martes, septiembre 02, 2014

El Taller de Jazz Don Pedro

¿Qué es el Taller de Jazz Don Pedro?

(Una versión breve del siguiente artículo salió publicada en Claridad el 12 de febrero de 2004)

Carmelo Ruiz Marrero

En la década de los 80 solía caminar a menudo por la calle Esteban González en Santa Rita, lo cual inevitablemente me llevaba a pasar por el Taller de Jazz Don Pedro. Ubicado en el sótano de un edificio cerca del Burger King de los poetas y del antiguo local de La Tertulia, el Taller despedía a la calle sonidos fenomenales, un hi-hat en tiempo de swing, un saxofón inventando un nuevo vocabulario cromático, y más cosas por el estilo. Los estragos de un huracán forzaron el cierre de ese espacio, pero el Taller como institución todavía vive. ¿Qué es el Taller? ¿Y quién es Don Pedro? Sigan leyendo para que vean.


El jazz es la música de los incomprendidos. Los amantes de este género musical viven en un mundo de fascinación sin fin, viajando de un emocionante  descubrimiento sónico a otro, a pesar de vivir en un mundo gris y cuadrado que no comparte su entusiasmo con el jazz. Estos audiófilos empedernidos coleccionan datos interesantes sobre esta música y sus intérpretes con la misma pasión que los fanáticos del deporte se memorizan estadísticas de equipos y jugadores.


Después de uno descubrir el jazz el resto de la música popular, especialmente el rock, suena sosa y desabrida. El músico de jazz, al derrocar la tiranía de la partitura, crea con su instrumento topografías personales, tan únicas como la huella de un dedo. Sin el elemento de improvisación, que es lo que caracteriza el jazz, no hay topografía de qué hablar pues la música es tan plana como el papel en que se transcribe.


Transcurrieron casi dos décadas sin yo saber exactamente qué era eso del Taller de Jazz Don Pedro hasta que recientemente conocí de pura casualidad a Ramón Soto, custodio de la institución. Lo conocí en El Boricua, un refugio de intelectos trasnochados ubicado a apenas tres cuadras del viejo local del 
Taller. El Boricua es precisamente el tipo de lugar para interacciones sociales impredecibles no-lineales e inesperadas como ese encuentro accidental.

"Entusiasmo" es la palabra que mejor describe a Ramón. 
Tras décadas de fomentar y promover el jazz, mantiene intacto el entusiasmo original que sintió al descubrirlo. Tan entrañada tiene esta música en su persona que encuentro imposible imaginar qué rumbo hubiera tomado su vida si no la hubiera descubierto. Y es así con todos los amantes e intérpretes del jazz. De no ser por el jazz, este mundo definitivamente sería un lugar menos interesante. En fin, otra deuda cultural que tenemos con Africa. Cito a Eduardo Galeano:

Los ritmos de origen africano están salvando al mundo 
de la muerte por tristeza o bostezo. ¿Qué sería de nosotros sin la música que del Africa vino y generó nuevas magias en Brasil, en Estados Unidos y en las costas del mar Caribe?

El Taller nació como iniciativa no de Ramón sino de su 
madre, Ana Vélez. Difícilmente hay una persona en Puerto Rico que sepa más de jazz que doña Ana, autora del libro de dos volúmenes En Torno Al Jazz. Su primer encuentro con esta música fue puramente casual. A mediados de los 60 encontró unos elepés de jazz en liquidación en una farmacia, a 69 centavos cada uno, y compró varios. Al oírlos comenzó su romance con el jazz, el cual contagió a su esposo Samuel (qepd) y su hijo Ramón, y continúa hasta hoy,

Doña Ana se propuso hacer un estudio profundo del jazz 
desde el punto de vista sociológico, una odisea de varios años que la llevó hasta la biblioteca Arturo Schomburg en Nueva York y que culminó con la publicación de En Torno al Jazz.

La visitó en su casa en la urbanización La Cumbre para 
entrevistarla para el suplemento En Rojo de ClaridadSe encontraba ahí Ramón y también Ricky Encarnación, otrora bajista de Menudo y hoy entregado al jazz. Estaban los dos escuchando discos de la vasta colección de elepés que comenzó con ese disco de $0.69 que doña Ana compró hacía más de treinta años.

"¿Qué escuchan?", les pregunto. "Es el Phil Woods 
Quintet", me dice Ramón y me cuenta que lo extraordinario del disco es la participación de un trompetista de talento increíble que me dice él que tiene sólo un pulmón y que vive hoy en un hospital psiquiátrico. El anecdotario del jazz está repleto de relatos como ese, de gente que hace la música más increíble bajo las circunstancias más adversas y apabullantes.

"El jazz es la música clásica africana, creada por 
descendientes de esclavos", afirma Doña Ana una vez comenzada la entrevista. Al ella decir eso no puedo evitar pensar por un momento en los ignorantes que creen que es "música de blanquitos". "El jazzista, a diferencia de los intérpretes de otros géneros, se puede salir del pentagrama, y al hacerlo produce los elementos más excitantes de este género musical".

