Páginas vistas

lunes, 2 de junio de 2008

Puerto Rico Sees Primary As Chance To Address Status

Image and video hosting by TinyPic TAMPA - Pauline Rivera said her entire family in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, was out en force Sunday, helping give Hillary Rodham Clinton a lopsided win over Barack Obama in the island's Democratic presidential primary. She and her family are always excited about politics. "They vote. Everybody votes," the Tampa woman said. This year, the campaigns were also really excited about the voters in Puerto Rico. Chalk it up to the 55 delegates that Sunday's vote divvied up between the candidates in a rare primary season that lasted long enough to make Puerto Rico matter this time. That emotion has many local Puerto Ricans hoping the island's higher political profile may have a lasting impact on the commonwealth's status. Both Clinton and Obama, for example, have promised to push for allowing Puerto Rico to decide its political future - either as the 51st state, as an independent nation or as a revamped form of the commonwealth it is today. In Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, residents have been U.S. citizens since 1917. They can vote in presidential primaries, but not in the general election. They pay no federal income tax - except for income derived from sources outside the island - but they pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Their representative in Congress can cast votes in committees, but not in the full House. "We don't have a clear political status. We don't know what we are," said Victor Cruz, a Carrollwood real estate broker who has bounced back and forth between Tampa and his native Puerto Rico since young adulthood. "We're nothing. But now that they need the 55 delegates, we're in the spotlight. Why not begin that opportunity to become a country? And, if not, at least let us became a state of the union." At La Lechonera restaurant on North Armenia Avenue, where Rivera and her Tampa-based family had lunch Sunday, talk also turned to hopes for change. Rivera and her husband, Pedro Rodriguez, want the island where they were raised to have more voting power as the 51st of the United States. They think it would improve the financial lot of their compatriots there. "I'd like to see the status change, because things are difficult," said Rodriguez, 68. "Prices are more expensive there than here." Several Puerto Ricans at La Lechonera said that life is so difficult for their families in Puerto Rico that their families don't talk much about presidential politics and didn't bother voting in Sunday's primaries. Gerardo Ortiz, 25, left his entire family behind in Olimpo to come to Tampa last year to help make ends meet. He's a cook at Applebee's now, and things are better here. "But it's bad in Puerto Rico with unemployment," said Ortiz, who never voted in any election on the island and said he's not very inspired to register to vote here in the fall - a right afforded to Puerto Ricans in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. "I just worry about my bills. Like most people in Puerto Rico, they're worried about their own problems financially." Sonia de Jesus understands that sentiment. Back behind La Lechonera restaurant, she operates a little store where she sells Puerto Rican T-shirts and other memorabilia. She's lived in Tampa for three years. Just last week, she visited her family in her hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico. Her two twenty-something sons live there. They didn't vote in the presidential primary. They weren't even talking about it during her visit. "They see it as something that's of the United States - they don't see it as anything official since they can't vote in the general election," said de Jesus, 42, whose family does vote in the island's election for governor. "They feel like that belongs to them." Such sentiments about the presidential primaries might change if the island becomes a state, she said. "Some people want it. The rest are afraid that they'll lose what they are: their culture, their beliefs," said de Jesus, noting that some even fear the loss of traditions such as Puerto Rico providing its own contestant to the Miss Universe pageant - or fielding its own teams in athletic competitions. "But Hawaii is a state. Hawaii didn't lose its culture." Jenaro Mora said his grandmother in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, doesn't talk much about the presidential candidates. "I don't think she voted, because the candidates are all the same. That's what she tells me," said Mora, 35, a Tampa carpenter born in New York to a Puerto Rican mother. Instead, he said, most of the talk is about another type of political change - one they believe will help the island out of its troubled economy. "The big talk is about Puerto Rico becoming a state," said Mora, who agrees with those who are clamoring for that change. He wondered aloud whether a presidential candidate could help the island change its status. "Maybe it'll happen if we get the right person."

blog comments powered by Disqus