Mexicans in NYC Protest Election Outcome

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo
**
New York City’s Union Square is often host to protests; it’s in a central location, and with high traffic and high visibility, protesters believe their cause will gain greater traction.

This weekend, a small but vocal group of Mexican Americans gathered on the southern side of Union Square to protest the July presidential election, in which Enrique Pena Nieto was victorious. Pena Nieto is a member of the PRI, the political party which ruled for 70 years, and his win was contested by the opposition, who claimed electoral fraud.

Mexico’s Federal Election Tribunal investigated the opposition’s claim, but on August 31, it ruled that Pena Nieto was the legitimate winner of the election. Mexicans in Mexico and the US took to the streets to express their discontent. Here are photos of the New York City protest:

A small group of Mexican Americans protested in Union Square.
A small group of Mexican Americans protested in Union Square.
"EPN" are the initials of the incoming president. The sign reads "EPN Delinquent: You're not my president. Wake up, Mexico."
“EPN” are the initials of the incoming president. The sign reads “EPN Delinquent: You’re not my president. Wake up, Mexico.”
Protesters called out vote buying and other electoral frauds.
Protesters called out vote buying and other electoral frauds.
The allusion of the pig mask isn't hard to decipher.
The allusion of the pig mask isn’t hard to decipher.
The man in the background is wearing a Mexican lucha libre (wrestling) mask.
The man in the background is wearing a Mexican lucha libre (wrestling) mask.

Puerto Rico’s Governor for GOP VP?: A Response to The Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Francisco Collazo
**

Luis Fortuño, Governor of Puerto Rico
Luis Fortuño, Governor of Puerto Rico

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by William McGurn^ that surprised the hell out of me. Perhaps I haven’t been following Puerto Rican politics closely enough recently*, but McGurn suggested that Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño might just be on the GOP’s short list as a running mate for the 2012 US presidential election.

It’s not entirely clear whether McGurn’s conjecturing is based on reports from any of the Republican candidates or the party leadership, or whether it’s simply McGurn’s own opinion that Fortuño would make an ideal VP. McGurn merely says that Fortuño was “flattered” “when a reporter pitche[d] the vice presidency to him.” Who the reporter was, and in what context the vice presidency was “pitched” to him are details that are omitted from the op-ed.

McGurn writes that Fortuño “could help [the Republican party] with Latino voters in 2012.” He goes on to enumerate Fortuño’s character attributes (“young, dynamic, and outspoken”); outline his academic (Georgetown) and political resume (former Resident Commissioner, the non-voting representative of Puerto Rico in the US House of Representatives), and point to a couple of his most salient accomplishments (downsizing government substantially) during his tenure as Puerto Rico’s governor, a post he will occupy until the 2012 election. Fortuño himself has indicated he plans to run for a second term as governor; the island’s governorship has no term limits. After McGurn’s editorial appeared, FOX Latino reported that Fortuño “eschew[ed]” (yes, eschewed!) the possibility of running for any mainland US office.

Not to diminish Fortuño’s work as governor, nor, certainly, to downplay the significance and number of Latino voters in the US, but McGurn’s op-ed left me feeling that Fortuño had been selected not only as a token (prospective) candidate, but as one McGurn wanted to present as a dark horse, positioning Fortuño in front of the mainland public.

The assumption that Fortuño might appeal to Latino voters por el simple hecho of being Latino shows just how far the US is from being the postracial society pundits wanted us to believe we were following Obama’s election to the presidency. It also, not surprisingly, reveals US citizens’ profound–and embarrassing–lack of knowledge about the rest of America. To be Puerto Rican is to be Latino, yes. But most other cultural groups categorized under the Latino umbrella don’t share most of the same concerns as Puerto Ricans, who are US citizens. That’s not to say Fortuño wouldn’t “get” other Latinos’ concerns. It’s just to say that to assume he shares them is unlikely to be accurate.

Latino voters are not homogeneous. Although American media and the dominant political parties continue to insist on viewing “minority groups” as voting blocs, Latino voters (and Black voters, and women voters, and so on) are actually heterogeneous. While Latinos do tend to vote Democratic; Latinos who are registered Republicans are more likely to actually exercise their right to vote. In fact, Latino voters may be the most heterogeneous group of voters in the US (or potentially so, if immigration policies in this country can ever be be fair, and implemented without hyperbolic walls patrolled, in part, by vigilante groups). McGurn insinuates that Latinos would find a GOP candidate more acceptable if paired with a Latino VP; this suggestion, however, fails to consider the diversity among the numerous cultural groups that comprise “the Latino community” (which itself is a limiting term). Eventually, the dominant discourse will have to resist categorization and its inaccuracies.

And eventually, American pundits will understand that a token candidate can only ever be that: a token.

