PRdream mourns the passing of Anita Velez-Mitchell, 1916 – 2015

Anita_Velez-Mitchell

The poet, playwright, stage, screen and cabaret performer not only set records in the entertainment world, but also through the numerous accolades garnered for her writing. Ana (Anita) Vilia Vélez was born in Vieques, Puerto Rico, on February 21, 1916, but did not set foot in New York until 1929 when her mother sent for her.

Vélez -Mitchell went from living a life of luxury to cold water tenements in Spanish Harlem. Working as a movie house usherette the precocious fifteen year old learned dance routines, acting and singing from watching Hollywood movies. At seventeen she entered Puerto Rican theatrical circles and married playwright, activist Erasmo Vando. The marriage dissolved and Vélez-Mitchell supported herself and young daughter, Gloria Vando, through a series of jobs. She appeared in the film, Mexican Hayride, toured with the Ringling Brothers Circus as an aerialist, landed roles in Broadway musicals, and television commercials. In the1950s she formed the Anita Vélez Dancers; performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and in Carnegie Hall; and acted in “A Night of García Lorca.”

Her most notable Broadway role was as “Anita” in West Side Story. Vélez-Mitchell also wrote stories, plays, poetry and essays, receiving the coveted Julia de Burgos prize for her bilingual book-length poem, Primavida: Calendario de Amor. In 1999 she performed her songs at Lincoln Center in a tribute given to her by the Panamerican Symphony Orchestra.

In 2000 she was the subject of a documentary, “Anita Vélez: Dancing through Life”, which follows her early career in theater. Directed and produced by her daughter, Jane Vélez-Mitchell, it won four awards at the New York and Los Angeles Film Festivals. In 2002 Vélez-Mitchell costarred in the film Voice of an Angel, which won Best U.S.A. Short Film Award from the Silver Image and Los Angeles film festivals. A nonagenarian, Vélez-Mitchell is the matriarch of a talented, artistic family and remains active in all facets of her artistic endeavors.

The Puerto Rican Economic Crisis: A radio interview with Nelson Denis by Howard Jordan

This is an excellent interview with Nelson Denis about the economic crisis in Puerto Rico. He has emerged as a strong and informed voice about the present situation on our beloved island, offering a new vision that our “leadership” aqui y alla should heed. If not, the people will make them listen. Well done Nelson. Looking forward to the next meeting. Howard Jordan, thank you for giving Nelson the microphone!
I love Nelson’s use of Freddy Krueger who killed while his victims slept. It is an apt metaphor for the current situation Puerto Ricans find themselves in. The Krueger Report, according to Nelson, will eviscerate the island by proposing to privatize even more revenue-generating areas of the economy and shutting down schools. Thus, tearing away the commonwealth veil and revealing the naked truth of colonialism through increasingly intolerable austerity. !Despierta Boricua!

CRISIS IN PUERTO RICO – Rosario Rivera Negrón, Senior Economist

Rosario Rivera is an economics professor at the University of Puerto Rico and a senior economist with more than 10 years of experience on economic analysis and research for the firm Soto Santoni and Associates. With expertise in the areas of economic research, analysis, econometrics, economic development and international trade, Mrs. Rivera has worked in various professional sectors such as government, construction industry, the banking industry and international business consulting. Also has served as advisor on economic development, tourism, and strategic planning for the City of Caguas (Puerto Rico) and as consultant on fiscal policy and budget for the Budget Comission of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico.

She is the co-author of the book “Puerto Rico 2000-2010: Mas Alla del Censo” (Puerto Rico 2000-2010: Beyond the 2010 US Census), recently published. She has been part of numerous associations such as the Association of Economists of Puerto Rico, American Economic Association, Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association, among others.

PRdream mourns the passing of Fernando Salicrup, August 6, 1946 – January 1, 2015

Fernando Salicrup was born in El Barrio/Spanish Harlem, where he lived and worked as an artist and cultural entrepreneur. As Executive Director of Taller Boricua (Puerto Rican Workshop), he was instrumental in the development of the arts and cultural corridor in El Barrio.

In the 1980’s, Salicrup was active in providing housing for artists. He spearheaded the renovation of a city-owned public school building and its conversion into the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, one of the oldest cultural organizations of the historically Puerto Rican/Latino community. The center is the home of Taller Boricua and other art organizations, offering exhibitions and concerts year-round. Salicrup was a member of Manhattan Community Board 11 for several terms.

First and foremost a painter and printmaker, Salicrup worked continuously on his art while advocating for broader social issues impacting the cultural life of his community. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe. In New York City he has shown at El Museo del Barrio, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The XII San Juan Biennial of Latin American and Caribbean Printmaking.recognized him for his experimental print-making.
He also taught workshops in printmaking and served as a mentor to hundreds of young artists, writers and musicians.

Fernando Salicrup enlisted in the U.S. Marines Corps and served in the Vietnam War. He studied at the Philadelphia Academy of Art and, subsequently, won a scholarship to the New York School of Visual Arts, where he studied painting under Chuck Close and printmaking under Robert Blackburn.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Zoraida Salicrup, their sons Fernando Salicrup lll and Danel Salicrup; his daughter Cynthia Blake; and four grandchildren.

PRdream mourns the passing of Herman Badillo 1929 – 2014

From the New York Times

Herman Badillo, America’s first Puerto Rican-born congressman and a fixture in New York City politics for four decades who championed civil rights, jobs, housing and education reforms, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 85. His death, at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital, was caused by complications of congestive heart failure, his son, David, said.

