University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus Brain Drain Problem

Puerto Rico has a massive “brain drain” problem. Around 76,000 citizens of Puerto Rico left the Island in 2011 alone, which includes professional and college students in the search of job opportunities. Students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus represent one of the brain drain problems in P.R. They are receiving a high level education at lower tuition cost in Puerto Rico, but they are leaving the island for better jobs opportunities in the United States. Since the politic problems, like the “divided government” suffered by Acevedo Vila, mentioned by Jena Vidal, arise and crimes increase, many Puerto Ricans decide migrate to the states.

On Thursday, October 31of 2013 a press conference of the brain drain was given in Chardón 325. The panelists consists of Erwin Maldonado Otero, historian and accounting, with a bachelor degree in Business Administration at the UPRM and José Torres, a third year mathematics major at UPRM.

One of José’s answers to a question based in his choice of college was that of four colleges that he applied, three were at the U.S. and one was the UPRM. He was accepted in all four, but his selection was UPRM because it was the cheapest and he will save money. José its a clear example of how Puerto Rico’s education is chosen among students because they receive a higher education at a lower cost.

In an article titled “A Proposal for Puerto Rico’s Public University System” Luis Gallardo Rivera, M.A in public administration and legislator of Aguas Buenas, P.R. says that local talent are tempted by the higher salaries that companies such as NASA, U.S. government agencies, Boeing and U.S. hospitals offers to them. According Gallardo Rivera, 37 percent of students surveyed at the UPRM plan on leaving the island after graduating.

The Job Fair celebrated in the UPRM in Sept. 27, 2013 is a perfect example of how hundreds of students prefer U.S. companies with high salary instead of the one in Puerto Rico. Not only this day, students spend all their college studying for job opportunities in the States.

Factors such as Puerto Rico’s economic crisis, unemployment and the increase of crimes motivate students to leave the island. Gallardo says, “Puerto Rico’s public universities are exporting their graduates in mass. With 50 percent of emigrants between 2000 and 2010.” With such big numbers, Puerto Rico is not only losing his best talents, also billions of dollars, which are spent in students high education. All this factors are affecting the island economy in addition to others.

Puerto Rico’s brain drain problem increased over the years. The island population has dropped dramatically. According to an article by Jean Vidal published in Politic365 Web page, “Puerto Rico’s Brain Drain Problem,” Puerto Rico’s population dropped from four million in 2000 to close to half a million citizens less.

These numbers not only include college students, also other professionals and families who want a better quality of life. Since the “divided government”, mentioned by Vidal in his article, Puerto Rico’s deficit contributed for an economy crisis; wages fell, unemployment rate increased and crime also increased. Taking advantage of the U. S. citizenship, which allows us to travel to the U.S. with out legal restriction, they decide to emigrate in search of better salaries, lower crimes and overall a better quality of life.

In the press conference when Erwin Maldonado was asked if the main causes of Puerto Rico’s crisis was the brain drain, he said, “No, the offer of employment declined a lot. United State have a lot more better jobs offer.” Talking about what causes the brain drain is a complex issue because it’s related with the political problems, the economic crisis and the increase of crime in P.R.

Although leaving the Island, families and friends it’s a very difficult choice, UPRM students in the pursuit of their goals choose to emigrate, they are tempted by companies from the outside of P.R. who can afford higher salaries, better qualities of life and a secure job instead of a part time. Based in the testimonials of Erwin and José at the Press Conference, before taking a decision, UPRM students should investigate more about the U.S. economy, the quality of life in the place they will go and if things are actually better, no migrate without any knowledge, being carried away by experiences of others.

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Antonio Lucchetti building/ Mechanical Engineer building at UPRM

Causes of the Brain Drain in the Last 10 Years

Steven Morales Morales 

The term ‘Brain-drain’ has recently come into vogue for describing the flight of talent from our country to another. Often, it is loosely employed to describe all migration of educated and talented persons to countries abroad in search of better careers even though their services may be badly needed in their native land, and thus, this exodus of talent, depletes a country’s intellectual resources and tells on national life.

Puerto Rico’s population continues to decline and lost another 19,100 residents between April 2010 and July this year, according to estimates offered by the Census Bureau of the United States. The wave of Puerto Ricans leaving the country is growing and, after the loss of population shown in the 2010 Census, the island continues to lose young, educated and productive Puerto Ricans. The figure is alarming since 176,000 Puerto Ricans have left Puerto Rico in six years 2005 and 2010 and, according to experts, this number may be higher. Only in 2010, the migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States amounted to 28,000.

Puerto Rico has a unique situation that is a factor for the increase in migration, you are able to travel freely to the United States with just an ID from Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, and make up about 1.3% of the total population of the United States. Having the access to move freely to the U.S. is a tempting offer to Boricuas looking for an opportunity to find a better job.

Juan Navarro, student at UPRM, said “When I graduate I will move to the United States to find an employment. In a survey at the University Of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez 9 out of 10 of students said no when asked if they wanted to stay in Puerto Rico and 1 out of 10 of the same students said that they want to go migrate to the United States if given the opportunity to go anywhere else in the world, the other eight wanted to go to Europe if it was as easy moving to the U.S.

Puerto Rico’s per capita murder rate is six times that of the U.S. as a whole. And with violence escalating, many residents are considering joining the thousands of others who have already fled the island for brighter and safer opportunities. PR Crime rate is not worse than that of any US major city. However and unfortunately PR rank #6 in homicides in the US. The great majority of murders are drug related and violence against a Tourist has been so far very rare.  There is no hiding that Puerto Rico as spot for the drugs route between Latin America and USA, has a drug related crimes problem.

 “I had to take my brother to soccer practice that day but I told I couldn’t pick him up so he had to walk home. He told me it was okay. I had to do some projects for school so I couldn’t pick him up. It was getting kind of late so I called my brother to see if he got home but he didn’t pick up, so I called my father to see if he got home but he was still at work at didn’t answer either. I took a break and went to see if my brother was okay. I went to the soccer field and there was nobody. I kept driving home and on the way I saw police cars on the way. I looked out the mirror and saw my brother covered in blood, I stopped the car and ran to him. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was my fault I repeated to myself. I let him walk alone by himself. From that day I knew that I could not stay in Puerto Rico anymore. I wanted to stay in Puerto Rico with my friends and family but I just could not stay in Puerto Rico knowing that my little brother was killed in my precious Island. It was better for me to go enlist in the Navy,” said Jean Torres, Marine.

 

The economy in Puerto Rico is one of the main factors of the brain drain In Puerto Rico. One more factor deserves consideration. After a promising young-man has completed his training, he usually expects work which should not only bring in enough money and other emoluments but also give him sufficient professional satisfaction. Professionals in Puerto Rico make around $25,000 a year, give or take a thousand or two. Day care centers and private schools cost $600 or $700 a month. Typical car payment for a new car is about $500 a month. Many are falling behind in mortgage and other loans. Many Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida in the past two years, it’s hard to tell. But government estimates show some 65,000 are leaving the island each year. The island’s government has largely ignored the problem, because it offers a safety valve for an economy that experts say shrank by 2 percent last year.

