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February 24 2014

February 19 2014

February 07 2014

Puerto Rico’s Debt Downgraded to “Junk” Status

Un cuarto de dólar estadounidense, o peseta, como se le llama en Puerto Rico. La expresión

A U.S. quarter, or peseta, as it’s called in Puerto Rico. The expression “everything has gone to hell now” [in Spanish the expressions plays with the word "peseta" that means "quarter"] is commonly used to mean that the cost of living has suddenly gone up or that life has suddenly got more complicated. Image from the public domain, taken from
Wikimedia Commons.

What everybody feared finally happened: Puerto Rico’s debt was downgraded to junk or speculative level on February 4, 2014, by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s. The consequences of degradation had already been mentioned in a previous article [es] by Sergio Marxuach, the Director of Public Policy of the Puerto Rican based think tank Center for a New Economy:

… [U]na degradación del crédito de Puerto Rico a nivel “chatarra” tendría repercusiones adversas para todos los que vivimos en Puerto Rico ya que desataría una crisis financiera. Eso significa, entre otras cosas, que: el gobierno tendría poco o ningún acceso a los mercados financieros; veríamos una depreciación del valor de los bonos y obligaciones de Puerto Rico de entre 30% y 50%; la liquidez y la solvencia de las instituciones financieras y compañías de seguro en Puerto Rico podrían verse afectadas adversamente; veríamos un aumento en las tasas de interés y una contracción significativa del crédito; y aumentarían tanto las quiebras como el desempleo. Nadie en Puerto Rico estaría inmune de los efectos de esa tempestad.

Degrading Puerto Rico’s credit to ‘junk’ level would have adverse repercussions for everybody who lives in Puerto Rico because it would set off a financial crisis. That means, among other things, that the government would have little or no access to financial markets; we would see a depreciation between 30 to 50% of the value of Puerto Rican bonds and obligations; the liquidity and solvency of financial institutions and insurance companies in Puerto Rico could be adversely affected; we’d see an increase in interest rates and a significant credit crunch; and an increase in bankruptcies and unemployment. No one in Puerto Rico would be immune from the effects of this storm.

The degradation of the Puerto Rican debt comes after a series of unpleasant measures implemented by both the New Progressive Party and the Popular Democratic Party, which is currently in power. Among the measures implemented were the laying off thousands of public employees, the imposition of new taxes, and reform of the retirement systems. The Government Development Bank (BGF in Spanish) of Puerto Rico and the Department of Treasury issued a joint press release to calm the concerns of the public, but especially of investors:

Si bien estamos decepcionados con la decisión de Standard & Poor’s, seguimos comprometidos con la implantación de nuestros planes fiscales y de desarrollo económico. Creemos que la comunidad inversora reconocerá oportunamente el impacto positivo de las reformas que la Administración [del Gobernador Alejandro] García Padilla ha implantado.

Entendemos que S&P reconoce los esfuerzos significativos de Puerto Rico hasta la fecha para enfrentar problemas estructurales de mucho tiempo, según queda demostrado por nuestra significativa reforma de retiro, el incrementar la independencia de una serie de corporaciones públicas y los recientes aumentos en los recaudos.


Estamos confiados en que tenemos a mano liquidez para satisfacer todas las necesidades de liquidez hasta fines del año fiscal, incluyendo cualquier necesidad de efectivo que surja como resultado de la decisión de hoy.

While we are disappointed with Standard & Poor’s decision, we remain committed to the implementation of our fiscal and economic development plans. We believe the investment community will recognize the positive impact of the reforms that the Garcia Padilla Administration has enacted in due course.

We appreciate that S&P recognizes the Commonwealth’s significant efforts to date to tackle long- term structural issues, demonstrated by our significant pension reform, increasing the independence of a number of public corporations, and recent revenue increases.

We are confident that we have the liquidity on hand to satisfy all liquidity needs until the end of the fiscal year, including any cash needs resulting from today’s decision.

However, Cate Long, market analyst of municipal bonds for the Reuters news agency, who has closely followed Puerto Rico’s situation during the past few years indicated:

For several months, there has been a climate of pessimism in Puerto Rico with regard to the economy, if Twitter comments serve as a barometer for the national mood:

Right now we all have better credit than our government…

The ‘junk’ is here, and now the situations is verrrrrrry bad…

Things have definitely gone to hell now.

Of course, there were also humorous comments amidst the preoccupation:

We announce that for now, we will not downgrade your tweets. But the outlook remains negative.

Janizabeth Sánchez produced a Storify [es]  with more Twitter reactions.

February 04 2014

Talking with the Director of Calle 13′s Video Filmed in Palestine

The blog “Diseñando en Puerto Rico” (Designing in Puerto Rico) interviews [es] film director Kacho López Mari. Among many other musical videos, López Mari directed the most recent video of the Puerto Rican hip hop duo Calle 13, “Multi_Viral,” shot in Palestine. The lyrics are the product of a collaboration with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.


Exploring Puerto Rican Music

Musician Luis Amed Irizarry [es] explores various Puerto Rican musical genres in this column [es] for the digital publication 80 Grados. 

Meet Puerto Rican Feminist Organization “Proyecto Matria”

A collaborator of Proyecto Matria [es] shot a video about the Puerto Rican feminist non governmental organization in English, as a gift and a way to spread the word about the wonderful work they do. Proyecto Matria supports the development of women by offering alternative housing and comprehensive services in areas such as education, psychosocial support, and entrepreneurship to overcome situations of violence and gender discrimination. 

January 23 2014

The Online Presence of Puerto Rican Women: Gender, Creativity, and Equality

In 2013, the Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres (Women's Broad Movement) painted a mural with the intention of creating awareness of gender-based violence. In 2010, the municipal government of San Juan, then under the administration of Jorge Santini, ordered the work to be stopped and imposed fines on some of the women. With the recent change in administration, the municipal government has accepted that the prohibition was unconstitutional, thereby permitting the completion of the mural. Image taken from the blog Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres.

In 2013, the Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres (Women's Broad Movement) painted a mural with the intention of creating awareness of gender-based violence. In 2010, the municipal government of San Juan, then under the administration of mayor Jorge Santini, ordered the work to be stopped and imposed fines on some of the women. With the recent change in administration, the municipal government has accepted that the prohibition was unconstitutional, thereby permitting the completion of the mural. Image taken from the blog Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres.

All links lead to Spanish language pages unless otherwise specified.

Many people today still don't understand why it is necessary to talk about women's (hi)stories. The short answer is that only by studying, acknowledging, and valuing women's experiences and contributions to society in all of their diversity can we really talk about the history of humankind. This is why the focus of this post will be on some of the online spaces Puerto Rican women have created to express ideas, creativity, exchange information, or provide resources that further education on women's issues and equality.

Culture and History

The history of the women of Puerto Rico is long and complex, making it impossible to get into here with detail, suffice it to say that it is full of many hard-won conquests that continue to be contested in a still patriarchal society such as Puerto Rico. The following video offers the views of different women about gender-based violence, labor rights, and health in an electoral context.

To learn more, one can check out the online compilation of articles that focus on women found in the social sciences journal Homines, published by the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, which contains many excellent pieces about women in Puerto Rico. Feminist scholar and journalist Norma Valle Ferrer also published a brief history of women in Puerto Rico “Las mujeres en Puerto Rico” that offers a wealth of information. 

Puerto Rican women have a rich legacy in many fields, but we will focus on the arts, particularly literature. From the poet Julia de Burgos (whose 100th anniversary is celebrated this year) to authors working today such as Mayra Santos-Febres and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, to authors in the diaspora such as poet María Teresa Hernández, better known by her artistic name, Mariposa [en], women have made an enormous contribution to Puerto Rican letters that been studied in depth mostly since the advent of the feminist movement.

