Monthly Archives: April 2016

9 posts

Another Record Migration Year for Puerto Rico

The San Juan airport. / photo PR Tourism Co.
The San Juan airport, also known as the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. / photo PR Tourism Co.

NEW  figures point to another year of record migration from Puerto Rico to the United States in 2015. In the first 10 months of 2015 about 112,500 more people left the island than arrived in Puerto Rico, according to a recent report by Ricardo Cortés Chico in El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s main newspaper.

The figures do not include the last two months of 2015, but even so they already top the 84,000 people who reportedly left the island in all of  2014,  reflecting a stagnant economy and government belt tightening in order to make payments on $72 billion in debt.

The people movement – based on the passenger traffic through the island’s principal airports in San Juan, Aguadilla and Ponce – is believed to be an indicator of migration.

The 112,500 outmigration would indicate that more than 11,000 people are leaving the island each month.

The 2015 migration also equals the entire population of some island towns – combined. The exodus “would be comparable to the nearly complete disappearance of the populations of  Arecibo and Cataño,”  Cortés Chico wrote.

Puerto Rico has reported more outmigration than immigration since 2006, considered the start of an ongoing economic recession.  In fact, the long recession will hit 10 years in May. But beginning in 2011, about 50,000 or more people have left the island each year, accounting for a conservative outmigration of 250,000 in that five-year period, based on Pew Hispanic Research data.  El Nuevo Día‘s report is based on data from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Florida is the No. 1 destination for outbound Puerto Ricans, surpassing the traditional Puerto Rican migrant center of New York. In fact, the Florida now counts over 1 million Puerto Ricans, more than any other state, thanks also to the migration of Puerto Ricans from the Mid Atlantic corridor to the Sunshine State. Central Florida has the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the state.

PR outmigration 2005- 2014
From January through October 2015, another 112,500 people are reported to have left Puerto Rico for the states. / Pew Hispanic Research 

Puerto Rico continues to negotiate payment of its $72 billion debt with creditors as well as Congress,  where the island is pushing to be included under federal bankruptcy laws. Congress, however, is intent on creating a financial control board to oversee the island’s financial affairs.

Packed House for Borinqueneers Ceremony

Manuel Siverio
Ret. Col. Manuel Siverio (r) receives the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker Paul Ryan on behalf of all living Borinqueneers. /All photos are screen shots taken from C-Span

Puerto Rico’s Borinqueneer veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal in a moving ceremony this week on Capitol Hill, placing the soldiers in the legendary company of the all black Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers, among others.

“Today we are setting the record straight,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan at the beginning of the hour-long ceremony attended by hundreds about the unit considered the last segregated one in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Lord, forgive us for segregating our Puerto Rican and Latino soldiers and for being slow to recognize them,” said Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

“I wish we could have honored you with this medal sooner,” commented Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who along with Puerto Rico delegate Pedro Pierliusi and Florida Cong. Bill Posey (R-Titusville), was one of many co-sponsors of the bill that recognized the nation’s surviving 1,000 Borinqueneers, many of whom now live in Florida.

“It’s easy to lose spirit as the good name our home is tarnished,” remarked Pierluisi, alluding to Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. “The Borinqueneers remind me … why we’re so proud to be Puerto Rican at a time when our sense of pride has been shaken but never, never shattered. Puerto Rico has always had this nation’s back at times of crisis.”

The Borinqueneers, an Army unit created shortly after the United States took over Puerto Rico in 1898, received 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze medals and more than 2,700 Purple Hearts – just in the Korean War, to which the unit added this week’s Congressional Gold Medal.

“It was the bloodiest war for Puerto Rico,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Ret. Col. and Borinqueneer Manuel Siverio received the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the military unit. “I accept this medal in the name of all living Borinqueneers,” Siverio said, noting that over 100 Borinqueneers remain missing in action and their remains have never been recovered.