 

Studies show at least 200,000 of Puerto Rico’s 4 million people moved to Florida from 2000 to 2006. About half of Florida’s nearly 700,000 Puerto Ricans live in Central Florida, particularly the Orlando area. That’s close to one million! But census figures do not reflect the wave that began two years ago, when a budget crisis forced the Puerto Rican government to shut down for several weeks. More than 70,000 people were temporarily furloughed, so it was not long before nurses, doctors and police officers joined the teachers and out-of-work public servants who headed for Florida.  Then gas prices climbed, and people saw their electric bills reach as high as $1,000 a month. Government statistics show food prices have increased 12 percent this year, and housing 15 percent. People generally will search a higher income to accommodate their living. In this case, the high-level of educated workers mostly can get higher income in the developed countries. So education is one of the most important reasons to answer this brain drain phenomenon.

“Butterflies have always had wings; people have always had legs. While history is marked by the hybridity of human societies & the desire for movement, the reality of most of migration today reveals the unequal relations between rich & poor, between North and South, between whiteness and its others.”  ― Harsha Walia, Undoing Border Imperialism

Make it worth it: Living as a gay HIV+ young man.

By: Félix López

A young gay man from University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez opened up about his unique life. Luis (As he asked to be called to protect his privacy) is full of goals like getting his first internship in the United States and graduating, feels has a meaningful life ahead. He seems like your typical UPRM student, but Luis is also HIV positive.
During all his life he has considered himself as a very happy and healthy person, who enjoys nature and his big-eyed dog. Luis said the only thing he wished was different is that his parents accepted his homosexuality instead of sending him to a psychologist and never speaking of it again when he was younger.

His official transcripts of high school are in his apartment in a little brown box, and they showed he is a straight-A student. He is also very interested in human rights, especially gay rights. Generally Luis admitted living a fairly easy life until this year.
“A couple months ago I got sick for a whole week and the doctors couldn’t tell what I had, so they kept doing blood tests including one for STDs ” he said. “When the result came HIV positive, my relationships, my mind and my life changed completely.”

Many people struggle to “come out of the closet” to their families and friends, he had to come out after his parents received the news of their son, what they protect the most, was HIV positive. “I can’t deny that during the acceptation process, my perception was very negative, not only because I was HIV positive but also because I was gay,” he said.
“My parents suffered a lot, we all had to go through a mourning and acceptance process which is very difficult,” he said. “But now my relationship with my parents is better, they love me, they worry for me, and they accept me as a HIV positive son, sadly it was not always the case.”

Luis explained how he told his parents he was gay before high school, but they didn’t accept it. “They just thought I was confused and some teenagers experience it when growing up,” he said. “My parents were homophobic people.”

Luis felt the lack of acceptance from his parent, failed heterosexual relationship and loneliness during his first semester at UPRM contributed to his brief sexual encounters.
For the American Psychological Association, discrimination and homophobia could be considered as causes of getting infected with HIV. Dr. Perry N. Halkitis explains that “experiences with oppression and homophobia, which tend to pervade family, school and community settings, are especially relevant for gay and bisexual young men, who are in the process of establishing their personal identities.”

“Unlike other marginalized groups (e.g., immigrants) who grow up with people like themselves and who receive the support of their families, gay and bisexual youth frequently have more complicated and often abusive family dynamics,” he added.
Luis thinks being open with his family about being gay could have prevented high-risk behavior, which led him to getting infected. “If I could only go back in time, and educate myself on the matter I would but I can’t. So what’s left for me is to speak up, and help prevent more cases like mine,” he said. “But now is not my time to do it, so you better write about me anonymously,” he added laughing.

A research that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted back in 2011 showed that “the group the population of men who have sex with men (MSM) has continued to be the only risk category for which new infections are rising.” In fact, according to CDC, gay, bisexual, and other MSM acquire HIV at rates 44 times greater than other men and 40 times greater than women.

Before being diagnosed Luis admitted being prejudiced against HIV positive people. “ I didn’t say anything negative against them, but it was easy to justify why they were HIV positive,” he said. “Being HIV positive doesn’t change who I am, it only means you need to be more careful with your health, and appreciate my boyfriend and life more, now I see that.”

He was already in a relationship when he learned he was HIV positive. “I can say it was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had,” he said referring to when he told his boyfriend. “To my surprise he has been very supportive, we were worried he was HIV positive too, but he isn’t thanks God, I feel extremely grateful for having such a wonderful person by my side,” he added.

His boyfriend didn’t say much during the brief time he accompanied Luis. They both could be seen very loving and caring with each other. “ I love him no matter what, being HIV positive is not a death sentence,” he said. “Luis has one daily pill which is working great, his virus load has reduced a lot by now, he even gained weight,” he added while they both laughed.

Luis’ boyfriend also believes that they can do great things out of this situation. Both agreed it is important to help stop something like getting a Sexual Transmitted Disease, which they think is one of the easiest things to prevent, yet can cause so much harm.
Luis profoundly admires Pedro Julio Serrano, which is a gay activist in Puerto Rico and also is HIV positive. “Many people could say a lot of bad things about him, but people like me see strength in him,” he said.

Pedro Julio opened up to newspaper Primera Hora about how he got infected in 2012 saying: “I got it (HIV) in my first sexual relationship, why do I make this public? Because I want my story to be worth it,” he said. “Only one time without protection is enough to get infected, you have to always use protection and test periodically.”

Luis talked very confidently and he clearly wasn’t ashamed of his condition. “I’m still learning how to live as a HIV positive young man everyday,” he said. “Of course I regret what I did to get infected. But what’s the point to focus on the negative? I know this experience will help me save many lives in the future, at least I tell this myself everyday, that I’m going to help people. After all we could be dying but if we can save others before we are dead, then our death was worth it.”

Is the gay-HIV+ association unfounded? Or is it real?

Is the gay-HIV+ association unfounded? Or is it real?

Leaving fear in the closet: Advice on coming out and acceptance

By: John M. Purcell

Coming out of the closet. Revealing your non-heterosexuality to others, can cause a variety of reactions from fantastic to horrible. Every time a someone does it, they are likely to learn at least one thing you wish you knew beforehand. It is a learning experience all the same that it is a discovery of who you are . Save yourself some trouble by reading this and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two that can help you if you’re struggling with this issue.