</p> <p>In order to encourage more women to find their voices as writers, the blog <a href="">Ovarios de Acero</a> (Steel Ovaries) was set up to provide a place where women could publish their poems, short stories and essays in a safe and supportive environment. They also have a very active <a href="">Facebook page</a>. The <a href="">about section</a> of the blog states:</p> <blockquote> <p>Es un espacio que no juzga o requiere que seas una escritora profesional, solo debes ser mujer y tener el genuino deseo de crear y compartir. El concepto del blog, mayormente recoge una sola voz, pero Ovarios de Acero propone recoger todas las voces posibles. De esta forma creamos una antolog&#237;a de lecturas maravillosas y una diversidad sin l&#237;mites.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote class="translation"><p>It is a space that doesn't judge or requires that you be a professional writer, only that you be a woman and have the genuine desire to create and share. The concept of the blog mainly deals with just one voice, but Ovarios de Acero proposes to gather as many voices as possible. This way we create an anthology of wonderful readings and limitless diversity.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Empowering Women</strong></p> <p>The blog&nbsp;<a href="">Mujeres en Puerto Rico</a> (Women in Puerto Rico), by VeronicaRT (<a href="">@MujeresenPR</a>), offers news, commentary, and links to other content on the web that create awareness about feminism and to empower women. It also has a <a href="">YouTube channel</a> with content that complements what is posted on the blog.&nbsp;In a similar vein, the blog <a href="">Poder, Cuerpo y G&#233;nero</a> (Power, Body, and Gender) by Nahomi Galindo also offers news, commentary, and content from around the web. The blog of the feminist coalition <a href="">Movimiento Amplio de Mujeres</a> is also an important online resource.&nbsp;</p> <p>An important effort that has greatly contributed to the empowerment of women is <a href="">Proyecto Matria</a>, which seeks to help women survivors of gender-based violence and women who are the head of a family with very little income become financially independent and self-sufficient individuals. This non-profit organization operates an array of services in Puerto Rico that include psychosocial services, assistance in starting a microenterprise, and help in getting an education, among others. Its innovative approach transcends the still prevalent notion of casting women as passive victims that receive charity, focusing instead on helping women become not just successful entrepreneurs, but fully accomplished human beings.</p> <p></p> <p><strong>Stoping Gender-Based Violence</strong></p> <p>Gender-based violence is still, sadly, something that costs many women their emotional and psychic wellbeing, and their lives every year. That is why Ada M. &#193;lvarez Conde decided to start an organization that would help educate teenagers and college-age women and men about dating violence, something rarely discussed in Puerto Rico. The <a href="">Fundaci&#243;n Alto al Silencio</a> (Stop Silence Foundation) organizes group talks in schools all over Puerto Rico to create awareness and gathers resources from around the web on its webpage, <a href="">blog</a>, and <a href="">Facebook page</a>&nbsp;that not only provide information on the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship and how to get help, but also statistics, news, and a training program for other people interested in getting involved. &#193;lvarez Conde <a href="">shares</a>&nbsp;how the Foundation started:</p> <blockquote> <p>Comenz&#243; la inauguraci&#243;n de la fundaci&#243;n con un entrenamiento a m&#225;s de 150 personas en la Convenci&#243;n Anual de la Coalici&#243;n Nacional en Contra de la Violencia Dom&#233;stica, en donde hay personas de los 50 estados que trabajan con v&#237;ctimas y est&#225;n encargados de los refugios a mujeres entre otros programas comunitarios. Alto al Silencio es la primera organizaci&#243;n dedicada a tratar el tema de la violencia en el noviazgo (se&#241;ales, relaciones saludables, autoestima, organizaci&#243;n comunitaria) &nbsp;en espa&#241;ol y para la comunidad latina como enfoque principal.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote class="translation"><p>The foundation got its start with over 150 people getting trained at the Annual Convention of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where there are people from all 50 states [of the U. S.] that work with victims and are in charge of shelters, among other community programs. Alto al Silencio is the first organization that deals with dating violence (signs, healthy relationships, self-esteem, community organization) in Spanish and with the Latino community as its primary focus.</p></blockquote> <div id="attachment_451407" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><a href=";set=pb.151874638299734.-2207520000.1389637559.&amp;type=3&amp;;size=640%2C357"><img width="640" class=" wp-image-451407 " height="357" alt="One of the talks offered by Fundaci&#243;n Alto al Silencio in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, to 200 students. Image taken from Fundaci&#243;n Alto al Silencio's Facebook page." src="" /></a><p class="wp-caption-text">One of the talks offered by Fundaci&#243;n Alto al Silencio in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, to 200 students. Image taken from Fundaci&#243;n Alto al Silencio's <a href=";set=pb.151874638299734.-2207520000.1389637559.&amp;type=3&amp;;size=640%2C357">Facebook page</a>.</p></div> <p><strong>Some Parting Words on Feminism</strong></p> <p>Though the women of Puerto Rico share a rich and fascinating history, full of many contributions and victories in the endeavor to forge a more equitable society, much work still needs to be done. More men and boys need to take responsibility and understand that they are necessary components in these efforts and to feel that they, too, can also be considered part of the feminist movement. Because ultimately, feminism is not just about liberating women, but also about creating the awareness that men must also work against patriarchy and sexism. Human rights activist Am&#225;rilis Pag&#225;n, <a href="">in one of the posts</a>&nbsp;from her blog Brujas y Rebeldes (Witches and Rebels), says:</p> <blockquote><p>Cuando las mujeres que trabajamos por derechos humanos hablamos del machismo, lo hacemos con plena conciencia de qu&#233; implica el t&#233;rmino y qui&#233;nes son los que mueven la rueda de la violencia. &nbsp;Reconocemos, inclusive, c&#243;mo el machismo tambi&#233;n oprime a los hombres al castrar su capacidad de sentir emociones, de amar libremente, de elegir qu&#233; hacer con su vida sin ser estigmatizados por renunciar a los privilegios que su sexo les otorga al nacer. Tambi&#233;n reconocemos las implicaciones econ&#243;micas del pensamiento machista y c&#243;mo esa rueda de violencia tritura a hombres y mujeres que viven en pobreza, en desigualdad racial y de orientaci&#243;n e identidad sexual. &nbsp;Por eso seguimos apostando a la educaci&#243;n, al activismo, pero muy en especial al amor que nos sostiene en tiempos de p&#233;rdida o cuando se recrudece la violencia institucional y social hacia nuestros grupos m&#225;s vulnerables.</p></blockquote> <blockquote class="translation"><p>When we the women who work on behalf of human rights talk about machismo, we do it fully conscious of what the term implies and who are the ones that move the wheel of violence. We acknowledge, in fact, how machismo also oppresses men by castrating their capacity to feel emotions, to love freely, to choose what to do with their lives without being stigmatized for renouncing the privileges given by their sex at birth. We also acknowledge the economic implications of male chauvinist thought and how that wheel of violence crushes the men and women who live in poverty, in racial and sexual identity inequality. This is why we keep our hopes in education, activism, but most especially in the love that sustains us in times of loss or when institutional and social violence flare up towards our most vulnerable groups.</p></blockquote> <p class="gv-rss-footer"><span class="credit-text"><span class="contributor">Written by <a href="" title="View all posts by &#193;ngel Carri&#243;n">&#193;ngel Carri&#243;n</a></span></span> &middot; <span class="commentcount"><a href="" title="comments">comments (0) </a></span><br /><a href="" title="read Donate">Donate</a> &middot; <span class="share-links-text"><span class="share-links-label">Share: </span> <a id="gv-st_facebook" href="" title="facebook" target="new"><span class="share-icon-label">facebook</span></a> &middot; <a id="gv-st_twitter" href=";text=The+Online+Presence+of+Puerto+Rican+Women%3A+Gender%2C+Creativity%2C+and+Equality&#038;via=globalvoices" title="twitter" target="new"><span class="share-icon-label">twitter</span></a> &middot; <a id="gv-st_googleplus" href="" title="googleplus" target="new"><span class="share-icon-label">googleplus</span></a> &middot; <a id="gv-st_reddit" href=";title=The+Online+Presence+of+Puerto+Rican+Women%3A+Gender%2C+Creativity%2C+and+Equality" title="reddit" target="new"><span class="share-icon-label">reddit</span></a> &middot; <a id="gv-st_stumbleupon" href=";title=The+Online+Presence+of+Puerto+Rican+Women%3A+Gender%2C+Creativity%2C+and+Equality" title="StumbleUpon" target="new"><span class="share-icon-label">StumbleUpon</span></a> &middot; <a id="gv-st_delicious" href=";title=The+Online+Presence+of+Puerto+Rican+Women%3A+Gender%2C+Creativity%2C+and+Equality" title="delicious" target="new"><span class="share-icon-label">delicious</span></a></span> </p>

