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Estación llamando a tierra

February 19th, 2012
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Aunque esta columna salió publicada hace un tiempo en El Vocero, me pareció necesario compartirla por aquí. Como siempre, sus comentarios son bienvenidos.

Estación llamando a tierra

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Recordando a la División de Educación de la Comunidad de Puerto Rico (DivEdCo)

July 31st, 2011
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En 1949, el Gobierno de Puerto Rico creó la DivEdCo para poner en marcha una serie de programas educativos que atendiesen algunas de las necesidades de las masas populares—mayormente pobres y de origen rural—y fomentasen la autogestión comunitaria bajo una lógica desarrollista y modernizadora. Considerado uno de los esfuerzos de educación popular más originales en el Caribe y Lationoamérica, la DivEdCo contó con las aportaciones de algunos de los más importantes artistas del patio en el siglo XX. Entre sus productos más conocidos están los carteles, las películas y los folletos que se utilizaban para difundir los mensajes que, según el entonces gobernador, Luis Muñoz Marín, ayudarían a fomentar un sentido de comunidad y apoderamiento entre los más necesitados. Existen numerosos estudios sobre la división, que llegó a su fin en el 1989, y cuyos trabajos han sido recordados a través de numerosas exhibiciones de sus carteles y películas.

Desde hace tiempo andaba buscando los cuadernillos que se produjeron y difundieron masivamente por los campos y algunas urbes boricuas. Si bien los filmes y afiches han gozado de una popularidad constante, los textos parecen no haber tenido la misma suerte. Aunque me habían contado sobre los escritos, redactados por varias plumas talentosas, no lograba dar con una copia. Mi suerte cambió hace unos días cuando visité a Lucilla Fuller Marvel, una de las planificadoras comunitarias más importantes y respetadas en Puerto Rico, y tuve acceso a su biblioteca personal que incluye diversos documentos importantes y difíciles de encontrar. Mientras buscábamos materiales sobre Río Piedras para un curso que estaré facilitando en MIT, Lucilla identificó varios de los viejos folletos de la DivEdCo, y me contó que dio con ellos mientras visitaba una agencia gubernamental. Aparentemente, los folletos ocupaban demasiado espacio, o ya no resultaban ser tan útiles para los designios de la burocracia local, y un funcionario se los cedió. Pasé buen tiempo examinando los ejemplares rescatados y me topé con un par que logré tomar prestado con la promesa de devolverlos intactos.

Pensé que lo mejor sería pasarlos por un escáner y compartirlos. Quizás alguno de ustedes tiene acceso a otros ejemplares y se anima a colgarlos. A lo mejor podemos comenzar un intercambio virtual que nos sirva para rescatar estas joyitas de antaño. Espero que las disfruten.

El primero explica la misión de la DivEdCo y resalta algunos de sus logros. Es una especie de folleto promocional publicado por la RCA International, compañía norteamericana que suplió equipos para la producción de los materiales didácticos.

Divedco

El segundo es uno de los “Libros para el pueblo” que se publicaron bajo la DivEdCo. En Nuestros problemas, se cuentan dos historias cortas que resaltan la importancia del trabajo y apoderamiento comunitario. Una de las historias, El puente, también se llevó a la pantalla grande.

DIVEDCO: Nuestros Problemas

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Desastres urbanos y buenas intenciones de planificación

July 1st, 2011
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Aquí les dejo una columna que me publicaron hoy en El Vocero. En el texto, aprovecho para reseñar brevemente el libro reciente de Joe Flood, titulado The Fires: How a Computer Formula, Big Ideas, and the Best of Intentions Burned Down New York City-and Determined the Future of Cities, y lanzo una crítica a las “buenas intenciones” de algunos planificadores isleños. Sus impresiones, comentarios y sugerencias son bienvenidas.

:

Here’s my latest newspaper column, which was published in El Vocero, one of Puerto Rico’s dailies.  In the text, I briefly review Joe Flood’s newest book on fires, planning in NYC and the perils of the Bronx, and offer a critique on the “good intentions” of some planners in the island. The note is in Spanish, so now would be a good time to brush up your lingual skills. As always, your analysis, comments and suggestions are most welcome.

 
Desastres Urbanos y Buenas Intenciones de Planificación

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“If you don’t act, the danger becomes stronger”

May 16th, 2011
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The quote is from Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist who has made recent headlines due to his detention by his country’s authorities for carrying out bold actions against suspect and corrupt government practices. His blog posts and tweets are followed by a multitude of people, and his artwork communicates originality and boldness in myriad ways.

