Monday, March 26, 2012

12:57 PM 3/26/2012

Mike Nova's starred items - 12:57 PM 3/26/2012


Census: PR’s urban population drops over past decade, rural living on rise. Read...


Census: PR’s urban population drops over past decade, rural living on rise. Read more

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For long-unemployed, hiring bias rears its head. Read more: h...


For long-unemployed, hiring bias rears its head. Read more:

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Census: PR’s urban population drops over past decade, rural living on rise. Read...

via Puerto Rico Business News's Facebook Wall by Puerto Rico Business News on 3/26/12

Census: PR’s urban population drops over past decade, rural living on rise. Read...

Census: PR’s urban population drops over past decade, rural living on rise. Read...
Census: PR’s urban population drops over past decade, rural living on rise. Read more Photos

This Time, Miami's Cubans Are (Mostly) Supportive Of The Pope's Island Visit

via Latino Voices on by Carlos Harrison on 3/26/12

Things have changed in Miami.

In 1998, when Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to Cuba, thousands of protesting exiles took to the streets in Miami, forcing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to cancel plans to send a cruise ship with 800 pilgrims to Havana.

Carlos Saladrigas was one of the protest organizers then. Today, as a group of 320 Catholics head to Cuba for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the island, he's traveling with them.

"When I actually saw what happened" during the previous papal visit, Saladrigas told The Huffington Post, "when I actually saw the innocence of the pope in Cuba, when I saw the Cuban people en masse out on the streets for the first time ever, not required to go by the government but there because of their faith, and when I heard the things that were said, that made a difference ... that was the genesis of my transformation."

This time, as the pope visits Cuba on a trip coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Cuba's patron saint -- the Virgin of Charity (la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre), a statue of the Virgin Mary found floating in the sea off Cuba -- there are no protests in Miami. The public reactions have been relatively mild, largely confined to a few denunciations on Spanish-language radio and letters to the archdiocese.

"I get more than that if I show up late for a confirmation," Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski told Reuters.

At least for some, the emotions remain raw, as evidenced in a letter from Sylvia Iriondo, president of Mothers & Women Against Repression (M.A.R. por Cuba), that was published in the Miami Herald:

"Once again we are confronting the actions of a Catholic hierarchy in Miami -- represented by Archbishop Thomas Wenski -- intent on serving as a travel agent and catalyst of the false projection of normalcy in a country where nothing is normal, where nothing essential has changed and where power arbitrarily remains in the hands of an illegitimate communist regime that continues to violate each and every one of its citizens' human rights."

But the muted reaction in Miami is evidence that times and strategies have changed, said Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.

"One, because they're getting old, and two, because they don't think that demonstrations and burning tires on Eighth Street is going to do anything," Suchlicki said. "The tactics are different. The tactics are work with the dissidents in Cuba, talk quietly, get organized. Not necessarily demonstrating in the streets."

Cuba, however, has seen protests, which the government has been quick to quash. Police swooped in to detain dozens of members of the Ladies in White when they marched through Havana last week. And Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega angered Miami exiles when he recently asked police to remove 13 dissidents who had occupied a downtown Havana church to demand political reforms.

"In Miami it may be a little calmer, but in Cuba there's a lot of effervescence with the visit," Suchlicki said. The exiles' reaction, he added, is "not as vociferous, but there is a nasty mood underneath the surface here."

In a pilgrimage organized by the archdiocese, more than 800 pilgrims, including an untold number of Cuban exiles, are going to the island for the papal visit. Wenski is leading more than 300 of them on a flight from Miami early Monday. Close to 500 more are expected to travel on separate charter flights.

Plans include the celebration of mass officiated by the pope in Santiago, Cuba, later Monday afternoon. Wenski will officiate at a mass in Havana's historic cathedral on Tuesday. And Wednesday, thousands are expected to be on hand in Havana as the pope conducts mass in the Plaza de la Revolucion.

"The Pope is traveling to Cuba to honor Cuba's patron saint, Our Lady of Charity, during the jubilee year of the 400th anniversary of her presence on the island nation," Wenski wrote in a statement announcing the trip in January. "We travel in solidarity with the Church in Cuba -- and in response to their invitation to share with them this historic event."