A very good friend of mine came out a few years back after hiding it from his friends and family for many years. First he told his friends openly on a facebook status, then his parents and for a University course gave a speech on it for a public speaking class. One of the things he told me was the surprising amount of positive support he received. Being raised in a traditionally Catholic family and educated in a Catholic High school here in Puerto Rico, known for being very conservative, heavily influenced by religion and anti-queer to an extent, he was expecting the worst backlash possible. Thankfully, he received immense amount of support and acceptance from his peers, something that everyone should receive and experience when coming out. But at the same time, he felt a bit Lazy in himself that he publicly came out on a facebook status and through a speech. He didn’t feel that it was necessary to do it in such a way, pointing out that he regretted it a bit making the issue a public and universal more than personal and specific. He realized it was somewhat exhausting afterwards, but at the same time he finally let loose something that he was holding back over the years. Hopefully, these 4 tips will help you climb the mountain that is coming without slipping.

1. Being Gay is one of your many qualities

At first when coming out, you might feel now that is the only thing that defines you. Wrong!Although there is nothing wrong with proudly identifying solely with your sexual orientation after coming out, remember that there are other things in your life that shape who you are. Don’t see yourself just as a homosexual. You’re a person, who just so happens to have been born gay. You’re sexuality accounts for one of the thousands of things that someone can know about, and it’s not all that you are. Try to carry that torch with you as you tell other people over time. When you come out, some people will change the way they view you. Perhaps you didn’t seem gay before, or maybe it was obvious and many were expecting it, but people will start to look at everything you do through a new perspective. They’ll start analyzing your choices in life or decisions you’ve made, looking for long-existing signs of homosexuality, and start to act a little differently whether they accept you or not. A huffington post article even jokingly called coming out as “one of Life’s most dreaded moments” if it involved coming out to your parents. Parents, especially, might think raising a gay kid changes a lot when in reality, it doesn’t. Coming out shouldn’t be about how you’ve embraced change, but as something new that you’re now sharing with your friends and family. You still are who you are, and deserve to be all the other parts that make you, so don’t let anyone forget that.

2. You Can’t Predict Every Reaction

“Coming out is such an important “rite of passage” when you are a member of the queer community. it is particularly difficult because it’s hard to anticipate how people are going to react to it. sometimes, it doesn’t matter how supportive people seem to be, because tables often turn once mothers and father (for example) move on to supporting a gay friend to having to deal with supporting a gay child. my biggest advice would be to pick and time and place where whoever you are telling feels comfortable, and to do so as ‘unabruptly’ as possible.” Karla M. Rodriguez, UPRM Student.

The reactions you might get when you finally decide to come out can range from astonishing amazement to “I’ve known all along” and sometimes even those who might be in denial or refuse to believe it. Depending on who you have surrounded yourself with and who you decide to tell and how results in the end result. Maybe you have a close relative who’s always known and excitingly waited for you to finally embrace your sexual orientation, maybe you have a close minded and clueless casual friend who is in disbelief and is surprised or maybe you have those who have to come to terms with it.

“I would say to find some sort of support, a rock of stability that helps you in all the confusion and the prejudice, as long as it’s healthy for you and brings acceptance into your life. Having a good group of friends can really make the difference.” Rene C. Garcia, UPRM Student.

People react in a variety of ways to coming out, ranging from extreme support to nonchalance and sadly some might even never speak to you again. But always remember, expectations aren’t always reality, and sometimes they are. You can’t know how people will react every time, or even most of the time, no matter how aware you may think you are. You will get many reactions wrong, so don’t try to get them right. Instead, put your effort into preparing for the various reactions. Ask yourself what you’ll say if someone hates you, if they love you unconditionally, or if they just don’t care. Consider the reactions people could have rather than thinking about specifics, and know how you plan to deal with it.

3. Bright future lying ahead, but it doesn’t get better immediately

Let’s be real, when you come out, life won’t be all peaches and cream. You’re either lucky enough that nothing extravagant and unnecessary occurs to you when coming out, or for the first time, you are faced with more problems that you could think of. When you come out, you want it to bring you absolute Freedom, but most of the good things in life come to those who are patient. Over time, you will earn that freedom. Just imagine it, some teenagers living with their parents might suddenly have to obey a variety of rules about dating and sex they previously snuck around. Adults may find themselves weighed down by too many possibilities and responsibilities now, unsure of where to start. Regardless of when and how you come out, you won’t necessarily know what to do next. That can lead to problems and mistakes, but most importantly it is a learning experience.

Take things slow. If you rush right out of the closet and try to embrace your new-found freedom, you’ll might find that it may cause more problems than it can solve. You may love too quickly and get hurt, or make poor sexual choices that can impact your health. While you can’t shield yourself from all troubles, that doesn’t mean you should jump off a big gay cliff. Take your time, and learn about what you want now that you’ve chosen not to hide who you are, and try new things slowly. It does get better, but only with patience. Time will always tell.

4. Coming Out Never Ends

Coming out isn’t just something you do once and you’re over with it. It’s something that is always with you, that stays with you over time. People in your life change and you have to keep telling them who you are. You might not like it, but you have to do it. The need to come out never stops, no matter through what method you use to do so. Maybe you write a blog, you’re active within the LGBT community, you express yourself through an art form like poetry or painting, and so on. Look at it this way, if you stop you’re basically putting yourself back in the closet. Sure, some people know, but if you move to a new city, get a new job, or just meet a bunch of different people, your sexuality disappears if you don’t share it. That makes it easy to get back into the habit of hiding who you are and negates all the hard work you did to come out in the first place. NEVER be ashamed of sharing with everyone who you are.

You don’t have to share your sexuality over a facebook status like my friend did, or through a speech for a public speaking class. It can come up in conversation casually, talk about your partner or lover, comment on an attractive member of the same sex, etc. If someone asks you if you have an opposite sex boyfriend or girlfriend, explain why you don’t. You may always have a somewhat difficult time sharing, or maybe you feel you don’t have to on a daily basis, but you still have to do it. Coming out leads to acceptance. It shows people you’re special and unique, but still the awesome person they’ve always known. If more people can accept your differences, they can in others as well and that makes the world a better place for everyone.

The perks of being a millionaire

By: Bianca Aponte González

Millions completed their ecstasy state of mind on the recognized consumerist event known as Black Friday on November 29, 2013 when the clocks marked 12:01am. Puerto Rican economic crisis has been reflected on this event do to the selfish behavior, lack of respect, anger and violence people present just to get their hands on an object that claims to be at an attractive price scale. Richard Rentas co-manager at WalMart Mayagüez Mall says, “there was no discipline, everyone fought for their own well being and forgot any sentiment and any value for their human neighbor at the store.” Through the pulling, pushing and walking over people this event is categorized as dangerous.             Walmart Mayagüez Mall has been preparing its employees for two months of anticipation for this night. From exercise drills for natural disasters to keep safe in case of emergency this quantity of people inside to nine online tests that serve as modules, “our organization has been efficient,” says Rentas.  Walmart had 34 officers in total distributed around the panorama of the event, prepared the aisles with much open space and took out the articles mostly looked for and well organized them to facilitate the process for the consumers. Rentas specified that only five aggressive incidents occurred four outside the store and one inside, no ambulances where required. Rentas says, “ I was impressed with the chaos, it gets worse every year”. Rentas has been co-manager for five years at Walmart Mayagüez and this year he explains has been the one where more employees have worked and more preparation has been established. For the second sale that starts at 10am employees organized while clients where inside the store “that was mission impossible” says Rentas.

