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Tonight on Al Jazeera America: Should Puerto Rico become the 51st State?

With its people culturally united but politically divided, what is the best way forward? Join the conversation at 7:30pm ET.

What do you think? Record a video comment or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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It is in Spanish, but what do they say about the wisdom of young children. Just a few of Enidris’ quotes

“I will not respect the flag of a country that does not respect my country.”

“Yo, Puerto Rico, we are a colony.” (well, she didn’t say that but that was the gist.)

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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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I am tired.

I am tired of how the US mainland media continues to portray the island-territory of Puerto Rico with one broad brushstroke—that it is a new hotbed of violence and chaos. Recently, Fortune’s Cyrus Sanati told U.S. billionaires to “beware” of Puerto Rico, saying that the island “has a bevy of social and economic problems that appear to be getting worse by the day, making it an inhospitable place for a wealthy individual seeking safety and stability.” Sanati’s piece was criticized by many of the island, not because part of it was true, but because his conclusion was way too simplistic. Does Puerto Rico have problems? Yes? Is it a modern-day crime and murder war zone? Not even close. But if that is what the U.S. media wants you to believe, why not?

Sanati even admitted via Twitter that his knowledge of Puerto Rico is only cursory when he tweeted the following response to the Latino Rebels Twitter account:

Now a new story from HoustonPress called “Bloody Tide: How Puerto Rico Affects the U.S.” is painting too much of a similar picture that quite frankly does more harm to Puerto Rico’s perception. Written by Michael E. Miller and Casey Michel, the in-depth piece (it spans over seven digital pages) depicts Puerto Rico in such a negative light, you wonder why anyone would want to live there. As the piece states: “The “Isle of Enchantment” has become bewitched by violence. A crackdown on drugs coming across the Mexican border has only pushed contraband through the Caribbean, transforming the American commonwealth into the newest nexus for narcotraffickers.” (NOTE: Miami New Times also ran the piece.)

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Later on, the story continues:

Economic hardship begets drug-running, which begets violence, which begets a murder rate normally reserved for postcolonial power struggles.

Yet Americans who ignore the island do so at their own peril. As Puerto Rican politicians make an unprecedented push to become the 51st state, the commonwealth has become more central than ever to the United States’s drug and crime problems. [Police chief Hector Pesquera] estimates that 80 percent of the narcotics entering Puerto Rico end up in East Coast cities, particularly Miami and New York. Guns and money move in the opposite direction, and fugitives flow freely back and forth, frustrating officials. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are pouring into Florida, New York and Texas to escape the gunfire gripping their homeland.

The writers also want you to make sure that the violence in Puerto Rico was always Puerto Rico’s fault and never anyone else’s:

This isn’t the first time waves of violence have broken over Puerto Rico. Perched at the strategic entrance to the Caribbean, the Connecticut-size island has a long and bloody history. Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León slaughtered Taíno natives beginning in 1508. Over the centuries, slave uprisings and independence movements were put down with deadly force. By 1898, the colony had won a degree of autonomy, only for the Spanish-American War to transfer control to the United States.

When Puerto Rican politicians voted for independence in 1914, the United States responded by granting boricuas (anyone living on the island) U.S. citizenship — just in time to be drafted for World War I. Another 30 years passed before Puerto Ricans were allowed to elect their own governor.

Under U.S. rule, the island became a popular vacation spot. But by the 1980s, with Colombian cocaine flowing through Puerto Rico to south Florida, violence became endemic. Murders decreased in the 1990s as drug routes shifted to Central America and Mexico, but in 2006, newly elected Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared an assault on cartels. Two years later, the United States launched its own $1.6 billion Merida Initiative to combat gangs.

“That is why in the past three years, Puerto Rico has become increasingly visible in regard to drug scandals,” Bagley says. “This is an unintended consequence of the pressure being brought in Mexico and Central America.”

Today drugs from HaitiColombia, Vene­zuela and the Dominican Republic stream in on Jet Skis and go-fast boats. “Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, illegal contraband that makes it to the island is unlikely to be subjected to further U.S. Customs inspections,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, head of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said during a hearing last year.

Let’s step back for a minute: Are the writers actually connecting Puerto Rico’s current crime problems to Ponce de León, as if violence has always been embedded in Puerto Ricans? In addition, I am still trying to figure out what the connection is between 1508 to 1898 to 1914 to 2013.

