Monthly Archives: February 2016

5 posts

Sun Rises in Cuba, Sets in Puerto Rico

puerto rico-cuba

“Puerto Rico and Cuba are the two wings of one bird. They receive blows or bullets in the same heart.”

Many Puerto Ricans and Cubans are familiar with the lines from the1895 poem  “A Cuba” (To Cuba) by poet Lola Rodríguez de Tió, written at the dawn of the Cuban-Spanish-American conflict in which Puerto Rico and Cuba  – united in heritage, language and a common oppressor– sided against Spain. The Puerto Rican poet yearned for the fusion of Cuba and Puerto Rico into a “new motherland.” But it was not to be. Cuba gained independence but entered into the orbit of the U.S., which took Puerto Rico and the Philippines as possessions.

The poem comes to mind because of President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Cuba – the first in over 80 years for a U.S. president – to culminate normalizing of relations and signaling an America more open to Cuba after over decades of restrictions and hostilities. Cuba, it must be stated, has always been open to the rest of the world, so it’s the United States that is changing more rapidly than Cuba, which still denies its 11 million citizens basic human rights and where Cubans still struggle to eke out a living. Lest we forget.

Obama’s planned March trip comes at a time when the outlook for the two wings of one bird are  diametrically different, as has happened throughout the 20th century. For Cuba, things are looking up. It may have crumbling infrastructure and scarcity of goods and services but Cuba’s economy is slowly opening up to competition, new ideas, new opportunities. The Castro brothers – Fidel and Raúl – are nearing the end of life, generating speculation and, yes, hope of potential positive political changes. It’s exciting. All eyes are on Cuba because, finally, the sun is also rising in Cuba.

Puerto Rico, meanwhile, is on the wane, burdened with $72 billion in bond debt that it has no way of repaying. Saddled with a political system – both internal and external in its relations with the U.S. – that is stuck in time, making it ever more obvious that Puerto Rico doesn’t call its own shots. The House and Senate deny Puerto Rico access to bankruptcy protection for certain agencies to help lighten the load. Politicians like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio utter harsh words against the island while “welcoming” Puerto Ricans – who are U.S. citizens and do not need to be “welcomed” here. The island economy is in a 10-year funk and tens of thousands of young islanders flee each year, a great chunk to Central Florida, seeking the warmth and vibrancy of other suns. If the old Cuba is no more, then Puerto Rico has become the new Cuba.

The two wings of one bird are as separated as throughout the 20th century. But this time as Puerto Rico and Cuba recalibrate perhaps they will meet somewhere in the middle.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Trump Hispanders in Nevada

Trump in Iowa
Donald Trump doesn’t own the Latino vote in Nevada or other states, contrary to his recent boast. /photo

Let’s get this accurate: Contrary to what Donald Trump said after winning the Nevada GOP Caucus this week, Hispanics didn’t vote for the presidential candidate. Or rather only a sliver of Latinos cast their lot with the flamboyant New York businessman.

Here’s la verdad. The numbers bandied about were based on an exit poll, which often are unreliable. The survey included 200 to 300 people, a small number by polling standards. The Latino proportion of that is maybe 100 or so, still more unreliable.

More important, Nevada Hispanics who say they are Republicans equal 16 percent, according to Latino Decisions, which conducts Latino political opinion research nationwide. About 55  percent of Nevada Latinos affiliate with Democrats and 29 percent say they are Independent.

“Assuming the entrance poll is correct (a very big assumption) and Trump won 44% of Latino Republicans, that means he was supported by about 7% of Latinos in Nevada (44% of 16 = 7.04).  What that mean is that most likely, 93% of Latinos in Nevada did not vote for Trump,” wrote Latino Decisions in a blog post (boldface theirs).

The Hispanic vote for Trump was closer to 11 percent of all Hispanic votes cast in the GOP Caucus –  or 2,600 votes, according to the firm. Solo 11 por ciento. 

Trump may be aiming his comments at upcoming primary states like Texas and Florida, where Hispanics are a sizable number of the voting population. He may be trying to muddle things – Hispander, if you will – to convince other Latinos to follow along. This after launching his presidential campaign by kicking immigrants – most of whom are Hispanic – literally to the curb.

Por favor.