Mientras hablamos me fijo en una enorme foto en blanco 
y negro enmarcada en la pared, de un hombre tocando tres instrumentos de viento a la vez. Es nada menos que Rahsaan Roland Kirk, un legendario jazzista, ciego casi desde su nacimiento, que efectivamente podía tocar simultáneamente tres saxofones. Siguió realizando esa proeza musical aún después de un derrame que paralizó uno de sus brazos, hasta su muerte en 1977. Incidentalmente, Kirk llamaba al jazz "black classical music" y su música prácticamente no tenía influencia europea alguna que se pudiera discernir.

Si bien es cierto que el jazz llegó a Borinquen desde 
Estados Unidos, no es menos cierto que la aportación puertorriqueña al género es importantísima. Doña Ana me enumera varios boricuas que dejaron su huella en el género, como los percusionistas Manuel Tió y Ray Barreto, el organista mayagüezano Ram Ramírez, el pianista Hilton Ruiz, el bajista Eddie Gómez, el inmortal Tito Puente, Noro Morales (cuya sobrina Alicia Torres fue mi maestra de música y además es para mí como una madre postiza), Jerry González, el flautista Dave Valentín, y muchísimos más. Pero de los más importantes y menos reconocidos, me dice ella, es el trombonista Juan Tizol, quien compuso para Duke Ellington sus éxitos "Caravan", "Perdido", "Pyramid" y "Moonlight Siesta".

Ramón se dedicó a organizar conciertos de jazz y fue 
por él que su madre tuvo el honor de recibir en su casa a músicos como Dexter Gordon, Frank Foster, George Benson y el gran Miles Davis, entre otros. "Lo que más me impresionó de todos ellos fue su delicadeza, su esmero en complacer y hacer que la gente se sienta bien", me dice ella. "Así pude ver lo injusta que es la sociedad con ellos, porque siempre se les asocia con el vicio y con la degeneración."

Las múltiples facetas del Taller


Nació entonces el Taller de Jazz Don Pedro, el cual es 
muchas cosas. Primero que nada, los conciertos: el Taller trajo a Puerto Rico a Buster Williams, Billy Higgins, Betty Carter, Tito Puente, los hermanos Heath, Gato Barbieri, el ya mencionado Dexter Gordon, y muchos otros. Los artistas que trabajan con el
Taller se comprometen a realizar clínicas educativas para jóvenes estudiantes de música, las cuales se han dado no sólo en el área metro sino también en San Germán, Ponce y hasta Lares.

El Taller también produjo varios programas radiales de 
jazz. El último fue En Tiempo de Jazz, transmitido en la difunta emisora ponceña WEUC (muy buena emisora, hasta que la destruyó Beto Morales y el Opus Dei), programa que yo escuchaba regularmente. Ramón, que era el animador, constantemente llamaba cronopios a los grandes músicos, lo cual causó que ocasionalmente recibiera llamadas de oyentes (ponceños, por supuesto) que le decían que eso era un disparate, que era un uso incorrecto de esa palabra que inventó Julio Cortázar. Ramón me explicó que usa la palabra cronopio como traducción al español del término Eulypianscriaturas míticas dotadas con sobrenaturales poderes musicales, inventadas por el ya mencionado Kirk.

No menos importante fue la sede del Taller en Santa Rita. Era una tienda de discos, un espacio de ensayo para músicos y estudiantes y un punto de reunión para los amantes del jazz. En los años 80 visitó el local una madre con su hijo de 14 años. Le dijo a Ramón que el nene era saxofonista y que quería aprender jazz. Se le dio la bienvenida y ahí comenzó su épico viaje musical. De hecho, el primer concierto del Taller de Jazz Don Pedro al que asistí fue en 1986 en el Colegio de Abogados (la primera vez que puse el pie en ese edificio) y la estrella del evento fue precisamente ese mismo joven saxofonista. Su nombre: David Sánchez, hoy día un jazzista internacionalmente reconocido.


Otro local que tuvo el Taller fue el Museo del Jazz, que estuvo ubicado en los años 80 en la calle San José del Viejo San Juan. En esa misma calle había una librería, que incidentalmente se llamaba Cronopios (en donde yo trabajé una vez, cuando tenía otro nombre).


A fin de cuentas, ¿Quién es Don Pedro? Doña Ana me confirmó que es Pedro Albizu Campos, quien ella me aseguró que gustaba del jazz y que había frecuentado clubes de jazz durante sus años como estudiante de derecho en Harvard. Para Ana y Ramón, la música jazz, de origen africano pero universal a la vez, va a tono 
con los ideales independentistas y antiimperialistas de Don Pedro.

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WHO IS DON PEDRO?

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero

To Louise Maher-Johnson

Back in the 1980's I used to walk often through Esteban González street in the neighborhood of Santa Rita, very near the University of Puerto Rico campus. Inevitably, that meant passing by the Taller de Jazz Don Pedro (Don Pedro Jazz Workshop). Located in a basement in a building near the Burger King at the end of the street, in front of the Guatíbiri art gallery, the Taller emitted phenomenal sounds into the street, a hi-hat doing swing, a saxophonist inventing a new tonal vocabulary, and other equally fascinating fragments of music. Before the decade ended a hurricane flooded the basement and the locale was closed, but the Taller as an institution has lived on. Now, what is the Taller and just who is Don Pedro? The answers to those questions would have to wait until the 21st century.

