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Most United States citizens here on the mainland know next to nothing about Puerto Rico, and yet we are headed towards a primary there on June 1.

Puerto Rico Democratic primary, 2008

The 2008 Puerto Rico Democratic primary will take place on June 1, 2008. It will be an open primary.[1] Puerto Rico initially planned to hold caucuses, as was done in 2000 and 2004, on June 7, 2008. In December 2007, a typo in the plan was discovered; the caucus date should have read June 1, 2008. Puerto Rico also decided to conduct a primary, rather than caucuses.[2] Puerto Rico has 55 pledged delegates which will be alloted on a proportional basis and 8 unpledged "superdelegates". Puerto Rico will select 1 Unpledged add-on delegate. Selection of the unpledged add-on delegate will occur at the Assembly of the Democratic Party of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on June 21, 2008 in San Juan.

Much talk is thrown around in the TM about the "Hispanic" or "Latino" vote going for Senator Clinton, but it is important to note that Spanish speakers are not all from the same ethnic backgrounds or nationalities, and have different histories, interests and agendas regarding the election, and how they vote in the primary.  

Many mainlanders know of Puerto Rico simply as the tropical Island immortalized in the lyrics of "America" from West Side Story:

Puerto Rico You lovely island
Island of tropical breezes
Always the pineapples growing
Always the coffee blossoms blowing

Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name. The terms boricua and borincano derive from Borikén and Borinquen respectively, and are commonly used to identify someone of Puerto Rican heritage. The island is also popularly known as "La Isla del Encanto", which translated means "The Island of Enchantment."

Few State-sider's even realize that Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917. In order to understand Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican relationship to the US it is necessary to look at the history:

United States colony

On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish–American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States with a landing at Guánica. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris.[14]

The United States and Puerto Rico thus began a long-standing relationship. Puerto Rico began the 20th century under the military rule of the U.S. with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United States. The Foraker Act of 1900 gave Puerto Rico a certain amount of popular government, including a popularly-elected House of Representatives. On 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship and provided for a popularly-elected Senate to complete a bicameral Legislative Assembly. As a result of their new US citizenship, many Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War I and all subsequent wars with U.S. participation. This new citizenship also saw a large increase of Puerto Rican migrants to the US.

So the citizens of Puerto Rico will head to the polls and it will be interesting to see how they vote.  The conventional wisdom here in the States, including surrogates for the Clinton's predict a blowout for Hillary.

Though an April poll in Puerto Rico showed Clinton 50, Obama 37, these numbers may not have any validity, and are questioned by observers of Island politics for several reasons.
Juan Gonzalez columnist for New Yorks Daily News, and one of the voices of Democracy Now writes:

A presidential primary here is far more complicated than in the states.

The pro-statehood New Progressive Party, for instance, contains both a Democratic and a Republican wing, while the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party includes both a Democratic and a more pro-Independence wing.

As a result, the candidates count leaders of both island parties in their campaigns - 17 mayors are with Clinton, 24 are behind Obama.
The divide also means the usual party machinery will not be available for the primary. Instead, labor unions, especially those affiliated with mainland internationals, are expected to play the biggest role in voter turnout.

The United Service Workers, an affiliate of AFSCME in the U.S., has opened three Clinton campaign offices and is spearheading a major Memorial Day rally for the city of Caguas. Meanwhile, local affiliates of the Service Employees International Union are planning a huge march for May 31 in San Juan, where Obama is expected to speak.

SEIU's national convention will be in Puerto Rico that same week, so the union plans to have several thousand of its members from the U.S. on the island then. The SEIU march and the Obama event the day before the primary is likely to become embroiled in a still-raging island labor dispute.
Rafael Feliciano, president of teachers' union, Puerto Rico's biggest union and a group that supports neither candidate, vowed Friday to conduct his own march against the SEIU convention to protest that union's backing of government efforts this year to crush a teachers' strike.

Blogger Gerry Vázquez on American Taino posts some interesting counter arguments to the assertions of the TM:

Political pundits and Clintonistas assume Hillary wins Puerto Rico running away.

