Cycles and Geometry

Verve Opinion

Cycles and Geometry

by Phillip Wong

Originally published 9/30/93

       In a time of powerful political and economic debate, we pulled up some of the arguments written in the 1990s concerning income inequality, a volatile and deregulated financial industry, and movement of jobs throughout American Society.    At Verve Fashion Magazine, an integral part of our purpose, is our focus on how America because of it’s wealth, and political, and economic culture, creates a standard which influences the rest of the world, either negatively or positively. Fashion tastes are defined in American music, film, fashion and beauty, but so are our political and economic tastes.

   The following essay was written in September of 1993.

The idea of a cyclical economy only works if adjustments, sometimes minor and sometimes major, are made during the cycle. All objects, whether physical or spiritual or intellectual can only spin in a cycle if it has either internal or external constraints to maintain the position of a cycle. For instance, the constraint of the cycle with which the earth makes around the sun, is gravity.

 

Our economy is not cyclical, unless something besides wishful thinking is applied to constraining it. Without direction or control, too many factors that effect the economy encourage the economy in a direction of geometric progression, rather than a gradually climbing cycle of economic growth.

If free market economists embrace the idea that an economy that is untethered and absolutely free will find its own waterline, they must also realize that the final controls will occur when too many have suffered. If a forest fire is left to burn, it will stop burning … after it has consumed everything it can consume.

 

Among   the factors that affect the economy are unemployment, which is not cyclical, but geometric. This is not a nation of migrant workers moving from season to season and from farm to farm in an eternal cycle. When the defense industry, the airline industry, to financial industry lay people off, these people are not going to find other defense industry jobs, or other airline industry jobs, or other financial industry jobs. There are no more jobs in these fields and unless they are retrained to work in another growth industry, they cannot work. The new industries will take young, cheap, malleable, college graduates to open up new territories, not experienced   technicians.

 

 

AIDs is not cyclical, but geometric. As more and more people contract HIV, it will put a greater and greater strain on the medical and health care industries. Yet the health care industries are already bloated with financial burdens. Each of the competing health care companies that are sold on the stock exchanges are concerned not with allocation of monies for research and development, but with showing the highest profit margins so that they can attract more “investors.” And the cost of medical care is growing geometrically … not in growth cycles.

 

 

Financial institutions are absolutely reliant on one another. There isn’t a single bank in the nation that is not entwined with savings and loan institutions, pension funds, stock, bond and real estate holdings, insurance companies. Yet so much of the deregulation of the financial community has encouraged those institutions to seek the highest profitablity, rather than the greater sustained and stable growth. The pursuit of short – term gain, when unchecked, is not cyclical, but geometric. As the savings and loan associations have tumbled, they have put great strain upon other savings and loan associations, other banks, other real estate companies, other insurance companies, and on a government which has implicitly vowed to insure them. If banks or insurance companies begin to fail, they do noes, and on a government which has implicitly vowed to insure them. If banks or insurance companies begin to fail, they do not faˇˇ

il cyclically, but geometrically. One takes down the next and the next and the next.

 

 

Our budget deficit, left on its own, is not not cyclical, but geometric. Interest rates, just by their nature, are not cyclical, but geometric. The debts are either retired geometrically, or they increase geometrically.

 

 

Our moral attitudes, which have nothing to do with our private lives, but much to do with our tolerance, our caring and our respect for our fellow man, is not cyclical, but left unchecked, is geometric. Our civil rights, our religious rights, our individual rights, our rights of choice and not to chose, are all geometric. Intolerance grows geometrically, just as tolerance grows geometrically.

 

Violence, unchecked, is not cyclical, but geometric. It only ends when all are dead or gone.

 

 

 


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Puerto Rico - A territory in limbo

Verve Reality

Puerto Rico – A Territory In Limbo


Birth of a Nation: Colony, Territory, State

Verve Opinion

Birth of a Nation: The Colony, The Territory, The State

“Incapable of self-government”

 

by Phillip Wong

    “Porto Rico differs radically from any other people for whom we have legislated previously . . . they have no experience which would qualify them for the great work of government with all the bureaus and departments needed by the people of Porto Rico.