Jazz is the music of the uncomprehended. Lovers of this musical genre live in a world of endless fascination, moving from one exciting sonic discovery to the next, often finding themselves in a gray, jaded world which does not share their enthusiasm. These unrepentant audiophiles collect records and interesting facts about this music and its performers with the same passion that sports fans collect and memorize statistics of their favorite teams and players.

After discovering jazz, other popular music genres do not sound quite the same anymore. They begin to seem stale and flavorless by comparison. By overthrowing the tyranny of the written score, jazz musicians create personal topographies with their instruments, topographies that are as unique and unrepeatable as an individual fingerprint. Without the element of improvisation, which is what makes jazz unique, there is no topography to speak of, for without it the music is as flat as the paper it is transcribed on.

Almost two decades passed by without learning exactly what the Taller de Jazz was, until one evening, by pure chance, I learned the answer in El Boricua, a refuge for insomniac intellectuals barely three blocks away from the Taller's old basement locale. El Boricua, where I have been a faithful patron since the late 1990's, is precisely the right place for this type of unpredictable, unexpected and non-linear social interaction, like the one that took place that evening.

I was there talking to a friend about my brother Milton's work as a sound engineer for musical heavyweights like Cuba's Paquito D'Rivera, Colombia's Marta Gómez, Brazil's Rossa Pasos and Badi Assad, Argentina's Carlos Franzetti, and American greats like Ron Carter, Mike Stern, Lenny White, The Persuasions, David Johansen, Larry Coryell and John Abercrombie. It was my mention of the names of Coryell and Abercrombie that made a man within listening distance invite himself into our conversation and pour out to us his love and sheer enthusiasm for jazz. He introduced himself as Ramón Soto-Vélez, director of the Taller de Jazz Don Pedro.

"Enthusiasm" is the word that best describes Ramón. After decades of fomenting, celebrating and promoting jazz music, he keeps intact the original fascination and joy he felt when he first heard it. So deeply ingrained is this music in his persona that I find it impossible to imagine what path his life would have taken if he had never discovered it. And it's the same with all jazz lovers and performers. Were it not for jazz, this world definitely would be a less interesting and joyful place. It's just another cultural debt we owe to Africa. I quote Uruguay's great writer and social critic Eduardo Galeano:

The rhythms of African origin are saving the world from death by sadness or yawn. What would it be of us without the music that came from Africa and generated new magics in Brazil, the United States, and the coasts of the Caribbean Sea?

The Taller was born as an initiative not of Ramón but of his mother, Ana Vélez. There is hardly anyone in Puerto Rico who knows more about jazz than Doña Ana, author of the two-volume book En Torno Al Jazz. Her first encounter with this music was purely casual. In the mid 1960's she found some jazz LP's in a clearance sale at a drug store, selling for 69 cents each, and bought several. As she listened to them her long romance with jazz began. This romance spread like contagion to her late husband Samuel, and their children Ramón and Ivonne (who is nowadays one of Puerto Rico's top filmmakers), and continues to run in the family to this day.

Doña Ana undertook a profound study of jazz music from a sociological perspective, a scholarly effort of epic proportions which spanned years and took her all the way to New York City's Arturo Schomburg library and culminated with the publication of En Torno Al Jazz.

I visited her in her house in the La Cumbre suburb of Río Piedras. Ramón was there that evening, and so was his friend Ricky Encarnación, former Menudo bassist nowadays playing with his jazz band Heaven Report. They were listening to records from the vast collection of LP`s that began with that small cache of records that sold for 69 cents each three decades earlier.

So, what are you guys listening to?”, I asked. “It's the Phil Woods Quintet”, said Ramón. All popular music lovers of my generation have heard Woods. He played the sax solo in Billy Joel's unforgettable 1977 ballad “Just The Way You Are”. Later on we listen to music by a trumpeter, which Ramón tells me has been constantly walking in and out of psychiatric institutions. The jazz anecdotarium is replete with stories like these, of talented musicians that have made the most awesome music under the most adverse and overwhelming personal circumstances.

Jazz is Africa's classical music, created by the descendants of slaves”, affirms Doña Ana at the start of the interview. Upon hearing her say that, I cannot help but think about all those local pseudo-intellectuals who claim in their idiocy that jazz is música de blanquitos (whitey music). “The jazzista, unlike performers of other musical genres, can depart from the written score, and upon doing it produces the most exciting elements of this musical genre”.

While we talk I notice on the wall in front of me a huge black and white framed photo of a man playing three wind instruments at once. It's none other than Rahsaan Roland Kirk, legendary jazzista, blind almost from birth, who indeed could play three saxophones at once. He kept on carrying out this musical feat, even after a stroke paralyzed one side of his body, until his death at the age of 42. It turns out that Kirk referred to jazz as “black classical music”, and much of his music had no discernible European influence at all.

While jazz arrived in Puerto Rico from the United States, it is no less true that Puerto Ricans have made significant contributions to the genre. Doña Ana mentions various Boricuas that left their imprint in the history of jazz, like percussionists Manuel Tió and Ray Barreto, the late great pianist Hilton Ruiz, bassist Eddie Gómez, flutist Dave Valentín, the immortal Tito Puente, Noro Morales- whose niece Alicia Torres was my neighbor and music teacher and who has been to me like a second mother since the seventies- and Ram Ramírez, an organ player from the city of Mayagüez who in 1941 co-wrote “Lover Man” for Billie Holiday, a song that has since been performed also by Barbara Streisand, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Norah Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Stan Getz, and many more.