They cite as "evidence" three items: 1) Hillary's lock on New York Puerto Rican pols and votes; 2) Bill's pardoning of the FALN 16; 3) and a dated--and dubious--EL Nuevo Dia poll showing Hillary leading Obama by 13 points -- 50% to 37%.

A. Puerto Rico is not East LA

Nothing against the good people of the Bronx, but to suggest that voters in Puerto Rico will vote like Puerto Ricans in the Bronx is silly. Moreover, to suggest that because Hillary won a majority of "Hispanic" voters in California and Texas that, therefore, she'll win the "Hispanic" Puerto Rico vote as well is just dumb or worse. Puerto Rico is not East LA, San Antonio or even Miami.

B. Different place and time

Much has happened since New York, California and Texas voters made their picks--and the evolving storyline is hugely different. Thank goodness! The scripted pageant of the Clintonistas, their allies in Miami and Los Angeles-based Spanish language television, and barrio Latino pols, has crashed with the rise of an authentic "people-power" movement known as Obama.


C. Use of the Race Card Doesn't Sell

While the Clintons do have many supporters in Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico voters too are looking for change--and the Clinton's don't measure up.

For example, Hillary's pro-Iraq War vote, combined with her recent and irresponsible rhetoric about obliterating Iran, is like the stench of "napalm" to a people quite aware that their sons and daughters are dying at a disproportionate rate for a bad war.

Additionally, the Clinton's use of the race card against Obama and Hillary's claim that she's the go-to choice of bigots are views deeply offensive to the multi-racial nation that is Puerto Rico. (snip)

D.) Lack of Hard Data

Believe or not, but NONE of the national polling companies tracking voter primary preferences has conducted a poll of Puerto Rico voters.

The only "data" is from a dated survey conducted by the island's El Nuevo Dia newspaper in late March/early April. That poll had Hillary up 13 points with a margin of error of 4.4.

With all due respect to the good people at El Nuevo Dia, not only is polling not their strong suit, but they have NO experience gauging local preferences for national candidates competing in a first ever true primary election. None. So one must take any poll there with a grain of salt.

Additionally, the poll had a 4.4 margin of error, which means that the gap between Hillary and Obama back then could have been as little as 4.2 points. But more importantly, a political poll done in early April tells us nothing about voter preference today or on June 1st. Nothing. Nada.

Let's examine one of his points.  

"Race" in the race:

The concept of race in Puerto Rico differs from that of the United States.
"White" in Puerto Rico is not the same as "white" in the United States.  Families who consider themselves to be white, often have a grandparent, usually a grandmother who is clearly African in ancestry.  There is a popular saying on the island when discussing "race" and a person makes a claim to whiteness  "Y tu abuela donde esta? (and your grandmother where is she?) There are even towns (pueblos) in Puerto Rico which have  predominantly Afro Boricua populations; one of the most famous is Loiza Aldea.

Population and racial makeup

According to the 2000 U.S. Census there were almost four million inhabitants. Eighty percent of Puerto Ricans described themselves as "white"; 8% as "black"; 12% as "mulatto" and 0.4% as "American Indian or Alaska Native".[59][60] (The U.S. Census does not consider Hispanic a race, and asks if a person considers himself Hispanic in a separate question.)

A 2002 study of Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 800 Puerto Ricans found that 61.1% had Amerindian maternal mtDNA, 26.4% African, and 12.5% Caucasian.[61] Conversely, patrilineal input showed that 70% of all Puerto Rican males have inherited Y chromosome DNA from a male European ancestor, 20% from a male African ancestor, and fewer than 10% from a male Amerindian ancestor. This suggests that the largest components of the Puerto Rican genetic pool are European/Caucasian, Amerindian, and African, in descending order.

Many Puerto Ricans, though listed as white on the US census consider themselves to be "Indio" (Taino).  Other's  simply see themselves as "mestizo" (mixed).  My husband identifies as "Afro-Boricua", though on the Island he is described as "Indio".  The dog-whistles used here in the States may have the opposite effect on the Island.  