January 22 2014

Traditional Puerto Rican Saint Sebastian Street Festival Fills Every Corner of Old San Juan

Calle San Sebastián

San Sebastián Street, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Every third weekend of January the legendary San Sebastián (Saint Sebastian) Street Festival is celebrated in the old part of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. For many people, this definitively marks the end of the Christmas season. Those who aren’t familiar with this Puerto Rican tradition may think that it deals with a festival only celebrated in San Sebastián Street. The reality is that as time has passed, the celebrations have gained an impressive boom, overtaking the limits of the street and now including practically all of Old San Juan, as this video demonstrates:

The Festival began originally as a celebration in honor of Saint Sebastian, born in Narbonne, France and who, during the 3rd Century CE, was martyred for not renouncing the Christian faith. In Catholic imagery, he is commonly represented as pierced by several arrows and tied to a tree.

In the 1950s, the tradition of celebrating the festivals in honor of Saint Sebastian began as a way of collecting funds for repairing the buildings of the church of San José in Old San Juan. After several years, the tradition was discontinued until 1970, when the archeologist, historian, and anthropologist Ricardo Alegría suggested to Rafaela Balladares, a resident of San Sebastián Street, that they resume the tradition. This is how the Festival was born, and this year it celebrated its 44th edition.

Currently, the festival has lost much of its religious character, and has transformed more into a city festivity that attracts more than 300,000 people annually.

Here I’m sharing some of the photos that I took during my visit to this year's Festival:

Mirada a la Calle del Cristo, por donde subían muchas personas a la Calle San Sebastián.

This is Calle del Cristo (Christ Street), where many people pass on the way to San Sebastián Street.

Fachada del Centro de Estudios Avanzados, sede del Comité Organizador de las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián y donde se podían encontrar libros, artesanías, comida y diferentes actividades.

Front of the Center for Advanced Studies on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in Calle del Cristo, headquarters of the Organizing Committee for the San Sebastián Street Festival, and where books, handicrafts, food, and different activities can be found.

Los cabezudos son un tipo de máscara utilizada en las procesiones tradicionales de las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. Estos cabezudos fueron hechos por el colectivo de teatro Agua, Sol y Sereno.

Cabezudos (Big Heads) are a type of mask used in the traditional processions of the San Sebastián Street Festival. These cabezudos were made by the theater collective Agua, Sol y Sereno (Water, Sun and Calm), who offered a presentation in the Plaza de la Barandilla.

Estos son pedazos de caña de azúcar recién cortados. De aquí se saca...

These are pieces of sugar cane recently cut in one of the kiosks located in the Center for Advanced Studies on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

El guarapo es una bebida refrescante hecha del jugo de la caña de azúcar. Es difícil de conseguir, ya que exprimir las cañas de azúcar cuesta mucho trabajo.

Guarapo is a refreshing drink made from sugar cane juice. It is difficult to attain, since squeezing the canes takes a lot of time.

En las Fiestas también se estaban recogiendo firmas solicitando la excarcelación del prisionero político Oscar López Rivera.

La Plaza Colón (Columbus Square) was one of the places where people gathered to collect signatures for the release of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.

All images were taken by the author.

January 06 2014

The 13 Greatest Albums of 2013 That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of


[All links lead to Spanish language web pages, except where otherwise noted]

Difficult for you and difficult for me was what Orquesta El Macabeo told us three years ago on their now classic track, “Se pone difícil” [It ain’t easy]. And who can say now that they were wrong?

But music has the power to unite and heal us. And despite all of the adversity that conspires to make life impossible for independent artists in Puerto Rico, still they continue to write, sing, record and produce their art. And from the numerous works that we had been anticipating throughout 2013, it is clear that it was an exceptional year. Even so, it ain’t easy.

We hope that with this list, alongside other efforts to document and recognize the music that has emerged in recent years, will help to alleviate some of the day to day stresses and strains– not only for the person whose body and soul is rejuvenated by the music of a new artist, but also for the independent artist whose pocket is also rejuvenated by the support of a new listener.


13. Los Wálters – #ponteelcasco

“…a feel good, melodic techno-pop journey with tropical hues which, according to the duo, is guaranteed to get you dancing”Download | Interview

A couple of years ago Los Wálters burst onto the scene with the ambitious vision of joining their unique aesthetic to the sound that other bands such as Astro [en] were starting to make popular around the world. With #ponteelcasco [put your helmet on] the duo not only overcame the geographical distance between them but also managed to build on an already original musical identity, resulting in one of the most memorable music videos of the year. Tracks such as “Cuadrado redondo” , “Toca madera” and “Desequilibrio” pulsate with a soft and seductive energy that can be heard throughout the whole production.


12. MoreIra – La Ira Secreta

La Ira Secreta [Secret Wrath] presents MoreIra as a cross between electro DJ and singer-songwriter with these six tracks taking us from chiptune [en] to intimate acoustic, the contemplative landscapes of ambient to hyperactive beats, plus a smattering of trip-hop“. Download | Review


Two main points of view can be gleaned from our review of La Ira Secreta. Firstly, the debut of soloist José Iván Lebrón Moreira (also of Las Abejas) as a composer of electronic music is both varied and demonstrative of his ability to create and inhabit various sounds. Secondly, and more importantly, with the track “Pao”, MoreIra has presented us with one of the best songs of the year – one that inspires us and fills us with hope for the future.


11. Un.Real – Épico

Throughout Épico [Epic] we felt an undulating energy, as if floating on the waves at our favorite beach: light and refreshing but replete with a false security and unpredictability.”  Download | Review


Un.real are veterans on the indie scene but still manage to mix it with the kids and the experience gained as pioneers of shoegaze on the island is felt on Épico. On each of the six tracks Gardy Pérez, Saúl Robles, Héctor Caolo and Samuel Díaz convince us that we can both soar and crash in the same dream – and continue dreaming.


10. Los Niños Estelares – Entre ruinas

Los Niños Estelares further distance themselves from their comedic origins, putting greater emphasis on social consciousness“. Download | Review


Los Niños Estelares (LNE) made their name after creating some of the funniest, catchy and bizarre songs “in the era of the Internet”, however, underneath their unique humor existed harsh criticisms of contemporary society, of the invisible hands that control us, and of ourselves. Much of their original humor is omitted from their most recent – and rumored to be last – album in which Fernando and Darío present themselves as beaten but not quite down yet. Yet if amid all of the melancholy of Entre ruinas [Among ruins] a faint hope emerges, it is that the track “Satya yuga está por comenzar” has surely cemented LNE’s legendary status


9. Samalot – i n n e r

“Samalot creates a more meditative sound than that of Tachdé, maintaining the feeling of experimentation that defined the band”. Download | Interview 


The debut solo from Fernando Samalot, with its ambient compositions and references to the indie movement, at first invite comparisons to his last work with Tachdé (the incredible Deluge, our favorite disc of 2012). But as the title implies, with i n n e r the journey is not towards distant lands but rather within ourselves. The music created by Samalot to guide us towards introspection is powerful and emanates a strength and beauty that few of this year’s albums achieve.


8. Recluso – Versus

“Versus is perhaps the most compelling and ambitious project that Recluso has offered up until now. The album is a musical reinvention of the indie panorama in Puerto Rico as it currently stands…”  Download | Review


One of the most polarizing figures on the local hip-hop scene, Recluso is, at the same time, one of the most hard-working. His mask has become a symbol for creativity, commitment and ambition that goes straight to the heart of the DIY movement. Of all the projects released by Recluso in previous months, Versus best reflects these qualities and sees him collaborate with some of the most recognized musicians on the scene such as Mima, Fantasmes and Alegría Rampante.