^who, interestingly, enough, was President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter.
*if you’re newish to this blog, you might not know that I lived in Puerto Rico for 2.5 years and return frequently for work

“When I was 31, it was a very good year…”

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo & Julie Schwietert Collazo

As the last two weeks of 2008 spin towards history, I find myself in bitingly cold New York City, where I’m wrapped in at least two layers of clothes by day and sleeping under two comforters at night.

New York has been my home since I moved here in 1999 after graduating from college, accepting an internship, and deciding to stay. It’s a city I love for a thousand reasons at least.

But in 2008, I didn’t spend a lot of time here. It was a very good year for travel–the best yet–and now that I’m finally settling down at home for a period of more than a week, I’m sorting through the year’s (and a 250 GB hard drive’s) photos, stories, and memories.

Here are a few I wanted to share with you….

JANUARY, Cuba/South Carolina, Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Puebla, Tijuana, San Diego, Pacific Coast Highway, and San Francisco:
Francisco and I started the new year apart, he with family in Cuba and I with family in South Carolina.

We met up at our part-time home in Mexico City, made quick trips to Cuernavaca and Puebla, crossed the border, and then drove the Pacific Coast Highway before…

FEBRUARY, New York:
We practiced settling for a while in this city where we met each other and where we both feel at home. We saw a Gonzalo Rubalcaba concert, watched old buildings be demolished and observed the new contour of this city begin to take shape.

MARCH, Mexico City & New York:
A split month, half in el DF and half in New York. In DF, I’m working on an assignment. In NYC, I’m a passionate observer of my own neighborhood.

APRIL, New York, Washington, D.C.:

It’s spring in the city, one of the very best times of year for a New Yorker. But I’m getting restless. I organize a trip to Washington, D.C. for my mom’s birthday.

Francisco and I also meet fellow Matador editor and the amazingly talented photographer, Lola Akinmade. Still, there are stories all around, as there always are, no matter where we are.

MAY, Cuba:

I visit Cuba for the first time since Fidel handed power over to his brother, Raul. Of seven or so visits to Cuba since 2005, this is the most special one, filled with incredible moments.

I interview Chinese Cubans, spend hours with a Cuban musicologist, & work on a documentary about Juan Antonio Picasso.

Francisco’s son and I go to Mariel, where Francisco set off from Cuba in 1980. We visit Cojimar and Hemingway’s home. And I celebrate Mother’s Day with Francisco’s mom and the mother of his son.

JUNE, New Orleans:

Francisco and I meet up in New Orleans to volunteer with the Culinary Corps and write about New Orleans. Seeing the state of New Orleans three years after Hurricane Katrina reminds me why traveling and stories are important & why I believe so passionately in both.

JULY, Colombia:

A full month in Colombia, with the bulk of our time spent in Mompox, where we meet the coolest kids in the world and begin making plans for an after-school program for them.

We also visit Cartagena, Santa Marta, Taganga, and Barranquilla.

AUGUST, Guadalajara, Mexico:
Back home in Mexico, we also visit Guadalajara on assignment. Not only does Sally Rangel and the staff of Villa Ganz set a totally new standard for service and hospitality, we discover that Guadalajara is quite possibly the only city where we’ve enjoyed every single meal we’ve eaten in restaurants. We were also fortunate to participate in and interview others who attended the Iluminemos Mexico march for peace.

SEPTEMBER, Perote and Veracruz, Mexico:

Perote: The town that tourism forgot. Not for long, if we have anything to do with it. Along with our friend, Carmen, we toured the San Carlos prison, visited an ostrich and orchid farm, dreamed about opening a bed and breakfast in an abandoned hacienda in the middle of a corn field at the base of some mountains, and found ancient pottery sherds just littering the side of the road as we drove up into the mountains. We also happened upon a local boxing match.

We drank strong coffee and had my palm read in Veracruz.

OCTOBER, Mexico City & Oaxaca, Mexico; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

October was all about connection.

We met Matador member Teresita and her husband, Ibis, at our home in Mexico City, reconnected with my old friend, Arely, and her husband Ivan at an airport restaurant, and visited with weavers at their home and interviewed protesters in Oaxaca.


I also traveled to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to report about the military detention facility there.

I could have spent weeks there. In any event, I have a notebook full of stories that I’d like to write.

NOVEMBER, NYC, Washington, D.C., Chile:

NYC: To vote. Of course.

Washington, D.C.: To blog live from NPR on election night.

Chile: The press trip of a lifetime: 7 days. Santiago, Valparaiso, Punta Arenas, Torres del Paine. Cordero (lamb). But most of all… incredible people: Roberto, Francisco, Andres, Paloma, Carolina… que buenos son!

DECEMBER, Puerto Rico:
Francisco and I moved to Puerto Rico (shuttling back and forth between the island and NYC) in 2005 and left for good last December. While we had no active plans to return for a visit, our friends Wally and Marina asked us if we wanted to take care of their dogs for a couple weeks while they went on a much-needed and deserved vacation.