But, she tells me, one of the most important and yet underrated Puerto Ricans in jazz was trombonist Juan Tizol, from the town of Vega Baja, who wrote some of Duke Ellington's most memorable tunes, like “Caravan", “Perdido”, “Pyramid” and “Moonlight Siesta”.

Ramón started to organize and promote jazz concerts, which led to his mother hosting in her house in La Cumbre jazz giants like Dexter Gordon, Frank Foster, George Benson and the great Miles Davis, among others. “What impressed me the most about them all was their thoughtful demeanor, their desire to please and to make people feel good”, she tells me. “I could then see how unjust society is towards them, because they are always associated in the public mind with vice and degeneration.”

The Taller de Jazz Don Pedro was born as an outgrowth of these concerts. It brought to Puerto Rico, apart from the already mentioned artists who came over to Doña Ana's house, bassist Buster Williams, drummer Billy Higgins, singer Betty Carter, Tito Puente, the Heath brothers, sax virtuoso Gato Barbieri- of “Last Tango in Paris” fame-, and many more. The artists that work with the Taller make a commitment to give educational clinics for young music students, which have taken place not only in San Juan but also in San Germán, Ponce and Lares.

The Taller produced several radio shows hosted by Ramón. The last one, which I listened to regularly in the nineties, was En Tiempo de Jazz, on Ponce's catholic WEUC- a fine station until Catholic University president Beto Morales and the Opus Dei destroyed it in 1999, but that's another story. Ramón would refer to great musicians as cronopios, which sometimes provoked calls from listeners who would pretend to correct him, telling him that it was nonsense, an incorrect use of the word invented by Argentina's dean of writers, Julio Cortázar. Ramón explained to me that he uses the word cronopio as a Spanish language translation of the term “eulypions”, mythical creatures endowed with supernatural musical powers invented by Roland Kirk.

And then there was the Taller's locale in Santa Rita. It was a record store, a rehearsal space for musicians and students, and a meeting place for all lovers of jazz. In the 1980's it was visited by a woman with her 14 year-old son. She told Ramón that the kid was a sax player and that he wanted to learn jazz. He was welcomed and so began his amazing musical journey. As a matter of fact, the first Taller de Jazz Don Pedro concert I ever went to was in the mid 1980's in the Colegio de Abogados (Puerto Rico Bar Association) building in Santurce, it was also the very first time I ever set foot on that place- of which I have since become a regular visitor. The star of that night's event was precisely that sax-playing kid. His name: David Sánchez, who years later went on to become an internationally acclaimed jazzista, playing with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra, Miriam Makeba, Hilton Ruiz, Paquito D'Rivera, Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Haden, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and McCoy Tyner, among many others.

The Taller also had El Museo del Jazz (The Jazz Museum), which in the 1980's was located in San José street in Old San Juan. In that very same street was a book store that was called Cronopios, owned by a cranky, fastidious gringo that was loved by some and hated by others. Now, the book store's name had nothing to do with Ramon's usage of the word, it wasn't called that in the eighties, and it wasn't called that in 1990 when I worked there under the tender mercies of that crazy Americano. Until the mid-nineties it went by the dull and unimaginative name of The Book Store.

So, who is or was Don Pedro? I cannot finish the interview without asking her. That question had been gnawing at me since the twentieth century. In answering, Doña Ana confirmed to me something I had heard years ago but did not believe at first, that Don Pedro is indeed Pedro Albizu-Campos, leading figure of the 20th century Puerto Rico independence movement. Doña Ana tells me, enjoyed jazz during his days as a Harvard law student. Don Pedro spent the latter half of his life enduring persecution and incarceration by the US government. With every fiber of his patriotic being, he fought against the intrusion of American Anglo-Saxon culture into our Latin American and Caribbean identity. But if there was one facet of American society and culture that he liked, it was jazz.

I head home and the first thing I do is dust off my vinyl record collection and pull out the Pat Metheny Group's double LP Travels, which I bought in my college days, when I was avidly expanding my musical menu, looking for options beyond rock 'n roll. After all these years, Travels remains one of my all-time favorite albums by one of my all-time favorite artists. I always begin listening to it on side two. The opening guitar chords of “Phase Dance”, the burst of applause from the audience upon recognizing the tune, the entire band breaking in, the smooth drumming by Danny Gottlieb- who would shortly after leave the group, the reliable and understated bass by Steve Rodby- back then the new guy in the band, Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos complementing the music with all kinds of magical sounds, and Lyle Mays on the keyboards- if I had only stuck to Alicia's piano lessons and not veered off into a writing career, I would have wanted to sound just like Mays.

The “Phase Dance” melody sinks into the listener's consciousness in an effortless way. Guitar solo first and piano solo after that. Every time these solos are performed they are different. This is true of all jazz tunes, but for some reason I have found this more striking in “Phase Dance”. Just go to Youtube and look for the tune. You'll find tens of live versions, Portugal '91, Berlin '78, Montreal '89, Slovenia 2010, pick any. Check them out, listen to as many different performances of this song as you wish, and you'll feel the magic conveyed in a different way every time.