7. ikol Santiago – Iguacas

“In a symbolic way the Iguaca [en] functions as our guide and through a process of suffering and deprived freedom presents us with a vision of hope.” Download | Interview


Iguacas is much more than just Ikol Santiago’s debut album – it is a personal triumph (“Parto”), a letter of introduction (“Nocturnos”) and a diary in rhyme (“Mili”, “Mio”), all of which are impeccably produced. However, in its most impassioned moments it is a call to common sense (“Tampoco Tanto”) and the hope derived from true wisdom (“Hoy”). Or perhaps it’s hope that makes us wise


6. Orquesta El Macabeo – Lluvia con sol

With this trilogy of albums – Salsa Macabra, El entierro and Lluvia con sol – they have exceeded all expectations and transcended our coastlines that so often feel more like walls“. Get the LP/CD | Review

The hardcore third album from Orquesta El Macabeo wants to make you dance despite your depression, but doesn't necessarily intend to relieve you of it. And although “Lluvia con sol” [Sunshower] plays the role of promotional single (and what a single it is!), imposing the group’s personality in one of its most powerful songs… the skies cloud over for the rest of the album. But while the Macabeos were exploring their dark side on tracks such as “Me repito”, “Boda” and “Macacoa”, away from the album they were achieving new professional heights after a brilliant concert at the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art and appearances at festivals from New York to France.


5. Varios (Production: Fabián Wilkins) - TRIBUTO



In 1973 Puerto Rican pop legend, Wilkins, released his eponymous album, produced by the equally legendary Tito Puente. Forty years later, Fabián Wilkins (vliot), has paid tribute to his father with one of the most ingenious and captivating projects of 2013. TRIBUTO [Tribute] features some of Puerto Rico’s most recognised rappers – Sietenueve, EA Flow, Vico-C, Chyno Nyno and Tek-One – who rhyme on tracks comprising original material by Wilkins from the 60s and 70s. A couple of months after the release of TRIBUTO, Wilkins made a triumphant comeback to the stage after recovering from a life-threatening illness.   


4. Las Abejas – Lazy Views

If “Guys & Gals” and “Runnin’ and Drivin’” left you gasping for breath, no doubt this latest installment will blow your mind.” Download | Review


Without doubt the most exciting and explosive rock album of 2013. Las Abejas [The Bees] have not only changed their name (previously they were known as The Bee’s Knees), but also transformed themselves into one of the most daring and exhilarating bands on the indie scene, experimenting with various styles and influences that go far beyond those of Sonic Youth. 


3. Harry Rag – Sweet Dreams, Muna Lee

“…basically I’m saying: Hey, thanks for saving my family back then.”  Listen | Review 


In his eighth edition as Harry Rag, Kristian Prieto (Alegría Rampante, Piegrande) constructs a complete dreamscape over the course of 12 homemade recordings (instrumentals in their majority) that together total little over 20 minutes. The characteristic conciseness of Harry Rag’s work invites us to engage with his musical landscapes time and time again and Lorraine Rodríguez’s wonderful cover art only makes us hope even more that they release a hard copy.


2. La Tortuga China – Bio-Lento



La Tortuga China [Chinese Turtle] is the pet project of soloist Francis Pérez, whose band Superaquello are one of the groups responsible for laying the foundations of the Puerto Rican independent scene. Bio-Lento is his first album since the dissolution of that influential and much loved band. Nevertheless, Bio-Lento was released without the fanfare and ceremony that you might expect and only came to our attention thanks to a secret link sent by text late at night (no doubt by someone who couldn’t contain their excitement) informing us of its existence just a few hours before its official launch. And who can blame them? Because Bio-Lento is a rarity. A concept album jam-packed with symbols and meanings, all to the beat of Caribbean drums. This is a story that deserves to be experienced in its entirety, fully immersing oneself in its many mysteries.


1. Fofé y Los Fetiches – Lujo Eterno

…it’s difficult to resist the suspicion that with their debut album Fofé y Los Fetiches have made an instant classic“. Download | Review


No other album of 2013 was loaded with so many pearls of pure pop perfection as Lujo Eterno from Fofé y Los Fetiches. This is a grown-up yet compelling work full of charisma that gets listeners singing along to the choruses at the top of their voice, be it in the car, bar or club. And no other figure in 2013 has shone so much light on the Puerto Rican indie scene than Fofé Arbeu who, giving himself the task of explaining the concept of the independent artist to any media outlet that would give him the time of day, would explain with a mischievous smile that he had released this album by himself. Having Fofé as one of the ambassadors of the island’s indie scene is nothing short of an honor, and although he won’t be around forever, tracks such as “La mañana blanca” and “Barquito de papel” just might be.

Originally published by - check out the site for a review of the whole year, including more albums released in 2013.

Christmas in the Puerto Rican Diaspora

To mark the end of the “official” Christmas season in Puerto Rico, we share some links to the online magazine La Respuesta, which focuses on gathering the experience of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States, about some thoughts regarding Puerto Rican Christmas traditions by two authors living in the diaspora.

Yessenia Flores Díaz, in her post “Preparando para las Navidades en la Casa de Abuela,” remembers her Christmastime experiences during her childhood while growing up in Brooklyn, New York, when visiting her grandmother's apartment:

You can only imagine the energy inside my abuelita’s tiny two-bedroom apartment during this time of year, the beginning of Advent, when she received her offspring and their offspring and their offspring’s offspring.  My family is huge and to give you an idea, my dad is number 17 of 19 children born to Felix and Regina Flores (en paz descanse) in rural Puerto Rico [...].  Yes, you read that correctly.  It is not a typo.  I come from a large, loving family.

Dorian Ortega, in her post “My Acculturatd Chrismas: An Introduction to Acculturated Stress and Cultural Buffers,” explains the ways that Puerto Rican immigrants have dealt with acculturated stress provoked by suddenly having to live in a culture quite different from theirs. One of thos ways is by holing on to their Christmas traditions:

Puerto Ricans have immigrated to the U.S. for over 60 years and for the first time in this century, outnumber the population in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans continue to rank highest among Latina/os for mental illnesses and have experienced their share of acculturative stressors. However, studies show that a strong cultural identity and adaptability serve as great protective buffers. My family, like many others, have found ways to hold on to our traditions brought by our ancestors and adapted them for the generations raised in a country with both similar and conflicting values. The holidays have served as a way to relate to one another and bring peace, which helps in times of distress.

Moment of Truth for Puerto Rico's Economy Looms on the Horizon

Puerto Rico is currently going through one of the worst economic crises in its history. Its public debt reached $70 billion in 2013, an amount that is practically unpayable for the country. The severity of the problem has resulted in Puerto Rico being called “the Greece of the Caribbean” on several occasions.

In this context, Sergio Marxuach, Director of Public Policy for the Center for a New Economy (CNE), a non-partisan think tank dealing with topics related to Puerto Rico's economy, recently wrote an article published originally in the newspaper El Nuevo Día (The New Day) where he reflects [es] upon what awaits Puerto Rico in 2014:

Hemos visto cómo todo lo que parecía sólido en Puerto Rico —los bancos, la propiedad inmueble, la deuda gubernamental— se ha desvanecido en el aire, tal y como advirtiera Karl Marx en 1848. Esto no se debe a una situación coyuntural pasajera, o a que nuestros gobernantes no han sabido utilizar bien los poderes que supuestamente tienen. No. Esta crisis es mucho más profunda y va a requerir en este año que comienza que Puerto Rico tome decisiones de naturaleza moral y existencial.

We have seen how everything that appeared to be solid in Puerto Rico —the banks, real estate, and government debt— has vanished into thin air, just exactly as Karl Marx warned in 1848. This is not due to a passing economic situation, or to our government officials not knowing how to effectively utilize the powers that they supposedly have. No. This crisis is much deeper and it is going to force Puerto Rico to make both moral and existential decisions in the coming year.

The article by Marxuach has been republished on the CNE's webpage and in the online magazine 80 grados [es]. It has also been shared widely on social networks.

