by Rita Hooper
I write this week’s column from the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, two hours by air from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. I’m sure like I did, you have a picture of PR as a sun-drenched island full of swaying palm trees, tourists and lots of poverty – some might even call it ‘backwards.” Let me try and burst that misconception!
So far I have visited several neat places and more are anticipated but I wanted to share some general info about Puerto Rico – and save those experiences for later!
Puerto Rico and the United States have a unique relationship. Puerto Rico is not a state, yet it has United States Post Offices and even a U.S. National Park. How can that be?…I just knew you’d ask!
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and is officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Barack Obama is the president of Puerto Rico just as he is in New York and Arizona and the other states. Interestingly, the people of Puerto Rico can vote in the U.S. primaries but may not vote in the general election!
That is why at the National Conventions of the parties, you will hear someone say “and the people from the great Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where the sun always shines, and the gentle breezes blow, cast their votes for…” If someone moves from PR to an American state, they may vote in U.S. elections.
PR is represented in the U.S. Congress by a non-voting delegate called a Resident Commissioner – he may vote in a committee of the whole but not on matters where the vote would represent a decisive participation. The government is that of a republic with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial.
Because PR is not a country – it hosts no foreign embassies but does have consulates from 41 other nations.
Municipalities are divided into wards or barrios and they have mayors and municipal legislators. They are in the midst of an election now; their primary will be March 18 – signs are every where – even on the rooftops.
A number of cars have driven by with loud speakers playing music. And as usual there is much construction and sprucing up just in time for the election! Am I a cynic?
By the way, the little town we are staying in has public water, sewers, fire hydrants and skate board areas.
There are basically three political parties in PR divided on the statehood issue: the PPD party seeks to maintain the current association status with the United States, the PNP party favors statehood and the PIP party wants a sovereign and independent republic.
Puerto Ricans serve in the American military and in time of a draft, they are drafted to serve. PR pays most U.S. federal taxes but not federal income taxes. They pay into Social Security and are eligible for their benefits but not SSI. PR receives a small fraction of what they would receive as a state for Medicaid.
Medicare providers receive less than full state reimbursements for their services even though the beneficiaries pay fully into the system. This was one of the unfortunate compromises that had to be made to get Obama health care through.
The FBI, FEMA, TSA and SS, post offices and the National Park Service and others are all found in PR.
In 1493, Puerto Rico was claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus on his second visit to the Americas. The native population, the Tainos, were forced into slavery and nearly wiped out from infectious diseases bought to PR by the Europeans. In 1520, King Charles emancipated the remaining native population. Spain possessed PR for 400 years.
Following the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded PR to the United States under the Treaty of Paris in 1898. Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917.
The people that inhabited Puerto Rico, before the time of Columbus are known as Tainos; on the U.S. census, the descendants of these people self identify as Amerindians. Many of our words come from the Taino language such as barbecue and canoe. The early Spaniards did not bring their wives with them and many married Taino women. Their children were called mestizo.
Their descendants through the years have inter-married with Africans forming a tri-racial Creole culture. The DNA of the Tainos is still prevalent in much of the population.
Today the official language is Spanish but many folks speak or understand English – language has not been a problem. The gal at the information desk at the park told us she learned English by watching Sesame Street. She almost went to Oswego State by the way. It is such a small world.
Children wear uniforms to school and meet at McDonalds afterwards! Speaking of which, many American companies can be seen – most of the fast foods are present from Subway to Wendy’s, noticed Burlington Coat Factory, Staples and Home Depot at the mall as we drove by and all the car dealers are represented on auto row!
Our first stop after picking up our rental car was for some fruits and vegetables at a truck stand by the side of the road – so many things I didn’t even recognize much less know how to cook – all part of the experience.
We ate dinner at a kiosk – these are like vendor booths at a flea market – except they are flimsy looking permanent structures – cats walk freely about and service is leisurely and relaxed, in the states we’d call it very slow!
Today we walked the beach and into town – had lunch at a Surfer’s Bar – sign on the door said “Surfers for Autism.”