The latest Index of Economic Activity (GDB) reveals two consecutive positive results month on month growth for the months of September and October. Meaning the rate of growth, (which is the comparison of a month this year with one of the previous year) which had been negative for several months, stabilized in September and October because the index grew. “This is good news because the index was shrinking consistently month after month and this did not occur, we’ve seen that we have had two consecutive months in which the index rebounded, ” said economist Juan Lara to El Nuevo Día. This was good news for stores having Black Friday sales and during Christmas season. This might be an explanation for the multitude of people buying mostly unnecessary items on Black Friday.

Omar González Viera, a consumer on black Friday at Best Buy San Juan, says he is a college student with no job and is in desire of buying entertaining items for a lower price, “I don’t see the need to fight for items but I feel the necessity of saving money on sales people who are here have.” His father Antonio González, who is currently unemployed says, “I never thought I would be a part of this mess, but I’ve saved up a little to buy my boy a new laptop.” González Viera shares his story when he went to Black Friday a few years back and expresses it wasn’t this aggressive but he remembers he thought of people as “drunks” for their unstable behavior.

At Walmart sales people where searching mostly for plasma televisions, tablets and laptops. The price established on these products where the original manufactured prices but they are a cheep brand “we will only sell on that day some of these products are not part of our regular inventory,” says Rentas. People are blinded by the price advertisements publish and forget about the quality of their purchase and how long the object will work until they have to get a new one.

Gabriela Ortiz, costumer at Macys San Juan, says Puerto Rican economy only gets worse by people buying at USA stores where the money made here goes to the main land leaving us with nothing and making them richer “some think that by simply buying at any store they are helping…I’m only here to buy some clothes and see if its really worth this chaos”. Lawyer Annette González Dávila says, “People are obsessed consumers they spend money buying on this day that they really shouldn’t spend just because they think they are saving money when really saving money is the opposite, I’ve never gone to a Black Friday sale.”

Black Friday is an event where people camp, pass thanksgiving night until midnight in line from multiple hours of anticipation they usually bring beach chairs and coolers for storage of food and liquids and go accompanied by family and friends. Many find it absurd to go through this, but some claim they are doing it to save great quantities of money. Usually is like a competition and everyone gets aggressive and does anything for their advantage. González Dávila says, “It’s the most ridiculous situation, people act as animals.” At Walmart Mayagüez one of the incidents was when a man punched a woman for a plasma television worth $98; she didn’t give it up. Psychologist Astrid Morales says, this woman doesn’t have self value, she represents domestic violence because she’s ok with the fact that she got punched in the face by a man over a television but is still proud she kept it and went on with her life. People at black Friday experience some kind of euphoria after buying their desired item, like if they have accomplished something important.

They spend their thanksgiving celebration on a line to spend their money on unnecessary objects. People are going crazy thinking that buying stuff on a sale is more important than spending time thanking God for their families and health. That’s part of the problem says Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. Professor at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in an article for The Huffington Post.

Well, one of the perks of being a millionaire, or just having self-control turns out to be you don’t feel the necessity some feel to go to any of these events because of your desire to save massive amounts of money by exposing yourself to danger. You can save yourself the bad experience and read about how chaotic it turns out to be the next day on the news.Image

People at Walmart Mayagüez Mall after opening doors. Photo by: Richard Rentas

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People at Walmart Mayagüez Mall before opening doors. Photo by: Richard Rentas

University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez students, in search of the ‘American Dream’

By: Angely Ann Piazza

'Confesiones UPRM', an anonymous Facebook page for UPRM students.

‘Confesiones UPRM’, an anonymous Facebook page for UPRM students.

In a Facebook page called Confesiones UPRM (UPRM Confession in Spanish), students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez confess their students experiences and anecdotes, anonymously, inside and outside campus. “I graduated this year from UPRM with the idea of getting a job, but the reality is that there are no jobs. By now I imagined being like Tony Stark”, confession #712.

“History always repeats itself”, said Prof. Juan Lara, economist and professor at University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, after reading confession #712 last November 23, 2013. “Today students are passing through the same stage our parents and grandparents passed in the 50’s and 60’s, the brain drain”, he added.

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, like today, Puerto Rico suffered an enormous loss of Puerto Ricans to the mainland U.S. During this period, Puerto Ricans, like in the movie La Guagua Aerea (‘A Flight of Hope’, tittle in Spanish), 1993, by Luis Molina Casanova, and the play La Carreta (‘The wagon’ in Spanish), 1953, by René Marqués, migrated to New York to obtain a better job, education, and life style, best described as ‘the American dream’.

During an interview held on November 30, 2013, Alberto Mercado, a historian and teacher at Colegio Espíritu Santo in Hato Rey, P.R., explained that one of the factors of Puerto Rican migration is by what James Dietz called ‘La válvula de escape’ (the escape valve in Spanish). “It all began after World War II”, said Mercado. He explained that in 1948, after the war ended, the government fomented Manos a la obra (Hands to work in Spanish), an economic plan in which the government encouraged Puerto Ricans to migrate because of the overpopulation the island had.

“But, the ‘tomateros’ took the plan seriously” (‘tomato workers’ in Spanish), said Mercado.

According to the U.S Commission on Civil Rights, after Manos a la obra wasofficial, approximately 470,000 Puerto Ricans migrated to the U.S

Puerto Rican farm workers who migrated to the U.S becauese of the loss of employment. (Picture taken from the book 'Puerto Rico, Cinco siglos de Historia').

Puerto Rican farm workers who migrated to the U.S becauese of the loss of employment. (Picture taken from the book ‘Puerto Rico, Cinco siglos de Historia’).

between the 50’s and 60’s. “Puerto Ricans migrated not only because of the government’s plan, but to achieve ‘the American dream’”, said Mercado. “As a matter of fact, back in 1953, Richard Wagner, ex-governor of New York, flew to Puerto Rico to recruit Puerto Ricans saying: ‘There are jobs for all!’, which was unfortunate, because not many found jobs, not the ones they were hoping for, to be exact”, he added.

But on the other hand, Naranjiteño Roberto Rodríguez, 83, was part of the exodus from Puerto Rico to the U.S. in the 50’s and accomplished his dream as a musician. Rodríguez, like many others, migrated with a lack of education. “I only have a fourth-grade education”, said Rodríguez in an interview held November 28, 2013. Despite having been successful in his career as a musician, during his time in New York, Rodriguez returned to the island in order to raise his family.

However, Rodríguez explained that even though he was successful as a musician, every time he tried to find job the answer was the same, ‘we don’t have jobs for ‘Jíbaros’.  In addition, during the interview, Rodríguez mentioned that many of his friends, including himself, identified with Juanita, one of the main characters from La Carreta. “It was a drastic cultural change for us, like for Juanita”, said Rodríguez. “The ‘dream’ wan not as we expected”, he added.