You can watch the ceremony on C-Span by clicking: Congressional Gold Medal

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

 

Puerto Rico Offers 74 Cents on the Dollar

 

La Fortaleza
La Fortaleza, headquarters of the government of Puerto Rico. /La Fortaleza

Puerto Rico offered to pay 74 cents on the dollar to holders of its most secure bonds, or those guaranteed by the island’s constitution. Investors in less secure bonds would get between 57 cents and 36 cents.

That proposal covers about $49 billion of the island’s total $72 billion in debt, and is sweeter than an earlier plan that affected only $26 billion in debt. For comparison purposes, Argentina last month offered 75 cents on the dollar to bondholders of $4.65 billion in debt – and it was accepted, ending years of tension.

The clock is ticking as Puerto Rico owes two upcoming debt payments – $422 million on May 1 and $2 billion in July. Debt payments are soaking up nearly one-third of Puerto Rico’s operating funds, affecting public services.

The island’s debt crisis affects Florida, home to the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the states. The largest number lives right here in Central Florida, where thousands start over each year. (Puerto Rico has been in an economic recession for 10 years.) And it has spilled over to the presidential campaign, as candidates propose solutions to appeal to Puerto Rican voters.

In 2015 Puerto Rico defaulted on lesser amounts of debt, generating lawsuits. A new default would likely  generate more court action.

Last month Congress proposed legislation to alleviate the island’s financial crisis, including creating a financial oversight board that many islanders consider a “takeover” and a violation of Puerto Rico’s limited self government. Puerto Rico wants some island agencies to be able to declare federal bankruptcy, a proposal rejected by Congress and major debtors who call it a “bailout.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide later this year whether Puerto Rico agencies can declare bankruptcy under local law.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Borinqueneers Set to Get Congressional Gold Medal

Veterans of the 65th Infantry Regiment known as Borinqueneers living in Florida (PRNewsFoto/Borinqueneers Congressional...)
Veterans of the 65th Infantry Regiment known as Borinqueneers who live in Florida. / PRNewsFoto/Borinqueneers

Puerto Rico’s Borinqueneers finally will get their due April 13, when Congress will honor the soldiers with the Congressional Gold Medal for their “valor, determination and bravery” during the Korean War in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’ highest honor. The Borinqueneers, named for the soldiers of the 65th Army Infantry based in Puerto Rico whose native people called Boriken, fought in every major conflict of the 20th century. The regiment earned a total of nine Distinguished Service Crosses,  250 Silver Stars, 600 Bronze Stars, more than 2,700 Purple Hearts, and 15 Unit Citations for its extraordinary service –  just during the Korean War.

The veterans, now in their 80s and 90s, number more than 1,000 and many live in Florida, where there have been various ceremonies for the Borinqueneers in Central Florida. About 230 are expected to attend the ceremony in Washington, D.C.

They are the first-ever living Hispanics to receive this award. The only other Hispanic to receive the Congressional Gold Medal is the late baseball great Roberto Clemente, who also was Puerto Rican.

The 65th Infantry formed in 1899, shortly after the United States took over Puerto Rico at the end of Spanish-Cuban-American War. It was a racially and ethnically segregated unit, as was the unfortunate custom at the time. Ironically, the award ceremony will take place in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall.

The Korean War nearly proved to be the regiment’s undoing – as soldiers endured freezing temperatures and near suicidal missions at the Korean-Chinese border.

In addition, Borinqueneers were ordered to shave their mustaches “until such a time as they gave proof of their manhood”; obligated to use separate shower facilities from non-Hispanic soldiers and were prohibited from speaking Spanish under penalty of court-martial, among other indignities, according to the official Borinqueneers site.

The regiment and its veterans are well known in Puerto Rico, but not so much outside the island. In the early 2000s efforts began to tell the Borinqueneers‘ stories. Over 10 years later, in 2013,  Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate Pedro Pierluisi (D) and and later Sen. Richard  Blumenthal (D-CT), among others, pushed the bill that officially awarded the surviving Borinqueneer veterans the Congressional Gold Medal.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor