Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican AFT Union President Denounces School Privatization

Aida Díaz, president of the Teachers Association of Puerto Rico (AFT) denounced the privatization of many of the island’s public schools, calling for those affected by the closures to “create a human shield to protect our education” on April 25 at the Capitol.

Speaking of hard-fought battles to advance education she said, “… never have we witnessed an effort to dismantle our educations system as Governor Rossello and Secretary Keleher intend to do.” They first closed 167 schools, then awarded operators with 100 charter schools. Now they want to close another 283 schools, for a total of 450 schools (35% of all schools) closed in less than one year. This would result in more than 8,000 displaced teachers and affect thousands of families and students.

US Postal Service Aids Puerto Ricans

In the weeks following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico, the most reliable system of communication was the US Postal Service.

Within three weeks, 99 out of 128 post offices were delivering mail, some of them operating out of make-shift tents. Aside from delivering mail to 3.4 million people, they were providing the valuable service of informing the Federal Emergency Management Agency about sick and elderly residents in remote areas that needed medical attention.

Orchestra Steps Up to Heal the Island

A little more than three weeks after damage from Hurricane Maria that left 10% to 15% of Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra members homeless, the orchestra began a series of free concerts to help heal the island’s people. The orchestra’s musicians are members of Local 555 (San Juan, PR).

“Our idea is to play for those who need more,” said Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra Music Director Miximiano Valdés in a WBUR radio interview. “There are many people left with nothing here. The themes of the concerts, which include both classical and traditional Puerto Rican music, will be loss, survival, and rebuilding.”

Local 555 President Miguel Rivera, a trumpet player, also took part in the radio interview. He said the needs of the people go beyond food and water. “The people of Puerto Rico need food for the soul, I think, and music for me, is the best art because it goes right to your heart,” he said.

The first concert was performed October 13 in San Juan. The goal is to bring music to the hearts of many of those affected by the hurricane. The musicians plan to perform throughout November, not only in the capital city, but also in smaller interior cities.

“I think it is very important that we start performing as an orchestra and reaching out to people because we need to feel hope and I thin music helps us feel hope,” said piccolo player Ana María Hernández Candelas. “Music is the universal language, and it can definitely heal people.”

Truckers Ready to Aid Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico

Major labor unions in the US are organizing truck drivers to help with Puerto Rico relief efforts following Hurricane Maria. The Teamsters union and other AFL-CIO unions are working to recruit truckers to travel to Puerto Rico to help distribute a stockpile of relief supplies sitting at the Port of San Juan. The piling up of relief supplies is caused by a lack of Puerto Rican truck drivers, as only 20% have returned to work following the hurricane. The problem is exacerbated by the shortage of diesel fuel and blocked roadways due to hurricane debris and damage.