It was nice to see the sun every morning, to feel it on my skin, to watch as it penetrated just-rained skies and made light shows with rainbows, and to collect the grapefruit it ripened and scattered the ground with.

As visitors, we also went to places we’d never visited as residents, including the small island of Culebra and the town of Guanica, where the US invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War 210 years ago.

*

As I write this, I begin to realize that everything important is left out. It’s the people and the stories, and there’s a hundred folks at least. And for every person, a hundred stories.

I haven’t forgotten a single one of them. The stories are on the way….

One is Too Many & a Thousand Is Never Enough

Text & Photos: Francisco Collazo
Translation: Julie Schwietert Collazo
[vease abajo para la version en espanol]
*

I already have the Sunday edition of The New York Times.

This time, I made sure I was home on Saturday night because I’m no longer confident I’ll get my copy if I don’t act quickly.

We bought two copies of this one, one to read and the other to keep.

My plan was simple: get up in the morning on November 5, buy The Washington Post, and then buy The New York Times once we were back in New York. It was an historic edition, one I wanted to save forever.

Simple,right? Well, it wasn’t as simple as it seemed or as easy as the plan sounded.

*

The day of the elections, my wife and I were in Washington, D.C., blogging about the results with a group of writers at NPR. It was an incredible experience, considering what the election meant for Americans and given the history of the United States.

The room where we were working was a beehive, enthusiastic and intense, with results and emotions alike bouncing from one side of the room to the other: “Obama is ahead in Florida!” someone shouted with emotion. “McCain won Virginia!” someone else shouted, and the room filled with breaking news squawking from three televisions and a large screen on which the election results were being refreshed every few minutes by NPR. The moment was transformative, not just for me, but for people around the world.

During my stay in Washington, D.C., I’d walked along the streets before we started blogging, visiting polling places and looking for Obama political posters: nothing! It seemed like the earth had just swallowed them up. It was as if there had never been a campaign in his name.

The next day, we woke up with the idea of buying the newspaper in Washington, but all of the newsstands were empty. There was no way to find a copy of the paper anywhere in the city. We tried to find the paper at various shops and gas stations between Washington and New York, making frequent stops at restaurants, newsstands, and pharmacies, but the result was always the same: “We don’t have any copies.” “We ran out at 10 AM.” “Sorry!”

At this point in the journey, I began to feel defeated and annoyed. “How could this happen?” I asked myself again and again. Isn’t this the country where you can find anything you need or want?!
I started to speculate that the shortage of papers was a press conspiracy intended to stimulate demand and increase prices, a thought that made me sad.

We arrived in New York at 11 PM and drove around the city looking for copies of The New York Times. The same bad luck followed us. Defeat and depression! The first Black American was elected to the highest position in the United States and I had no newspaper! I couldn’t get over it.

We bought copies of other newspapers—Le Monde, El Tiempo, and others—but for me, it wasn’t the same. I wanted the November 5 edition of the Times; the rest didn’t matter to me.

A scene from the movie “Schindler’s List” came to mind, the one in which a high official for the German army tries to convince Schindler that he can “replace” the workers he’s lost when they’re “accidentally” sent to the concentration camp with a fresh batch of workers. “The train comes and we turn it around,” the official says, but Oskar interrupts him, saying, “Yes, yes, I understand, but I wanted these!” I know the feeling.

*
My wife was suffering, watching me in this state, and she decided to order the November 5 edition directly from the office of The New York Times… at the price of $14.95 per copy. But even getting this copy took days of patience. Every time she went online to complete the order, the server crashed. Six times or more, the same problem. But finally, her order was processed. I felt relieved and vindicated.

Now, I have not one, but 10 copies of The New York Times, for a cost of $224.50. We learned that after every attempt she made to buy the paper, she was charged for a full order. Well, at least I can breathe now: one is too many and a thousand is never enough!

*
Uno es mucho, y mil no es suficiente

La edicion del domingo del New York Times la tengo ya. Esta vez me aseguro que esta este en casa el sabado en la noche “por si las moscas” ya que no confio que encontrare una copia si no actuo con rapidez.

Compramos dos copias de este, una para leer y la otra para guardarla para futuras generaciones. Mis ambiciones eran simple: me levanto en la manana del dia 5, compro copia de El Washington Post y una vez en Nueva York compro una copia del New York Times, y estas las guardare para la posteridad. Verdad? Bueno, no es tan simple como parece ni tan facil como suena.

El dia de las elecciones mi esposa y yo estabamos en Washington, D.C pasando los resultados de las elecciones instantaneas en la red electronica. Una experiencia unica por lo que estas elecciones significaban para nosotros y para la historia reciente de los Estados Unidos.

