The People of Puerto Rico Vote Again to Define Their Status

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Once again, the destiny of a people is in their hands at the ballet box. On November 6, 2012 when all of America will be casting votes for the U.S. presidency, Puerto Rican residents (who are U.S. citizens but cannot vote for its president) will vote to decide to remain a commonwealth, become a state, or an independent country.

This time, voters will have two questions. The first will ask residents if they want Puerto Rico to remain a U.S. territory. The second will pose three alternatives: independence, becoming a nation in free association with the United States, and statehood. The current status, “commonwealth” is a territorial status since it falls under the U.S. Constitution’s territorial clause.

Puerto Ricans for quite some time have not stood unified toward a collective political vision of their future. Today supporters of the commonwealth status would like to modify the status to one of a sovereign commonwealth, which pretty much enhances the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico with P.R. negotiating relations with the U.S. as a sovereign nation, but remain a free associated commonwealth.

To me, that’s basically commonwealth 2.0. I think the commonwealth status has had its day and it’s time to move on.

The only viable long term options are independence or statehood. I believe the island of my ancestors should seriously consider becoming an independent country or the 51st state of the union. Independence could work with the United State’s help and a 10 year transitional period. The U.S. during this time would assist with getting Puerto Rico on its independent feet and help prepare Puerto Ricans to fend for themselves.

Since I am not a resident of Puerto Rico I cannot vote on this issue on November 6, but if I was a resident and had to make a decision today I lean toward statehood. Since 1898 we have been dependent upon the U.S. and have operated like a part of the country. The people of Puerto Rico should get all benefits of U.S. citizenship like voting for the U.S. president and having two senators and at least one voting representative in the U.S. Congress.

On November 6, voter turnout will be high. Back in 2000, more than 80 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Puerto Rico residents vote at much higher rates than residents of the 50 states.

If it became a state, Puerto Rico would be like the Hawaii of the east coast. Poverty, crime, and unemployment are dismal in P.R. so the added U.S. support as a state would finally give residents a fighting chance of a better standard of living.

There are disadvantages and advantages to both statehood and independence. With statehood Puerto Rico would not be able to have its own Olympic Team or Miss Universe contestant, along with entries in other sporting and social events.

With independence Puerto Rico would need to enlist a military and craft a possible defense decree with the U.S. Puerto Rico would also have to boost its major exports, which according to the consists of  chemicals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates and medical equipment.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have both said they support the commonwealth’s right to self-determination. No matter the outcome of the November 6, 2012, vote on Puerto Rico’s status, hopefully it will highlight a clearer understanding of what lies ahead for the people of Puerto Rico.


Sol by Hélios González

Sol by Hélios González (Album Cover, all rights reserved.)

I admire young Latinos living their full potential and creating incredible works of art. In my continuous support of Latino artists, I’d like to showcase the music of someone I recently started following on Twitter: Hélios González. I listened to Hélios‘ album Sol and truly enjoyed the music.  You can feel the talent in every note and the overall musical project is impressive. I am not the most knowledgable person out there when it comes to Latin popular music, but Hélios has opened my mind a bit. I really liked each of the five tracks on Hélios’ album with my top two favorites being Deja el Alma and Sol. You can sample all of the tracks on SoundCloud.

For his first album, Hélios sought to provide something different. “We wanted to offer something new and refreshing,”  Hélios says in his bio. “Many have said the same, but just follow the same rules that have always existed in Latin pop. We wanted to break the mold, and I think we did.”

Hélios is supported by respected producers Alfredo Cevallos and Mike Swittel. This talented duo has participated in productions of some of the greatest Latino musicians including Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera and Puerto Rican flutist Nestor Torres (with whom they won a Latin Grammy,) among many other artists.

Hélios González was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. He later moved to the island of Puerto Rico where he honed his musical talent. Today Hélios lives in Miami promoting his music to the Latino masses. Hélios is living his dream and I am happy to help promote the music of a fellow Boricua.

So take a listen, hear what Latin pop music is today. Support a Latino artist. Buy a iTune or/and share this post.


Wassup en LA?

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Have you heard of Wassup en LA? It’s a family-themed, TV comedy sitcom about a Cuban-American family that moves from Miami to Los Angeles to support their son’s acting career. It’s not on TV yet, but the people behind the show are trying to raise funds to get a full episode in front of the eyes of network TV executives.

I’m a strong supporter of more Latino-themed English language television programming. Are you? I’ve been waiting for the next great show since Ugly Betty was canceled. I don’t know what is taking so long. With the growing strength of Latino audiences on television, every network should have a Latino-themed show on the air or in the works by now.

So help Wassup en LA? Spread the word, share a link. Every Tweet counts and the Latino artists behind the show would appreciate every dollar.

Make a difference.


Bronx Community Pride Center Closes After Former Director’s Arrest

Logo of the Bronx Community Pride Center, New York.

About two days after news that the former director of the Bronx Community Pride Center was charged and arrested for possibly embezzling $338,000, the board of directors of the LGBT non-profit organization today announced the closing of its doors effective June 30th.