“On second thought, we are all passengers of ‘La Guagua Aerea’”, said Rodríguez. “The difference between today’s students and us, is that, in our time, we carried bags of coffee and caldrons of rice and beans and you kids carry books and iPads”, he added.

Like Rodríguez explained, today’s students are well prepared academically. “That’s why the government calls it the brain drain”, said Mercado. “Us, teachers, are preparing those brains that are leaving”, he added. Additionally, he explains that UPRM students, especially graduate students, come with an installed ‘chip’ that tells them that there is no solution to the brain drain and leads them toward leaving the island, some permanently.

Likewise, Elias Rodríguez Hernández, sixth year student in the department of psychology at the UPRM said on December 9, 2013, “I no longer have faith in Puerto Rico. I used to, but not anymore”.

According to data provided by the UPRM, in June of this year, 571 students graduated with degrees in engineering, 217 agronomists, 763 scientists, and 217 graduates in administrative programs. “[…] But, unfortunately almost none of these important young students will pursue their profession in Puerto Rico”, said PNP representative, Ángel Muñoz Suárez to Diario de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico’s journal in Spanish), last June 13, 2013. “The lack of jobs for engineers is costing us a generation of specialists who could put their talents to best use and development of the island, but by not having opportunities, they decide to go”, he added. “Yes, I will most like go too”, added Rodríguez Hernández

Moreover, Prof. Lara said, “The brains of the island are leaving!”

Special edition, front page of the Puerto Rican newspaper 'El Nuevo Día'.

Special edition, front page of the Puerto Rican newspaper ‘El Nuevo Día’.

“But however, we cannot judge them”, he added. According to Lara, Puerto Rico has been improvising for ten years and still the government does not have an economic plan. “For that reason, students and professionals conforms to the idea to leave”, said Lara.

Based on statistics from 2012, presented by La Junta de Planificación (Board of Planning in Spanish), Puerto Rico’s public debt has been in drastic increase from the 50’s until 2012. In 1950, P.R. had a public debt of 15.9 percent, but in 2012 Puerto Rico’s public debt increased to a whopping 100 percent. “In other words, everything that Puerto Rico owns and produces, it owes back in public debts”, said Lara.

Therefore, Puerto Ricans are trying to survive, explained Lara. “It is hard for a lawyer as it is for a waitress”, he said. “That’s why our professionals and students decide to move, they need to survive the economic suffocation”, he added.  Lara concludes that Puerto Rico may have a small economic improvement in the coming years but despite this hypothesis, Puerto Ricans are better off in search of the old tireless ‘American dream’.

“The only place where ‘dreams come true’ is in Disney World, not in the U.S. Instead of the ‘American dream’ it should be called the ‘Disney dream’, said Roberto Rodríguez.

References:

Puerto Rico, Cinco Siglos de Historia, third edition, by Francisco A. Scarano. Chapter 24.

Article ‘Cientos de ingenieros a graduarse no encuentran trabajo’, by Diario de Puerto Rico. http://diariodepuertorico.com/2013/06/cientos-de-ingenieros-a-graduarse-no-encuentran-trabajo/

A special edition of the newspaper El Nuevo Día, September 29, 2013.

Consejo de Educación superior  de Puerto Rico. División de investigación y  documentación sobre la educación superior. SOBRE LA EDUCACIÓN SUPERIOR, goverment document. ‘La Fuga de Cerebros en Puerto Rico: Su Magnitud y sus Causas1’ http://www2.pr.gov/agencias/cepr/inicio/Investigacion/Documents/Publicaciones/Estudio%20La%20Fuga%20de%20Cerebros%20en%20Puerto%20Rico%20_%20Maria%20Enchautegui.pdf

Book, Puerto Rico en el siglo Americano, Chapter 5, page. 304, Chart 5.15. ‘Emigración es inmigración, P.R, 1950-1983.

Book, Historia Económica de Puerto Rico, Chapter 9, Graph 9.2. ‘Emigracion desde P.R, 1900-2000.

Statistics, ‘Empleo Manufacturero, 1947-1957’ by Dietz, 1989, Table 4.3, page 230.

Statistics, ‘Empleo por Sector, 1959 y 1960’ by Curet, 1986, Table 13, page 68.

Statistics, ‘Emigración Neta, años 1950-2009’ by Duany, 2011, Table 2.3, page 51.

Statistics, ‘Deuda pública y producto nacional bruto’ by Curet, 2003, Table 4, page 38 and Table 35, page 178; Junta de Planificación, 2012, Tables 1 and 29.

Play, La Carreta, 1953, by René Marqués.

Movie, La Guagua Aerea, 1993, by Luis Molina Casonava.

Interviewed:

Roberto Rodríguez, 83, Naranjiteño, part of the exodus of the 50’s.

Prof. Juan Lara, economist and professor at the University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras.

Alberto Mercado, historian and teacher at Colegio Espíritu Santo in Hato Rey, P.R.

Elias Rodríguez Hernández, sixth year student in the department of psychology at the UPRM.

Café Nova Ley: The evolution.

Nova ley is a very popular gay bar in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. It’s a place where the LGBTT community can freely go to hang out or eat in a very safe and accepting environment “gay friendly” is what they are calling it. This cafe/bar is an open concept, it really does not matter what sexual orientation you are from, and you can find any kind of person once you visit. But its audience mostly consists of the LGBTT people. It’s located in the heart of the town of Mayaguez so everyone from the students of Colegio to the usual habitants of this town goes there.

Café Nova Ley originally was not designed to attract the LGBTT audience. Fact is that the original concept was more for “the young professionals of the area” a place where people could go after work and have a nice dinner and a few drinks to ease the stress of hard day of labor.

When asked about the drastic change of vision on Café Nova Ley DJ art (regular DJ at Nova Ley since 2005) said that “shortly after it’s opening in 2003, (a year after to be exact) it started to receive more “gay clients” on the regular, until it became what it is today.”

Also Café Nova Ley is a very safe and secure place “there are barely any fights in here, I can just remember one or two fights and it was in the bathroom line.” Said DJ Art jokingly. “Usually people come here with their friends, their dates, to meet people of the community, out of curiosity, etc. They come and they sing in the karaoke and have some fun. Some days we even have gala events, or during the different holidays we prepare the event.”

When asked about the secret to it being such a safe place with barely any incidents, DJ Art said: “Security is very tight here, given our circumstances and cero tolerance for violence.”

Throughout the years Café Nova Ley has received a reputation of being strictly a gay bar, so the administration uses it to their advantage. They have drag queen shows, karaoke nights; the music is usually pop and upbeat. Even the drinks live up to the place, the have a wide variety of flavorful, fun “shots.”