Said Republican Senator Joseph B. Foraker in a speech before the United States Senate in 1900.

Uprooted Tree_11b6e
Photo: Edgardo Santana
Art installation in Santurce_1222b
Photo: Edgardo Santana

In another speech before Congress in 1900, Senator William B. Bates (D-TN) who had served in the Confederate Army said:

 

“ What is to become the Philippines and Porto Rico? Are they to become states with representation here from those countries, from that heterogeneous mass of mongrels that make up their citizenship? That is objectionable to the people of this country, as it ought to be, and they will call a halt to it before it is done.           Jefferson was the greatest expansionist. But neither his example nor his precedents affords any justification for expansion over territory in distant seas, over peoples incapable of self-government, over religions hostile to Christianity, and over savages addicted to head-hunting and cannibalism, as some of these islanders are.”

   These views made in the United States Congress, at Puerto Rico’s inclusion into the United States sphere of influence were the backdrop of how Puerto Rico would be governed by the United States Congress for the next 117 years.

   These were not unique or shocking views as the 1800s passed into another century in America. But they create a perspective to how our views shaped a nation, a foreign policy, politics and an economy that echoes through our society today.

   They neither affirm, nor excuse, how we look at problems today, an economy today, or the environment and in context of tomorrow. But we can neither continue, nor embrace, nor adjust our actions today to maintain these views in the future. 

The easiest thing to change in our world, is our minds. The hardest thing to change in our world, is our minds. It is up to us.

A New World

  

             The New World was explored and discovered from 1400 through 1900 by European explorers seeking gold, glory and a foothold for a Christian god. Asia and Africa were already known by traders and crusaders for centuries, but the sea was a possible new path. Portugal, Spain France, the Netherlands and England were the sponsors of exploration, and their explorers claimed new lands for their sponsors.

 

 

                     Puerto Rico was considered to have been the land discovered by Columbus when he first landed in the New World. He claimed Puerto Rico for Spain in 1492 and for the next two centuries, Spain was a dominant nation in global exploration and development. When Columbus landed, the indigenous people of Puerto Rico were Taino, but they, like many native peoples, perished from European borne diseases, warfare and slavery. Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony from 1492 until 1898.

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Sugar cane production provided abundant jobs at untenable wages.

From Spain to the United States

 

          Following the end of the Spanish-American War, in the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Puerto Rico was transferred from a territory of Spain, to a territory of the United States.  Other Spanish territories involved in this transfer were Guam and Philippines. In the transfer, Puerto Ricans lost their Spanish citizenship but did not become American citizens.

 

              For the first 50 years, legislation created pertaining to Puerto Rico was written by the United States Congress and administered by appointed governors and officials to benefit American corporate interests. Following the creation of the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950, Puerto Rico was able to elect its own governor, legislative and judicial bodies, but all was subject to approval by the United States Congress. And American disapproval could negate any Puerto Rican decision.

 

            In act after act of legislation, throughout Puerto Rico’s history, it becomes apparent from the timing and wording, which industries, which corporations and which country, and for which purposes, Congressional legislation was meant to benefit.

Territory, Commonwealth, Colony, Independence, State

 

                 For 100 years, Puerto Rico has remained in American limbo, as the decision on whether to be granted (and to accept) statehood, independence, commonwealth status has been debated and voted on both by Puerto Ricans and the American Congress.

                   Puerto Rico came into American hands believing it would be granted independence from Spanish rule. Cuba was struggling for independence when America entered into war with Spain on their behalf. Spain granted Cuba independence at the time of ceding Puerto Rico , Philippines and Guam to the United States. Puerto Rico had just elected a parliament (a right which Spain had granted to both Cuba and Puerto Rico) that was meeting the day America declared war on Spain.

 

               The perception of the American Congress, and American businesses to Puerto Rico, is vastly different than the perception of Puerto Ricans to America (and there is always a difference between people on the street and governing bodies). Americans have viewed Puerto Rico in a transactional prism – how can our businesses and economy benefit from this island while paying some of the bills? Puerto Rico’s government is largely funded by U.S. Congressional grants. They work for the United States Congress, less so, for the people of Puerto Rico, and people in Puerto Rico view their government as inherently corrupt. But as we examine the political history and the economic consequences of this anomaly, the Puerto Rican government has in a large way, acted as a Chamber of Commerce, rather than an independent three bodies (executive, legislative and judicial), serving the people of Puerto Rico.

 

              The people of Puerto Rico have largely seen themselves as Americans, but different. They see themselves as having the same rights and responsibilities as people on American soil, but unless they ARE on American soil, they don’t have American rights or protections. It is a nonsensical existence in a modern world.

A Land of Sugar, A Land of Labor

 

           From 1900 through the 1930s, American political rule and economic development was aimed at creating an American agricultural sugar industry on Puerto Rico.

 

            The first appointed governor was Charles Herbert Allen who was installed in 1900 and governed for 18 months before leaving for New York. On arrival in New York, he joined the Morgan bank and then starting the American Sugar Refining Company in 1901. In those initial 18 months, he set the stage for Puerto Rican dependency on the United States that continues today.

 

               In 1899, a year after Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States from Spain, Hurricane San Ciriaco struck and destroyed the island’s coffee crop. Puerto Rican farmers received no relief funds, instead the Hollander Act was passed by Congress with Allen’s guidance, to create a land tax on farmers who had no means to pay the tax. U.S. banks provided the loans to cover the taxes with usury rates. When Puerto Ricans couldn’t pay the loans and interest rates, the Sugar Trust (American Sugar Refining Company – now known as Domino Sugar), purchased the land by paying the banks.

Legislation by the United States Congress

 

                The Foraker Act of 1900, passed by the United States Congress, allowed for the governorship, Executive Council and Supreme Court all to be appointed by the United States president. Puerto Ricans could elect a lower house. But the purpose was to prohibit Puerto Rico from negotiating trade agreements with any foreign country. It prohibited tariffs or import/export regulations. By 1930, 94% of trade was with the United States, and with American goods sold in Puerto Rico roughly 15% higher than the same goods sold on American soil, a budgetary imbalance was created that exists today.

 

 

               In 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed authorizing a Puerto Rican government to collect taxes on property and internal revenue. Passed on March 02, 1917, it also made Puerto Ricans, American citizens. The passage of this act served multiple purposes: while it created a form of government similar to the United States, and allowed officials to be elected locally, it also any legislation passed by Puerto Ricans could be vetoed by the Governor and President of the United States and the United States Congress maintained control over all fiscal and economic matters. Congress exercised control over mail services, immigration, defense, foreign trade agreements and import/export. Essentially, it allowed Congressional members grant favors to their cronies to loot Puerto Rico if they so desired. Also, as newly minted American citizens, once America entered World War I a month later (April 6, 1917), it allowed Puerto Ricans to be drafted into the American military. They served in segregated military units.

 

 

            In 1920, the Merchant Marine Act (also known as the Jones Act, although, in relation to Puerto Rico is often confused with the Jones-Shafroth Act) was created to establish a Merchant Marine for the United States. But a Section 27, was included to deal with cabotage (the carrying of goods transported between U.S. ports). This section of the Jones bill, mandates that all goods transported between U.S. ports must be carried by American constructed, owned, operated, crewed ships. While this is not a problem for the transport of goods between Kansas and Missouri, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska are affected, and since much of America is continental, America does not have a large number of shipping companies that transport between “local” traffic areas.

Controlling Puerto Rico

 

 

                By 1920, the majority of Puerto Rican farmers had lost their lands and the Sugar Trust controlled 98% of the sugar refining capacity of the United States.