“The board of directors of the Bronx Community Pride Center (BCPC), the borough’s largest LGBTQ service organization, has unanimously voted to cease operations of the center on June 30, 2012 and to begin making arrangements for current services to be provided by partner organizations within the Bronx,” noted a press release issued this evening.

The former director of the Bronx Community Pride Center, Lisa Winters, has been arrested and accused of stealing over $338K for personal expenses—including a vacation for her and her future wife to South Africa, according to an article published late this afternoon in the Gothamist.

According to the BCPC press release, because of the “current economic difficulties, past debt and inability to raise sufficient unrestricted funding, the organization can no longer implement its current programs. The organization has debts which exceed revenues at this time and without significant cash infusions from major donors they (the board of directors) are unable to continue operations financially.”

Winters, 47, and her wife Scroggins, who have been together for 14 years, were married at the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan on the first day of legal gay marriage last year, today’s article noted.

“As BCPC closes I ask that all Bronx LGBTQ organizations come together and fill the void that would be left behind,” said Antonio Centeno Jr., BCPC Board Chairperson. “The Board of Directors is committed to assisting in any way to make sure that our clients continue to be served, especially since this population is traditionally under served in the Bronx.”

The Bronx Community Pride Center was a not-for-profit organization which was incorporated in 1997 as the Bronx Lesbian and Gay Health Resource Consortium. Around 2005/2006 the name and mission was changed and the agency then became a community center.

“We’re a group of caring individuals and this decision has been difficult for us to make, but we will never give up for our mission of health equality,” said Centeno.

(For an updated version of this article check out the )


Colombian Adoptees Connect in NYC to Share Their Life Stories

Colombian adoptees from across the US met in Jackson Heights, Queens to share an incredible personal experience and a wonderfully social time. June, 2012.

I had an incredible opportunity earlier this month to meet and interview a phenomenal group of people who were adopted from Colombia and raised by American parents. Thanks to a Facebook Group they met in New York City during the second weekend in June for a momentous occasion. They decided to have dinner at Bogota Latin Bistro in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I work. I wrote a blog post for the restaurant that I wanted to cross post here. Below are some excerpts:

Being adopted and choosing to share your life story is a very personal and sometimes painful decision for many adoptees. For some, learning about one’s birth culture can be a lifelong process. For others the desire to connect with people with similar experiences is profound yet not always easy.

When an adoptee learns of his/her birth culture some totally immerse themselves in the culture, while others take their time digesting information. Some just like to keep things the way they are, not learning much about their ethnicity at all. It’s a very personal choice and some adoptees go through different phases of feelings throughout their lives.

Some adoptees may feel they are slighting their adoptive parents if they show interest in learning about their birth culture, but others eventually need to know more to fully understand who they are, a process most people go through, whether adopted or not, to truly know themselves.

To read the full Bogota Latin Bistro blog post visit Colombian Adoptees Connect in NYC to Share Their Life Stories.


East WillyB Webseries Needs Your Help

Hola everyone. Last year I posted a blog entry about East WillyB, a Latino webseries about a group of longtime residents in Bushwick, Brooklyn going through the ups and downs of the gentrification of their neighborhood.  The amazing talent behind this original effort now needs your help to film a few more episodes in hopes of it being picked up by a major network. The episodes are a few minutes long but with additional filming East WillyB will have 90 minutes worth of material to shop around.

This is where you can help. The producers of East WillyB have started a fundraising campaign to raise $50,000 in 50 days. In 15 days they have already raised over $10,000. With your donation of $1, $5, $10 or more dollars you can soon be seeing more Latinos on television and have the wonderful feeling of knowing that you helped make it happen. So let’s make it happen. Donate now!

I thought the series was extremely funny, the acting stellar, the writing incredible, and the production awesome for an independent project. I can see EastWillyB as an HBO series, on any of the major television networks, or on a future Latino-themed cable channel.

So take a moment to help support independent producers and Latino-themed programming by making a pledge now!


Empanada For A Dream – NYC. Sat, April 21 through Sun, April 29, 2012

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EMPANADA FOR A DREAM, a new play created and performed by Juan Francisco Villa and directed by Alex Levy, will be showing at The Barrow Group Theatre at 312 West 36th Street (between 8th and 9th Ave) in New York City. The limited 6 show engagement starts off on Saturday, April 21st and runs through Sunday, April 29th, 2012. Tickets are just $18!

EMPANADA FOR A DREAM is Juan’s story, a growing up story, downtown on Allen Street, 169 Allen, Lower East Side.

Everybody’s blasting – bacchata, merengue, salsa, hiphop and rap. And everybody’s cooking – and there’s boys playing baseball, football, skullies, johnny on the pony – and this girl – the most beautiful girl – watching from a window.

This is the story of family – Juan’s tios,  his tias,  his abuelita,  his sister, half sister, his mom and dad – all on a bed – little bed – everybody freezing,  everybody laughing.

EMPANADA FOR A DREAM is a poignant and flavorful portrait of a family and a neighborhood – set against the secret that destroys it all. It’s a story about growing up. It’s a story about getting out. And coming back — to one boy’s Lower East Side. — (Source: Empanada for a Dream press material.)

Support Latino artists and independent theatre by attending one of the shows or/and widely promoting the play via your social networks.

Thanks in advance for spreading the word!

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