Even though it is now well known as a “gay bar”, many straight people visit it because of the food, drinks and overall welcoming environment “I come here from time to time to hang with my friends straight or gay. I mean, the music is great and we have a blast even though I am straight, I find it a good place to come and ease the stress of Colegio.” -Hector Sanchez (Student).

“I initially hesitated to the idea of coming to a gay bar. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for the LGBTT community. I just thought I would not feel comfortable in this environment, and that the only music was going to be just techno and Lady Gaga. But when I got here it felt like a normal hang out spot, they had beer, shots and music (different types of music genres). I’m not saying it’s my favorite spot but definitely in my top 10. (The skittles shots sealed the deal.)” – Israel Baez (student)

People from across the island come to Cafe Nova Ley to see their popular Drag Queen shows. The shows consist of either talent on singing, dancing, modeling and performing music from popular artists. The most popular season is Halloween, with the costume competitions.The drag shows and events are very popular throughout Puerto Rico’s west coast. “This has become one of my favorite spots to be, one feels comfortable in this nice environment and the shots are the best!” -Luis “Pikachu” Morales. (Art student, RUM)

Cafe Nova Ley also hosts many “Queer” related events and activities for English classes in Colegio. Anything educational wise like literature, composition and also film. Students give diverse presentations on anything “queer” related. So “Nova” as people usually call it, also provides for the college community in and educational way. As well as it hosts many events (college or social related) it also accepts different college or community associations activities (queer or non queer related)

Cafe Nova Ley may host different activities for different types of purposes but it is most famous for the night life. Being one of the few gay bars nearby its LGBTT members usually consist of Colegio’s students. This means that most of the costumers are young and so the business is mostly booming during the semester. Though in the holiday off season it sometimes booms by travelers or some locals just like most bars in Mayaguez. –DJ Art confirms.

So throughout this past decade Cafe Nova Ley went from being a restaurant cafe for “young professionals” maybe on the more conservative professional line, to being one of the most popular gay bars in the town of Mayaguez. From casual sophisticated to extravagant and completely out there, it’s a very big change. Its friendly and open environment makes it appropriate for any type of person including their sexual preferences.

“Grandma Lucy: The Chance of Education” by: Diego Camacho

By: Diego Camacho

“Grandma Lucy: The Chance of Education”

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Doña Lucy smiling with her typical joyful aura.

In a small apartment in “Buen Consejo” in Rio Piedras lives Doña Luz Mangual a women with an especially light in her eyes. She helps her community and the elderly by taking them to the medical appointments and the youth too selling goodies alike. Doña Lucy like her community calls her in her family, she is special with her tan skin, black eyes, big smile but amazing will power, she started school in 2005 and ended 2013 with an education which help her understand her surroundings and help others.

Doña Luz is a woman who had live in poverty in her childhood but has with her will power and with the support of her family and friends had taken the poor education she had took her education in her hands and went to night school to learn the world because when she was little her family didn’t have the money to send her to school and in the tradition of those day when she was a child school where far away and the streets where made of dirt. In the days of the 1940’s Puerto Rico was suffering a political change and social change that bring the education to the masses but the reality is that the poor who lived in the “isla” (Island in English, a term use by puertorricans to denoted the rural part of the island) didn’t that opportunity if they were far away from the urban area of the island.

In the 1940’s the education in Puerto Rico was getting to the masses and everybody could if they had the opportunity have an education, from there on Puerto Rico have risen to the top charts of the most educated places in the world and had more college students that have to move out of the island because there are no jobs. The reality is that from the 1940’s the education in Puerto Rico have risen to the point that like Doña Lucy put it “Even to become a sweeper, you have to have a high school diploma.” This makes the situation that this day and age the education is a mayor requirement to understand the world, this is way Doña Lucy took an education to understand the world around her.

Doña Lucy prior to an education had learn to read by her own as she asked her mother who had Sears catalogs for the letter written in that catalog. Little by little Lucy learn how to read and defend herself in this world by reading, like she puts it “Whoever doesn’t know how to read is going to be stuck and can’t do anything in this world.” She at a young age around the age of 16 she work in the maintenance services and earn her first shoes which bring her a lot of happiness and hard work. Later she worked in a confectionery making “Empanadillas, Pasteles and Pastelillos” which she learn to do and right now are her income right now because she sells then to the community where she lives.

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Doña Lucy showing her concerns about the schools now a days.

She married Don Félix to whom she lived with until his death, they had seven kids and Lucy tells us about how she felt sad when she couldn’t have an education because she didn’t have the resources when she was a kid and her husband didn’t allowed her to have an education. She added that she learn a little more when she sat down with her kids and read their textbook and she knew one day she was going to be in the shoes learning and having an education.

When her husband passed away she was sad and bored in her house but she knew something was going too happened. She went on two trips to Argentina and notices how people where not communicating in the right way. This and the dream of education pushed her to one day in her daily walks and talks in the downtown of Rio Piedras one of her friend told her about night school, she took that idea and went to a school near her one called “Republica de Colombia” and enlisted herself in night school but sadly the quorum of the class wasn’t meet and she had to go to “Gabriela Mistral” a school in San Juan about one hour trip in public bus transportation. There in the “Gabriela Mistral” she asked around and they had night school and her dream had started to take an education and use her time to study with great effort because she wanted to be the best in her class and help whoever needed help in the classes.

At first when she told her family about taking an education at the age of 67, her family joke around that she was too old but she knew that age is not a restriction to anything and went with great proudness to that school. At the beginning she receives great appreciation from students and professor that she was that old and studying. Lucy argument that she receives multiple times the argument “I that quit school and this old lady with that energy can do it, I can do it too.”

School was from Monday to Thursday from 6pm to 9pm but since she had to take a bus ride home she had to live early at 8:30pm so she can take the bus that arrive at that hour. Lucy was love by everybody since she had a joyful aura that everywhere she goes and smiles like she is full of live and this is her time to live what she couldn’t.

Everybody knew her ritual when she got to school and how she left, when she arrive to school everybody was shouting “There she is Doña Lucy” because she had her joyful smile and had candy to every one of the class and professor. When she left the school the bus driver was waiting for “the woman who take class in that school” and the driver greet her with happiness since she illuminated the bus with her happiness of making her dream come true.

Students in her class where in the majority drop out who had by different reason to take an education, some because they were pregnant, other because they didn’t she why to have an education and they were the other like Lucy put it the ones who are there have a document sign so they can have they financial help from the government. Those who were there for the document where the ones who didn’t like school at all and where outside but the professor told them that if they didn’t get inside they were going to fail but they got their document sign.

Many of the students in Lucy class like she told where there looking to get love and not study at all, therefore and not much student commitment only 12 students graduated from the program. The ones who graduated the program where the ones who but the effort in the program and had their goals in a better future.

When Lucy started school she notice she was understand better her surrounding thanks that she learn how to read in a faster way and understand more of every single thing in life. Lucy was famous in her class that anything she didn’t know she asked the professor and the professor where really good with her and understand her situation and where proud of her.