I’m in New York City, conducting fieldwork and research for my dissertation project while benefiting from the benevolence and care of friends and family who have provided comfortable quarters and wonderful company. While my days are filled with long subway trips that take me to Fort Greene in Brooklyn, Hamilton Heights and the Bronx, I’ve dedicated a couple of nights to  watching documentaries on artists that use their talents to mount important transformations in their countries of origin. Last night, I enjoyed Waste Land, which chronicles Vik Muniz’ work with the catadores or recyclables pickers of Jardim Gramacho in Brazil. Tonight, it’s Frontline’s brief biopic of Weiwei, as told by Alison Klayman. I’m not sure what it is about this trip, this city, or the neighborhoods I’ve been in—which include a fair share of gentrifying hipsters, working-class folks and struggling migrants—that have led me to this brief film run. My Internet movie nights may have nothing to do with these things, but I strongly believe that places matter, and they have an impact on what we do and how we do it. Figuring out why, and to what extent, is what partly drove me to my research project. In any case, I feel the urge to share these experiences with you.

Below is the video of Weiwei’s piece, and the trailer for Waste Land. Any suggestions for what should come next are most welcome.

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Just Passing Through?

April 7th, 2011
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A couple of Dominican colleagues and I have come up with a panel on the scales and landscapes of migration in the Dominican Republic. If you’re interested, join us on April 22nd. You can also pass it along to folks who might like to converse with three relatively young scholars interested in Dominicanness, place and transnational livelihoods. Details are included in the decent promo art (see below).

Here’s a bit of info on the scales, speakers and topics:

Trans_Local
Emil Rodríguez Garabot MIT- Humphrey Fellow, Dominican Republic 2010-2011
“The Mirador Sur Park and the 1998 Tsunami False Alarm” Anticipation, mobilization and outrageousness for a new ecological urbanity in Santo Domingo .

Trans_National
Deepak Lamba-Nieves– MIT-lDG, PhD Candidate
“Social Remittances and Development Logics” Social Trans(actions) from Boston to Baní, and from Baní to Boston.

Trans_Regional
Shaney Peña Gómez– Prof. Landscape Arch. PUCMM, Dominican Republic – Fulbright Scholar 2006.
“Binational Ecological Park at the Frontier between Dominican Republic and Haiti” How to foster these exchange opportunities
through a good design? (1st Prize -X Bienal lnternacional de Arquitectura del Caribe 2010)

 

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Latest Census Data for Puerto Rico

March 25th, 2011
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I’ve been patiently waiting for the detailed “redistricting” Census files for Puerto Rico and they’ve finally arrived. Although the main story has been the population loss registered from 2000 to 2010 in the island as a whole (– 2.2%), the municipal-level figures provide a more complex landscape of the current population dynamics. I haven’t had a chance to examine the figures in greater detail, but I thought it would be a good idea to prepare a simple table that compares certain housing and population characteristics (see below).

As I write these lines, several well-known scholars from Puerto Rico are discussing the population loss issue at CNE’s annual economic conference. I’m looking forward to the activity’s proceedings and more debates on the matter since we still don’t know much about who left, where to, and why. What do folks out there think about this? If you left the island in search of other opportunities, like myself, I’d like to hear more about it.

Update 1:

Here’s a short list of the municipios that registered the highest rates of population loss, in ranked order (high to low):

  1. Ceiba
  2. Guánica
  3. Ponce
  4. Las Marías
  5. Lares

Ceiba’s population loss should not come as a big surprise given the numerous changes that the town has evidenced since the closing of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. Asides from Ponce, which is considered by some as the second capital of Puerto Rico, the municipios that made this short list are small towns that are not known for their economic prowess or as major tourist destinations. Nevertheless, Ponce’s population decline presents an interesting scenario. Over the past decades, numerous plans have been drafted (and somewhat executed) to  jumpstart economic activity and raise the profile of the Ciudad Señorial. The most recent attempt has been the creation of the Port of the Americas, a transshipment cargo facility considered the centerpiece of the current administration’s economic development model. Planners and other government boosters argue that the project, which includes the creation of logistics and light manufacture value-added zones, will generate over 100,000 jobs. With such big plans and investments being made, why have so many people (over 20,000) moved away from this major town in the past decade? Surely there’s no simple answer to this query, but it provides an interesting puzzle for those who believe that you can build your way out of an economic crisis.