"The Pope travels to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity," Wenski continued. "We go to Cuba in the same spirit."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) has decried the pilgrimage. "It's a trip that gives legitimacy to the dictatorship," she said.

In a statement in Congress last week, Ros-Lehtinen called on the pope to use his visit to bring attention to conditions on the island. "It is my hope that Pope Benedict will meet with these brave dissidents and shine a light on the struggles of the Cuban people who are living under the rule of the oppressive Castro brothers," she said.

Among the pilgrims are some who oppose travel to Cuba under any other circumstances, such as Republican lawyer Luis Andre Gazitua, but who have high hopes for the trip's impact.

"I wouldn't go unless I was going under the banner with the pope, with the Vatican," Gazitua said. But he added, "If there could be a healing of the spirit of those people or an energizing just by being around us, us being around them, I think it's worth the trip. This trip really could lead to a spiritual, cultural and -- I don't want to say political -- but a political renaissance in Cuba."

In Miami, Saladrigas already sees one.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that after 53 years of a failed policy, you ought to try something different," he said. "People in Miami are beginning to realize that for way too long we have allowed our passion to drive our thinking and that it is time to allow our brain to drive our strategies."

Perhaps some of their prayers for Cuba have already been answered. On a flight from Rome to Mexico on Friday, Pope Benedict told reporters that communism no longer works and the church wants to help the island make a "peaceful transition."

"Today it is evident that Marxist ideology, in the way it was conceived, no longer corresponds to reality," the pope said. "We want to help in a spirit of dialogue to avoid traumas and to help move forward a society which is fraternal and just, which is what we desire for the whole world."

Cuban Catholics Await Pope

via Latino Voices on by AP on 3/26/12

SANTIAGO, Cuba — This sun-scorched city is accustomed to playing second fiddle to Havana at the other end of Cuba. On Monday, though, Santiago comes first as Pope Benedict XVI arrives and brings the world's gaze with him.

Authorities have raised huge steel arches in the shape of a papal miter above a blue-and-white altar where Benedict will celebrate Mass on Monday and urge residents of this communist-run country to seek salvation in faith.

Roman Catholic youth held a prayer vigil Sunday night to celebrate the pontiff's arrival, and workers buzzed about Revolution Square putting final touches on the stage, testing power cables and setting out chairs under the direction of priests. Some people hung welcome posters for the pope in their windows.

"As a Santiagan, I am very proud to be able to receive him with joy," said 35-year-old Luzmilka Barza. Although she described herself as only "a little bit Catholic," she said that "it will be something that moves us all for a person such as him to visit."

Cuba's second city has been overshadowed by the more-storied Havana ever since the Spaniards moved the colonial capital there, even though Santiago is considered the cradle of the revolution and was an intellectual and artistic center long before Fidel and Raul Castro were born.

Fidel Castro proclaimed the triumph of his 1959 revolution from the balcony of Santiago's city hall on Jan. 1, 1959, but promptly set out for the capital to claim power. Havana now dominates Cuban industry and politics and occupies a singular space in the imaginations of people around the world, even those who have never strolled its famed seafront.

Pope John Paul II visited Santiago 14 years ago, but he began and ended his Cuban journey in Havana.

While Cuba is Latin America's least Roman Catholic country, the faithful in Santiago have eagerly awaited the arrival of the city's most prominent visitor since that last papal trip.

"I hope that after this visit the Cuban people have more faith," said an emotional Mayra Corona, 63, who along with a dozen other people worked for weeks readying the ornaments, vestments and sacred utensils to be used by priests during the Mass.

Benedict will bring "peace, tranquility, forgiveness," she said.

The pope chose Santiago as his first stop because of the nearby sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, dedicated to Cuba's patron saint. Benedict has cited the 400th anniversary of the icon's discovery as the main reason for his trip to the island.

Cuban authorities have given the sanctuary a $236,000 makeover of everything from its drainage system to the stained glass. Workers even built a humble but air-conditioned house where the pope will spend the night. It is made with reinforced concrete designed to withstand a magnitude-8 earthquake.

But most of the action ahead of the pope's visit has centered on Revolution Square, which Catholic Church officials say can hold as many as 100,000 people.