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“Que esperas para tomar una educación, el que no tiene educación esta estanqueado”

Lucy felt in love with history because it helps her understand why people are like they are full of miscommunications and sometimes evil in them. History class for Lucy was a way to understand the background of many thing that when she didn’t had an education where overlooked. But there on Lucy understudy more about this world and little by little understood that the problems in this world are because of people not understanding each other. With this and her trips to Argentina she understood that she needed to help the elderly in her community and take them to place because they need to be heard and care for.

Lucy explain her concerns in the school system right now because she had compared the school she receive and the one her children  had and there are clearly differences because kids now a day have the internet and smartphone in which the homework can be done in there but the reality is that there are problems in this. Students now are more distracted that their parents when they were studying because students in the era of her children where schooled where more prepared. The students of those days’ decades ago where more cared by their parents because the things weren’t so available and they had to look for those materials, said Lucy.

Other concern Lucy says is that children right now are at the mercy of the streets because parent now a days are not caring for their kids’ education and the internet and outside forces are the ones doing the heavy lifting, this has to acknowledge because otherwise the more starter are going to be the elderly when the youth are the one who have to be more intelligent since they got more knowledge in their hands.

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Puerto Rico’s flag

Lucy goals for the future are that she gets to help others and showed that caring in the world is needed and when she haves the time and money she is going to study nursing so she can help the ones in need. Some day she is going to travel the world helping other, she has plans that someday she is going to Guatemala, Costa Rica or Haiti.

Education is everything for me and if you don’t have and education you are pretty much doomed because the way to have the world at your feet is getting an education and that why I feel that I can do anything because I have an education, said Lucy.

Interviewees

  • Doña Lucy (principal to whom the feature is dedicated)
  • Myrna Molina(Daughter of  Lucy)
  • Myna Rovira (Myrna Molina’s mother-in-law)
  • Miguel Camacho(Myna Rovira’s husband)

Works Cited

Consejo De Educación Superior. Educación Superior En Puerto Rico Hacia Una Visión De Futuro Documento Base. San Juan, PR: Consejo De Educación Superior, 2000. Print.

“Education: Brief History of Education in Puerto Rico.” Education: Brief History of Education in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico Encyclopedia, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.enciclopediapr.org/ing/article.cfm?ref=06081401>.

“History of Puerto Rico – 1900 – 1949.” History of Puerto Rico – 1900 – 1949. Topuertorico.org, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.topuertorico.org/history5.shtml>.

Quintero, Alfaro Angel G. Educación Y Cambio Social En Puerto Rico: Una Época Crítica. San Juan: Editorial Universitaria, Universidad De Puerto Rico, 2007. Print.

Rodríguez, Rosa. “Educacion Puerto Rico.1503-1900.” Educacion Puerto Rico.1503-1900. Puerta De Tierra- San Juan, Jan. 2005. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.puertadetierra.info/educacion1.asp>.

Rodriguez, Rosa. “Educacion Puerto Rico 1900-2005.” Educacion Puerto Rico 1900-2005. Puerta De Tierra- San Juan, June 2006. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.puertadetierra.info/educacion2.asp>.

Soto, Nilda. “Historia De La Educación En Puerto Rico.” El Rincn De La Educacin. El Rincón De La Educación, 20 Dec. 2007. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://nilda.wordpress.com/2007/12/20/historia-de-la-educacion-en-puerto-rico/>.

Tirado, Ramón Claudio. Cien Años De Educación Y De Administración Educativa En Puerto Rico: 1900-2000. Hato Rey, P.R.: Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas, 2003. Print.

Universidad Interamericana De Puerto Rico. MAS ALLA DE LAS FRONTERAS: CONSTRUYENDO PUENTES DE COLABORACION EN LA EDUCACION SUPERIOR=BEYOND BOUNDRIES: BUILDING BRIDGES OF COLLABORATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION=AE DELA DES FRONTIERES: ESTABLIR DES NOUVELLES COLLABORATIONS DANS LES ETUDES SUPERIEURES. San Juan: Universidad Interamericana De Puerto Rico, 2008. Print.

Safe Heaven for Sexual Diversity

In Puerto Rico, suicide is the third leading cause of violent death among men 15 to 34 years old, is a social and health problem that is reaching large proportions and is one of the most disturbing and complex problems facing our society. Reports show that rates of suicide attempts and suicide completion are higher among LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Transsexual) youth than among the general youth population.

Many do not feel safe to “come out” with their orientation because countless LGBTT youths have been rejected by their families and friends. They have suffered abuse, both verbal and physical as a result. This is because it’s difficult for some people to accept others that are not like them and they do not understand that LGBTT population did not choose their orientation; they were born that way, just like some people are born with different skin color. For these reasons exist different organizations world wide to help them throughout this process of coming out and acceptance. These numbers make one wonder are they are pursuing strategies for prevention? Are we handling cases of suicide attempts effectively?

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The Carib Logo, in its acronym there’s a message of inclusion and sympathy is, which reflect the values of the program.

There exist a non-profit program named Carib that was founded in 2012; Carib specializes on psychological treatment of young men who have sex with men between the ages of 18-29 years. According to Dr. Yaritza Bartolomei Cotto,“right now we treat only men due to our lack of funding, these ranges specifically because statistically the men among these ages are more susceptible to sexual transmitted diseases while lesbian women are at lower risk.” This program is a part of Migrant Health Center, Inc., which is sponsored by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), a branch of Department of Health and Human Services in the United States. Besides the psychotherapy treatment this program offers other services such as HIV and Hepatitis C test, safe sex seminars, and counseling for those who are struggling with addictions.  In addition they are actively involved with the LGBTT community promoting cultural activities like the Puerto Rico Queer Film Fest.

Although they provide these services their main goal is to provide help reduce the impact of mental instability problems, and lower risks of HIV contraction in the LGBTT community, especially in gay men. Whilst providing a broader access to treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

In Puerto Rico every nine minutes a person is infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and Four people are diagnosed daily (El Nuevo Día).  HIV is disease that is transmitted by bodily fluids like blood, semen, hypodermic needles, vaginal fluids and breast milk. This virus causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), this infection compromises the immune system by attacking white blood cells, making people much more susceptible to infections and diseases. AIDS is the final evolutionary state of the HIV virus. Its important to run tests in order to ensure that you do not develop this virus and to identify the virus on time before it evolves in to AIDS which is impossible to control and cure. There are different treatments that supposedly cure this disease but one that fully works has not been discovered yet.

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years (bradleydrugs.com). In Puerto Rico, 2.3% of adults between the ages of 21 to 64 years have signs of exposure to the hepatitis C virus, according to the epidemiological study on hepatitis C in Puerto Rico (Nuevo Día).

“This is a safe and friendly place where you can be yourself and where you can escape the social stigmas that are tied to being gay. Here I come to get psychological treatment weekly, to get tested and to receive condoms, if I went to any other public clinic, like I have done in previous occasions, they’ll give you weird looks that make me feel unconformable and unwanted.” – Juan de Leon, regular visitor of the facilities.