San Juan, the island’s capital city, also saw a decrease in the number of inhabitants. This is not entirely surprising as suburbanization trends continue to drive people away from the largest economic enclave and the most “urban” part of the island. But San Juan lost almost 40,000 residents in a decade. This is a big figure if we consider that most immigrants to the island from neighboring countries like the Dominican Republic, the English-speaking Antilles, and Cuba have established their enclaves in the capital city, where there is a high concentration of jobs in the services sectors. Perhaps the population loss is not as large since there is always an undercount of vulnerable populations, including migrants (both documented and not), the homeless and poor people, which are highly represented in San Juan. But the overall migration trend, as reported by the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute, indicates that the island saw a net out migration of 144,000 people in the last 5 years (2005-2009). Many of these movers might have been previous residents of San Juan, but this is an unfounded conjecture that can only be confirmed with more data.

More to come…

Census_Tables_Comparisons2010-00

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I Support My Alma Mater, the University of Puerto Rico

February 11th, 2011
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The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) is in the midst of a crisis. The students have waged a tough battle against top administrators and other officers who have implemented a sizable quota that has raised the cost of attending the island’s best and only public university. There have been several rounds of protests, but this latest one started in December of 2010 and shown no signs of dying down. An already heated situation has gotten worse due to the constant police presence (and their abusive practices) in many campuses, especially in Río Piedras, the principal hotbed of student activity.

I attended the University of Puerto Rico from 1994 until 1998 and taught there at various moments during the 2000s. The Río Piedras campus is my Alma Mater, the place where some of my intellectual journeys began. Although I may not agree with what some students and other protesters say or do, especially when violence is employed and nationalist rhetoric is used, I stand behind my country’s public university and what it should be: an accessible institution that promotes the advancement of different types of knowledges, provides spaces to discuss and  solve some of the most pressing issues facing Puerto Rico, and is not beholden to the whims and stratagems of politicians or a particular ideological front. Given the current state of affairs and the actions of the island’s political leaders, what I wish for the public university system seems out of reach. There’s only so much I can do from my desk in Cambridge, so for now I lend my voice and keystrokes to support those who defend the UPR and believe in the public university.

Global Voices is one of the few English media outlets that has been informing the larger public sphere on the on-going situation at the UPR. If you’re interested, take the time to read their reports. A reporter working for Al Jazeera recently contacted me about doing a story on Puerto Rico, so we may see something from them in the near future.

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Día Internacional de los Migrantes

January 17th, 2011
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El 18 de diciembre se celebró el día internacional de los migrantes, una fecha establecida en el año 2000 por las Naciones Unidas para reconocer los derechos y las luchas de aquellos y aquellas que cruzan fronteras en busca de oportunidades. Son pocos los que conmemoran esta día—yo mismo me enteré gracias a mi compañera—pero no deja de ser un reconocimiento importante, especialmente en estos tiempos difíciles para los que son considerados extranjeros. Para conmemorar esta fecha, a mi manera y un poco a destiempo, les dejo un enlace a”Los Invisibles”, un documental corto pero muy impactante producido por Marc Silver y Gael García Bernal.

Lo pueden ver en sus totalidad por aquí. Abajo está el “trailer”.

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Migrant Workers and Development Opportunities

December 9th, 2010
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Migrant Workers Picking Cabbages in Ohio

A recent post in the “All About Finance” World Bank Blog by David McKenzie makes the following assertion: while microfinance, conditional cash transfers, and deworming—yes, deworming—may be some of the most popular development interventions, they do not measure up to the positive impacts on income that accrue from seasonal migration programs. A recent evaluation—produced by McKenzie and John Gibson—of New Zealand’s seasonal labor program, known as the RSE, yields some impressive results:

In addition to estimating per-capita income gains of 30-40%, we find that participating in the RSE leads to greater subjective well-being, more durable asset purchases, housing improvements, and in Tonga, a large increase in secondary schooling. Moreover, as a recent evaluation by New Zealand’s labor department found, these gains came with minimal displacement of native workers, and overstay rates of less than 1%.

There are several caveats that policymakers and development workers need to consider before they start shipping people off—or receiving them. Nevertheless, the authors contend that well-desinged seasonal worker programs can become important development strategies for small island economies. This is not a new argument, and there is sufficient historical evidence that many guest worker programs were not entirely beneficial—or favorable at all —for migrating laborers (the Bracero Program and Puerto Rico’s Operation Bootstrap come to mind). But before throwing away the baby with the bathwater, we should take a closer look at New Zealand’s contemporary experience.

Of course, development is not just about raising incomes and asset purchases; this narrow definition fails to capture many of the political and sociological dimensions of the migration-development story. In other words, there’s even more work out there for those of us who examine the more “messy” side of development.

Click here to read the cited post.

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