Posts Tagged ‘National Institute for Latino Policy’

The State of Puerto Rican Politics in New York City

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
May 15, 2007
6:15 pm

Boricua Power

The National Institute for Latino Policy
invites you to a roundtable

Discussion based on José Ramón Sánchez’ new book
Boricua Power: A Political History of Puerto Ricans in the United States

Tuesday, May 15, 6:15pm

NYU Wagner
The Puck Building, 2nd Floor Conference Room
295 Lafayette Street (and Houston Street)
New York, NY 10012-9604

(B,D,F,V to Broadway-Lafayette, N,R,W to Prince Street, 6 to Bleecker Street)

Roundtable Participants

Alicia Cardona
Author: Rambling on Random Thoughts and New York Puerto Rican Women Achievers

Arlene Davila:
Professor, Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis (American Studies)
New York University, author: Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos and the Neoliberal City; Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People; and Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico

David Diaz
Distinguished Lecturer in Media & Politics, City College (CUNY);
formerly senior correspondent and anchor on WCBS and WNBC-TV

José A. García
Senior Research and Policy Associate, Demos: A Network for Ideas
and Action; and author, East Coast Latino Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Manual

Mickey Melendez
Author, We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords

Councilmember Melissa Mark Viverito
Democrat representing District 8

Joseph Wiscovitch
President, Wiscovitch Associates

Respondent

José Ramón Sánchez
Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of Urban Studies,
Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus

Moderator

Angelo Falcón
President and Co-Founder, National Institute for Latino Policy; and author, Atlas of Stateside Puerto Ricans,
and co-editor, Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City

Co-sponsored by the

Women of Color Policy Network
at NYUWagner
RSVP with
Wynnie Lamour 212-334-5722 or wlamour@nlcatp.org

For Puerto Ricans, Sotomayor’s Success Stirs Pride

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

By DAVID GONZALEZ
New York Times (August 6, 2009)

In the summer of 1959, Edwin Torres landed a $60-a-week job and wound up on the front page of El Diario. He had just been hired as the first Puerto Rican assistant district attorney in New York – and probably, he thinks, the entire United States.

He still recalls the headline: “Exemplary Son of El Barrio Becomes Prosecutor.”

“You would’ve thought I had been named attorney general,” he said. “That’s how big it was.”

Half a century later, the long and sometimes bittersweet history of Puerto Ricans in New York is expected to add a celebratory chapter today as the Senate confirms Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Her personal journey – from a single-parent home in the South Bronx projects to the Ivy League and an impressive legal career – has provoked a fierce pride in many other Puerto Ricans who glimpse reflections of their own struggles.

“This is about the acceptance that eluded us,” said Mr. Torres, 78, who himself earned distinction as a jurist, novelist and raconteur. “It is beyond anybody’s imagination when I started that a Puerto Rican could ascend to that position, to the Supreme Court.”

Arguably the highest rung that any Puerto Rican has yet reached in this country, the nomination of Judge Sotomayor is a watershed event for Puerto Rican New York. It builds on the achievements that others of her generation have made in business, politics, the arts and pop culture. It extends the legacy of an earlier, lesser-known generation who created social service and educational institutions that persist today, helping newcomers from Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Yet the city has also been a place of heartbreak. Though Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship in 1917 and large numbers of them arrived in New York in the 1950s, poverty and lack of opportunity still pockmark some of their neighborhoods. A 2004 report by a Hispanic advocacy group showed that compared with other Latino groups nationwide, Puerto Ricans had the highest poverty rate, the lowest average family income and the highest unemployment rate for men.

In politics, the trailblazer Herman Badillo saw his career go from a series of heady firsts in the 1960s to frustration in the 1980s when his dreams of becoming the city’s first Puerto Rican mayor were foiled by Harlem’s political bosses. Just four years ago, Fernando Ferrer was trounced in his bid against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

All those setbacks lose their sting, if only for a moment, in the glow of Judge Sotomayor’s achievement, which many of her fellow Puerto Ricans say is as monumental for them as President Obama’s victory was for African-Americans. It has affirmed a sense of Puerto Rican identity at a moment when that distinction is often obscured by catch-all labels like Latino and Hispanic – and even as it is subjected to negative comparisons.

“Many elite Latin Americans have implied that Puerto Ricans blew it, because we had citizenship and did nothing,” said Lillian Jimenez, a documentary filmmaker who co-produced a series of television ads in support of Judge Sotomayor’s nomination. “But we were the biggest Spanish-speaking group in New York for decades, and bore the brunt of discrimination, especially in the 1950s. We struggled for our rights. We have people everywhere doing all kinds of things. But that history has not been known.”