January 03 2014

Puerto Rico Is a Global Music Powerhouse

Renowned, multi-talented Puerto Rican pianist and composer Brenda Hopkins Miranda has written an article for the online magazine 80 grados in which she asks herself why Puerto Rico has not taken full advantage of its wealth of homegrown musical talent and calls for music to become one of the pilars of the country's economic development [es]. Miranda's piece was motivated by her experience during a recent visit to Costa Rica during which she was struck by the fact that the vast majority of the music being played everywhere from a jazz cafe she visited to the radios of passing cars and on television was pure Puerto Rican. Reflecting on the tremendous amount of music production in Puerto Rico, she writes the following:

Cada vez que viajo lo compruebo: la música es nuestro producto nacional. La música nos distingue. ¡Puerto Rico es música! Cuando estoy en otro país y digo que soy puertorriqueña de lo primero que me hablan usualmente es de nuestra música y nuestros artistas. Aquí lo sabemos. Por algo decimos que en Puerto Rico encuentras un músico “en cada esquina” o “debajo de cualquier piedra”. Estamos hablando de músicos de la más alta calidad. Y por supuesto no son solo nuestros músicos los que se destacan. También sobresale el talento de nuestros reconocidos ingenieros de sonido, luminotécnicos y artistas gráficos entre otros. Ya lo dije antes, el petróleo puertorriqueño es nuestro recurso humano.

Every time I travel I realize it: music is our national product. Music sets us apart. Puerto Rico is music! When I am in another country and I say I am Puerto Rican, the first thing people usually want to talk about is our music and our artists. We know this. That's why in Puerto Rico we say you can find a musician “on every corner” or “under every rock.” We are talking about musicians of the highest caliber. And it is not just our musicians that stand out. The talent of our sound engineers, lighting designers and graphic artists, among others, is also well known. I have said it before, Puerto Rico's petroleum is its people.

December 09 2013

“Where the Sea Breathes”: A Letter from Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera

Oscar López Rivera

Oscar López Rivera. Photo from ProLibertad Web.

Oscar López Rivera has been imprisoned in the United States for 32 years on charges of “seditious conspiracy” and “conspiracy to escape” for which he received a 70 year sentence. López Rivera, who is now 70, is a fighter for the independence of Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States. 

Politicians, artists, and human rights activists across the political spectrum have united to ask the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to pardon López Rivera, who has been called the longest held political prisoner in the western hemisphere. In 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton offered him a pardon, which Oscar rejected because his imprisoned independentista comrades were not included in the presidential pardon. Internationally renowned human rights advocates have called for Oscar's release, such as the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize, Desmond Tutu (see video), and the Guatemalan indigenous rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Rigoberta Menchú.

Every Saturday, the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día publishes the letters that Óscar López Rivera sends from prison to his granddaughter Karina, who he has only met through prison bars. Global Voices translator Kitty Garden translated his second letter [es] titled “Donde respira el mar”, published in El Nuevo Día on September 14, 2013.

To this date, 12 letters [es] have been published. 

“I kept quiet and tried to concentrate on the sound of the waves, I closed my eyes and saw them breaking on Cueva del Indio,” Oscar López Rivera. Cueva del Indio, Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Photo by NomadicStateofMind, taken from Flickr under CC License BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Dear Karina. After my family, what I miss the most is the sea.

It has been 35 years since the last time I saw it. But I have painted it many times, both the Atlantic and the Caribbean, the smiling foam in Cabo Rojo, which is made of light mixed with salt.

For any Puerto Rican, living far from the sea is almost incomprehensible. It’s different when you know you are free to move anywhere and to travel to see it. It doesn’t matter if it is grey and cold. Even if you see the sea in a faraway country, you realize that it always starts again (as a poet once said), and that fish that drew close to your land may pass through this sea, bringing memories from over there.

I learned to swim from a very young age, I must have been about three years old. One of my father’s cousins, who lived with us and was like a big brother to me, used to take me to the beach where he swam with his friends, and would throw me into the water so that I would learn. Later, when I was at school, I used to escape with the other children to a nearby river. All this seems far away now.

Here in prison I have often felt nostalgic for the sea; filling my lungs with its smell; touching it and wetting my lips, but right away I realize that many years may have to pass before I can give myself that simple pleasure.

I always miss the sea, but I think I never needed it as much as when they transferred me from Marion prison in Illinois, to Florence, in Colorado. In Marion, I went out into the yard once a week, and from there I could see the trees, the birds… I heard the sounds of the train and the song of the cicadas. I would run over the earth and smell it. I could grab the grass and let the butterflies surround me. But in Florence all that came to an end.

Did you now that ADX, which is the maximum-security prison in Florence, is designed for the worst criminals in the United States and is considered the hardest and most impenetrable in the country? There the prisoners have no contact with each other, it’s a labyrinth of steel and concrete built to isolate and incapacitate. I was among the first men in this prison.

When I arrived, I was woken several times during the night, and for a long time I couldn’t sleep for more than 50 minutes at a time. There were only four prisoners in that ward, but one of them had a long history of mental problems, and he spent the night and day shouting obscenities, fighting his war against invisible enemies. We were almost always in the cells, we even had to eat in them. All the furniture was made of concrete and none of it could be moved. I didn’t understand how the neighbors in the town of Florence had accepted such an inhumane prison amongst then. But today the prison industry is one of the most powerful in the United States. It makes money, and that seems to be the only thing that matters.

In Florence, at night, the prisoners communicated through a kind of air vent that was close to the ceiling. You had to shout to make yourself heard, everyone shouted and it was very unnerving.

The screams in the prison then started to fade. The sea rose and fell like a torso, transmitting its strength and its breath.

I know that some day I will spend a whole night on the coast, and I will wait until dawn begins to appear. Then I would like to do the same in Jayuya, to watch the sun rise over the mountains.

With this hope, in resistance and in struggle, your grandfather sends you a hug…

For more information on Oscar López Rivera, see the Facebook pages 32 X Oscar and Free Oscar López Rivera Now. Also, follow the conversation under hashtag #FreeOscarLopez. For more Global Voices stories on López Rivera please see here, here, here, and here

December 07 2013

A Brief Unity of Purpose: Marching for Puerto Rican Prisoner Oscar López Rivera

Thousands gathered in Hato Rey, the economic hub of the capital city of San Juan, on Saturday, November 23, to demand the release of Oscar López Rivera from prison.

Thousands gathered in Hato Rey, the economic hub of the capital city of San Juan, on Saturday, November 23, to demand the release of Oscar López Rivera from prison. The banner says “Christmas with Oscar back home!” Image taken from the Facebook page 32 x Oscar [es].

November 23 was a gorgeous day. Cool breezes blew through the streets and the temperature was nothing short of ideal on what I expected to be a stifling hot Saturday afternoon. Even the trees on the grounds of the Federal Court appeared to be in on the act, providing shade from the bright Caribbean sun. It was as if nature had conspired to create perfect weather, as if it, too, was somehow in solidarity with the thousands of us who gathered in front of the Federal Court building in Hato Rey, the economic hub of Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan, to demand the release of the country’s longest-held political prisoner.

Oscar López Rivera has been imprisoned for 32 years, and counting, by the U.S. federal government in Terre Haute, Indiana. The charge is “seditious conspiracy,” even though he was never convicted of crimes that resulted in death or injury to anyone. His lawyers have reported he has been subjected to inhumane treatment during his incarceration. They have also said he has been singled out for punitive treatment because of his political affiliations, which prompted Amnesty International to criticize the conditions under which which he and other political prisoners were being held.

And yet, through it all, Oscar's spirit remains serenely unbroken. So much so, that in 1999 he refused the conditional clemency offered by President Bill Clinton, saying that it would be like being in prison outside of prison.

Image taken from the Facebook page Free Oscar López Rivera Now.

Image taken from the Facebook page Free Oscar López Rivera Now.

Looking around as more and more people arrived to join the march, I marveled at the diversity around me. The campaign to secure Oscar López Rivera’s release from prison is supported by people from all walks of life, of all ages, and across the political spectrum. Granted, the most vocal sector calling for his release is still associated with the political left. Nevertheless, it has reached to a point where it doesn't matter if you're in favor of independence, statehood, or something in between for Puerto Rico. 