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The real and only reason why Puerto Rico has a problem with murders and drugs is simple. The territory is part of the largest drug market in the world: the United States of America. Without demand for drugs from the mainland, the current activity on the island would be non-existent. Yet the Houston writers say nothing about that very simple fact. The colonizers need their pot and cocaine, and the colony is more than happy to deliver it to them, while shooting up people in the process.

The piece’s paternalistic tone continues, especially when it made reference to the recent boycott of La Comay, suggesting that the events surrounding the boycott “seemed to expose a newfound heartlessness, as if boricuas had become numb to the violence.” Instead of focusing on the positive that such an event produced, the Houston piece almost treated the boycott as an exception, while making sure to keep including words such as “bloody tide” and “carnage” central to its narrative. When you want to manufacture the perception of “chaos,” you need to give the readers what they want, right?

Nonetheless, the real issue about Puerto Rico is hidden deep in the piece, when the writers say the following:

Truth is, there’s little willpower in DC to spend heavily on an island of 3.6 million people whose ballots don’t count. Perhaps that’s why Puerto Ricans are debating louder than ever their identity as a U.S. commonwealth. Whenboricuas went to the polls last November, 54 percent rejected the status quo. But the vote was split among those who favored independence, statehood or remaining a commonwealth. [Luis] Fortuño — the governor who appointed Pesquera — was dumped out of office.

Yes, there is very “little willpower in DC” right now, and that is why many Puerto Ricans —both on the island and on the mainland— are working together to change that. There is no mention of that movement at all the Houston piece, because why try to present a full picture when your goal is to just promote fearful perceptions of Puerto Rico? Why would you want to include more information about the Comay boycott movement and what it did to connect boricuas even more? Why would you mention Parranda PR or new other organizations that are working hard to change the perception that the Houston story perpetuates? Because that would mean sharing more of the truth about what is positive about Puerto Rico and the truth sells less stories that the sensational ones.

I just visited the island last week, my third visit this year. Does Puerto Rico have serious problems? Yes. Is it a war zone riddled by “carnage” and a “bloody tide?” That is a bit too much, and it is unfortunate, since all the Houston story does is scare people away from the island and helps to promote a negative cycle of criticism that offers very little solution to the problem. If the writers of the Houston piece were truly sincere in helping to change the dialogue about Puerto Rico, they should be ready to follow up with stories that reflect that change. They had a great story to cover last week with what the Puerto Rican baseball team did during the World Baseball Classic, for example.

But I doubt that will happen because in the end, the colonizer needs to keep the colony in check, and it will use all possible means to accomplish that.

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I was 3 years old the night my hero died.

I don’t know if I was wearing my Pittsburgh Pirates shirt on that New Year’s Eve in 1972, and I couldn’t even begin to remember the details that swirled around Puerto Rico like bees around a hive. A child’s mind does not recall the facts, it just recalls the tears. The tears, I do remember.

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But now the facts are far too familiar, and the Internet will forever enshrine them. As these excerpts from the January 1, 1973 edition of The New York Times say:

SAN JUAN, P. R., Jan. 1—Roberto Clemente, star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, died late last night in the crash of a cargo plane carrying relief supplies to the victims of the earthquake in Managua.

Three days of national mourning for Mr. Clemente were proclaimed in his native Puerto Rico, where he was the most popular sports figure in the island’s history.

***

Mr. Clemente was the leader of Puerto Rican efforts to aid the Nicaraguan victims and was aboard the plane because he suspected that relief supplies were falling into the hands of profiteers.

The four-engined DC-7 piston-powered plane crashed moments after takeoff from San Juan International Airport at 9:22 P.M.

The plane, carrying a crew of three and one other passenger, came down in heavy seas a mile and a half from shore.

Coast Guard planes circled the area trying to locate the plane by the light of flares. The wreckage was not found until 5 P.M. today in about 100 feet of water. There was no sign of survivors.

***

Mr. Clemente had been asked to take part in the collection of funds by Luis Vigoraux, a television producer.

“He did not just lend his name to the fund-raising activities the way some famous personalities do,” said Mr. Vigoraux. “He took over the entire thing, arranging for collection points, publicity and the transportation to Nicaragua.”

Mr. Clemente’s relief organization had collected $150,000 in cash and tons of clothing and foodstuffs. More money and clothing are still being donated.

“We sent a ship loaded with supplies during the week,” said a member of the earthquake relief committee. “One of the reasons Roberto went on the plane was to get there before the ship arrived to see the supplies were distributed properly.”

***

News of Mr. Clemente’s death plunged Puerto Rico into mourning.