By providing this kind of services this program has helped many young men like Juan de Leon by providing them with a safe environment. Its atmospheric setting is very discrete and reserved, there are no signs on its exterior and the entrance is in the posterior part. Once you step inside, a Carib poster welcomes you and a secretary at the front desk greets you with a friendly hello and a smile, making this an environment of acceptance to everyone.

Among the employees one that stood up was Nephtali Pérez, the male nurse of the clinic. In the course of the interview he shared his sexual orientation and how difficult it was for him to come out, “When I came out it wasn’t easy because I come from a Pentecostal family and my father was a priest, I did not have knowledge about any place that was like this one which made the process of coming out very hard for me, as a result my father that is currently seventy-nine years old still does not speak to me. I wished that when I came out I would have known about programs like this one, the process would have been much more easier because I would have known and socialized with people like me, serious people that work for their community, that strive themselves to make a difference and serving as role models for others.”

Places like this are of vital importance to all members of society, both heterosexual and homosexual. They bring knowledge, orientation and moral support to those in desperate need, despite their sexual tendencies and orientation.

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Dr. Yaritza Bartolomei Cotto, clinical psychologist in the Carib program.

Dr. Yaritza Bartolomei Cotto exhorts young individuals to get tested and stated that, “We live in a time where the youth is threatened on a daily basis, the mortality rate is higher among them and the rate of contracting and transmitting a sexual disease is exponentially increasing making them more susceptible to this types of diseases.  This is why it’s essential that our government provide more funding so that programs like this are available to a broader range people. I exhort the public to come, visit and take advantage of the services that we provide.

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Map with instructions on how to get to Carib and phone numbers for appointments.

Making Ends Meet: The challenges of college students and the University of Puerto Rico

By: Marcus J. Ramos Cintrón

“I am broke but the University of Puerto Rico is not far behind,” seems to summarize the predominant sentiment in the UPR and its student body. Both students and the University find themselves in a struggle to remain solvent. Students from all socioeconomic backgrounds are burdened by a stagnant economy, high living costs, and cuts on federal grants, making ends meet ever harder. As students strive to achieve their academic goals and meet social expectations they find themselves as the famous saying goes “haciendo de tripas corazones”, in other words making the best of it. This harsh reality is a reflection of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis which has had its effect on the University of Puerto Rico and its students.

According to official UPR-Mayagüez Campus documents, only 64 percent of UPR students receive Pell grant in comparison with 81 percent in private institutions. This meaning that a large population of the UPR student body comes from an underprivileged background that could be interpreted as little if any help from parents and a tight budget to cover college and daily life expenses. Why is this happening and how are we reacting to it?

In a stagnant local economy where most families can’t afford to pay or even subsidize their kid’s college education, changes in grants eligibility criteria making less students eligible and high living costs have contributed to the financial hardships many students face during their college careers.

This is happening because in the past two decades The United States federal education funding policy has been shifting from need-base grants such as Pell grants to student loans, state grants and private scholarships in order to relocate more financial responsibility on students and their families. In a political environment where cuts and austerity seem to be the protagonists of public policy we can only expect more cuts on need-based grants and more opportunities for student loans. We have already witnessed changes in the eligibility criteria for Pell grants which as lead to the reduction of the grant’s recipients.

An UPRM student said in an interview that she had two friends that had to dropout from college because they simply couldn’t afford it.  One of them, a non-Pell grant recipient had to dropout because one of his parents lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to pay tuition and living expenses. Her other friend, a civil engineering mayor student, with recent changes in the Pell grant eligibility criteria lost her benefits and her family couldn’t cover the all the expenses.

Education is a public good.

Education is a public good.

These scenarios are not rare due to the economic hardships that most of us face in PR, a small reduction in income can mean a drastic austerity measures that lead to lifestyle changing decisions.

In various interviews in which students from different socioeconomic backgrounds were asked which measures they took to make ends meet, the main one came up as to be: hold back on luxuries and treats. Well, that that’s subjective. What could be cataloged as a luxury? For these students holding back meant from not eating outside to not using their car too much to save gas.

A senior biology student at UPRM, which is only 18-years-old by the way, explained how “sometimes I just go throughout the day and wait till I get home to make something to eat.” Seems to be that eating three meals a day is a luxury for some students. She covers her yearly expenses with the Pell grant and the Vocational Rehabilitation state grant. Occasionally her parents’ help her out with rent but for her that’s always a longshot. To ease financial hardship this student will be looking for a job next semester. She has desisted from taking student loans because she plans on enrolling in medical school and realizes she will need student loans to get by during graduate school.

Economic problems have been directly correlated to academic performance due to the negative effects that being broke could have on your emotional stability.

A study by Rong Chen, an Assistant Professor at Seton Hall University compiles various conclusions on the effects of  federal educational funding policy changes from past decades to as recently as 2011 on the accessibility and efficiency of the country’s higher education.

Recent studies cited in Rong Chen’s compilation have shown that in 48 states where a higher educational funding policy grounded on need-based grants have been enacted, student’s degree completion rate increased. On the other hand shifting the financial responsibility to students in a country where the socioeconomic gap is ever larger has translated into less accessibility to higher education and higher rates of attrition in students. Chen’s compilation clearly makes apparent that policy changes that have lead to cuts in social programs have undermined the United States ability to insure accessible higher education for its citizens.

In Puerto Rico the UPR administrators and the country’s policy makers are very aware of the impact that future cuts of federal funds will have not only in  financing higher education but also on the University’s capacity for research and development. In contrast with many public universities in the United States that have opted for raising tuition costs and promoting private scholarships to fund student’s expenses. In Puerto Rico the UPR is mainly funded by the local government and supplemented by tuition fees, donations, and local and federal grants. This puts the UPR in a tight spot, unable to rise tuitions too much because of the protests that would follow if they did, the UPR has been obliged to try to get more funds from central government and hold on to the federal funds it has by any means necessary.

A recent change in the UPR administration has brought with itself a spirit of reform that hopes to rescue the university from financial crisis and insure that the main public educational institution in Puerto Rico becomes more accessible and not less for future generations.

For fiscal year 2013-2014 the UPR’s consolidated budget summed $1.6 billion, its debt in bonds and notes figured $587 million of which it paid $48 million to amortize such debt. The contribution of 9.6 percent of tax revenues collected by central government to the UPR total $834 million of the budget. This serving as evidence of the relation that the local economy has over the finances of not only the UPR but also its students. Fewer tax revenues mean a smaller local government contribution to the UPR and therefore tuition raises, service cuts, and downsizing. All this directly affecting UPR student’s pockets and jeopardizing their academic goals.

“The University of Puerto Rico, as a body of higher education, is the repository of the highest aspirations of the Puerto Rican people.”-The Declaration of Principles of the General Rules for the University of Puerto Rico

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