And listening to this crackling LP I can still feel the same joy and wonder I felt the first time I listened to it- the same joy and wonder Doña Ana and Ramón felt the first time they heard jazz.

- November 22 2011


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Vermont Public Radio on the Institute for Social Ecology's 40 years

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE:
http://digital.vpr.net/post/incubator-social-change-institute-social-ecology-celebrates-40-years


The Incubator For Social Change; Institute For Social Ecology Celebrates 40 Years

Social ecology is an academic discipline that favors a democratic and communal approach to social, political and environmental problems.
Vermont has played a seminal role in the development of this somewhat obscure social science, thanks to the Institute for Social Ecology founded in Plainfield in 1974.
The institute started at Goddard College and operated out of Goddard's 90-acre Cate Farm, which had a brick farmhouse and a huge dairy barn that served as the institute’s lecture hall and fabrication workshop.
The institute’s far flung alumnae recently gathered in Marshfield for a reunion. Co-founder Dan Chodorkoff  served as its director when it began in 1974.
“People thought we were kind of crazy back then but the ideas have percolated into the larger society and I think that’s particularly true in Vermont: ideas around de-centralization and ecological forms of food production,” he said.

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domingo, agosto 31, 2014

My article on the economic crisis and Puerto Rico's retirees

Amid Crisis, Puerto Rico’s Retirees Face Uncertain Future

Reprint |    |  Print | 
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S. Its relationship with the United States has been denounced as colonial by both the independence and pro-statehood movements. Credit: Arturo de la Barrera/cc by 2.0

SAN JUAN, Aug 27 2014 (IPS) - A feeling of insecurity has overtaken broad sectors of Puerto Rican society as the economy worsens, public sector debt spirals out of control, and the island’s creditworthiness is put in doubt.
To tackle this economic crisis, the administration of governor Alejandro Garcia-Padilla has adopted a number of measures that have been extremely unpopular with civil society and labour unions.
"Capital is on the offensive all over the world. But in Puerto Rico it's worse because it is a colony of the United States." -- Retired telephone company worker Guillermo De La Paz
Retirees have been particularly affected. In 2013, the government passed Law 160, which drastically changed the retirement system of public employees. It puts an end to the previous retirement system, established by Law 447 of 1951, under which every public sector worker was entitled to a full pension after 30 years of service, regardless of age.
But Law 160 changes that. The size of monthly pension payments is no longer guaranteed, and employees must work more years in order to get full benefits.

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/amid-crisis-puerto-ricos-retirees-face-uncertain-future/


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Jornada Filberto Ojeda Ríos 2014

sábado, agosto 30, 2014

Jornada Pedro Albizu Campos

ESTA NOCHE


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Organizaciones agroecológicas del Caribe impulsan una agenda colectiva

http://ideac.org.do/featured/organizaciones-agroecologicas-del-caribe-impulsan-una-agenda-colectiva


La iniciativa promueve la articulación de personas y organizaciones que abogan por la agricultura agroecológica como un modelo de vida saludable y sostenible.
Danilo de Ecobatey, una finca de producción agroecológica en Rancho Arriba - San José de Ocoa
Danilo de Ecobatey, una finca de producción agroecológica en Rancho Arriba – San José de Ocoa

Plataformas y organizaciones agroecológicas de cinco países del Caribe concertaron un plan de acción para fomentar la agricultura campesina ecológica como base para la preservación de la biodiversidad y de la sostenibilidad de la vida.
Representantes de  República Dominicana, Haití, Guadalupe, Cuba y Puerto Rico abordaron ejes temáticos enfocados en la soberanía alimentaria, mercados locales, territorialidad, economía solidaria y feminista, protección de semillas, agricultura campesina y familiar en el marco del I Encuentro Regional de Agroecología del Caribe realizado en San Cristóbal, República Dominicana, del 11 al 15 de agosto de 2014.
Grupo de trabajo reunido con Xiomara Fortuna en el Rancho Ecológico El Campeche - San Cristóbal
Grupo de trabajo reunido con Xiomara Fortuna en el Rancho Ecológico El Campeche – San Cristóbal

Para leer el resto:
http://ideac.org.do/featured/organizaciones-agroecologicas-del-caribe-impulsan-una-agenda-colectiva

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jueves, agosto 28, 2014

Cultura Común

http://www.culturacomun.com/













Cultura Común es una publicación para dar a conocer información que no es privativamente de nadie. Es un proyecto que se construirá en comunidad, abierto a todos los que deseen participar enviando su colaboración en temas que estarán identificados como: Comunidad, Centros Urbanos (Ciudad), Creencias (Filosofía, Espiritualidad, Religión), Convocatorias (Congresos, Premios, Certámenes), Carnet (Biografías), Comentarios (Ensayos, Críticas, Reseñas), Comida (Nutrición, Agricultura, Restaurantes), Cartelera Cultural (Eventos), Citas (Frases y pensamientos).


Cultura Común es un centro de difusión, divulgación y debate sobre los asuntos que son comunes. Porque la diferencia, la diversidad, la divergencia y la disidencia nos es común. Desde este espacio se ofrecerá una nueva perspectiva sobre la manifestación cultural puertorriqueña, sus actores, sus protagonistas, y su público.


Seremos el punto de referencia del tema cultural en Puerto Rico y de nuestra relación con el mundo.