Gov. Louis A. Ferre decreed three days of mourning and Governor-elect Rafael Hernandez Colon, who will be sworn into office tomorrow, ordered the cancellation of an inaugural ball and all other social activities related to the inauguration.

Roberto Clemente was 38 years old when he died. 38 years old.

His baseball feats will forever be celebrated, but Clemente went beyond that. Not a day goes by where I think of how this son of Puerto Rico represented a different type of athlete, one that we rarely see today.

I often wonder: “what if Clemente were still alive today?” He would be baseball’s premiere Latino ambassador, sure, but he would be marching with the justice-seekers, speaking out against violence, and calling for a better world. As PBS’ American Experience says, “Clemente was an exceptional baseball player and humanitarian whose career sheds light on larger issues of immigration, civil rights and cultural change. He would die in a tragic plane crash.”

And that is why I struggle a bit every December 31. Clemente was so much more than a baseball player, but it was baseball that transcended him into places he would have never reached. I have friends from the Pittsburgh area who still consider Clemente the greatest Pirate ever. Everyone loved and admired Roberto (even those who called him “Bobby,” not knowing any better.) The Puerto Rican taking over Pittsburgh. That’s how it happens. That’s how we become a better world. When cultures blend, and we find commonalities and we celebrate achievements.

That is why I know that we can all be like Clemente. You can still stand for what you believe in,  you never have to settle, and still treat people with love, grace, and respect.

His son said it best when he told PBS the following:

I would like for people to see my father as an inspiration. To see him as a person who came from, you know, not a rich neighborhood or anything, but from a noble house in Puerto Rico. Probably with no hopes of knowing what he was going to become, but carrying himself in such a way that always had — you know, the values. That was always first. The caring and respect for the parents and siblings, and towards people. Zero tolerance against injustice. Not putting up with being put down. Becoming an activist and letting his message get across very strongly. That should be an inspiration to everyone… understanding how a single individual really truly makes a difference.
— Luis Clemente, son

This New Year’s Eve I still long for the possibilities of what the world COULD have been with Clemente here. Instead, the best I can do is just try and remember that each of us can truly make a difference. This is what Roberto means to me, and this is why I will be #21Forever.

Now I have a 10-year-old son who shares my love of Clemente. And when my son asks me about Roberto, I can show him game footage and tell him stories from my abuelo, my dad, and some Latino baseball legends I had the pleasure to meet in my lifetime (I will never ever forget when the great Mike Cuellar told me and my brothers about the Game 7 homerun Clemente hit off of him at the 1971 World Series). But even when my son and I talk baseball, I also tell him that Clemente was always larger that just baseball. He was a great human being who tried to make a difference. And he succeeded.

¡Que viva Roberto! #21Forever.

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The following release was just published today and I say, “Fantástico.” It is time for Puerto Ricans to stand up, get connected, and work together for a greater Puerto Rico. You can give Parranda Puerto Rico a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

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SAN JUAN, PR and MIAMI, FL and SILICON VALLEY, CA–(Marketwire – Dec 13, 2012) – A new social network dubbed “Parranda” — the name of a popular Puerto Rican Christmas tradition — is hoping to gather Puerto Ricans on the island and throughout the world to “remap, remake, and remobilize the Greater Puerto Rico.”

Founded by eighteen Puerto Rican entrepreneurs, scientists, and business leaders — from San Juan to Silicon Valley — Parranda will launch a beta version this Christmas of an online network with an initial focus on constructing a digital map of where all Puerto Ricans live. Later projects will include an online mentoring program, a crowd-funding capability, and a broad range of applications that serve the economic, civic, and cultural development of the island and its people.

Reimagining “The Boricua Winter”

A confluence of events has demonstrated the need, desire, and utility for a Puerto Rican diaspora network.

First, there is the continuing flight of Puerto Rican professionals to the US and other countries, which has created a persistent brain drain from the Puerto Rican economy. Second, there was the recent demonstration of political power both on the mainland and on the archipelago. The strength of the Puerto Rican vote in Florida for the 2012 election was surprising to many. And a recent plebiscite was the first time Puerto Ricans voted in a majority to reject Puerto Rico’s current political status.

Finally, there’s the recent wave of social networking activity following a recent spike in the violent crime rate in Puerto Rico, a problem recognized as one of the chief causes of migration to the US. A journalist recently labeled the online reaction to violence in Puerto Rico as “the Boricua Winter,” drawing a comparison to the Arab Spring.