The pope's backdrop there will be a a 50-foot (16-meter) statue of independence hero Antonio Maceo on horseback, arm outstretched as if beckoning his countrymen to follow him to battle. Twenty-three rust-colored machetes spike into the air commemorating the 23rd of March, 1878, an important date in Cuba's struggle to break free from Spanish colonial rule.

Havana at the western end of Cuba has also been busy sprucing up to host Benedict after he leaves Santiago.

A huge altar on the capital's own Revolution Square is finished, and workers have been making 11th-hour touchups to deteriorating streets. Prominent avenues were resurfaced, and potholes filled. Workers repainted faded curbs, and many streets got fresh striping over the weekend.

Authorities put on a show of lights, music and slides projected onto the facade of the cathedral in colonial Old Havana on Sunday evening. They also took down the scaffolding that for months shrouded a Christ statue overlooking the bay.

Officials say 797 journalists for 295 media outlets in 33 countries have been granted visas to cover the visit.

"It is a great privilege to have the pope visit us," said Graciela Hernandez, a 59-year-old retiree in the capital. "For me, as a Catholic, it's something that moves me, and the most important thing is that the pope comes with a message of love, peace and brotherhood."


Associated Press writer Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana contributed to this report.


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Yoani Sanchez: The Pope in Cuba: The Wind, the Sheep and the Shepherd

via Latino Voices on by Yoani Sanchez on 3/26/12

In that January of 1998, at the end of John Paul II's Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution, a fresh wind swept over the vast esplanade. My son was sitting on the shoulders of his father and the breeze swirled his hair. The Pope had already ended his homily, but still, he picked up the microphone again and dedicated several words in Latin to that naughty streak that ruffled all of us. "Spiritus spirat ubi vult et vult Cubam*," he said. We came home a while later, squeezed among thousands of people dressed in white and yellow. Since then, I have the feeling that the gale has not stopped beating on us, that this gust has blown across the island, shaking all our lives.

Benedict still has yet to arrive Cuba and already part of this whirlwind is agitating us. Among the Catholic faithful, joy is seen for the papal visit, and expectations that this will contribute to widening the role of the Church in our society. For those who had to keep their crucifixes hidden for decades for fear of radical atheism, the gradual elimination of religious intolerance comes as a relief. That Masses have already been broadcast on official television, and processions through the streets carrying the image of the Virgin of Charity are permitted, to many seem sufficient ground gained. However, for every minute in the mass media achieved by the Church hierarchy and every word exchanged with the government at the negotiating table, there has been a corresponding share of loss and defeat. Because, let's not fool ourselves, the clandestine nature of the catacombs is more consistent with the discourse of Christ than is the comfortable proximity to the throne.

Less than 24 hours before the Pope arrives in Cuba, the script of his stay among us is already written, and not precisely by the delegation from the Vatican. Raul's government has undertaken an "ideological cleansing" to prevent activists, dissidents, opponents, independent journalists, alternative bloggers and other malcontents from even reaching the plazas where His Holiness will speak. Threats to not leave their homes, disproportionate operations, arrests, cut telephone lines, people deported from the east of the country to prevent their being in Antonio Maceo Plaza this coming Monday. A roundup of intransigence that recalls those times of ripped scapulars and cassocks spit upon by the fanatic sons of a Revolution that declared itself materialistic and dialectic. It is true they no longer chase after rosaries, but they continue to relentlessly pursue opinions. Now, having a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will not cost anyone their job, but to believe that a free Cuba is possible is to be made to suffer the stigmatization and the Calvary. We can now pray out loud, but to criticize the government is still a sin, blasphemy.

It now remains in the hands and voice of Benedict XVI whether to allow his visit to be hijacked by the intentions of a Party that remains committed to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine. In his eyes is the ability to notice that among the faithful gathered in the plazas, numerous sheep of the Cuban herd have been prevented from reaching even the vicinity of his staff. In his ears is the decision to hear other voices beyond the official or the strictly pastoral. With that ancient wisdom that the Church calls on before every obstacle, the Pope should know that on this visit a part of the presence and influence of the Catholic faith in the national future is decided. In his hands, in his voice, in his ears, it is left, then, to confirm to us that he understands the transcendence of this moment.

It may happen that a playful wind escapes control, mocks the political police and blows over the multitude. A free breeze in a gagged country that brings even the papal eardrums themselves its vibrations, the phrases that we can only whisper.