Mr. Badillo rode many horses on New York’s political merry-go-round from 1962 to 2001. Besides being elected to four terms in Congress, he was a city commissioner, the Bronx borough president, a deputy under Mayor Edward I. Koch, a counsel to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a candidate for state and city comptroller, and a trustee and then board chairman of the City University of New York. But the prize he most coveted — to be New York’s first Puerto Rican mayor — eluded him, despite six tries, in 1969, 1973, 1977, 1985, 1993 and 2001. The ’85 and ’93 bids were so short-lived, they hardly counted, and he never won a major-party endorsement, although he came close in 1973, losing to the city comptroller, Abraham D. Beame, in a Democratic primary runoff. Mr. Beame went on to be elected mayor.

The peaks of Mr. Badillo’s career were his seven years in Congress, in the 1970s, when he advocated urban renewal, antipoverty programs, voting rights and bilingual education, and his leadership of the CUNY board, from 1999 to 2001, when it ended open enrollment in the senior colleges and raised standards for admission, curriculums and graduation after years of academic decline.

He called himself “the first Puerto Rican everything,” and it was true in a way. He was a role model who overcame an impoverished orphaned boyhood and an inability to speak English to become a famous politician. He lost many elections but won respect as a fighter, as the first Puerto Rican city commissioner and borough president, and as the nation’s highest-ranking Puerto Rican officeholder.

Mr. Badillo’s political odyssey was a long arc from Kennedy-style liberalism in the 1960s to Giuliani conservatism in the 1990s. He defied party loyalties and was by turns a Reform Democrat, a Democrat, a Republican and a neoconservative. A lean, broad-shouldered man with a proud, solemn bearing, he often spoke his mind bluntly, sometimes offending ethnic sensibilities and alienating constituents. He called Mr. Koch “cowardly,” for example, and derided Mr. Beame as “a malicious little man” in a 1973 mayoral primary debate. (Mr. Badillo said he had been referring to Mr. Beame’s “pettiness of mind” and not his physical stature. Mr. Beame was 5-foot-2, Mr. Badillo 6-foot-1.)

Mr. Badillo ran for mayor six times. He challenged Michael Bloomberg for the Republican mayoral nomination in 2001. Early on, Mr. Badillo supported bilingual education and assistance for the poor. Later, he concluded that the immigrant’s path to assimilation and prosperity lay in self-reliance, not government largess; he advocated a meritocracy of standard achievement tests, opposed bilingual education and promoted urban renewal to create jobs and housing, even when it displaced poor people.

In the 1990s he became a Republican, Mr. Giuliani’s education adviser and Gov. George E. Pataki’s CUNY chairman. His last hurrah was a 2001 challenge to Michael R. Bloomberg for the Republican mayoral nomination. Even friends called it quixotic, but it reflected the trajectory of a self-made man who had often run the New York City Marathon and always thrived on adversity.

Herman Badillo (pronounced bah-DEE-yoh) was born in Caguas, P.R., on Aug. 21, 1929, the only child of Francisco and Carmen Rivera Badillo. His father, an English teacher, died when Herman was 1 and his mother, when he was 5, both of tuberculosis. Relatives took him in, and at 11 he was sent to New York. Shunted among relatives, he lived in Chicago, in California and with an aunt in East Harlem. He learned English and became an excellent student at Haaren High School in Manhattan. Working as a dishwasher, bowling pinsetter and accountant, he graduated with high honors from City College in 1951 and from Brooklyn Law School as valedictorian in 1954, then settled into law practice in New York.

He married the first of three wives, Norma Lit, in 1949, had one son, and was divorced in 1960. In 1961, he married Irma Deutsch Liebling; she had Alzheimer’s disease and died in 1996. Later that year he married Gail Roberts, who lived with him in Manhattan and East Hampton, N.Y. She and his son survive him.

Mr. Badillo founded an East Harlem Kennedy-for-President committee in 1960 and supported Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr.’s successful antimachine campaign for re-election the next year. The mayor rewarded him, in 1962, with the new post of commissioner of housing relocation.

Mr. Badillo went on to defy Bronx Democratic bosses and win the borough presidency in 1965. He opposed the Vietnam War, backed the presidential candidacies of Robert F. Kennedy and, after Mr. Kennedy’s murder, Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, and won a seat in Congress in 1970. He was re-elected in 1972, 1974 and 1976. But while his political life would continue for 25 years, he never won another election.

He quit his safe congressional seat in 1977, a year early, to become a deputy mayor to Mr. Koch. But they had a falling-out over South Bronx redevelopment, and he departed in 1979. He lost a challenge to Mr. Koch in the 1985 Democratic mayoral primary and a 1986 race as a Democrat for state comptroller. He fared no better as a Republican. He did so poorly in a 1993 mayoral primary campaign against Mr. Giuliani that he quit and became his rival’s Republican-Liberal running mate for city comptroller. He lost again, but Mr. Giuliani won and named him an education counselor.

In his book “One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups” (2006), Mr. Badillo said Hispanic Americans undervalued education, which he called tragic for the nation’s largest ethnic minority. He was appointed CUNY chairman in 1999, but resigned in 2001 to make his final run for mayor, challenging the billionaire Mr. Bloomberg in the Republican primary. Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pataki, his erstwhile patrons, backed Mr. Bloomberg, the winner, and Mr. Badillo retired from politics.