El salon donde estabamos hubicados parecia una colmena de abejas por la intensidad y entusiasmo con que los resultados y emociones corrian de una esquina a la otra: Obama esta arriba en la Florida-uno gritaban con emocion- McCain gano en Virginia-otro gritaban y el salon se llenaba de noticias recientes unidas al sonido de los tres televisores y de la pantalla gigante que nos alimentaba con las noticias frescas y recientes que llegaban a los studios de NPR (Radio Publica Nacional en sus siglas en espanol). Esta experiencia era transformativa no solo para mi sino para muchos alrededor del mundo.

Durante mi estancia en Washington, D.C. sali de la emisora antes de comenzar la transmision por todos los sitios electorales para buscar las pancartas politicas de Obama y nada. Habia una ausencia total de todo lo refente a este. Parecia que se lo habia tragado la tierra. Era como si nunca se hubiera hecho campana politica con su nombre. Nada!

Al dia siguiente nos levantamos en la manana con la idea de comprar el diario en Washington y en cada uno de los estanquillos estaban vacios, no hubo manera de encontrar una copia de este en ningun lado de la ciudad. Tratamos de comprarlo en el camino desde Washington hasta Nueva York hacienda paradas frecuentes en gasolineras, cafeterias, estanquillo de revistas y periodicos y los resultado fueron los mismos –No hay copias, estas se agotaron como a las 10 de la manana, lo siento! Ya a este punto en el camino me sentia derrotado y molesto. Como puede pasar esto? Me preguntaba una y otra vez, no es este el pais donde puedes encontrarlo todo? Ahora estoy pensando que es una conspiracion por parte de la prensa para que halla demanda y subir los precios- pense con mucha tristeza.

Llegamos a la ciudad de Nueva York como a las 11 de la noche y andamos toda la ciudad para conseguir copias del New York Times y corrimos la misma suerte una y otra vez. Me senti derrotado y muy deprimido por muchas razones: El primer Afroamericano electo para la mas alta posicion en los Estados Unidos de America y no tengo esa documentacion para anos venideros; Que le digo a mis hijos cuando me pregunten por que no tengo una copia original de esa noticia. No puedo perdonarme esto!.

Compramos copias de varios periodicos de Nueva York: Le Monde, El Tiempo y otros, pero para mi no eran lo mismo, yo queria la edicion de Noviembre 5 y los demas no me importaban de la misma manera que este. Me vino a la mente una escena de la pelicula “La Lista de Schindler” donde un alto oficial del ejercito aleman trata de convencerlo, diciendole a Oskar Schindler que el podria “re-emplazar” a los trabajadores que el habia perdido al enviarlos por accidente a Auschwitz (campo de aniquilacion y exterminio en masa), por un cargamento fresco de prisioneros que recien llegarian: El tren llega y nosotros los desviamos –el official Aleman dice- y Oskar interrumpiendole le dice- Si, si yo entiendo, pero yo quiero estos!- de hecho la escena tomo un significado profundo y personal. Para mi era una revelacion muy intima y emocional.

Mi esposa esta sufriendo al verme sufrir y decide ordenar esta directamente desde las oficinas del New York Times a un precio de $14.95 cada copia. Obtener esta copia fue un trabajo de dias y de mucha paciencia. Cada vez que entraba a la pagina para completar la order, esta se caia o se desconectaba, o un anuncio le decia: “Debido al volumen de pedidos no podemos procesar su orden. Por favor trate de Nuevo” y asi ocurrio por 6 o mas veces hasta que en uno de esos ultimos intentos logro ordenarlo. Senti alivio y me senti vendicado por todo mis esfuerzos mentales y la tensiones de no tener esa copia. Ahora, tengo no una, pero 10 copias del New York Times por un costo total de $224.50 ya que despues que cada intento que se hizo este se proceso como un pedido completo.

Al final, puedo respirar y comprender el dicho: Uno es mucho y mil nunca es suficiente!

Live Blogging from NPR: Follow Along!

Francisco and I are blogging live from NPR HQ in Washington, D.C., along with 20 other bloggers from around the country. We’ll be posting here on CollazoProjects and on MatadorPulse. We’ll also be microblogging on Twitter (@collazoprojects) and Facebook (Julie Schwietert Collazo).

To follow along:

1. Hit your fresh button a lot.

2. Stay awake! We’ll be blogging until the election is called and possibly beyond. NPR staff will let us stay here until 4 AM.

3. Call us! You can call 917-536-3753 (Julie), 646-708-1472 (Francisco) or catch us on Skype (novoarte AND fcollazo8.5). We want to know what you’re doing– are you partying? Warding off nausea? Reflecting on your day? Share your experiences with us–either by phone or in writing (e-mail: writingjulie@gmail.com).

Peace,
Francisco & Julie