Cultura Común parece un lugar común que pretende unir una voz común para evitar una fosa común: que es la incomunicación y la desinformación.

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martes, agosto 26, 2014

Mi monografía sobre la CIA

http://rcsdigital.homestead.com/files/Vol_XXIX_no1-2/Ruiz.pdf



El amigo Javier Almeyda digitalizó y subió a internet un paper académico que me publicaron hace más de 20 años:

http://rcsdigital.homestead.com/files/Vol_XXIX_no1-2/Ruiz.pdf

En 1992 la Revista de Ciencias Sociales, entonces dirigida por Wenceslao Serra Deliz, me publicó un informe sobre la Agencia Central de Inteligencia de Estados Unidos (CIA). Este paper fue mi comienzo en el periodismo investigativo. Tiene algunas cosas que hoy yo cambiaría. Pero otras cosas que digo en el informe fueron eventualmente confirmadas más allá de toda duda, como la conexión entre los contras y el narcotráfico, y la Sorpresa de Octubre.

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lunes, agosto 25, 2014

NPR report: In Elite MFA Programs, The Challenge Of Writing While 'Other'

I've been thinking of going back to school to do a MFA degree but I remain undecided. This NPR report rekindled my interest.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/08/19/341363580/in-elite-
mfa-programs-the-challenge-of-writing-while-other

The Dey House, a 140-year-old mansion, is home to the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, one of the oldest MFA writing programs in the country. Director Lan Samantha Chang — who attended the workshop as a student — has made it a priority to attract students and faculty from diverse backgrounds to the program.
The Dey House, a 140-year-old mansion, is home to the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, one of the oldest MFA writing programs in the country. Director Lan Samantha Chang — who attended the workshop as a student — has made it a priority to attract students and faculty from diverse backgrounds to the program.


For many writers, a contract with one of the major publishing houses is the Holy Grail — and getting accepted to a prestigious Master of Fine Arts program may bring aspiring writers one step closer. But these elite writing programs have a history steeped in whiteness, and writers of color don't always feel welcome.

 Best-selling author Junot Diaz recently caused a stir when he blasted MFA programs for being "too white" in an article for The New Yorker. MFA writing programs can be expensive and hard to get into, says Diaz, but they can be well worth the time and effort.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz has been a high-profile critic of the monochrome look of many writers' workshops.i
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz has been a high-profile critic of the monochrome look of many writers' workshops.
Bebeto Matthews/AP

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Monitor de Energía y Ambiente de América Latina

Ahora con nuevo URL y nuevo formato

El Monitor es una iniciativa del periodista y educador ambiental puertorriqueño Carmelo Ruiz Marrero. Este blog es un observatorio de los conflictos relacionados a energía, ecología, extractivismo y recursos naturales en América Latina. 


http://monitorenergiayambiente.blogspot.com/





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sábado, agosto 23, 2014

¡A Bolivia!

Carmelo explains Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico explained, briefly

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero
August 23 2014

American progressives and friends from many countries have often asked me about my country, Puerto Rico, and what is going on here. I ask myself, how do I even start? So here is a brief and partial explanation of Puerto Rico, past and present:

Puerto Rican politics can be viewed as the unfinished business of the 1898 Spanish American War. That year, four centuries of Spanish colonialism came to an end in Cuba and Puerto Rico as military forces sent by US president William McKinley routed Spain’s troops in both islands in a rather easy victory, or as a US diplomat called it, “a splendid little war”. Cuba went on to become an independent country a few years later, but US troops remained in Puerto Rico, and over one century later the island nation still remains under US rule. Although subject to US laws, Puerto Rico has no representation in the US Congress and no presidential vote.

Since World War Two, the island has been used as a military bastion to project US power all over the Caribbean. According to journalist and historian Jesús Dávila:

“Starting in the 1940’s, Puerto Rico became a hive of military bases- which came to include Ramey Field air base, with atomic bombers of the Strategic Air Command, and the Roosevelt Roads naval base- as well as facilities for espionage and regional surveillance of radio and telephone communications. In 1954 the Puerto Rico Air National Guard provided the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with P-47 fighter planes to bombard Guatemala… In 1961 it served as escape route for the CIA agents that fled the Dominican Republic after the execution of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo and, also for the CIA, as practice center for the amphibian landing at Bay of Pigs, Cuba.

In the 1960’s, Ramey would be a base for U-2 spy planes, as well as for the transport of thousands of soldiers for the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic. In that war, from Roosevelt Roads, a Blue Eagle 1 was used for the first time for the radio transmission of propaganda- the Jenny program- which would be heavily used in Vietnam.”

During the cold war Puerto Rico was also used as a showcase of democracy and prosperity, paraded around to the rest of Latin America as proof of the benefits of US tutelage. The country’s apparent economic miracle was based on corporate tax breaks for foreign investors and social subsidies for the poor, and was presented as “the best of both worlds” as it allegedly combined local autonomy with the full benefits of US citizenship. This colonial model of dependent capitalism, dubbed “Operation Bootstrap”, was largely the brainchild of technocrat Teodoro Moscoso, a man who would later make his mark advising the US government on Latin America policy.

