It Takes A Village – VNV Tuesday: A PRimer 10/3/17

A useful point of reference.
I’ve never been to Puerto Rico. Up until recently, if you asked me to find it on a map, I would have been able to find the general locale (I’ve heard it’s in a big ocean) but would have meandered around a bit before picking it out. Unfortunately, my ignorance goes beyond geography, so today’s post answers some of the questions that I have had; although I assume just about everyone reading is more knowledgeable than I am, I hope I’ll add to the community knowledge in some small way.
What is the geography of and population distribution in Puerto Rico?

Orange=developed area/Goldenrod=cultivated area/Dark and medium green=wet forest and dry forest
How does this look when compared to the actual track of Hurricane Maria?

From a September 20 LA Times article found here: After Hurricane Maria, ‘Puerto Rico isn’t going to be the same’

Why is Puerto Rico a territory and what does that mean?
This article provides an excellent overview, including an unblinking look at the United States’ history of racist, colonial indifference: Puerto Rico’s Complicated History with the United States

Wait a minute; the article above says the people of Puerto Rico voted for statehood, but it doesn’t matter?!

As a result of Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory, the citizens of Puerto Rico do not have any voting representation in the U.S. Federal government. Instead of outright representation through Senators and House Representatives, Puerto Rico has one non-voting Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, Puerto Rico is not represented in the Electoral College, and thus U.S. citizens resident there are unable to vote in U.S. presidential elections. Citizens of Puerto Rico can vote in the Republican and Democratic primary elections.
Although Puerto Rico presently has a certain amount of local autonomy, according to the U.S. Constitution ultimate governance of the island is retained by both the U.S. Congress and President.[14][15][16] Thus, results of plebiscites, whether or not authorized by Congress, while they reflect public sentiment, and thus bear some impact, can be ignored by Congress. Ultimately, the results of Puerto Rican plebiscites are opinions… source: Political status of Puerto Rico

And then there’s this article, which discusses the outcome of the June 2017 plebiscite: Puerto Ricans vote in favour of being 51st US state, but doubts remain

Speaking of political parties, what party does San Juan mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, belong to?
Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) or in English, the Popular Democratic Party. Like any political party, it has had an evolving platform.

The PPD political platform calls for a free associated state, autonomous, Puerto Rico that maintains a voluntary relationship with the federal government of United States in areas of mutual benefit, such as national defense, like any other state. Two notable areas of discontent with the current political arrangement are the taxation system and the empowerment of the courts. Currently, custom duties and the authority to enter into treaties with foreign nations remain within the control of the federal government of the United States. In the legal realm, decisions of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court can be overruled by higher courts in the United States. PPD supporters charge that this is unsatisfactory arrangement given that Puerto Ricans are not allowed to exercise their democratic right to vote for the person that appoints those judges – the President of the United States. Puerto Ricans are also not allowed to exercise their democratic right to elect Senatorial representation into the US Senate, the authority within the US of government that is empowered to approving appointees into the federal court system. Furthermore, Puerto Rican court decisions must be made consistent with the laws of the United States and in alignment with the Constitution of the United States.[13]…

…At its 2007 convention, the PPD approved a new philosophy and set of ideals for the party. The new philosophy commits the party to defending a political status for the island that is based in the irrevocable right of the people of Puerto Rico to form a sovereign country. This shift in philosophy caused a stir among party detractors, since the PPD was not known for being that liberal before. Its conservative stance had been represented by its unshakable defense of the commonwealth status quo.
In January 2010, the “governing board”[14] of the party approved a resolution presented by the current party president Héctor Ferrer, among others, rejecting the free association concept to develop the commonwealth status based on the current free association compacts of the United States with the pacific jurisdictions; the resolution indicate that this free associations compacts does not recognize the indissoluble link between the U.S. and Puerto Rico of the United States Citizenship. Other members of the party reject the resolution indicating that is not in agreement with the official position adopted by the party “general assembly” on the 2007 convention. They indicated that the “government board” could not revoke the decisions of the party “general assembly” and just the “general assembly” itself as the party’s top organ could revoke the 2007 decisions.[15][16][17][18][19][20]
source: Popular Democratic Party (Puerto Rico)

I don’t understand the financial difficulties of PR, beyond that which comes with a colonial history. Is there an reasonably-balanced explainer that can help?
Of course there is (from 2016): The Puerto Rico Crisis Explained

Well, that was 2016. What has been done since?
PROMESA happened: Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis: What You Need to Know

And FAFAA happened: Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority

It’s a difficult process and not without controvery: Public employees union sues Puerto Rico fiscal board, FAFAA and Treasury

In summary, this is just a cursory overview of the existing political and financial situation faced by Puerto Rico before Maria. It doesn’t address the history or the culture or the people, who are ultimately what matters. But when you hear Someone suggesting that the people don’t work hard enough or are ingrates, remember that our colonial history with Puerto Rico has made the situation immeasurably more difficult. It has created barriers and roadblocks that no state faces. We owe it to the people of Puerto Rico to try to understand that and to combat the ignorance and inhumanity that some mainlanders are expressing.

