've always been a huge fan of yoga, which I had practiced for three years, because it helped break-down a lot of barriers I had built around me. We often develop all these self-doubts and fears, especially as we get older. Yoga helped changed this for me, it transformed my attitude and perception about myself and my life, in general. The changes I felt and saw in myself on the mat, I was able to feel in my mindset.

When I first began taking yoga classes, I laughed and thought to myself, "Yeah, right. I can never do a headstand or a crane pose." However, after several months of assiduously attending yoga classes, I had many aha moments! Before I knew it, many of the poses I once thought were impossible for me to do became a piece of cake. For this, I have tremendous gratitude for my former yoga teacher, Stephanie Culen, who has always been incredibly inspirational. She taught me a lot, and it was through her which I fell in love with yoga.

The most important lesson which I've learned from my practice is the need to evolve as a person. Engage in self-inquiry and constant learning, and just be open to all the possibilities in life, these are just some of the things which can help us become better human beings. I had actually been thinking about going back to yoga again for a while, so as to balance my running. Then one day, I walked past the studio of It's Yoga, it was as if a sign was sent to me from above. I have not been to other yoga studios in Puerto Rico. However, here's a listing for those of you who are interested in practicing while on the island. Meanwhile, with my feet firmly grounded, with much humility, passion and purpose, I'm back on the mat. Namaste.