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Exactly two years ago today, while I was covering the latest from Puerto Rico, several of my friends shared a report about the island that, according to them, was a “must watch.” It was a segment called “Puerto Rico: The fiscal experiment,” produced by Al Jazeera. To this day, it is still one of the most comprehensive reports I have ever seen about Puerto Rico’s current situation. The piece was journalism at its best: tell the story, include different points of view, and invite viewers to draw their own conclusions.

I was highly impressed, and it was the first time I had ever really noticed the quality of news content Al Jazeera was producing in English.

Fast forward to the end of 2012. I was in New York City hanging with friends in lower Manhattan when I got a call from Washington, D.C. It was an Al Jazeera English producer for a show called “The Stream.” Would I like to be a guest next week to talk about Puerto Rico’s social media activism and the issues surrounding the “La Comay” controversy?

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Even though my schedule couldn’t accommodate the invite, I was even more impressed that Al Jazeera English was dedicating time to a story that deeply connected with me and millions of others in the Latino online space. Ever since then, I was hooked to the “The Stream.” The combination of conversation and social media was powerful. Here was the new media “60 Minutes.” I soon found out that many of my friends also loved the show, as well as a huge part of our Latino Rebels community.

This Monday, I start my new job as a Digital Producer for “The Stream.” Having met the show’s core staff and leadership, this decision was an exciting one for me, as well as an easy one to make. Simply stated, “The Stream” fully understands the power of the new media. For example, tomorrow they are running an #OpenEditorial for content and ideas. They believe in amplifying stories that come from the ground up, a belief I have been embracing ever since I started tweeting in 2008 and founded LatinoRebels.com in 2011.

Although the Rebeldes will always be with me, my new position at “The Stream” allows me to expand my talents at a ground-breaking award-winning news show I believe is the future of news media.

And no, I won’t be disappearing from the online world. Quite the contrary. I will do my best to get the stories that matter to “The Stream.” If you ever have a story that you think needs attention, please do not hesitate to contact me via Twitter or Facebook. You know where to find me.

This is going to be an incredible adventure. Something’s coming, for sure.

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Now THIS is cool. My brother Fernando Varela singing with the great Lionel Richie and David Foster. Live. Unrehearsed. Amazing.

The following video (10 minutes in length) is a career gem for Fernando, who has recently been performing with Foster to outstanding reviews and results.  The best moment of this video is seeing Richie’s genuine admiration of Fernando’s talents, as well as seeing Fernando totally understand that he is singing with Lionel Flipping Richie! They sing “Stuck on You” from Richie’s new duets album, and then Fernando brings the house down with “Nessum Dorma.”

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We continue the Puerto Rican Plebiscite Seriers with part three of  Gil C. Schmidt‘s “Puerto Rico: Never a State” essay.  If you are interested in submitting your blog (500 words) for publication, add your comments here expressing your interest and we will run your blog unedited. (NOTE: This three-part column was originally intended for a piece I wrote when I was contributing to Being Latino magazine earlier in 2011, and Schimidt’s response was never published by BL, so we are following up on an invitation we extended to Gil to have it published here).

Puerto Rico: Never a State (Part Three)

By Gil C. Schmidt

Statehood for Puerto Rico is not going to happen for three unimpeachable reasons: 1) Ethnic and economic differences, masked or open, discussed in Part One; 2) History has spoken, as per Part Two and 3) Under domestic and international law, the ultimate decision is not “theirs”: it’s ours.

strong>The law says the ultimate decision is ours: During its 8th session, the U.N. General Assembly recognized Puerto Rico’s self-government on November 27, 1953 with Resolution 748 (VIII). This removed Puerto Rico’s classification as a non-self-governing territory under article 73(e) of the U.N. Charter.

Puerto Rico held its plebiscite concerning a new constitution in 1950. The constitutionally-based commonwealth was inaugurated on July 25th, 1952. However, the U.N. recognized Puerto Rico’s self-government in November 27, 1953.

Neither domestic nor international law recognizes a right to a plebiscite before a transfer of sovereignty. In short: In 1950 we weren’t empowered to choose our status.

Up until that day in 1953, we were not considered self-governing. Under domestic law (Supreme Court and Congress), we were “an unincorporated territory,” and as such, were not guaranteed anything by the U.S. So the process between the U.S. and Puerto Rico that led to the commonwealth “experiment” was not, as the pro-commonwealth party has always insisted, a deal between equals, it was merely a hand-me-down fait accompli between a sovereign nation and its territory.

Therefore, if according to international law we stopped being a colony in 1953, then we have to face up to certain truths:

  • As a self-governing territory, it is up to us —and no one else— to make the focused effort to establish our permanent status. And by “us” I mean the Puerto Ricans who live, work and own property here, not “weekenders” waving our flag a couple of times a year during some New York parade.
  • The only binding plebiscite the U.S. can offer —and never has— is a Congressionally-mandated referendum wherein Puerto Rico can automatically put into motion whatever ultimate status the voters choose. No such offer is being made now and won’t be: the fear of pledging itself to grant statehood to Puerto Rico is not something any U.S. politician wants to see looming ahead. Puerto Rico cannot force Congress to do this and Congress simply cannot be forced on this issue. History proves it.

I think it is way past time that we moved beyond all this statehood fantasy. For deep down, it isn’t a matter of pride, heritage, history or anything equally lofty: it simply boils down to a matter of money. They have it, they know many Puerto Ricans want more of it, and they don’t want—or have—to share it. On that basis alone, the U.S. will continue to reject seriously considering any Puerto Rican request for statehood.

And they should. Because we can do better.

Except that most of us don’t believe—or don’t want to believe—that.

Not becoming a state is not Puerto Rico’s loss; not knowing how to be ourselves is.

Bio: I lived almost 20 years in the U.S., spanning states from Nebraska to Texas to Mississippi. My appearance and name are those of a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the proverbial W.A.S.P. But I was born in Puerto Rico, a fourth-generation Puerto Rican and have lived on the island continuously since 1987. You can find more of my writings about Puerto Rico at Gil The Jenius: http://gilthejenius.blogspot.com

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