That history is in danger of disappearing in East Harlem, long the cradle of Puerto Rican New York. After waves of gentrification and development, parts of the area are now being advertised as Upper Yorkville, a new annex to the predominantly white Upper East Side. While the poor have stayed behind, many of East Harlem’s successful sons and daughters have scattered to the suburbs.

“We have a whole intellectual and professional class that is invisible – people who came up though the neighborhood, with a working-class background, who really excelled,” said Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

“But it’s so dispersed, people don’t see it. They do not make up a real, physical community, but they have the identity.”

For those who paved the way for Judge Sotomayor, embracing that identity was the first step in charting their personal and professional paths out of hardship. Manuel del Valle, 60, an overachiever from the housing projects on Amsterdam Avenue, made the same leaps as the judge – to Princeton University and Yale Law School – but preceded her by five years.

Taking a cue from the black students at Princeton, he and the handful of working-class Puerto Ricans from New York pressured university officials to offer a course on Puerto Rican history and to admit more minority students. They saw their goal as creating a class of lawyers, doctors, writers and activists who would use their expertise to lift up their old neighborhoods.

“Talk about arrogance,” said Mr. del Valle, who now teaches law in Puerto Rico. “We actually believed we would have a dynamic impact on all the institutions American society had to offer.”

Judge Sotomayor’s nomination, he said, is a vindication of those efforts.

“We were invisible,” he said. “She made us visible.”

In New York, many have welcomed the judge’s visibility during a summer when the most celebrated – and reviled – local politicians were two Puerto Rican state senators who brought the state government to a standstill by mounting an abortive coup against their fellow Democrats.

“She really came at a moment when there is a public reassessment of the value of identity politics through this brouhaha in the Senate,” said Ms. Davila, a professor of anthropology at New York University who has written extensively on Puerto Rican and Latino identity. “Here came this woman who reinvigorated us with the idea that a Latina can have a lot to contribute, not just to their own group, but to the entire American society.”

But it is among her own – in the South Bronx, East Harlem or the Los Sures neighborhood of Brooklyn – where Judge Sotomayor’s success resonates loudest, for the simple reason that many people understand the level of perseverance she needed to achieve it.

Orlando Plaza, 41, who took time off from his doctoral studies in history about five years ago to open Camaradas, a popular bar in East Harlem, sees her appeal as a sort of ethnic Rorschach test.

“Whether it’s growing up in the Bronx, going to Catholic school or being from a single-parent household, there are so many tropes in her own story that we feel pride that someone from a background like ours achieved something so enormous,” he said. “This is the real Jenny from the block.”

And it is on the block, among the men and women who left Puerto Rico decades ago so their children might one day become professionals, where her story is most sweetly savored. The faces of the men and women playing dominoes or shooting pool at the Betances Senior Center in the Bronx attest to decades of hard work.

Many of them came to New York as teenagers more out of despair than dreams. Lucy Medina, who arrived in the 1950s, worked as a keypunch operator and in other jobs as she singlehandedly raised two children. Today, her son is a captain in the city’s Department of Correction and her daughter is a real estate executive.

Impressive as the judge’s accomplishments are, Ms. Medina is more impressed with the judge’s mother, Celina Sotomayor, who did what she had to do in order to raise two successful children in the projects.

“Her mother and I are very similar,” said Ms. Medina, 77. “I know what she went through. We sacrificed ourselves so our children would get an education and get ahead. A lot of women here have done that. We stayed on top of our children and made sure they didn’t get sidetracked.”

THE INCOMPLETE LATINO VOTE:

Monday, February 25th, 2008

PUERTO RICO AND THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
By Angelo Falcón

Hispanic Link News Service (March 2, 2008)

The increasing interest in the role of the Latino vote in the Democratic primaries for United States president has opened up an important opportunity to educate the U.S. public about the Latino community. We have, hopefully, dispelled the myth that Latinos will not vote for a black for president. We have, in the process, also demonstrated that the Latino vote should not be taken for granted by the Democratic Party establishment, as the Clinton campaign now apparently views Latinos as her last best hope to revive her flailing campaign.

When talking about the Latino vote, reference is made to the fact that the Latino population in the United States now stands at 44 million. This figure is incorrect. There are actually 48 million Latinos in this country, if you include the four million living in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and others.

These are all U.S. citizens, mostly Puerto Ricans, with a significant number of Dominicans.