*Translator's note:
At the end of his homily Pope John Paul II added some extemporaneous words: This wind today is very significant because wind symbolizes the Holy Spirit. "Spiritus spirat ubi vult; Spiritus vult spirare in Cuba". My last words are in Latin, because Cuba also has a Latin tradition: Latin America, Latin Cuba, Latin language! "Spiritus spirat ubi vult et vult Cubam"! Goodbye.
The Latin, roughly, means: The spirit spreads wherever it wants; it wants to spread in Cuba... The spirit spreads wherever it wants and to Cuba.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
Translating Cuba is a compilation blog with Yoani and other Cuban bloggers in English.
Yoani's new book in English, Havana Real, can be ordered here.

Exiles And Their Children Head Back To Cuba For Pope Benedict XVI

via Latino Voices on by AP on 3/26/12

MIAMI -- Natalia Martinez speaks with a clinical distance when discussing her family's decision to leave Cuba two decades ago. But the graduate student's cool demeanor falls away when she speaks of returning to her homeland for the first time this week during Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit.

"I am excited. I am nervous, and I'm anticipating confusion," Martinez, 25, said with an anxious laugh.

She could be speaking for many of the more than 300 Cuban-Americans who will form a delegation to Cuba led by Miami's Roman Catholic Archbishop Thomas Wenski. Some of those making the pilgrimage Monday fled the island half a century ago. Some grew up with only the stories their exile parents told them of the island 90 miles (145 kilometers) across the Florida Straits.

What unites these pilgrims is the attachment they feel to the country their families left years ago, even those who have long opposed Fidel and Raul Castro and the communist government they ushered in 53 years ago.

Travel to Cuba is always controversial among Cuban-Americans and the half-century-old U.S. embargo of the island severely limits trips there. In the 1970s, those who visited were often blacklisted in South Florida. A few faced violence upon their return. These days, newer Cuban immigrants often visit relatives on the island. But the issue is still a requisite topic for politicians campaigning in Florida.

It has only been magnified in the run up to the pope's visit.

At least half a dozen older exiles who are returning for the first time to the island declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press because of concerns about the reaction their words might cause in Miami or in Havana.

Many exiles who fled during the early days of the revolution see little reason to return. Cubans are the only group of immigrants who are almost always granted what amounts to political asylum when they reach U.S. soil. Older exiles say travel to the island cheapens legitimate claims for asylum, and they complain that delegations such as Wenski's prop up the Cuban government, which has a stake in all of the country's hotels and tourism services.

Those traveling to Cuba argue more interaction can only help open up the island. Businessman Carlos Saladrigas, 61, is among this group. But it took him years to reach that conclusion.

Saladrigas came to Miami at the age of 12 on the so-called Pedro Pan flights that the Church organized in the early 1960s to bring Cuban children to the U.S. His parents reunited with him a year later. An outspoken critic of the Castro government, Saladrigas helped lead a successful effort to stop a similar archdiocese pilgrimage from going to Cuba during Pope John Paul II's trip there in 1998. That visit was the first by a pope since the Cuban Revolution.

Saladrigas says that experience was a turning point.

"I saw for the Cuban people how it became a great image for change and hope," he said. "And it quickly dawned on me that an isolated Cuba is the most counterproductive thing we can do."

Saladrigas is now co-chairman of the business-led Cuba Study Group. The nonprofit organization advocates for political and economic change on the island but also encourages more exchanges. He returned for the first time last year as part of his work with the Catholic charitable order known as the Knights of Malta.

"But I think this will feel different. I think this is going to be an historic moment," he said.

He is passionate about celebrating not only the pope's visit but also the 400th anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's patron. The statue is housed in a church in an old copper mining town on the southeastern coast of Cuba, where Benedict will pray.

"More than a religious symbol, she is a patriotic symbol that brings Cubans together like nothing else can," he said.

John De Leon, president of the Greater Miami chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says the historic and religious significance of the pope's trip moved him to go too.

"I am totally in solidarity with Catholics here and Catholics on the island, so I think anything that can foster that solidarity on both sides of the ocean is important," he added.

De Leon grew up in Miami and traveled for the first time to Cuba in 1993 as part of an academic mission, prompting his staunchly anti-Castro exile parents not to speak to him for months. He has returned on several occasions since then, but the last time was nearly a decade ago.