Lady Justice

An effigy of Lady Justice rises over the crowd at the protest to demand Oscar López Rivera's release. Image taken from the Facebook page 32 x Oscar [es].

One of the things that immediately drew my attention was a huge effigy of a Caribbean version of Lady Justice, the famous image of a woman with scales in one hand and a sword in the other that adorns many a courthouse around the world. I remember remarking to my mother how odd it seemed that she wasn't blindfolded. She said, “Well, maybe they decided to remove her blindfold to see if she is more just without it; it certainly hasn't worked so far.” The oft-repeated phrase “a nation/country of law and order” came to mind, and I thought to myself how little that actually had to do with justice and doing the right thing. Perhaps the blindfold that Lady Justice is often seen wearing also blinds her to the injustice of the legal system that she stands for, turning her into nothing more than a legalistic automaton.

As in any decent Puerto Rican protest, the mood was festive. Plena rhythms and artistic creativity abounded. Outsiders often find this strange, possibly because they're more used to protests more serious in tone, more solemn and angry, even when it is a peaceful one. This isn't to say that people weren't serious about what they were trying to accomplish, or that they weren't angry about Oscar López Rivera's incarceration. Rather, this is a distinct characteristic of Caribbean societies, and in a society like Puerto Rico's, which, like all Caribbean countries, has historically been oppressed by an external power that tries to build itself up in the minds of people as the model of all that is civilized, cultured, enlightened, and just plain better, there is no more effective way to deflate that power. Humor and the carnivalesque are, in other words, an important form of resistance.

It was only later, when I thought about the poor coverage the march had received in the international mainstream news, that I realized there was no chopper overflying the area. This was mind-boggling, considering that simultaneous protests were taking place in New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC, and that there were a many as 40,000 people gathered to protest in Puerto Rico alone. René Pérez, from the band Calle 13, had lent his support and was participating in the march held in New York. Calle 13′s tweet became the most relevant topic on Twitter related to President Barack Obama's Twitter account:

Marchando rumbo a Brooklyn. Libertad para Oscar Lopez @barackobama Free Oscar Lopez!

— Residente C13/ RC13 (@Calle13Oficial) November 23, 2013

I must confess that until about a year and a half ago, I knew practically nothing about Oscar López Rivera. As I gradually learned about him, I couldn't help but feel that the cause in favor of his release from prison should also be my cause, just as his cause to free Puerto Rico from colonial rule is also my cause, one that I pursue in my own small way every day.

Seeing the unity of purpose show, if only for the briefest of moments, on that Saturday afternoon by such a large, diverse crowd of Puerto Ricans renews my faith that someday we may, perhaps, unite to demand the decolonization of Puerto Rico once and for all.

That, I believe, is the secret to the remarkable resilience of Oscar López Rivera's spirit: His conscious, defiant resistance that translates into a faith that rejects the nihilism of self-fulfilling despair, in spite of the temptation to retreat into the seductive silence of comfortable passivity.

Ángel Carrión is a blogger and musician from Caguas, Puerto Rico, currently working on a Master's degree in the History of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. His current research focuses on the history of music in Puerto Rico and issues related to cultural policy. He has been writing for Global Voices since February 2012. Follow him on Twitter (@angel15amc) and read his blog at

November 23 2013

Thousands March for the Liberation of Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera

“Christmas with Oscar Home” says the banner held at the march in San Juan for the liberation of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Photo from 32 X Oscar.

Thousands of people are marching today in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in favor of the liberation of Oscar López Rivera, imprisoned in the United States 32 years ago on charges of “seditious conspiracy.”  López Rivera, 70, is a fighter for the independence of Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States. Politicians, artists, and many people across different ideologies have united to ask the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to pardon López Rivera, who has been called the longest held political prisoner in the western hemisphere. To follow the demonstration live, click here. For more information on Oscar López Rivera, see the Facebook pages 32 X Oscar and Free Oscar López Rivera Now. Also, follow the conversation under hashtag #FreeOscarLopez.

November 18 2013

NACLA-Global Voices Partnership Tackles Gender & Sexuality in Latin America & the Caribbean

Women of Latin America and the Caribbean took to the Streets of Bogota on the the 12th International Feminist Meeting in 2011 to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Photo from Flickr user Say NO - UNiTE  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Women of Latin America and the Caribbean took to the Streets of Bogota during the 12th International Feminist Meeting in 2011 to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Photo from Flickr user Say NO – UNiTE, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As part of the partnership between Global Voices and NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America), a team of five Global Voices authors from Latin America and the Caribbean will contribute weekly articles for a series about women, gender, and LGBT issues. We draw from failures and successes in Latin America and the Caribbean with an eye toward equality, advancement, and resistance for and by women and LGBT people across all borders.

We asked these five authors to tell us why they think that covering these themes in the region is important. We also asked them to share some of the online projects that they’ve discovered while covering LGBT and gender issues.


Sandra Abd'Allah-Alvarez Ramírez [es] is Cuban. She describes herself as “a bisexual woman who loves another woman with whom she is formally married.”

“I’m Cuban, and that’s the main reason why I insistently tackle non-heteronormative sexuality, because in Cuba we have much to accomplish in that regard,” she explains. Sandra, who had to move to Germany to marry her partner, is part of Proyecto Arcoiris [es], a group of activists who are fighting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Cuba.

Sandra pointed us to Pikara Magazine [es], a website where she often contributes [es] articles and interviews. Pikara Magazine covers news with a gender perspective, featuring people and stories that rarely appear in the media.

She also recommends visiting the blog Feminist Network Project, which seeks to “connect feminist activists around the world.”

Sandra blogs at Negra cubana tenía que ser [es] and tweets at @negracubana [es].


“I am the son of a wonderful single mother. [She is] a person with an indomitable character, an independent spirit, and has an enviable strength. That’s why I'm interested in issues of gender equity,” Ángel Carrión [es], a Puerto Rican musician and blogger, explains.

Ángel says he has always been interested in stories about people who are marginalized by society. He thinks that valuable knowledge and perspectives are lost when people are excluded. Furthermore, Ángel feels he has a duty to draw attention to “the invisible,” and to help educate and change mentalities about LGBT and gender issues.

He recommends several projects from Puerto Rico, like Proyecto Matria [es], an organization that seeks to help victims of domestic and sexual violence on the island. He also mentions the Committee Against Homophobia and Discrimination [es], a group that started at the University of Puerto Rico, and the LGBTT Community Center of Puerto Rico [es], which offers a variety of services (legal and psychological) for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Transgender community.

You can follow Ángel on Twitter @angel15amc [es] and read his blog Diálogo Libre [es].

2013 pride and equality march in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Felipe Longoni, uploaded to Flickr by Movilh Chile under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

2013 pride and equality march in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Felipe Longoni, uploaded to Flickr by Movilh Chile under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Laura Vidal is a Venezuelan researcher exploring societies, their culture, and their stories. She currently lives in France.

In her opinion, “gender equality and the portrayal of movements defending the freedom of LGBT communities are fraught with misunderstandings—many intentional.” She adds that in Latin America, “the concept of gender is fiercely attacked by conservative ideas that have changed little over the years.”

Laura thinks that the debate about gender and LGBT issues in the region needs to improve, and that it is troubling to see how different parts of society dehumanize women and the LGBT community.

When asked about projects dealing with these issues, Laura mentioned the work of Coral Herrera Gómez [es], a Spanish scholar focusing on gender theory who Laura is interviewing for this series. She also mentioned the NGO Aliadas en Cadena, which organizes workshops for women affected by poverty in Venezuela.

Laura tweets at @lenguaraz.


Pamela Martínez Achecar [es], a Dominican economist and researcher, recognizes that although Latin America and Caribbean countries have advanced rapidly in economic development and in legislation to expand freedoms for its citizens, women and the LGBT community continue to struggle to receive the same treatment their male, often straight, peers receive.

She thinks that “it is therefore vital to guide the focus of public attention to these struggles, many waged in silence, to raise awareness and to highlight the great efforts of many who are fighting against inequality.”

