The Beach Awaits

Many Democrats are worried that if Hillary Clinton wins both Ohio and Texas tonight, the race for the nomination could go on all the way until the final caucuses in Puerto Rico on June 7 where the last of the 67 pledged delegates will be awarded. Well, I just got back from a week in Puerto Rico, and there would be worse prospects than a couple of weeks on the beaches of that island for the candidates, their staff and the press corps. The weather is usually mid-80s with cool trade winds and the people are as warm as the weather. The island boasts the only rain forest in the National Park Service. Old San Juan is a UNESCO cultural site, with narrow cobbled streets, second story wrought iron balconies, and the second oldest church in the western hemisphere, begun in 1523, 97 years before the Pilgrims hit Plymouth Rock. Should Puerto Rico have the last word, Obama would have an advantage. The island’s population is overwhelmingly mixed-race and so the racial-historical dynamic of the Obama candidacy confirms their own history. The population is young: the median age is 32.1 compared to 35.3 for the United States as a whole, according to the 2000 census. 67.4 percent of the population is under the age of 45. Puerto Rico’s governor, Anibal Acevedo-Vila, has endorsed Obama. A spokesman for the governor told me "while global warming is a threat to us all, Puerto Rico is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, which would damage our tourism industry along with all other sectors of our economy." In announcing his endorsement, the governor also noted Obama’s commitment to cleaning up the environmental damage caused by the U.S. Navy in Vieques, where a once pristine ecosystem was turned into a testing ground for munitions. The island was engulfed by protests in 1999, often led by San Juan’s Archbishop Roberto Gonzales, OFM, after a bomb went astray and killed a civilian guard, leading to the Navy’s eventual departure. Paying attention to Puerto Rico will not only pay off for Obama in June. While it is true that Puerto Ricans who vote on the island do not get to vote for President in November, two of the fastest growing Puerto Rican communities in the States are found in two of the most important swing states: Florida’s I-4 corridor and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both groups were critical to Gore’s performance in 2000, when Bush was making inroads among other Latinos. After all the twists and turns of this primary season, perhaps a little time on the beach is exactly what the Democratic Party needs. Michael Sean Winters
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11 years ago
Puerto Rico has a sad colonial relationship with the US. Obama and Clinton need to resolve Puerto Rico's political status once and for all: Independence or Annexation as a US state (the new Quebec?...)

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