 

 

                  In 1922, the United States Supreme Court declared Puerto Rico a “territory,” not a “state,” and therefore, Puerto Ricans were denied worker’s rights, minimum wages or collective bargaining. Puerto Rico was denied Constitutional protections afforded to American citizens in any other state in the union. Ironically, Puerto Ricans who leave the island, are vested with the full rights of American citizenship, but not, as long as they reside in Puerto Rico.

 

 

               From the 1920s through 1950s, almost all Puerto Rican jobs were dependent on American corporations. (Most of Puerto Rico’s jobs are still from American corporations headquartered elsewhere.)  All non-agricultural products were imported from the United States. All appeals, protests and attempts to organize for higher wages, better conditions were labeled “anarchist” and after 1917, “communist.” Attempts to organize workers were suppressed by FBI and National Guard troops working with the “insular” police.

 

 

                Most of the organizational attempts made in Puerto Rico were by political parties, rather than unions that were not recognized because Puerto Rico wasn’t a state. The Nationalist Party organized agricultural strikes in 1934 that doubled wages to twelve cents an hour. But that action put the Nationalist Party under scrutiny by the FBI and from the 1930s through 1960s, attempts to organize workers, increase wages and protections (keeping in mind that almost all employment in Puerto Rico was dependent on American corporate interests), were viewed as sedition against the United States.

 

 

              From the Rio Piedras Massacre in 1935, the Ponce Massacre in 1937, to the bombing of Utuado and Jayuya in 1950, incidents in Peñuelas, Arecibo and Mayagüez, and then a full fledged invasion of Puerto Rico in 1950. All discussion to grant Puerto Rico independence or statehood was muzzled.

 

                 In 1948, a bill, Ley 53, created a “gag law” passed by the Puerto Rican Senate and pushed through by Luis Muñoz Marín, who presided over the Senate and became Puerto Rico’s first elected governor soon after the law was enacted. The Gag Law made it illegal to display or own a Puerto Rican flag, sing a patriotic song, discuss or fight for independence. This Gag Law lasted until 1957 and could only exist because the United States Supreme Court had ruled that U.S. Constitutional protections, including Freedom of Speech, didn’t apply to the territory if Puerto Rico.

 Cheap Labor, Big Debt, No Taxes

 

                Sugar, coffee, fruit, nuts, and other agricultural products, needing cheap but labor intensive harvesting and planting, began as a major part of the colonial-style relationship between the United States and Latin American and Caribbean.  Puerto Rico was largely controlled until the 1950s by the Sugar Trust, which later became known as Domino Sugar.

 

               Dole and Chiquita brands both had huge holdings in Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador and other lands surrounding the Caribbean.

 

 

                  A territory (as opposed to either a state or an independent country), Puerto Rico has not been able to choose leaders, policies, directions or international relationships without the approval of the United States Congress.  Without representation in Congress, Puerto Rico’s has had the lobbying of American banking, agricultural, corporate or military interests making decisions before Puerto Rican interests.

Trading a governor of their own for independence

 

                    Puerto Rico’s first elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marín, although elected by Puerto Rican residents, created the template of Puerto Rican politicians to follow from his election in 1948 to the present. When running for governor, he advocated eventual independence for Puerto Rico. Backed by the United States Congress and American corporate interests, he was elected and became an advocate of luring American businesses to Puerto Rico in exchange for acceptance of “commonwealth” status.

 

 

                 Governors of states are tasked with looking after the budget of a state and the well-being of citizens of that state. Puerto Rican governors following Marín, have acted more as presidents of Chamber of Commerce, to attract business interests to the island through tax incentives approved by the United States Congress.

 

                     

               Marín created an Administration of Economic Development (now known as Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) in 1947 with the idea of moving Puerto Rico from an agricultural (single crop) industry to a more industrial economy. Working with the Puerto Rican legislatures and U.S. Congress, tax incentives, and financial incentives attracted American corporate industry to manufacture in Puerto Rico.