Pamela recommends following the Center for Gender Studies [es] from the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology, a center “devoted to higher education, research, and advocacy on public policies from a gender perspective.” She also pointed us to the Dominican feminist organization Colectiva Mujer y Salud [es] (Women and Health Collective).

Pamela blogs at Pensando a contracorriente [es] and tweets at @LlamenmePam [es].


For Mexican journalist Andrea Arzaba, “gender equality doesn’t exist in Latin America, especially in rural communities.”

Andrea has met women from Southern Mexico who are not allowed to study beyond secondary school, “simply because they were born as women.” She has also witnessed cases of women who endure physical and psychological abuse because they are economically dependent on a man. “These are some of the cases that have inspired me to write about gender equality and to bring these issues to the online discussion.”

Andrea follows the work of World Pulse, a nonprofit social media enterprise that’s using digital media to give women from around the world a space where they can connect to each other and speak out about their issues. She also recommends following the blog Mujeres Viajeras [es] (Traveling women).

Andrea started The Sunflower Post, a blog covering news from around the world with a gender perspective, and is currently writing for several websites like Future ChallengesAnimal Político [es] and IJNET. You can read her personal blog at One Lucky Life and follow her on Twitter at @andrea_arzaba.


Global Voices’ mission is to shed light on stories that remain untold in the mainstream media. Women, gender, and LGBT issues are generally either invisible or distorted in public discourse around the world. This invisibilization is one of the reasons we have made the coverage of these important topics one of our priorities, and a part of our partnership with NACLA.

Stay tuned to read Sandra, Angel, Laura, Pamela, and Andrea’s posts during the following weeks!

Firuzeh Shokooh Valle contributed to this post.

November 12 2013

Puerto Ricans Demand Oscar López Rivera's Release From Prison

The Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano (MINH), a Puerto Rican pro-independence movement, is organizing a peaceful protest on November 23 to demand the liberation of Oscar López Rivera. López Rivera is the longest-held political prisoner in the western hemisphere, charged with “seditious conspiracy” for his struggle for Puerto Rico's independence from the U.S. López Rivera has already been imprisoned for 32 years in several federal prisons in the U.S. José M. López Sierra, writing on his blog Compañeros Unidos por la Descolonización de Puerto Rico, has posted further details on the protest, along with this video, which shows the highly respected Puerto Rican actor, Jacobo Morales, urging people to join the protest.

November 07 2013

Unveiling the Many Mysteries of the Monthly Energy Bill in Puerto Rico

“Everything you need to know about your energy bill.”

The non-profit think tank Center for the New Economy (CNE), based in Puerto Rico, has launched the innovative and creative online campaign “The Mysteries of Your Energy Bill” [es] in which they explain the unexplainable: Where do all those increases in the energy bill come from? What do those formulas and cryptic phrases in your bill mean? Do they make any sense? The answer is no, they don't. According to the CNE, many of the increases in energy have more to do with the inefficiency of the state-run energy agency Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE).   

November 05 2013

‘Women Should Be Submissive', and Other Google Autocomplete Suggestions

A series of ads by UN Women, revealed in late October, used the Google Autocomplete feature to uncover widespread negative attitudes toward women. Global Voices followed reactions to the UN Women campaign and conducted its own experiment in different languages. The results of searches conducted both within the UN Women campaign and Global Voices revealed popular attitudes not only about women’s social and professional roles, but also about their sexuality, appearance and relationships with men.

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “women shouldn't”

The creators of the UN Women ads used search phrases like “women cannot”, “women shouldn’t”, “women should” and “women need to” completed by genuine Google search terms to highlight overwhelmingly negative stereotypes, sexist and highly discriminatory views held about women by society globally. The ads quickly went viral and sparked a heated discussion online. Last week, creators have announced that they are planning to expand the campaign in response to the mass online reaction.

The auto-complete function for searches, according to Google, predicts users’ queries based on the search activity of all users of the web as well as the content of indexed pages. The predictions may also be influenced by past searches of the particular user if they are signed into their Google account.

Global Voices asked its contributors from around the world to carry out Google searches using the same or similar phrases as those used in the UN Women campaign, in their own languages. The searches done between October 19 and October 25, 2013, revealed attitudes about the roles women are expected to take in society, often demonstrating the same global prejudices, but sometimes showing contradictions in different countries. Below are searches in 12 languages from different countries and continents:



“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Silvia Viñas. October 21, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not preach
Women should not work
Women should not talk in the congregation
Women should not drive


“Women cannot…” A screenshot by Juan Arellano. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot preach
Women cannot be pastors
Women cannot donate blood
Women cannot live without man

Puerto Rico

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be submissive
Women should use the veil
Women should preach
Women should work



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Suzanne Lehn. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
women should stay at home
women should work
should women preach
women should wear skirts
women should be submissive
women should know
women should vote
women should stay at home
should women work
women should do the cooking

“Women don't know…”. A screen shot by Rayna St. October 21, 2013.

Women don’t know…
women don't know how to drive
women don't know what they want
women don't know how to be in love
women don't know how to read cards


Egypt (similar results in Jordan)

“Woman cannot…”. A screenshot by Tarek Amr. October 21, 2013.

Woman cannot…
Woman cannot live without marriage
Woman cannot live without a man
Woman cannot keep a secret
Woman cannot interpret man's silence


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Gloria Wang. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot be too smart
Women can't drive
Women cannot give birth
10 topics women cannot discuss with their husbands


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Diana Lungu. October 21, 2013.

women should not…
women should be loved not understood
women should not be understood
women should not wear pants
what women should not do in bed



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should…
Women should stay at home
should play hard to get
should stay in the kitchen
should be subdued

“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be understood
should not work
should not be understood but loved
should not read



“Woman should not…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman should not…
Woman should not teach
My wife should not work

“Woman can…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman can….
Woman cannot come
Woman cannot get pregnant
Woman cannot cook
Woman cannot get a baby


“Women don't…”. A screenshot by
Gilad Lotan. October 21, 2013.

Women don't…
Women don't work
Women are not modest
Women don't know how to drive
Women don't want to have kids


“A woman should be…”. A screenshot by Marietta Le.
October 21, 2013.

A woman should be…
a woman should be a chef in the kitchen
a woman should be pretty and ruthless


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Solana Larsen. October 20, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot drive
Women cannot control vagina
Women cannot be color blind
Women cannot barbecue

In Danish, the searches for “women cannot” and “women can” yielded the same results.


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Veronica Khokhlova. October 19, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be believed
Women should not lift heavy things
Women should not drink
Women should not be trusted


The UK

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Annie Zaman. October 25, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be seen and not heard
Women should stay at home
Women should know their place

 Not all searches carried out by members of Global Voices community turned up negative terms. Nevertheless, the results of the experiment largely confirm UN Women’s worrying conclusion that a great deal of work still remains to be done in order to advance women’s rights and empowerment around the world.

October 08 2013

“And Draw Until I Die,” Eight Questions for the Illustrator Lorraine Rodriguez

Lorraine Rodriguez

I discovered Lorraine Rodriguez some time ago, while looking at the poetry book “El origen de los párpados” (2008) by Mara Pastor [es]. Many years went by, and I read her name again, as the illustrator of Juan Pablo Díaz's single cover “Day After Day”. And when I discovered her blog, and later her website, she blew my mind away. Her illustrated autobiography “My Name is Lorraine”, and the “about” section of her website, are the basis for the questions of this interview, done via email, like we do so many things these days. 

Lorraine Rodriguez is from Puerto Rico, is 30 years old, and lives in Barcelona, Spain. But she is the best suited to offer a small glimpse into her life.

Global Voices (GV): Forgive me for such a clichéd question, but I have to ask: When and why did you start to draw?