These twin military and economic roles became much more important with the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959. Cuba is a permanent trauma for US policymakers. It is fair to say that for the last 50+ years all of US policy towards Latin America has centered around isolating Cuba and preventing another Cuba from happening in the hemisphere. To this end, US president John F. Kennedy founded in 1961 the Alliance for Progress, an initiative to enhance US prestige in Latin America and to counter the appeal of the Cuban revolution. To highlight Puerto Rico’s importance in this grand design, Kennedy appointed Teodoro Moscoso to head the Alliance.

Operation Bootstrap eventually started to fall apart at the seams and sinking under the weight of its contradictions. Agriculture had been abandoned in favor of manufacturing, a sector that was never able to make up for the lost jobs in the farming sector. Whereas for some Puerto Ricans the “economic miracle” meant the realization of the suburban dream (a house in the suburbs, a car and upward mobility), for others it meant complete destitution. Enormous shantytowns populated by former campesinos began to appear in the capital city of San Juan’s metro area, overwhelming the welfare state’s ability to keep up. The government explicitly encouraged poor Puerto Ricans to leave for the United States, and they started to fly out by the hundreds of thousands once the Isla Verde international airport was built in the 1950’s. It was the first airborne mass migration in history. Cities like New York, Hartford and Chicago received a massive and sudden influx of poor Puerto Rican migrants, causing considerable social tension in already racially polarized urban communities. Today there are as many Puerto Ricans living in exile as in the island.

Massive food imports from the US flooded the island, driving many local agricultural producers to bankruptcy. Small locally owned grocery stores were almost entirely replaced by giant US retail chains, trains and streetcars were torn up to make way for cars, the countryside was blanketed with sprawling suburbia and shopping malls. Nowadays 85% of all food consumed in Puerto Rico is imported. The remaining farmers struggle to survive in the face of cutthroat competition from US agribusiness and a disloyal and neglectful local government that seems to be obeying an unwritten mandate to destroy Puerto Rican agriculture.

But there always was resistance. In the first half of the 20th century, the Puerto Rico Nationalist Party led the opposition to the US occupation and the call for independence. The government, then headed by American governors appointed by the president of the United States, responded with repression, culminating in the Rio Piedras and Ponce massacres, in 1935 and 1937 respectively. In the latter incident, described by the American Civil Liberties Union as “cold-blooded murder”, a peaceful Nationalist march was fired upon by the police, resulting in 19 deaths and some 100 injuries. The Nationalists upped the ante and turned to armed struggle, assassinating US counterinsurgency specialist Francis Riggs, and attempting to shoot governor Blanton Winship, who had ordered the Ponce massacre.

Attempts to exterminate the independence movement, including the legal and electoral Independence Party (PIP), continued even as Puerto Rico moved towards formal constitutional democracy in the 1940’s and 50’s. The new democracy and constitutionally protected citizen rights were barely more than a formality, since repressive legislation, modeled on the anti-Communist Smith Act of the United States, made it for all practical purposes illegal to engage in any pro-independence advocacy. Even as we Puerto Ricans elected our governor for the first time and voted to approve a constitution, Nationalist leaders were incarcerated merely for their public speaking, as proven by the publicly available transcripts of their court trials.

Cornered, vastly outgunned and confronted with their imminent extermination and erasure from history, the Nationalists preferred to go down in a hail of bullets rather than be collaborators or passive spectators of this democratic farce. In October 1950 there was a nationwide independentista uprising which resulted in gunfights all over the island. The revolt was put down with the help of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, whose planes bombed and strafed the town of Jayuya, where the Nationalist resistance was particularly strong and a republic had been declared. It was followed by a major crackdown in which hundreds of independentistas were incarcerated, some would remain in prison for two decades. Simultaneously with the uprising, a team of two Nationalists attempted to shoot US president Harry Truman in Washington. After suppressing the uprising, the colonial authorities were pretty confident that they had neutralized the Nationalist threat, but in March 1954 four Nationalists attacked the US Congress, wounding several congressmen. The response from the FBI and local colonial authorities was harsh and vindictive. Even today, the FBI holds a special grudge against independentistas and against Puerto Ricans in general, as evidenced by declassified documents.

And still the resistance continued, even in the middle of Operation Bootstrap’s much celebrated “economic miracle”. In the 1960’s and 70’s, a youthful new independence movement, aligned with the international left and inspired by the Cuban revolution and third world anti-imperialist and anti-colonial movements, made its rowdy appearance in the political scene. The “nueva lucha independentista” explored new and innovative forms of protest- like pickets and sit-ins-, engaged in sporadic armed struggle (by clandestine groups such as MIRA, CAL, FALN and the Macheteros), set a new standard in independent investigative journalism through alternative media- particularly the Claridad weekly newspaper and the Pensamiento Crítico political journal-, joined forces with organized labor and with the fledgling modern environmental movement, which was then engaged in a seemingly hopeless struggle to prevent strip mining in the island’s mountainous interior, and also made common cause with human rights, feminist and peace movements.

And again there was a repressive response from the authorities, a response which included police brutality, mob violence, death squad terror, arson, bombings of homes and businesses of outspoken independentistas, and even assassination. Some political murders from the 1970’s still remain unsolved. FBI documents declassified in that decade showed that the Puerto Rican independentista movement was under massive and thorough government surveillance, mostly through widespread use of paid informers. The documents also evidenced that the US government had spent considerable effort trying to covertly disrupt and divide the movement through the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program. In 1971 the US Congress ordered COINTELPRO shut down due to its flagrant infringement of First Amendment rights. In 2005 Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda, who had evaded capture for 15 years, was shot dead by the FBI in his home. The autopsy determined that he had died from lack of medical attention. The image of flak-vested FBI agents gloating over Ojeda as he gasped his last breath burns in the heart and consciousness of every patriotic Puerto Rican.