Latino Republicans may indeed vote for Trump in the upcoming primaries, but that doesn’t mean the entire Hispanic electorate is on board. Such voters represent only a small number of Hispanics who identify as Republicans, which most Latinos in the U.S. do not.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Hispanic-American War Breaks Out during South Carolina Debate


My Approved Portraits
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
Official Portrait
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

Ding, ding, ding. The Republican debates recorded their first Hispanic moment during the Saturday rumble in South Carolina. It took six debates to get to this point in a campaign making history for including two Latino candidates, both of them Cuban-American.

Florida’s Marco Rubio and Texas’ Ted Cruz went at it during, frankly,  a stomach-turning bid to outdo each other on who’s the toughest on illegal immigration, which is mostly Latino. They upped the stakes when Cruz accused Rubio of being Hispanic – yes, you read right.

“Marco went on Univision, in Spanish…,” accused Cruz. Dios mío. Rubio dared to speak S-p-a-n-i-s-h, of all things. Tsk tsk.

Then Rubio, who grinned as Cruz made his accusation, gamely countered, “I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision. He doesn’t speak Spanish.”

As we Latinos like to say, “Pa’ qué fue eso?”  What was that for? The raucous crowd whooped it up.

Cruz, clearly hit, blanched and took a moment to gain some bearing. He then said in not-very-smooth Spanish, “Marco si quiere dícelo ahora. ¡Ahora mismo!  ¡Dícelo ahora! Habla español si quiere.” Cruz said, demanding – in S-p-a-n-i-s-h – that Rubio “say it now. Say it right now! Speak Spanish if you want.”

Because speaking Spanish is … a bad thing? Rubio didn’t return the fire in this Hispanic-American war, moving on to other points.

For non Hispanics, here’s the subtext.

To Cruz’s point, to appear on Univision is to acknowledge that:

  1. There are Latinos in the United States – 55 million-plus last time I checked, only a small proportion of whom are undocumented.
  2. Latinos need to be addressed, like all voters, because they have opinions and may actually give you a hard time or vote against you.

What’s more, to speak Spanish is to remind voters that you’re …. Hispanic!!! Which neither Cruz or Rubio really wants to do, unless they’re pulling the biography-as-presidential-qualification string.

More seriously, the Republican Party has been accused prior to this of saying one thing about immigration to English-speaking audiences while feeding Hispanics a lighter, more gentler Spanish-language version of immigration reform.

As for Rubio, his counterpunch questioned whether  Cruz is Hispanic – and it was meant for us Hispanics. Because. Cruz. Doesn’t. Speak. Spanish. Cruz himself has said this on occasion.

Latinos know that speaking Spanish is part of a litmus test to determine the depth of Hispanic roots. Latinos who don’t speak Spanish often are looked down upon.

Now that Cruz and Rubio have snapped, there may be other “squirmishes” in the Hispanic-American war, perhaps during the next debate later this week.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor





Hard to Estimate Costs of Undocumented Immigrants

Florida’s Undocumented Immigrants

What is  the cost of undocumented immigration? That question comes up frequently in debates among political candidates, and friends and foes. It is hard to quantify because despite the blah, blah, blah, few state or local governments track it.

But Pew Research Center published some data, reported in the Wall Street Journal this week,  that begins to fill in some blanks. Pew showed that between 2007 and 2012 Florida lost about 12 percent of its undocumented immigrants, fourth on the list of states that were most impacted. Florida was grouped with California (12.5 percent) and Illinois (13.6 percent).

Number one on the list was Arizona, a state whose public policies have become inhospitable to undocumented immigrants, at a whopping 40 percent. Conversely, Texas actually gained undocumented immigrants in that period, up 6.5 percent.

That undocumented and documented immigrants have left the country is not new. Pew Research previously published data indicating that more Mexicans in particular are leaving than arriving in the U.S.

The Journal article argues that as undocumented immigrants leave some costs go down, such as government spending on health care and education for their citizen children. And fewer undocumented immigrants helped redistribute income from employers, who typically pay these immigrant workers less, to non immigrant employees, whose wages increased as labor shortages took their toll.

However, investment rating firm Moody’s did an analysis concluding that U.S. natives and documented Hispanics filled less than 10 percent of the jobs once held by the undocumented.

As the undocumented population shrank, local economies were hit since fewer people were around to buy consumer goods and services. As a result, Moody’s estimated that Arizona’s economy fell 2 percent per year between 2008 and 2015. That is a lot.

None of this really changes arguments pro and con undocumented immigration, placing us back where we started, and strongly demonstrating there is no one definitive answer to this question for people who want an easy fix to this complex subject.