Rick Santorum said recently that Puerto Rico should put emphasis on learning English, and he has been criticized for it. I see his critics as either political in nature or as new-jerk political correctness. There are underlying social issues unique of Puerto Rico and political party affiliations there that need to be known before even beginning to make any assumptions. What was a basic truth telling on Santorum’s part, whether it was intentional or not I have no way of knowing, becomes an opportunity to shed some light on a place that many Americans don’t even know is a part of our country.
Puerto Rico is a place where three political parties trade blows and seats in their government. One Party is for statehood, another for staying the same, the last for independence. No matter which party is in control of the governor’s seat doesn’t really matter because the government is actually an aristocracy disguised as a democracy as most Latin governments are. People running the island deal in pay-to-play schemes, bribery to open businesses and a very unfriendly attitude toward doing anything that doesn’t benefit them directly in either votes or graft. Yes, I’m still talking about Puerto Rico’s government and not D.C. All that is left for a company wanting to do business on the island is the fact that there are millions of unemployed people who will work for minimum wage. Even a degree doesn’t help much in that extreme environment. Politicians there want to keep it that way and play the usual mind games of: Our culture, Our heritage, and those evil Gringos want to make you like them.
The islands poverty level is higher than in the States. Few jobs and many people creates a trapped population that is forced to take what job presents itself for whatever pay is offered. I met people that had jobs for nearly twenty years and still had not broken $10.00 an hour. The elementary school system looks like something out of the 1950’s and college students spend more time protesting and dressing up as Che Guevara than learning.
People in Puerto Rico are openly proud of their heritage and there is nothing wrong with that at all, though not to the extremes that people of Puerto Rican heritage that have never been to the island yet have a flag on everything they own here stateside. I always felt welcome by the people while living there and enjoyed several friendships. I recommend visiting Guavate for music and spit roasted pig. Try the morcilla but don’t ask what it is before biting into it. Only encounters with members of the separatist party were ever negative. Much the same as dealing with any of our own rabid Blame America liberals.
When my son’s school had celebrations, all aspects of the islands history were reflected, including the slavery part. There are not the same attitudes as there are here in the U.S. forbidding the mention of slavery except for when it is profitable. As far as I know, there are no poverty pimps counterparts such as Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson on the island. My son was lucky enough to be admitted to the new School of San Juan which put emphasis on teaching students English much more than the lip service the regular school system there does.
There are leaders in Puerto Rico like San Juan’s Mayor Jorge Santini, who pushed for my son’s schools creation, who understand that the future of Puerto Rico is not only holding onto their Spanish based heritage, of which no one is telling them to abandon, but to also see that success of all is based on open opportunity to advance. Any real future for the islands people is in not being a member of a large trapped labor pool of people who have no other options other than to accept what they have at hand.
Many people I talked while I lived and worked in Puerto Rico were tired and worn out. All wanted a better life; to be able to make more money, have a better job. No one I talked to was ever happy about the fate of which they had been born into. When I suggested that they move to the states because as legal citizens they can pick up and go and enter without a passport or visa, the answer was always the same.
“I need to learn better English.”
I told them then to learn and go. Or go and learn. I told them if so many illegal aliens could go and not speak a word of English then anyone could do it. I recommended Orlando as a start point due to the Puerto Rican community there and the fact that Puerto Ricans help each other. No sudden loss of community connections that Puerto Ricans have and of which I as an American don’t see much of in our own culture. There were many excuses made not to learn, “it’s the culture,” being the most common.
So, my own view as a person that has lived, worked and have been married to the island for 11 years and being the political junkie that I am had come to this conclusion, well before Santorum ever uttered his mouthful of words about Puerto Rico’s need to learn English.
By not learning English the islands inhabitants trap themselves on a 100×35 mile piece of land disconnected from forty-eight nearby states worth of opportunity. Only the bridge of language needs to be built to allow opportunity-seeking people to roam free.
All that other political nonsense is nothing more than status-quo pandering and keeping people to scared or angry to take that ever important first step for a new way of life. I know that everyone calling themselves a conservative will agree that the first move in raising people up is the open doors of opportunity to pursue ones desire for success.
Encouraging rather than polarizing an ability to speak, read and write in English is the right way to go.
Companion piece: http://conservativedailynews.com/2011/09/safety-nets-ultimatly-fail-society/
Tom is an erratic contributor to CDN. Former U.S. Army Signal Corps soldier, outspoken future Re-Education Camp intern #7-2521, world traveler, combat veteran and Author of the new book Sucker Punched, a dystopian near future America novel available at Amazon.com. Tom Can Be found @ Twitter , Facebook, Blog.
“A creative mind does nothing to another mind — except offer it material to digest, which the other mind may digest or not, as it pleases.” –Ayn Rand