 

                     

                  Based on the idea that Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory, but not an American state, to companies could be exempted from local taxes, import taxes, corporate American taxes, transferring profits back to American soil and sub-American labor costs. This combination of incentives aimed exclusively to American companies and with the aim of luring investment (but neither Puerto Rican ownership, nor a joint partnership with Puerto Ricans) to the island was known as “Operation Bootstrap (Operación Manos a la Obra),” Focusing on benefitting companies setting up manufacturing in Puerto Rico without either creating tangible benefit for Puerto Rico or her people, the jobs created existed only as long as the companies saw a tax value in remaining in Puerto Rico.

 

 

                  For thirty years, Puerto Ricans who were able to work for these American corporations were paid less than workers in the United States, but more than Puerto Rican field workers. An unforeseen problem was that manufacturing jobs, were less in number than agricultural work, and as that disparity increased, Puerto Ricans left the island in record numbers to find work in America – primarily New York and Florida.

Nobody knows in America,
Puerto Rico's in America!                     
                  "America" from West Side Story, 
                                              lyrics by Neil Diamond

 

                 Prior to Operation Bootstrap, the annual migration of Puerto Ricans to mainland America was about 1800 per year. In the 1950s and 1960s, migration reached more than 50,000 per year.

           The Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950, revisited the Jones-Shafroth Act, to redefine the Puerto Rican government but made Puerto Rico substantially dependent on the United States for governing, economy and military.

 

            Using Puerto Rico as a bulwark against the encroaching communist and socialist ideas that were spreading across Latin America, the United States put 13 military bases on Puerto Rico and was determined to create a capitalist bastion in the Caribbean. 

 

                  Much internal discussion within Puerto Rico varied between Puerto Rico going forward as a commonwealth, an independent country or as a state in the United States. 

              

              While a movement grew for independence during the 1930s through 1960s, American fear of socialist (and Soviet) influence, led America to use every means to extinguish that interest. Operation Bootstrap, mass migration to mainland America and the creation of a Puerto Rican constitution were all part of this effort. Existing laws (like the 1920 Jones Act), served to prevent Puerto Rican trade with other Caribbean islands, Latin American countries or potentially disruptive (and influential) nations.

 

                   In 1950, Puerto Rico’s average wage was 28% of workers in the continental United States. Corporations could pay 25% of the wages of America, zero taxes and no importation tariffs. Puerto Rico would receive jobs which, when cheaper labor was found in Asia, disappeared with the corporations. Playtex and Shick left.

 

              In 1965, the United States Congress created special tax exemptions for the petrochemical industry. Phillips Petroleum, Union Carbide, Sun Oil were some of the companies that rushed to build and open facilities, but all left in 1973 when the OPEC oil embargo went into effect.

No taxation, No representation

 

                    Today, while interstate commerce doesn’t exist (because Puerto Rico isn’t a state), 76% of their exports are to the United States. Unlike Kansas or Massachusetts, the island doesn’t have the ability to transport via trucking or rail, but all their shipping is regulated by necessary American ships. Americans west coast, east coast and southern coasts all can receive foreign vessels.

 

 

               Driven predominantly by a need to find work, from an island which they didn’t own property, had no means of creating businesses and a market heavily restricted in imports and exports to the United States, millions of Puerto Ricans have moved to New York, Chicago, Florida and the migration increased with decreased taxes for outside corporations and increased taxes for residents.  Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico, ironically, have less flexibility and rights on the island than they do in the continental United States.

 

 

                Several major American tax code and trade agreements had economic effect on a Puerto Rico that had no representative in Washington, D.C. during discussions to argue a Puerto Rican perspective.

 

                  In 1976, Congress passed a Tax Reform Act that held a Section 936. Section 936 encouraged United States corporations to set up manufacturing, offices, and hubs in Puerto Rico by allowing manufacturers to avoid corporate income tax on all profits made in U.S. Territories. Led by pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers flocked to Puerto Rico, increasing Puerto Rican employment, but decreasing the tax contributions of these companies. Section 936 and any other tax exemptions was the governing party of Puerto Rico’s greatest argument for remaining a U.S. Commonwealth instead of either independence or becoming the United States’ 51st state.

