Puerto Ricans

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Hispanics Now Largest Share of Osceola Voters

yo vote

The dramatic increase in the Hispanic population in Central Florida is significantly impacting  voter registration, with Latinos now accounting for the largest group of voters in Osceola County.

That would mean Osceola is behind only Miami-Dade in percentage of Hispanic voters in Florida, which is a major feat.

Hispanics total about 75,000 or 43 percent of Osceola voters, while non Hispanic whites comprise 72,000 or 41 percent as of February, according to the state Division of Elections. As recently as 2012, non Hispanic white voters outnumbered Hispanics in Osceola by about 10,000.

The flip in numbers is very likely due to the accelerated migration of Puerto Ricans to Osceola from the island and other states. Hispanic registered voters jumped 27 percent in the county from  2012 to  2016.

Between 2005 and 2014, the Puerto Rican population zoomed more than 82 percent to nearly 92,000 in Osceola. The county has the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the state as well.

Orange and Seminole also experienced dramatic boosts in Latino voters. Orange has seen its Hispanic voter numbers increase 21.5 percent, compared with 2012 while Seminole experienced a 17.6 percent expansion.

All of which is to say that the Hispanic boom is going to have an effect on the outcome of the November elections because Latinos make up a greater share of all Central Florida voters and they nearly always turn out in larger numbers during presidential election years, compared with nonresidential or midterm elections.

SNAPSHOT

County       Hispanics as Percent of All Voters

Osceola                 43%

Orange                   22%

Seminole              13%

Miami-Dade         56%

FLORIDA           15% 

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Activists Draw Attention to Puerto Rico’s Plight

Organize now
Frederick Vélez of Organize Now urges elected officials to take Puerto Rico’s fiscal plight seriously. /photo by Maria Padilla

As expected Puerto Rico this week defaulted on $422 million in debt, while Congress is no closer to reaching an agreement on a debt restructuring.

To draw attention to the island’s ongoing fiscal plight, Gov. Alejandro García Padilla made a 10-minute address to the island in which he pleaded that Puerto Rico could do no more, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to Congress imploring it to act and local activists pushed for solidarity among local elected officials on behalf of Puerto Rico.

“All elected officials need to take this crisis seriously,” said Frederick Vélez, lead organizer for Latino affairs at Organize Now, who formerly worked for Cong. José Serrano (D-NY) and arrived in Orlando just two weeks ago. “We need a plan so that we know that we’re being taken seriously,” he stated outside the Centro Borinqueño in east Orange County, where Organize Now held a press conference.

Organize Now has collected over 3,000 signatures on a petition pressing for no further cuts in education, pensions, healthcare and other essential services on the island. The organization said it would send the petition to federal, state and local elected officials.

“Today there’s a community here that’s going to make sure all Puerto Ricans are going to vote in the next election,” said labor organizer Jimmy Torres-Vélez, who is part of the coalition. “We are going to require that city and county commissioners have a stand on Puerto Rico.”

State Rep. Víctor Torres (D-48) pointed out that he and others earlier attempted to pass a resolution in symbolic support of Puerto Rico in the State House but it failed. “The House leadership wouldn’t support it so it didn’t happen,” he said, adding that support for the island is a “no brainer.”

In Congress, meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are wide apart on the issues, particularly on imposing a financial control board of mostly outsiders to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances – Republicans are for it, Democrats are against.

In his letter to Congress Treasury Secretary Lew stated, “Absent enactment of a workable framework for restructuring Puerto Rico’s debts, bondholders will experience a lengthy, disorderly, and chaotic unwinding, with non-payment for many a real possibility.”

Thus far, Puerto Rico has defaulted on $1.9 billion of $72 billion in debt, according to the U.S. Treasury. Another $1 billion is due in July. This week’s default technically involved about $389 million because the island reached an accord with some debtors to delay payment.

A shrinking tax base due to historic-level migration is making the situation worse. More than 112,000 people fled the island in the first 10 months of 2015, according to the latest reports. Florida is the No. 1 destination and Central Florida, in particular, is home to the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the state.

There are 1 million Puerto Ricans living in Florida, which has experienced a significant jump in the population group since 2010.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

Double-Digit Increase in Puerto Ricans

Palm trees

More than 112,000 Puerto Ricans left the island in the first 10 months of 2015, an all-time record reported in Orlando Latino earlier this week. The next question is, how does this affect Central Florida? And the answer is, it’s too soon to quantify.

Recent figures don’t indicate where Puerto Ricans’ guagua aérea landed, but it’s well documented that Central Florida is the major destination for islanders who buy the one-way ticket looking to escape the island’s sputtering economic engine damaged by 10-year old recession and a fiscal crisis caused by $72 billion in debt.

But it’s a good moment to crunch the latest census numbers dating to 2014 to sketch the impact of the Puerto Rican flight to the tri-county area of Orange, Osceola and Seminole thus far compared with 2005.

                    2005              2014     Percentage Increase      

Orange         115,341             173,669                   50.5%

Osceola         50,334               91,804                    82.4%

Seminole       27,087*              37,731                  39.3%*

*Seminole figures are for 2014 and 2009, the earliest year available.
Source: census.gov

Puerto Ricans comprise 15 percent of the tri-county area, but in Osceola the figure is significantly higher, more like 30 percent, the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in all of Florida. (The state draws Puerto Ricans from other states as well.)

In 2015,  Florida’s Puerto Rican population soared to over 1 million and today Puerto Ricans nearly rival the number of Cubans in the Sunshine State, thanks to the guaguas aérea that land in Orlando International Airport  each day.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

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