Last Monday, the Democratic National Committee approved Puerto Rico’s plan to change from a June 7 caucus to a June 1 primary. After North Carolina and Indiana vote on May 6, Puerto Rico’s 55 delegates will be the largest prize left. News accounts and early analysis claim that Hillary Clinton is favored in Puerto Rico even though there has been no polling on the island so far. Clinton certainly does better in primary states than in caucus states, so the change to a primary will help her. More importantly, the press notes how strongly Clinton has run among Latinos in other contests and assumes the same will hold in Puerto Rico. This ignores one big fact: Puerto Ricans are not like other Latinos. For starters, Puerto Ricans are citizens so battling immigration laws has not been a constant challenge. Indeed, the back-and-forth between the island and the states gave the great migration from Puerto Rico in the 1950s a different flavor from other immigrant experiences. They were coming to a country for which their brothers and cousins had already fought in wars. Unlike earlier waves of immigrants, Puerto Ricans arrived at the same time as affordable air travel, so "coming to America" was not as final an event as it had been for earlier arrivals. Once here, Puerto Ricans certainly began to encounter the same kind of hostility that earlier immigrants had faced, and which still greets Mexican and Central American immigrants. Puerto Rican identity became centered on their language and when the concept "people of color" emerged in the 1970s, they did not know what to make of it. Unlike most Mexicans and Central Americans whose ancestry mixed Hispanic and native Indian cultures, in Puerto Rico, the mix was black and Hispanics. Only a small minority of Puerto Ricans are not, like Barack Obama, mixed race. In fact, Puerto Rico is the post-racial society Obama represents. It is not difficult to imagine how he could take parts of his speech in Philadelphia about race, add some history and demography about Puerto Rico, and give a speech in San Juan that rightly acknowledges that on this great issue of bridging America’s racial divide, Puerto Ricans have a lot to teach America. Such a speech would not only be attractive to Puerto Ricans, it would be true. The other reason to think Clinton has a tougher challenge in Puerto Rico than is assumed by the press is that none of the political machines on the island are in her corner. As mentioned at the time, Clinton supporter Pedro Rosello lost the gubernatorial primary for the Statehood Party in early March to Luis Fortuna, who backs John McCain. The Commonwealth Party is led by incumbent governor Anibal Acevedo-Vila, and he backs Obama. So, the two political organizations on the island will be using the June 1 primary as a test of their field organization, and neither of them is signed on with Clinton. As the Senator from New York, Clinton has many connections with the Puerto Rican population centered in her state, and some of those may prove helpful. She did become involved in the negotiations over the U.S. Navy’s departure from Vieques, a small island off the Puerto Rican coast which the Navy used as a proving ground. While in the White House, her husband did very little on the issue, and it was George W. Bush who got the Navy to leave. So, assuming Clinton is favored is a stretch. If the race is still going in June, Puerto Rico could be a caballo-race. Michael Sean Winters

Comments

Anonymous | 4/12/2011 - 9:04am
Spanish-speaking channels, there are very few blacks on the television, and that needs to be stopped. Black Latinos need to be noticed more instead of watching them playing baseballs.