 Luring businesses but not planting roots     

       

                  In 1976, Congress passed 26 US Code § 936, a tax credit for businesses operating in Puerto Rico. The pharmaceutical industry moved operations to Puerto Rico. Between 1980 to 1990, Johnson & Johnson, Smith-Kline Beecham, Merck & Co. , Bristol-Myers Squibb saved over $3.5 billion in taxes by manufacturing in Puerto Rico rather than the continental United States. In 1996, criticism of 936, created a repeal of these tax breaks over a ten year period. By 2006, all elements of this tax break had been repealed. Subsequently, the various American corporations and capital-intensive industries operating in Puerto Rico solely for the tax breaks, including pharmaceutical companies left Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican government borrowed heavily to continue functioning creating debt of over $70 billion that ballooned to $123 billion by 2016.

 

 

            The creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, opened up many of those same opportunities to companies expanding in Canada and Mexico, along with open borders for the transport of goods and services. This diluted the advantages Puerto Rico held for 18 years.

 

 

                    In 1996, Congress created a Small Business Job Creation Act. Lodged in this act was a ten year phase out of Section 936 of the 1976 bill and by 2006, Puerto Rico’s financial recession was full-fledged. Puerto Rico lost over 100,000 jobs and has continued losing jobs without either a tax based that can support growth or sustain government, or an existing infrastructure that offers a competitive argument for companies choosing to work in Puerto Rico.

Debt. Running a business without an income?  Big surprise.

 

                     All of this is the backdrop of Puerto Rico’s current public debt, and financial issues. As businesses left Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico was stuck borrowing money through bond creation to continuing to support their populace, hedge funds and other investment companies moved in to buy those bonds, businesses and properties that were in distress. With public debt skyrocketing above $120 billion in 2016, Congress again stepped in to create the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Stability Act (PROMESA) in 2016. Through PROMESA, Congress established a Fiscal Control Board to outline a debt restructuring and create an austerity plan. The austerity plan cut into pensions, healthcare and education but only put a temporary hold on creditor repayment.

 

 

               PROMESA was enacted in May 2017 and Hurricane Irma swept past Puerto Rico on the Northeastern side on September 6, 2017. Hurricane Maria struck two weeks later.

 

               On September 20, 2017 Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico. It struck on the southeastern coast and swept diagonally across the island to the northwestern coast. It swept across the entire island leaving few places untouched.

 

           While Hurricane Maria’s impact was devastating, the mismanagement of Puerto Rico’s budget and the resulting PROMESA, had cut the workforce of the power company, 80,000 still did not have power two weeks after Hurricane Irma, the water supply was considered below standard. On September 15, five days before Maria struck, Federal Emergency Management Agency Caribbean Distribution Center warehouse supplies had only 17% of supplies remaining after distribution in response to Irma. 90% of their water supply had already been distributed.

 

 

                  On October 3, 2017, Donald Trump visited San Juan and threw paper towels to a crowd while saying: “We’ve gone all out for Puerto Rico . . . it’s not only dangerous, but expensive.” And then saying, “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack.” “We’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.” A year later, when the death toll was officially increased from 60 to 2,975 because of citizens who couldn’t get healthcare, rescue, food, water or electricity, he continued to give himself an “A+” rating, and say his response was “incredible” but “underappreciated” by Puerto Ricans.

Who US? Responsibility? We didn’t do nuthin’!

 

               

               Puerto Rico is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Without a properly supportive income base (tax or otherwise), and with a Congressional philosophy of “cutting taxes to spur growth,” Puerto Rico can neither pay previous debts, nor grow their economy, nor pull themselves out of poverty (45% of the population is below poverty level).

The United States has control over 14 territories and the federal District of Columbia. All of these areas are under the “exclusive” or “federal” jurisdiction of the United States Congress (but none of these districts or territories can elect, or otherwise compel Congress to act on their behalf). This is not an executive office decision, but a legislative decision.  And for almost two decades, the United States Congress seems determined not to pass legislation, not to create an income base, not to build infrastructure, not to deal with immigration pertinent to countries and certainly not to deal with Puerto Rico, which bobs along like a cork on an ocean of debt.