"There was a certain excitement when I went the first time" he said, "but then that sort of faded during the Bush years. There was a clamping down on any meaningful exchange."

President George W. Bush limited cultural and academic trips and prohibited Cuban-Americans from visiting the island more than once every three years. The Obama administration has since relaxed those limitations.

Now De Leon said he is interested in seeing the effects of recent economic changes instituted by Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother in 2006.

De Leon said his decision to go was unaffected by the Cuban government's crackdown on dissidents in advance of the pope's arrival. Cuban officials recently removed 13 people from a local church at the behest of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega. The group had demanded the pope air a list of their grievances during his trip. Meanwhile, dozens of activists who march weekly in Havana following Sunday masses were detained last weekend and told there would be no more public protests ahead of or during the pope's visit. The opposition group Ladies in White was able to hold its weekly peaceful protest Sunday.

"Obviously it's of concern when there is oppression anywhere of individuals' civil rights," he said. But De Leon said he was not surprised about the stepped-up tensions.

"I think that's what dissidents should be doing, highlighting the problems and their cause, and the best time to do that is when the international spotlight is on the island. And I believe the pope's visit is bringing some kind of hope and expectation," he said.

For Martinez, the visit is less about religion and history than it is about rediscovering her own story.

Her family left when she was 6, while her father was working in Mexico. And her memories from the island are mere snapshots: growing a lima bean shoot in elementary school, her grandmother sneaking a cigarette on the patio of her parents' home, the difficulty some days of finding eggs at the store.

For years she followed her physicist father's creed of always looking forward, never back. But she has long felt something was missing and yearns for a glimpse of her childhood home.

She will be traveling with friends from the nonprofit Roots of Hope, which seeks to connect Cuban youth in the U.S. with those on the island.

"I have wanted to go for a while," she said. "I think I was waiting for the right time and the right group of people."


Alex Aldana: Queer and Undocumented: I Am Walking From San Francisco To Washington D.C. For The DREAM Act

via Latino Voices on by Alex Aldana on 3/26/12

Sometimes, I feel excluded even within the LGBTQ community. I remember the gay clubs in West Hollywood that would deny my friends and I entrance because of our Mexican matriculation. And I remember the faces they would give me, one of confusion and then of disgust that seemed to be thinking: "Mexican, Illegal, Fake."

How are we fighting for acceptance in the LGBTQ community when many do not accept their queer brothers and sisters who are also oppressed as undocumented immigrants? It was a night like this when I decided to go to the one club in downtown Los Angeles where queer, undocumented, heterosexuals, drag queens and artists are welcome: Mustache Mondays. That night changed my life completely because I met Nicolas Gonzales.

It was a week after my birthday when we finally went out for lunch. He pulled a plastic bag from his backpack with 4 hard shell tacos and condiments, homemade Serrano spicy sauce, sour cream and Oaxacan cheese. He had already conquered my heart.

But what happens when two undocumented queers fall in love with each other?

What followed was not only a new kind of empowerment for myself, but a new commitment to my community.

I decided to come out of the shadows on January 24th, 2012 by taking part in an act of civil disobedience in protest of anti-immigrant laws in San Bernardino County. I was arrested and taken to a detention center. I was asked to confirm if I was a homosexual and was segregated from the other arrested protesters on the assumption that I had AIDS. Being in detention for only a few hours reinforced my decision to continue working for immigrant's rights. I have never felt so moved to stand up for something that I had always been proud about: Being undocumented.

I joined the Campaign for an American DREAM as a guest walker to bring a message of hope and inclusively to LGBTQ members within the immigrant rights movement. Currently, my partner Nicolas and I are walking from San Francisco to Washington D.C. in order to raise awareness and urgency for passage of the federal DREAM Act.

My struggle and voice as an undocumented Latino gay man hopes to bring together not only my LGBTQ community of color but to show how crucial it is for both movements to accept the fact that LGBTQ issues are irrefutable immigrant rights issues. Alone, we're vulnerable. Together, we are stronger. To ostracize one from another is something we can no longer afford to do.

I decided to leave everything behind to support the person I am in love with. Just like my mother and father had the courage to bring me to this country. Thanks to my partner, I saved myself from living in the shadows.

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