Another important point is the complex politics of the Island's political parties, as pointed out by Gonzalez.  Since the poll was taken, Obama  has begun to pick up key endorsements on the Island from politicians who are associated with opposing parties, and some key mayoral endorsements as well.


Sen. Obama *  Hon. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, P.R.  Governor *  Hon. Rafael Hernández Colón, former
P.R. Governor *  Hon. Norman Burgos (PNP), P.R. Senator *  Hons.Juan Eugenio Hernández Mayoral,  
Jorge Suárez y José Luis Dalmau (PPD),
P.R. Senators. *  Pedro Pierluisi, candidate for the office of
Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico

* 2 of 7 superdelegates

* 24 of 78 PR mayors

*  The San Juan Star

Sen. Clinton *  Hon. Pedro Rosselló, former
P.R. Governor *  Hon. Kenneth McClintock - President
P.R. Senate *  17 of 78 P.R. mayors *  4 of 7 superdelegates

Senator Hernandez Mayoral from Puerto Rico endorses Obama

Juan Eugenio Hernández Mayoral refers to Obama's letter to Puerto Rico, sent to Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila.

Rafael Hernandez Colon has also endorsed Obama in an Op-Ed piece in the Caribbean Business

MAY 15, 2008
(1973-1976, 1985-1992)
The United States faces a choice as Zakaria says: it can stabilize the emerging world order by bringing in the new rising nations, ceding some of its own power and perquisites, and accepting a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints. Or it can watch as the rise of the rest produces greater nationalism, diffusion, and disintegration, which will slowly tear apart the world order that the United States has build over the last 60 year.
McCain’s world view is stuck back in the days of the cold war substituting Islamic radicals for communists as the enemy. Clinton is trapped into not looking weak a cold war confrontational mind set. Obama is precisely the type of leader that the U.S. needs to guide it in the post American world. He is free from mind sets of the past and can relate better than any other to those that the U.S. must engage with due respect in order to bring about a world built on cooperation not on confrontation. He can elicit from the American people in this election the mandate to build such a world.

He was interviewed on a trip to Syracuse NY: Puerto Ricans are 'Obama people,' says ex-governor

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has enjoyed the support of Hispanics in Democratic presidential primaries earlier this year, but she may lack that support in Puerto Rico's primary June 1, the island's former governor said Thursday in Syracuse.
Rafael Hernandez Colon, who addressed a largely Hispanic gathering of 80 people at The Warehouse, said before his speech that Clinton could lose the primary because she endorsed a bill that supports statehood. Ninety percent of Puerto Ricans want a permanent union with the United States, not statehood, he said.
"We are Obama people," he said.

Pedro Pierluisi has also endorsed Obama.

Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia (born 1959) is a lawyer and politician affiliated with the New Progressive Party (PNP) and the United States Democratic Party. He is currently running for the office of Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the United States Congress, having won the March 9, 2008 primary.

Pedro Pierluisi Endorsa a Obama ES: "El senador Obama les promete a los estadistas en Puerto Rico, efectivamente a todos los puertorriqueños, que honrará su responsabilidad como Presidente de asistir a la gente de Puerto Rico a resolver el asunto del estatus.  Además, promete honrar la decisión de nuestra gente apoyando nuestra preferencia por la estadidad, si eso es lo que elegimos",  Pierluisi añadió.

EN: "Senator Obama promises statehooders in Puerto Rico, indeed all Puerto Ricans, that he will honor his responsibility as President in assisting the people of Puerto Rico in resolving their status issue. Moreover, he vows to honor our people’s decision by supporting our preference for statehood, if that is what we choose," Pierluisi added.

Obama now has offices all over the Island, in key pueblos, and is running a TV ad as well:

Key in the list of endorsements are those from mayors who have a heavy influence in local politics:
martes, 13 de mayo de 2008

En vísperas de la llegada de la esposa de Barack Obama a la Isla, los alcaldes novoprogresistas de Loíza y Añasco se sumaron a la lista de seguidores del senador por Illinois en su contienda por la candidatura presidencial demócrata.