The surf shop next door is under new ownership and the fellow makes bowls and hats, birds, fish and flowers out of palms – with Palm Sunday coming soon – I just had to buy a hat!
He freezes the palm leaves, which kills anything that may be on them so they can get through customs; freezing turns them from green to brown. While brown they will shape to your head. As they age, they turn yellow, loose their moisture and become very light.
For more than 40 years, PR has been home to a majority of the major pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Electronics, textiles, petrochemicals, processed food, clothing and textiles are also important industries in PR.
Sugar production has been reduced since the 40s but is still an important part of the economy. Presently, dairy production and other livestock (cattle, pigs and chickens) products are the main source of income in the agricultural sector.
Tourism plays a big part in the economy too, much coming from tour ships but an increasing part is played from rental properties. And I best not forget rum production! How do you spell Mojito, Cubalibra, pinacolada?
As usual, I’m rambling – more next week. See ya all soon. I hope I can find Wi-Fi to send this off!
PS – I did stay at the Golden Arches in the town of Fajardo – a couple miles south of where we are staying…get out your maps and look it up!
Also, this column was lost in cyber space, so by the time you read this, I’ll be home. My apologies to those whose announcements did not appear – please keep them coming and I’ll do my best to get them in for you.
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Heard this week that the Hannibal Library has been able to get an early start on their new construction project. I have a friend in Pa. who would say “That’s a ‘Thank you God!’”
It’s my understanding that approximately 200 square-feet will be added on to the rear of the library. This will provide space for an office and work area and some much needed storage.
It will allow space to be opened up to expand the present children’s area and hopefully provide space for those who would like to do some reading at the library.
All this is happening because of receiving a grant from New York State. Tim Karkruft is the contractor.
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The Enoch Thomas Cluster Methodist Lenten services continue. March 18, the service will be at Ira Methodist Church at 5 p.m. while March 25, it will be held at Granby Center. It will be held April 4 at Bowens Corners. There will be a choir fest at Bowens Corners with each church invited to send their choir.
Here’s what’s cooking at the Senior Center in Hannibal this week:
Monday, March 19: open-faced hot turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, veggie blend, fruit cup
Wednesday, March 21: Swedish meatballs, rice pilaf, veggie blend, juice, pudding
Friday, March 23: chicken cacciatore, pasta, green beans, juice, cookie
Monday, they will make jewelry. Remember the center opens at 10 for coffee and conversation; lunch is served at noon. Call Rosemary and make your reservation now at 564-5471. The Senior Center is on Oswego Street across from the Fire House. I understand they are in need of a driver for their Meals on Wheels Program; if this is something you can do, please give Rosemary a call for more information.
The Hannibal Ecumenical Key Council is sponsoring soup and bread suppers each Tuesday throughout Lent. This is a joint effort of the three churches located in the Village of Hannibal (God’s Vision, Our Lady of the Rosary, and Hannibal United Methodist). Not sure what church is hosting this week, so I suggest taking a cruise around the church Tuesday evening and check out their parking lots!
The free chili/soup lunches are continuing on Thursdays at the Hannibal United Methodist Church from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Come enjoy good food and fellowship.
Voting for the Hannibal Library Woman of the Year Award ends March 24. The awarding of and celebration honoring this year’s honoree, will be held in the Senior Center room Saturday, March 31 from 2 to 3 p.m. This year’s nominees are Stella James, Kathy Emmons and Rosemary Kellogg.
Monday, March 26, the Hannibal Historical Society will meet at the Community Center at 7 p.m. to hear about ghosts. Stacy Jones a ghost hunter from Skaneateles and founder of Central NY Ghost Hunters, will talk about methods of communicating with ghosts and specifically about ghosts discovered at the Hannibal Quick Mart.
Sterling Valley Community Church will hold their annual Men and Boys Dinner Tuesday, April 10 at 6 p.m. Jay Sawyer will present a program on Maine Moose Hunting. Call Judy at 564-5386 to make your reservations.
It pays to advertise, so please remember to get the news of what’s happening in your group or organization to me. If it’s important to you, it just might be important to some of my readers. E-mail me at Twohoops2@juno.com or give me a callat 706-3564 and I’ll take it from there.