One could argue that they should not be included in the Latino population count when discussing the presidential election because, although U.S. citizens, these four million do not have the right to vote for president. But they can and do vote in the nominations process of the two major parties, so they are relevant to a discussion of the role of the Latino vote in selecting the next president of the United States.

Take the case of Puerto Rico:

Island Puerto Ricans will be holding their caucus and convention on June 7, making it the very last race for the nomination before the party conventions this summer. In the Democratic Party, Puerto Rico has a delegation of 63, which is larger than that of 24 states. If the party upholds its sanctions against Florida and Michigan for violating party rules in the scheduling of their primaries, Puerto Rico’s convention delegation will be larger than that of 26 states.

In the past, Puerto Rico’s was a winner-take-all system, but party rules have changed so that it is now supposed to be proportional. While the smart money had been that Clinton could count on all of these delegates, recent events are reflecting the Obama tsunami. The presumed solidity of the Puerto Rican delegation in this regard is crumbling.

Most recently, Puerto Rico Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá has endorsed Barack Obama, and it appears that Obama has raised more contributions than Clinton in Puerto Rico. The notion, advanced by Michael Barone and other analysts, that Puerto Rico would deliver all of its delegates to one candidate and could be decisive, inasmuch as it would be the last contest in a long nominations battle, is not panning out.

Despite this, the very idea that a territory (or, as I like to call it, colony) like Puerto Rico even has the possibility of determining who would be the candidate for president of a major U.S. political party is deliciously ironic, given that its residents, all U.S. citizens, do not have the right to vote for U.S. president or voting members of Congress.

In this inequity, they are joined by another million U.S. citizens in the territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and other smaller islands, as well as the District of Columbia. (Some will note that it is perhaps no coincidence that these are areas populated overwhelmingly by people of color.)

So in this very exciting presidential election, it is important that we also understand there are over 5 million U.S. citizens in the territories (colonies) and the District of Columbia who continue to be disenfranchised. The so-called “Latino vote” is diluted by this inequality, as is its potential impact. Of course, none of the presidential candidates are raising this issue.

Angelo Falcón is founder and president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, based in New York City. A political scientist, he teaches at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He is the author of the Atlas of Stateside Puerto Ricans and co-author of the book, Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City. E-mail him at afalcon@latinopolicy.org.

Court win fuels Puerto Rican citizenship debate – article from the Right

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Note: See the very end of this article about former Secretary of State Norma Burgos’ “Puerto Rican citizenship.” What are the implications of this for the right of Stateside Puerto Ricans being able to vote in a plebiscite on the political status of Puerto Rico? Interesting.

—Angelo

PUERTO RICO

Court win fuels Puerto Rican citizenship debate

After a long battle, the elder statesman of Puerto Rico’s independence movement finally has what he wanted: citizenship

BY FRANCES ROBLES

Miami Herald (July 14, 2007)

MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico — The seeds of Juan Mari Brás’ quixotic patriotism were planted when his parents draped a Puerto Rican flag over his crib.

Those seeds flourished 13 years ago, when the elder statesman of Puerto Rico’s independence movement renounced his U.S. citizenship in an effort to be officially recognized as a Puerto Rican. He’s 79 now, and after a 60-year anti-colonial crusade, he has something new to adorn his surroundings: a certificate of Puerto Rican citizenship.

He is the first Puerto Rican in history to have one. And as the U.S. Congress considers Puerto Rico’s status, Mari Brás’ newfound and hard-fought citizenship has refueled the heated debate about what it means to be Puerto Rican.

The certificate was issued in October after Mari Brás successfully sued for the right to vote in local elections. Last month, the Secretary of State’s Office here offered citizenship to eligible islanders. About 450 have requested certificates, and legislators are drafting bills to codify the process of obtaining them.

The tangible value of the certificates is in doubt, even among some of Marí Brás followers.

”With this certificate, can I travel from here to some other country?” asked independence party legislator Víctor García San Inocencio. “When I come back, will Homeland Security let me in?” The answers: no and no.

For Mari Brás, the citizenship certificate is more legal test than meaningful evidence of nationality. He said his win is important because it marks the first time the government here has recognized a national identity not tied to the United States. But he shrugs off the significance of his long court battle, recognizing that while it may have been the most important achievement Puerto Rico’s tiny independence movement has seen in years, it is a far cry from the sovereignty he craves.

”Biologists experiment with plants and animals and chemists do so with elements,” he said in a recent interview at his office at the Eugenio María de Hostos Law School in Mayagüez. “Since I am a lawyer, I experiment with the law. The certificate is an achievement, but it’s not the independence of Puerto Rico.”