Anonymous | 6/1/2008 - 5:09pm
I would like to know did Afro-Puerto Ricans vote? Since Senator Hillary Clinton won the Puerto Rico Primary, the voters were college graduates had a higher income, and most of them were men. Did Black Puerto Rican's votes count? I'm just curious about that. If it didn't, that would be unfair and very racist. I'm not sure what's going on with Blacks in Puerto Rico, but I know for a fact that Puerto Rico have a very rich African culture. I know some Black Hispanics have had hard times to find their identiy because of their the color of their skin. Some people truly believe that there were no blacks in Spanish-speaking countries. For example, Sammy Sosa identified himself as Hispanic instead of him saying that he is Black. Well, his ancestor were brought from Africa as slaves to the Dominican Republic. It is believed that the slave's master brainwashed them that they are not black. Celia Cruz was from Cuba and she was always proud of her African roots. Racism is still exist in Spanish-speaking countries. When I'm watching the Spanish-speaking channels, there are very few blacks on the television, and that needs to be stopped. Black Latinos need to be noticed more instead of watching them playing baseballs.
Anonymous | 4/5/2008 - 3:29pm
First, Both american parties (Democrat and Republican) are a fiction in Puerto Rico since Puerto Rico is not integrated to the US as a state and does not vote in US general elections; Puerto Rico has their own political parties and it's governor is like a head of state of a nation. Both american parties (Dem. and Rep.)are no more than an exclusive club for some of the most 'pro integration' members of the 2 major parties(in the statehood version at the PNP and in the commonwealth version at the PPD). The rest of the population (99.9%) do not care about these colonial primaries and their 'primaries'. Puerto Ricans are more interested in who is going to win the elections next november, the Pro statehood/ integration party called Partido Nuevo Progresista or the Pro sovereignty and free association option with nationalist and patriotic (puerto rican) slogans called Partido Popular. The Partido Independentista (Pro independence) also participates but it is losing voters to the Partido Popular thanks to the Pro Puerto Rican stance of the present governor Anibal Acevedo Vila and of former governor Sila Calderon in recent years. About race, Puerto Rico is no different than the rest of the spanish speaking caribbean and Latin America, Puerto Rico is an important part of this history. Cuba and Puerto Rico have 400 years of common history for example, even their national flags have the same design. Puerto Rico, like : Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Cuba, Dominican Republic and some areas of the caribbean coast of Central America have 3 historic races: European (Spaniard), Indian (Taino indians in the case of Puerto Rico)and African slaves. Hispanic is not a race, it is a word used only in the US census.
Anonymous | 3/27/2008 - 11:46am
I totally agree with this article. I think Obama would have the better chance down there because if the Clinton's cared about Puerto Rico, they would of done something back when Bill was in office. Also it is a known fact that the Puerto Ricans on the island vote and react different then Puerto Ricans on the mainland. (Independence for example).
Anonymous | 3/31/2008 - 9:47pm
I'm boricua(ponce),just show reverend wright hate speech once,everybody will be outrage.Parca--jo Obama.
Anonymous | 3/27/2008 - 11:48pm
If is true that Puerto Rico might be Mixed Mainly From White(Spaniard)and Black.....is not all the way equal.....and it is some mixes with black and Indian or White and Indian also and got mixed with predominantely Spoaniard people more than black or Indian....Now the Indians in Puerto Rico were Indians with Very different physical appearance than in Central America... Now ,,if in the 50's people was beating a 'blanquito'...that was then.....because a blanquito this days,throw down just as good,,,there is barely any racial hangups....as we all see each others as 'Puerto Ricans'.... Now......One thruth thing is ....Puerto Ricans in the island,dont hink quite the same as in the mainland,even if they have been coming back and forth.....Puerto Riucans in the island,need assurance and guarantee for self determination right from the president or Congress....Lot of people have talked about there is been 3 or 4 Referendums.....but what people dont say is that those referendums were either boycotted,not backed by the congress..determinations were not as clear or as wanted by some people and on and on...Puerto Rico has a Problem on the economy,health insurance,Affordable housing,infrastructure and extend the train.... Go Hillary...at least shes dedicating some time to speak about solutions for problems on Puerto Rico Obama knew just how to send a 'letter' to one of the 'super delegates'..Governor Vila....isnt he smart...but that shows his fakeness.... Now Vila is from the Popular Democratic Party in the island party platform,but in the 'federal' platform,he is Democrat....the other one Fortu~no,he is from the Progresive New Party and Republican Party in the US party platform....now...in the Popular or Progresive party are members of the Democrat or Republican Party in either or so theres a balance..Go Hillary
Anonymous | 3/27/2008 - 8:16pm
Obama supporter, Governor Vilá, was indicted today for campaign finance violations and may not even be governor on June 3 to help him. None of the political machines are in Clinton's corner? Clinton has more supporters in both the NPP and the PDP. With Vila out of the way, it's a stretch to assume Obama is still competitive. And while you focus on Democrat v. Republican, what about statehood and commonwealth? IIRC, Obama has not publicly declared his support for the Senate version of HR 900. He cares enough about PR to pick up $200k in a 2-hour visit but not about PR Democracy?
Anonymous | 3/27/2008 - 7:24pm
I have to disagree with the comment by okcrow that all puerto ricans are mixed. The last census noted that 80% are white with the remainder for the other races including mixed. I would say that people of puerto rican descendance in the US are primarily mixed. I would also note that US puerto ricans vote much differently than island puerto ricans. I think it'll be a very close race with a slight advantage for Hillary, as the Clintons have good relations with the island's dem leaders and the NY ties.
Anonymous | 3/27/2008 - 1:50pm
I grew up in Puerto Rico in the 50s & 60s. Puerto Ricans and very different from Mexican-Americans and other Latinos whose primary parentage is American Indian. Negrita means little black girl and is a term of endearment in Puerto Rico. Blanquito means little white guy and is definitely not a term of endearment. These guys get beat up in wrong neighborhoods. There was a poem/song/rhyme that was and remains popular: "y tu abuela, donde esta?" which is about race and the fact that almost all Borinquenos are mixed. Obana should win handily in Puerto Rico!