Lorraine Rodríguez (LR): Siempre que alguien me pregunta sobre esto, cuento la misma historia. Cuando tenía siete u ocho años, estando en la casa de mis tíos, encontré entre las cosas de uno de mis primos, el cassette de “Appetite for Destruction” de Guns N’ Roses. Y me impresionó tanto la portada (era una cruz en fondo negro, y un retrato de cada uno de los miembros de la banda, pero retrato/calavera, en cada punto de la cruz) Tuve que hacer mi propia versión. Cuando llegué a mi casa, la puse en la puerta de mi habitación. Mis padres estaban escandalizados. Esa fue la primera vez que recuerdo haber tenido una experiencia de “ilustración”. También recuerdo dibujar mariposas, nubes y flores. Las dibujaba más grandes que las casas. 
Lorraine Rodríguez (LR): Whenever somebody asks me about this I always tell the same story. When I was seven or eight, while at my aunt and uncle's house, I found the “Appetite for Destruction” cassette by Guns N’ Roses among some of my cousin's things. And the cover really impressed me (it was a cross on a black background, and a picture of each one of the band members, but their pictures/skulls were placed on each point of the cross). I had to make my own version. When I got home, I put it on my bedroom door. My parents were scandalized. This was the first time I remember having had an “illustration” experience. I also remember drawing butterflies, clouds, and flowers. I drew them bigger than the houses. 
Lorraine Rodriguez
GV: What do you draw? How do you choose your projects? 

LR: Trato de dibujar todos los días, así que usualmente son cosas que se me ocurren al momento: frases que otros dicen, cosas que leo, retratos, canciones que escucho, cosas relacionadas a temas que me interesan. También depende de mis estados de ánimo.

LR: I try to draw every day, so they are usually things that come to me in the moment: things others say, stuff I read, pictures, songs I listen to, stuff related to topics that interest me. It also depends on my mood.

GV: Why Barcelona?

LR: Siempre he estado rodeada de personas que se van. Amigos que deciden salir de Puerto Rico un rato para aventurar en otros lugares. Varios amigos habían estudiado acá y en otras ciudades de España, así que luego de pensarlo mucho, de hacer todas las preguntas del mundo -desde las más tontas hasta las más complejas-, al final me decidí. Ha sido una experiencia increíble en todos los sentidos. La ciudad, mis nuevos amigos, las nuevas experiencias. Tengo un “antes de Barcelona” y un “mientras en Barcelona”. Veremos qué sigue.

LR: I have always been surrounded by people who leave. Friends who decide to leave Puerto Rico for a while to venture off to other places. Several friends had studied here and in other cities in Spain, so after thinking a lot about it, and asking every question in the world–from the most silly to the most complex–I finally decided to come here. It has been an incredible experience in every way. The city, my new friends, the new experiences. I have a “before Barcelona” experience and a “during Barcelona” experience. We'll see what happens next.

Lorraine Rodriguez
GV: And Puerto Rico? How does being from an island inspire or ruin you? 

LR: Como les pasa a todos, la distancia hace que aprecies ciertas cosas mejor. Lo que te parecía fastidioso hace un tiempo, estando fuera, entonces le encuentras lo especial. Estoy orgullosa de donde vengo y de quién soy, y de cómo se refleja en mi trabajo como ilustradora.

LR: As it happens to everyone, distance makes you appreciate certain things more. What once seemed annoying, being away from it, you then see as the most special thing ever. I am proud of where I come from and who I am, and how this is reflected in my work as an illustrator. 

GV: “2003: Met most of my best friends.” Tell me about your friends.

LR: Mientras estuve de estudiante en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras, conocí a muchas personas. Gente de otros pueblos de la Isla. Muchos con intereses en común a los míos. Muchos de ellos, puedo decir, son mis amigos más cercanos y queridos. Muchos de ellos estudiaron cine; muchos de ellos estudiaron literatura comparada. A través de los años he aprendido mucho sobres ellos y con ellos. Claudia Calderón, Yasiri Castro, Charlie Rivera, Chemi González, Ariel Hernández Domenech, Marina Reyes Franco, Rojo Robles, Mara Pastor, Rubén González, Raymond Forbes, María Inés Lefebre, para mencionar a algunos, todos profesionales y exitosos. La verdad estoy muy contenta de cómo hemos mantenido estos lazos a través de los años.

LR: While I was a student at the University of Puerto Rico, Recinto de Rio Piedras, I met many people. People from other towns of the island. Many with common interests. Many of them, I can say, are my closest and dearest friends. Many of them studied film; many of them studied comparative literature. Throughout the years I have learned a lot about them and with them. Claudia Calderon, Yasiri Castro, Charlie Rivera, Chemi Gonzalez, Ariel Hernandez Domenech, Marina Reyes Franco, Rojo Robles, Mara Pastor, Ruben Gonzalez, Raymond Forbes, and Maria Ines Lefebre, just to mention a few, all professionals and all successful. I am truly very happy with how we have kept these bonds throughout the years.

Lorraine Rodriguez
GV: What places do you want to go to? 

LR: Una vez tienes la oportunidad de salir de Puerto Rico, de pronto se abre un mundo de posibilidades. A mí me encantaría poder visitar todos los confines del globo terráqueo. Pero, siendo realista, podría decir que me gustaría pasar algún tiempo en Oriente Medio por muchas razones. Siempre me ha interesado la literatura, el arte, la música y la cultura de muchos de los países que comprenden esa región geográfica. He dedicado mucho tiempo a estudiar, por mi cuenta, sobre cada una de estas cosas, y no hay descanso. Es una fijación muy bonita e intensa. Si realmente existe esto de las vidas pasadas, seguramente nací y viví allí.

LR: Once you have a chance to leave Puerto Rico, a world of possibilities opens. I would love to be able to visit every corner of the earth. But, being realistic, I would say I would like to spend some time in the Middle East for many reasons. The literature, art, music, and culture of many of the countries that make up that geographic area have always interested me. I have spent a lot of time studying each one of these things, on my own, and there are no breaks. It is a very beautiful and intense fixation. If past lives really do exist, surely I was born and lived there.

GV: And why Bob Dylan?

LR: Bob Dylan es increíble. Muchas de sus canciones son intensas y hermosas. La primera vez que me detuve a escuchar “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, pensé que era perfecta para ilustrarla. Estando acá en la universidad, se me presentó la oportunidad de trabajarla en el segundo bloque de ilustración narrativa. Fue difícil elegir los versos que iba a ilustrar porque no era un cómic extenso. Era más bien un ejercicio, así que estaba obligada a decidir cuáles aspectos emocionales y narrativos iba a resaltar en solo cuatro páginas. Una vez lo tuve claro, logré dibujarlo todo en dos días; colorearlo en un día y presentarlo.

LR: Bob Dylan is incredible. Many of his songs are intense and beautiful. The first time I stopped and listened to the “Ballad of Hollis Brown,” I thought it was perfect to illustrate. Being here at the university, I was given the chance to work in the second block of story illustration. It was difficult to choose the verses that I was going to illustrate because it wasn't a long comic. It was more like an exercise, so I had to decide what emotional and narrative aspects I was going to emphasize in only four pages. Once I had that clear, I managed to draw it all in two days; coloring it on one day and presenting it on the other.

Lorraine Rodriguez
GV: How does it feel to know what you want to do until you die?

LR: Pienso que una vez descubres qué es lo que te gusta, lo que te causa satisfacción, lo que sabes hacer, lo que te apasiona por encima de todo en la vida, entonces no hay marcha atrás. Tienes que ser responsable con eso; tienes que darle oportunidad. Descubrí que dibujar es lo que realmente me gusta, entonces ¿por qué no dedicarme a eso? Quiero ser parte de la niñez de otros, por eso quiero seguir ilustrando narrativa para niños; quiero ser parte de los proyectos musicales de otros; de sus proyectos de cine; quiero ser parte de los proyectos personales de mis amigos, de sus obras de teatro, de sus poemarios, de sus pajas mentales. Quiero contribuir en lo que pueda y sea capaz.

LR: I think that once you discover what you like, what brings you satisfaction, what you know how to do, what you're passionate about more than anything else, then there's no turning back. You have to be responsible with that; you have give it an opportunity. I discovered that drawing is what I really like, so why not do that for a living? I want to be a part of other people's childhoods, and for that reason I want to keep on illustrating stories for kids. I want to be a part of other people's musical projects, and their film projects. I want to be a part of my friends’ personal projects, their theater pieces, their poems, and their quirky fantasies. I want to contribute in any way that I can.

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