Pedro Pierluisi, quien encabeza la campaña de Obama en Puerto Rico, anunció hoy que el alcalde loiceño, Eddie Manso, y su homólogo de Añasco, Pablo Crespo, se unieron al grupo que apoya la candidatura del aspirante demócrata por las propuestas que presentó para la Isla.
"Hoy le doy la bienvenida a estos dos magníficos alcaldes que han comprendido que Estados Unidos y Puerto Rico necesitan un presidente como Barack Obama", expresó Pierluisi en un comunicado.

(Mayors add themselves to candidacy of Obama  
On the eve of the arrival of the wife of Barack Obama to the Island, the New Progressive mayors of Loíza and Añasco added themselves to the list of followers of the senator by Illinois in their fight for the democratic presidential candidacy....

He is also receiving endorsements from women on the Island.  Here are a mother and daughter talking about why they support his candidacy (Spanish)

The latest news in the Puerto Rico campaign is that Bill Richardson is heading to the island:

Gobernador de Nuevo México viene por Obama
miércoles, 21 de mayo de 2008
El gobernador de Nuevo México, Bill Richardson, llegará hoy a Puerto Rico para hacer campaña por Barack Obama durante todo el día de mañana, informó ayer el comité de campaña del precandidato presidencial demócrata.
Richardson es uno de los ocho demócratas que comenzaron en la carrera por la nominación para la Presidencia pero, tras el retiro de su aspiración, anunció su respaldo a Obama.

El senador por Illinois y su colega de Nueva York Hillary Clinton disputan ahora la nominación, pero Obama aventaja a la ex Primera Dama. En la primaria de Puerto Rico, pautada para el 1 de junio, están en juego 55 delegados.

La agenda de Richardson en la Isla incluye visitas a Ponce, San Juan y otros municipios, se informó.

"Bill Richardson es un ejemplo extraordinario de un gran líder que a pesar de haber aspirado a la misma posición que Barack, se hizo a un lado en reconocimiento a que éste es el momento de un líder como Obama. Es un líder extraordinario con una gran afinidad en la comunidad hispana y Puerto Rico está orgulloso de recibirlo", dijo el copresidente de la campaña de Obama en Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi.
"Cuando una persona de la talla de Bill Richardon dice que Barack Obama es un líder de ésos que sólo surgen una vez, tiene toda la razón. Bill Richardson es un gran embajador de la visión y filosofía de Barack Obama", sostuvo por su parte Eduardo Bhatia, también copresidente de la campaña en la Isla.

Richardson to campaign for Obama in Puerto Rico

NEW YORK (CNN) – Former presidential rival turned supporter Bill Richardson will campaign this week for Barack Obama in Puerto Rico, 10 days before the Commonwealth holds its Democratic primary, a Richardson aide tells CNN.

Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and former Cabinet official, is one of the most prominent Hispanic politicians in the nation. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination, but dropped out of the race after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary.

While Richardson served in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, he chose to endorse Obama over Hillary Clinton in late March. Hillary Clinton has performed better than Obama with Hispanic voters, although the latest Gallup tracking poll suggests that the Illinois senator has erased his disadvantage with that key voting bloc.

Richardson will visit the Commonwealth on Thursday.

Fifty-five pledged delegates are at stake June 1 when Puerto Rico Democrats head to the polls.

I have already covered Michelle's visit to Puerto Rico in an earlier diary Michelle in Puerto Rico today but there are some great photos of her visit on Puerto Rico

I hope this diary is a helpful introduction to those of you who are not familiar with Puerto Rico, its politics or its primary.  

Since Puerto Ricans also love music, I'll end with the popular Obama Reggaeton
video that is getting tons of folks dancing on the Island and here in the Puerto Rican community in the US.  

I'm not a pollster, and I'm not on the island; though I have family members who are.  I don't have a crystal ball either.  But I think that his chances are a lot better than the pundits have predicted.


Originally posted to Denise Oliver Velez on Wed May 21, 2008 at 08:20 AM PDT.

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