About DoReMI 165 Articles
Now a Michigander, by way of Ohio, Illinois, Scotland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Gardener. Sewer. Democrat. Resister.


  1. Good morning, Meese, and thanks for the double duty of posting, DoReMi. I, hadn’t realized how many towns/villages there are on such a small island. From the map, it looks like they are right on top of each other. I feel bad for PR that they have to be the recipient of the Orange Shitgibbon’s pretend caring. Why is he taking Melania on this photo ops? I don’t remember Michelle tagging along but maybe I’m overlooking it because Michelle is a warm and caring person and people wanted to see her.

    44 this morning. Getting to feel like fall. I have completed my kitteh extraction and will now go talk to the coffee pot (again).

  2. [{{DoReMI}}} – thank you for the double duty – and more detailed maps and stuff here. Mainland (white) Americans seldom have any idea where anything is geographically speaking. I have no idea when the Rs taking over the school boards decided that geography was as dangerous as civics, but… I know more about Puerto Rico than where it’s located but that’s not saying much. Since they are a U.S. territory – mostly because we “liberated” them from Spain but just couldn’t bear to let them be a free nation – we should damn-sure be taking care of them. Period.

    Not exactly swamped at work, but stuff is being a steady enough stream I’m not getting any of my normal “online” time. sigh. Back when and if I can. moar {{{HUGS}}}

    • I wanted to put the maps at DK too, but DK5 formatting had me befuddled and frustrated. At about midnight last night, I gave up and put in the stuff about the PR governor instead.

      I haven’t been around much today either. I went to get a haircut, and since my stylist had a slow day, he played with my hair to show me options for the wedding. Three hours later…! He had fun, and I’m pretty sure I relaxed to the point of a brief nap. And I think I know what I want done with my hair for the wedding, so his experimentation paid off.

      • {{{DoReMI}}} – yeah, the formatting differences between DK5 & WordPress are why Tricia stopped cross-posting the pootie diaries and I think why Denise stopped cross-posting her FPs here. Glad you had a relaxing day. moar {{{HUGS}}}

      • I used to know all the formatting tricks at DK and left before DK4 and DK5 changed everything. I listened to people struggling with it and was glad I didn’t have to deal with it! Even in DK3, I refused to use the DK photo library because of their copyright rules (my images are my images!) and now with Photobucket gone, I would have nothing to say there even if I wanted to say it!

        Dee used to post her section of Black Kos here (not her Front Page, that was proprietary) and for a while I would scrape the codes off the DK source page and set them up in a post for her to tweak but even that turned out to be more work than she had time for. :(

        • Thank you, Jan…you have no idea how much I needed to hear this. I don’t have the time to do scholarly, academic writing, so I choose to try to pique curiosity or follow my own. My tastes are nothing if not eclectic, so it’s anybody’s guess (including mine) what’s going to show up on Tuesdays!

  3. To get a better idea of Puerto Rican history – suggest reading War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony by Nelson Denis
    The talk about the debt crisis tends to obscure the systematic exploration of the islands resources and people – Puerto Rico has provided tax havens for business as part of the failed Operation Bootstrap deal – PR labor was used in WWII and women were pushed into factory jobs as part of the massive sterilization program crafted for the island – which wound up sterilizing 1/3 of PR women.

    Look to the history of Domino Sugar and other sugar cartels

    By the late 1920s, all of Puerto Rico’s sugar farms belonged to 41 banking syndicates. 80% of these were US-owned and the largest four syndicates – Central Guanica, South Puerto Rico, Fajardo Sugar and East Puerto Rico Sugar – were entirely US-owned and covered over half the island’s arable land.

    All of these syndicates received preferential treatment from the colonial government. All of them were “public-private partnerships” or “P3s,” in which the public sector provided enormous subsidies, concessions and advantages to the private investor.

    The only beneficiaries of this were the absentee private investors…who invested only a few pennies, for a full dollar’s worth of profits and dividends. In 1929, the American Mercury magazine noted, “The development of large absentee estates makes Porto Rico (sic) a land of beggars and millionaires, of flattering statistics and distressed realities. More and more it becomes a factory worked by peons, fought over by lawyers, bossed by absent industrialists, and clerked by politicians.”

    • That America has a colony in the 21st century is gross. That it treats the people of the island as second class citizens is not surprising. It took us several centuries past when European countries banned slavery to do it here and there are still people in America who think that the atrocities committed against the native people of the continent were justified.

      We should give Puerto Rico a say in our democracy – make them a state and give them representation and the power to control their future. And wipe out the debts accumulated from decades of exploitation and neglect.

    • Thank you, Denise…you’ve been my book whisperer on more than one occasion, so I appreciate your suggestion. Our history of colonialism is a disgrace; the fact that our history books whitewash it in the name of American exceptionalism infuriates me. And as long as we continue to tie the hands of our teachers, it’s not going to get better.

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