“When we say ‘a Greater Puerto Rico,’ we are referring, of course, to two things,” said Giovanni Rodriguez, co-founder of Parranda and CEO of SocialxDesign, a strategic consulting firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. “First, there’s the reality that Puerto Rican influence is extending beyond the borders of the archipelago. There are more Puerto Ricans living in the US today than in Puerto Rico. Second there’s the idea that Puerto Ricans everywhere — no matter where they make their home — can improve conditions in their homeland. The time is right for the launch of a platform like Parranda, which aims to bring Puerto Ricans together for a number of projects designed for large-scale social impact.”

Parranda’s first focus on mapping the Greater Puerto Rico — via a simple web application — is both practical and strategic for its longer-term goals.

“Puerto Ricans will be both surprised and energized to see where they are today, and the mapping project will enlist all Puerto Ricans to both make the map and telling others to help make it,” said Marcos Polanco, co-founder and COO of iCare Medical Inc., a startup based in San Juan. “And once the map is well lit, it will help Parranda to execute on its larger ambitions in mentoring, funding, and support for social and commercial entrepreneurship.”

Power in Unity

The Parranda name was inspired by a Christmas-season known throughout Latin-America but mostly associated with Puerto Rico. Holiday revelers go door-to-door throughout their neighborhoods, gathering people to join them, knock on other doors, and gather more people.

“We see it as the perfect metaphor for what we are trying to do — knocking on the virtual doors of all Puerto Ricans, and asking them to join us. Plus, the Parranda concept is joyous. Yes, it will help us tackle some of our toughest challenges. But the act of coming together in itself will be part of the appeal.”

The mapping project launches along with the beta site of the Parranda network on Christmas Eve. But people can sign up for early registration by visiting parranda.org today. They can also let organizers know if they want to support the project, individually or as a sponsor.

“In the end, Parranda is a product of its people, and we see many ways for corporate, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations to join and support,” said Polanco.

About Parranda

Parranda.org is a project devoted to the economic, civic, and cultural development of a “Greater Puerto Rico.” By providing a virtual platform for mass collaboration, Parranda enables people on and off the island (the Puerto Rican diaspora) to work with one another on meaningful and measurable initiatives. We’re launching just before Christmas this year. To sign up for early registration, or to explore ways to support the project, please visit us atwww.parranda.org. You can also join the “parranda” on our social networks on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ParrandaPuertoRico and on Twitter@ParrandaPR.

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This is the LAST of the posts about Facebook engagement and which Latino-themed pages are the most engaging from a sample of pages that are commonly visited. Hopefully by now, I don’t have to explain much about this little experiment that started in March. But just in case, you can read about the background here. Let’s just get into it.

Who, among a sample of a few pages, is the most engaging Latino Facebook Page at the beginning of December? Let’s see below. Anything above 15% is really strong. Anything above 40% is outstanding. Anything above 40% is beyond ridiculous and on another level.

Ok, here is the the last and final list. It is December. (numbers based on page checks on December 8, 2012 from midnight-1 am EST; full disclosure: Latino Rebels is my organization. Also, this is just a data capture from a limited time window. We know that the “people talking about this” feature can fluctuate. This is not an exact science, but it does prove that having a highly engaged community will always benefit your brand, organization, group, etc.)

December’s Sampling of Latino Facebook Pages and Their Facebook Level of Engagement (FLOE)