At least since the second half of the 20th century, Puerto Rico has been used by the US for a variety of shady medical, biological, chemical, atomic and military experiments:
* The earliest trials of contraceptive pills were carried out in the 1950’s on Puerto Rican women without their fully informed consent. (1)
* The US Department of Defense tested toxic defoliants for use in the Vietnam War, including agent orange, on several locations in the island. (2)
* The Atomic Energy Commission tested the effects of gamma radiation in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque tropical rainforest in a series of experiments supervised by famed ecologist Howard T. Odum. (3)
* During World War Two, most of the inhabitants of the island town of Vieques were forcibly evicted from their homes by the US Navy in order to set up a firing range for training maneuvers, which included amphibian landing practice and bombardment from sea and air. These war games went on for some sixty years, though not without protest and resistance (4), as we’ll see.
* In the 1980’s, Puerto Rico’s farmlands hosted some of the earliest field experimentation with genetically modified (GM) crops. Nowadays the island has more GM crop field tests per square mile than any US state, with the possible exception of Hawaii (5). These genetic experiments have included GM cassava developed with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (6)

And still, the resistance continues. In this highly urbanized and densely populated Caribbean nation with practically no food security, where agriculture, environmental protection, peace and demilitarization seem like lost causes, there are social movements for change- and sometimes they even score some victories. In 2003 the Navy ended its target practice in Vieques after a massive and unprecedented four year-long civil disobedience campaign that involved church groups, the independence, environmental and peace movements, and top figures from all political parties.

The government’s drive to commence strip mining in the Central Mountain Range (Cordillera Central) was ultimately stopped dead in its tracks by a decades-long grassroots environmental education campaign in which the independence movement played a decisive role. The leading organization in the campaign, Casa Pueblo, went on to make major contributions to the Vieques anti-Navy campaign, supplying the protesters who were camping inside the firing range with solar panels, and carrying out the first peer reviewed in situ scientific studies of military toxic pollution in the island. For its efforts in promoting peace, sustainable development and participatory scientific research, the organization won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002.

Another example of stubborn resistance is the Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Eco-Orgánica, a group of organic farmers and concerned citizens that since its founding in 1989 has been promoting food sovereignty and ecological agriculture through alternative marketing channels for locally grown organic produce, educational activities, work brigades, mutual help, international delegations, and seed exchanges. Boricuá belongs to the Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC), an international coalition that brings together dozens of organizations of peasants, farm workers, and black and indigenous communities of 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. And the CLOC is in turn part of La Via Campesina, a global federation of small farmers’ organizations which spearheads the worldwide movement for food sovereignty.

Boricuá is also a key part of the growing national movement against GM crops. The national campaign against GM is led by the Nada Santo Sobre Monsanto coalition, which in 2013 carried out a number of educational activities, gave press interviews, and organized protests, including two major rallies. NSSM, together with Boricuá and other organizations such as the National Environmental Law Association (ANDA), the Agricultural Rescue Front (FRA) and the PIP party, have succeeded in getting the local press and civil society to take a serious critical look at the global biotechnology revolution and Puerto Rico’s place in it.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Nowadays Puerto Rico faces a very uncertain future, as successive governments have been shredding the already badly tattered social safety net of the Operation Bootstrap days, by introducing new taxes, privatizing state functions, laying off tens of thousands of public sector workers and tampering with pension funds (7). Prospects for a general strike or uprising are remote at best, given that much of the labor leadership has responded to the situation by circling the wagons to protect their respective unions’ ever shrinking turf. To make matters worse, the corporate-controlled media have brainwashed much of the citizenry into apathy and hostility toward labor unions, workers, the public sector, social spending, and poor people in general.

I hope this account of Puerto Rico’s last 116 years of history has been helpful. Yes, it is incomplete and partial. It is biased, of course it is. So sue me.


Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, investigative journalist and environmental educator. His Twitter ID is @carmeloruiz. In the interest of full disclosure: he is active in many of the social and environmental movements and struggles that he writes about in this article.


3) Howard T. Odum with Robert F. Pigeon (eds), A Tropical Rain Forest; a Study of Irradiation and Ecology at El Verde. Puerto Rico, United States Atomic Energy Commission, National Technical information service.
4) Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero. “Puerto Ricans Battle US Navy in Vieques” Synthesis/Regeneration, Summer 2001. http://www.greens.org/s-r/25/25-09.html
5) Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero. “More GMO’s in Puerto Rico: Why we should worry” Upside Down World, September 20 2011. http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/3226-more-gm-crops-in-puerto-rico-why-we-should-worry
6) Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero “Puerto Rico and Bill Gates’ Yucca” May 14 2010. http://bioseguridad.blogspot.com/2010/05/please-feel-free-to-post-and-distribute_03.html

      7) Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero “Is Puerto Rico Going the Way of Greece and Detroit?” Inter Press Service, April 15 2014. http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/puerto-rico-going-way-greece-detroit/

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