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Archive for February, 2011


Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Last Friday, award-winning author Raul Ramos y Sanchez, whose new book HOUSE DIVIDED launched in late January, made an appearance on CNN en español. Here is the subtitled video in case you misssed it. Yes, Raul, we LOVE your CUBANO accent! ¡VAYA!

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The Spanish "¿Y pa' quién?" means "And for who?"

A group opposed to the new Whole Foods store scheduled to be built in the Hyde Square section of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood has recently launched a new web page to promote their message against urban gentrification. The group, called Whose Foods?, has created WhoseFoods.org. The site contains videos in English and Spanish from JP residents who oppose the new Whole Foods store, which is taking over the location where the Hi-Lo Latino market used to stand for the last 37 years.

According to its bilingual website, the group is “a multicultural, multigenerational group of Jamaican Plain residents and allies working together for a better JP.” It has listed three mission statements, and it is inviting anyone interested in this issue to speak out. The statements are as follow:

  • Against: a Whole Foods in Jamaica Plain and against the continued gentrification of JP”
  • For: a locally‐owned business that serves low and moderate income families in JP and beyond”
  • For: strengthening JP’s cultural, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity”

On Monday evening, February 28, JP will be active, as a Rally for an Affordable and Diverse JP is being planned for 6 pm at Mozart Park. At 7 pm, the JP Neighborhood Council will hold its second neighborhood forum at the Kennedy School regarding this issue. At the council’s first forum on February 7, an overwhelming majority of JP residents opposed the new Whole Foods.

Tomorrow’s forum should be more balanced, since some pro-Whole Foods groups have also been formed, primarily on Facebook. We Are All Whole Foods, formed by JP resident and social media professional Steve Garfield, is perhaps the most active one. It currently has 129 fans, compared to Whose Foods? and their 348 fans. The majority of comments on We Are Al Whole Foods are more pro-Whole Foods. For example, one JP Resident posted the following about the Whose Foods? videos:

Watching the videos on “Whose Foods, Whose Community” I see a distinct lack of diversity, and nothing but opinion full of unsupported if/then statements being made. E.g. If Whole Foods moves in, then rents will increase. If WF moves in, Latinos can’t afford food. If WF moves in, there will be no more diversity in JP. If WF moves in, Latinos won’t be able to find the foods they need for cooking native dishes. What? It strikes me that the underlying motive is really “keep Hyde Square Latino.” Where are the Anglo voices on their site? The Afro voices? The actual diversity of JP which spans cultures and income ranges?

As for an official statement from Whole Foods, we have contacted the Whole Foods Northeast office for comment several times, but they have not responded to us.

Boston politicians have also been contacted to comment about this issue, but except comments from City Councillors Ayanna Pressley and Matt O’Malley, other leaders have not returned our calls or emails for comments. These include Boston Mayor Tom Menino, State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, and Councillor Felix Arroyo. If we do hear from any of these elected officials, we will post their statements.

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On Friday, as reported by the Associated Press, Rolando Crespo, the House Majority Whip of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, had tested positive for cocaine use during a mandatory drug test of the island’s legislators. Today, after facing pressure from his political allies, Crespo announced his resignation.

Rolando Crespo

El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s top newspaper, reported an article in Spanish at 3:34 PM EST (4:34 PM local island item) that chronicles Crespo’s resignation. Crespo met with Jenniffer González, Puerto Rico’s Speaker of the House, and offered his resignation. He also told González that he would go into a drug rehabilitation program.

“[Speaker González] who has given me advice. Over the weekend, I went through a process of reflection,” said Crespo in Spanish today. “I talked with my family, with God and with myself. Today, I announcement my resignation.”

Crespo, as well as González, are members of the island pro-statehood party the New Progressive Party (PNP), which is also the party of Governor Luis Fortuño. Fortuño, who won the election in 2008, had included a “zero-corrpution” government on his formal platform, and promised that any political leader—no matter what party—would need to follow all ethical and legal requirements. Fortuño and González were both very vocal in tell Crespo that he had to resign from his post. Initially, González had announced that a formal ethics hearing would be held in the House for Crespo, but the pressure for his resignation had already mounted.

On Friday, the AP reported the following:

“I accept that I failed. I am human. I ask the citizens of Puerto Rico for forgiveness. … I will submit to all processes to rectify this ignorance,” Crespo was quoted as saying in the statement.

Gonzalez said Crespo had denied to her that he used drugs. She said he had stepped down as House majority whip.

Shortly after Gonzalez’s announcement, Gov. Luis Fortuño said he was indignant about the results and urged Crespo to resign immediately instead of waiting for a decision from the ethics committee.

“This is an uncomfortable and unacceptable situation for both the legislature and for the citizens of Puerto Rico,” Fortuño said in a statement.

Today, Fortuño commented from the National Governors Association meeting in Washington:

“I spoke with [Crespo] this morning. He knows that within minutes of my finding out about the revelations, I recommended and urged him to resign,” Fortuño said in Spanish. “He must focus on whatever personal issues that would arise from this situation.”

Fortuño also said that Crespo had assured him that Crespo would not seek a canadidacy to the Puerto Rican Legislature in 2012.

Governor Luis Fortuño

It has been a tumultuous month for the Puerto Rican Governor, the first Republican to be elected on the island since 1969. His remarks at February’s 2011 CPAC (The American Conservative Union) conference claimed that most Puerto Ricans are conservative in nature and that the Republican party can successfully reach out to voters on the island, as his victory proved. (Note: Puerto Ricans on the island cannot vote in national elections.) In the same speech, Fortuño urged Republican lawmakers to take advantage of the new House majorities on the mainland during the budget debate and “make the tough cuts early and stick to them with courage”.

Fortuño, who has been credited for improving the island’s debt issues and establishing the island’s highest bond rating since 1976, is still facing tough criticism for his handling of the recent strikes at the University of Puerto Rico. This criticism reached a crescendo when Illinois Democrat Luis Guitérrez publicly railed against the Fortuño government for violating basic American rights and suggesting that Fortuño’s tactics are similar to that our Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. In addition, The Puerto Rico Democracy Act, a referendum that would allow for Puerto Ricans to vote on their political status, is stuck in the Senate and Fortuño is facing pressure from his own party to ensure that the Act is passed to Puerto Ricans can vote on their political future.

The Crespo resignation has dealt a blow to the Fortuño administration, and it is no surprise that the governor wanted to distance himself from Crespo as quickly as possible.

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