  1. One Voice Radio: 293% (1,601 likes · 4,697 talking about this)
  2. Rico Puerto Rico: 259% (75,710 likes · 196,344 talking about this)
  3. Cultura: 275% (3,577 likes · 9,844 talking about this)
  4. Ford en español: 86.4% (4,515 likes · 3,904 talking about this)
  5. SoLatina: 80% (62,927 likes · 50,347 talking about this)
  6. Latino Rebels: 71.2% (26,512 likes · 19,003 talking about this)
  7. Pocho.com: 61.2% (2,919 likes · 1,785 talking about this)
  8. Pa’lante Latino: 46.2% (2,147 likes · 993 talking about this)
  9. El Diario NY: 39.2% (42,864 likes · 16,841 talking about this)
  10. MundoFox: 39% (78,876 likes · 30,751 talking about this)
  11. So Mexican: 29% (1,813,907 likes · 525,850 talking about this)
  12. NBC Latino: 23.3% (38,985 likes · 9,071 talking about this)
  13. National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts: 22.3% (3,953 likes · 881 talking about this)
  14. Fit Latina: 20.8% (1,627 likes · 339 talking about this)
  15. Disney World Latino: 17.1% (113,350 likes · 19,401 talking about this)
  16. Being Latino: 16.2% (82,695 likes · 13,390 talking about this)
  17. Gozamos: 15.6% (4,641 likes · 723 talking about this)
  18. People en español: 14.9% (204,598 likes · 30,431 talking about this)
  19. Univision News: 13.6% (8,546 likes · 1,164 talking about this)
  20. Presente.org: 12.1% (11,408 likes · 1,381 talking about this)
  21. Sofrito for Your Soul: 11.7% (9,881 likes · 1,159 talking about this)
  22. The Big Tino: 11.2% (61,837 likes · 6,911 talking about this)
  23. Think Mexican: 10.8% (5,541 likes · 597 talking about this)
  24. Cuéntame: 10.7% (94,670 likes · 10,173 talking about this)
  25. Proud to Be Latina: 9.5% (1,932 likes · 183 talking about this)
  26. Primer impacto: 9.2% (304,755 likes · 28,022 talking about this)
  27. Being Puerto Rican: 9.2% (22,557 likes · 2,092 talking about this)
  28. Mayo Clinic (Español): 9.2% (2,973 likes · 275 talking about this)
  29. Telemundo: 8.7% (377,842 likes · 32,732 talking about this)
  30. Despierta América: 7.7% (184,674 likes · 14,177 talking about this)
  31. Latina Bloggers Connect: 7.5% (2,181 likes · 164 talking about this)
  32. Univision: 7.1% (645,898 likes · 46,002 talking about this)
  33. CNN en español: 7% (1,288,763 likes · 92,838 talking about)
  34. Mexican Word of the Day: 7% (1,321,428 likes · 92,523 talking about this)
  35. Mamiverse: 7% (19,600 likes · 1,368 talking about this)
  36. SpanglishBaby: 6.9% (8,242 likes · 565 talking about this)
  37. Los Pichy Boys: 6.9% (17,322 likes · 1,197 talking about this)
  38. Remezcla: 6.7% (12,310 likes · 827 talking about this)
  39. Latina: 6.7% (79,384 likes · 5,343 talking about this)
  40. News Taco: 6.4% (4,416 likes · 283 talking about this)
  41. HuffPost Latino Voices: 6.3% (9,026 likes · 565 talking about this)
  42. Cosmo for Latinas: 6% (10,812 likes · 645 talking about this)
  43. Voto Latino: 5.7% (53,762 likes · 3,070 talking about this)
  44. VOXXI: 5.5% (13,572 likes · 748 talking about this)
  45. Mun2: 5.2% (256,290 likes · 13,421 talking about this)
  46. Latina Mom Bloggers: 5.2% (1,590 likes · 82 talking about this)
  47. Ask a Mexican: 5.1% (37,772 likes · 1,922 talking about this)
  48. Calle 13: 5% (1,725,044 likes · 86,944 talking about this)
  49. Es el momento: 4.2% (15,355 likes · 644 talking about this)
  50. Immigrant Archive Project: 4% (12,475 likes · 493 talking about this)
  51. Hispanicize: 3.8% (5,372 likes · 205 talking about this)
  52. National Council of La Raza: 3.5% (21,947 likes · 752 talking about this)
  53. Pitbull: 3% (26,094,325 likes · 790,462 talking about this)
  54. Fox News Latino: 3% (72,218 likes · 2,201 talking about this)
  55. El Gordo y la Flaca: 2.7% (354,425 likes · 9,774 talking about this)
  56. New Latina: 2.6% (4,721 likes · 123 talking about this)
  57. Hispanically Speaking News: 2.2% (3,250 likes · 72 talking about this)
  58. Somos Verizon Fios: 2.1% (49,690 likes · 1,035 talking about this)
  59. Latina List: 2.1% (3,095 likes · 66 talking about this)
  60. Toyota Latino: 1.5% (75,708 likes · 1,107 talking about this)
  61. Latino Justice: 1.3% (2,684 likes · 36 talking about this)
  62. Shakira: 1.2% (57,369,298 likes · 694,870 talking about this)
  63. Selena Gómez: 1.2% (36,542,613 likes · 452,137 talking about this)
  64. Papi Blogger: 1% (855 likes · 10 talking about this)
  65. American Latino Museum: .008% (122,115 likes · 1,099 talking about this)
  66. Latinos in Social Media: .006% (150,728 likes · 924 talking about this)

Thank you to all who followed this little experiment this year. Happy 2013!

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