When Mari Brás was born to a deeply political Mayagüez family, the U.S. military had seized Puerto Rico from Spain barely 30 years earlier. People like nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos were frequent dinner guests at his uncle’s house next door.

”Back then, we thought independence would happen the day after next,” he said. “We never thought we would remain the most important colony of the most important empire.”

His father took him to political events, and he founded an independence movement in high school. It became a passion that got him jailed seven times, kicked out of law school and a heart attack at 36.

Mari Brás graduated from American University Law School in Washington. As a lawyer, he took on controversial cases such as the independence activists who opened fire on the U.S. House of Representatives. He founded the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and ran a spirited campaign for governor in 1976 until his son was murdered, a death Mari Brás blames on the CIA.

A Marxist with close ties to Havana, he was disbarred from practicing in federal court when he skipped a client’s appearance to attend a conference in Cuba.

But after decades of sometimes violent activism, even now the independence movement gets only about 4 percent of the popular vote. The vast majority of Puerto Rico’s 4 million people are split between wanting to become the 51st state and keeping some form of its current commonwealth status.

In a mission to prove Puerto Ricans had a separate national identity, Mari Brás in 1994 went to the American embassy in Caracas and renounced his U.S. citizenship. When he returned to Puerto Rico, a local statehood activist sued him, arguing that Mari Brás no longer had a right to vote in local elections. Puerto Rico’s electoral law says that only U.S. citizens can cast ballots.

”I wanted to see if in Puerto Rico you could continue breathing without being a U.S. citizen,” he said.

The case made the Puerto Rican Supreme Court, and, last fall, Mari Brás won.

”It’s extraordinary,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York group that has represented Puerto Rico’s independence activists. “He has been after this for 30 or 40 years. The next step is people will demand passports. What other things can flow from there?”

The Popular Democratic Party, which seeks more autonomy for Puerto Rico while keeping the island’s current relationship with the United States, agrees.

”An empty wallet does not have everything a full wallet has,” said legislator Charlie Hernández, who has submitted a bill to codify the citizenship process.

Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party (PNP), which supports statehood, is vehemently against the citizenship plan, calling it a useless and illegal residency certificate. It also alleges that current Secretary of State Fernando Bonilla, of the ruling Popular Democratic Party, agreed to go along with it in order to attract votes within the independence movement.

In a statement, Bonilla said he offered the certificate to obey the constitution and the court decision. He stressed that it doesn’t replace the U.S. passport.

‘I understand Juan Mari Brás’ purpose and respect it, but Puerto Rican citizenship does not exist,” said PNP Sen. Norma Burgos, a former secretary of state who once denied Mari Brás’ petition for citizenship.

To prove her point, Burgos, who was born in Chicago and moved to Puerto Rico when she was 5, asked for citizenship. Under rules that the Secretary of State drafted after Mari Brás’ court victory, she did not qualify.

”Was the Secretary of State going to tell me, Norma Burgos, ex-secretary of state, ex-lieutenant governor, and sitting senator, that I am not Puerto Rican?” she said.

Bonilla redrafted the requirements to include Burgos — and lots of other people. Now, if you live in Puerto Rico and one of your parents was born here, you qualify. U.S. citizens who have lived here more than a year are also eligible.

NILP 3
National Institute for Latino Policy
101 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 313
New York, NY 10013

www.latinopolicy.org
Angelo Falcón, President and Founder
212-334-5722 Fax: 917-677-8593
afalcon@latinopolicy.org

ORGULLO LATINO

Friday, December 1st, 2006
December 1, 2006
6:30 pmto9:00 pm

SEIU Local 32BJSalsa Caterers & Special EventsNBC-TelemundoAnheuser Busch CompaniesNational Refrescos Import Company and the Friends of the Institute

los invitan a National Institute for Latino Policy

24th Anniversary
ORGULLO LATINO
Benefit Reception and Awards
Friday, December 1, 2006
6:30pm-9pm

101 Avenue of the Americas, 23rd Floor Penthouse
(north of Canal Street in Manhattan)

Admission: $125 per person, payable at the door

  • Open Bar
  • Buffet Dinner Criollo
  • Orgullo Latino Awards Presentations Honorees: Congresspersons José Serrano and Nydia Velazquez – NYC Deputy Mayor Carol Robles-Roman – Civil Rights Attorney Juan Cartagena – Volunteer of the Year Joseph Luppens

To RSVP and for further information Myra Y. Estepa 212-334-5722 MEstepa@aol.com