In Support of SOMOS EL FUTURO Staying in Puerto Rico

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February 2nd, 2024

As a Puerto Rican who has been involved for more than 50 years in the engagement and the practice of Latinidad as a political agenda, I am very concerned about the polemics that have arisen as a result of an attempt to move the New York State SOMOS EL FUTURO conference from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic.  

We, in the Puerto Rican community of Chicago, have demonstrated our total commitment to Latino Solidarity for decades: a synoptic view of our practice demonstrates this- from the struggles for Bilingual and bicultural education as well as opening the doors to Latinos at the University in the lat 60s and early 70; to the fantastic leadership demonstrated by our congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez who led the David vs. Goliath efforts in Washington for immigrants; to the fantastic alliance of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center with Familias Unidas in Chicago which ensured for more than a decade sanctuary for 4 Mexican undocumented women in a small storefront Church in Humboldt Park initiated by the courageous Elvira Arellano.  We have truly lived up to the Puerto Rican saying, “¿Quién es tu madre? ¿Quién es tu hermana? Es tu vecina más cercana.” The same story can be told of the Puerto Rican practice of solidarity in New York.  All one has to do is look at the practice of the legendary José Rivera, who led the struggles in the Bronx for the Tremont workers and the legalization of the “gypsy cabs” in New York, which have ensured that today, thousands upon thousands of Latinos have a meaningful livelihood. The Young Lords’ takeover of Lincoln Hospital, opened the doors for the Latino health workers we have today. The list goes on regarding education, housing, and political empowerment. Puerto Ricans have been at the vanguard of Latino solidarity everywhere.

The attempt to move the venue of SOMOS EL FUTURO is nothing short of a political power move to create the perception that Puerto Ricans in New York are no longer a force to be reckoned with. No Latino group should attempt to diminish another.  Through our collective efforts and the recognition of the political capital and legacy that each group brings to the table, we can ensure a political practice that ends the 200-year-old U.S. policy vis a vis Latin America articulated in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.  This policy has created the mass migration of Latinos to the U.S., which Juan González describes as the Harvest of Empires and is best expressed within the economics of Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America.

Over the years, I have had differences with SOMOS EL FUTURO, particularly its lack of addressing critical issues in Puerto Rico. I also understand its political and economic impact on the island. I am in total agreement with the alternative proposed by Mike Nieves, Secretary of the SOMOS EL FUTURO New York Board of Directors, in “expanding the conference to three venues in 2025: Albany in the spring, the Dominican Republic in the summer, and Puerto Rico in November, with possible expansion in 2026 to other Latin American countries such as Mexico and/or Colombia. This would also offer a win-win way to transition the financial impact of the move, a way for the conference to benefit Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and the year after other Latin American countries, instead of the severe blow because of the immediate move to the Dominican Republic.”

Sincerely yours,

José E. López
Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center