 

Besides the District of Columbia, the other territories are: American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands. The other territories are uninhabited islands.

 

           Most of the territories have relatively small populations, but the District of Columbia has a greater population than Wyoming, or Vermont. 

            But Puerto Rico has a larger population (therefore greater needs) than 19 states (Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming).

 

                Currently, one political party in America does not believe in government or governing. (As opposed to amassing “power.”) They believe that a “free market” will solve all problems so government should not regulate, pass laws, or formulate policies. Corporations should.

 

                But corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders, their employees and their customers – not strictly to their communities. When things get bad, they can, and do, pack up and leave. This is exactly the situation Puerto Rico is in, and Puerto Rico serves as an example of how this whole paradigm works. Corporations cannot be compelled to keep a plant open, increase production, stay on the island of Puerto Rico, or stay in Michigan or Ohio. Corporations cannot be compelled by their communities to serve a higher purpose. Corporations cannot be compelled to build their roads, construct electrical grids, information highways or ports.

 

Governments can. But Puerto Rico needs to decide on building a functional independent government, a functional state government, or continue begging for American corporate attention in a global community.

 

 

 

 


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Why Puerto Rico?

Verve Opinion

Why Puerto Rico?

Uprooted Tree_11b6e

       There have been storms from Caribbean hurricanes that have struck the United States and multiple Caribbean islands. Katrina, Rita, Andrew, Hugo, Irene, Irma, and the list goes on.

 

   Why did we focus on Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico?

 

We looked at, and were dismayed at the United States response to aiding Puerto Rico because of a unique relationship: Puerto Rico is an American Territory. While territories from Louisiana, Northwest, Texas, Florida, Alaska and Hawaii have all been territories but have gained statehood. Puerto Rico hasn’t.

 

The governance of Puerto Rico has been overseen by United States executive (for 50 years) and Congressional decisions (since then), while Puerto Rico’s ability to self-govern, since 1950, has been by a government that acts as a local Chamber of Commerce. Tax exemptions, tax credits, corporate influx and exodus have all been divorced from the interests and well-being of the Puerto Rican people, and the island.

 

A tax base is important for any society to build an functioning infrastructure, but that tax base is non-existent as United States corporate interests have urged credits and exemptions to set up shop on the island. America’s corporations have benefited, United States defense has used Puerto Rico for military purposes, but nothing has been left behind (except lower paying jobs) while Puerto Rico was useful.

 

We found that behind this history, the United States bears at LEAST the responsibility of the support afforded to Florida, the Carolinas, Texas, the Southern and Eastern seaboards of America. Each state and combination of states have representatives in Washington D.C. , they have the option of voting their displeasure or gratitude. Their governors and Senators can work politically in their interests, while Puerto Rico is dependent on New York or Florida politicians to act in their interests without intimately understanding the problems.

 

Puerto Rico’s situation is unique. But their problems reflect the lack of long-range planning in multiple states and nations around the world. The island’s temporary robustness, and abrupt reversals are indicative of unplanned and un-managed societies. Hurricanes can not be avoided, but ability to survive and recover can be planned for. But who is planning? The United States Congress? Or Puerto Rico’s existing governing structure?

 

The Eyes of a Nation are watching.

 


The Puerto Rico Issue

Verve Fashion Magazine

The Puerto Rico Issue

Photo: Phillip Wong

The Beauty Story –

The magic of Puerto Rico’s lushness, beaches, seas and skies are echoed in the colors and organic designs in Eyes of a Nation.

But it leads us to the tears and fears of a piece of America hobbled by America.

Photo: Edgardo Santana

Why Puerto Rico?

Why did Puerto Rico become an issue for us?  Our readers are interested in fashion, beauty, arts and the world around us. We looked at this and examined it more deeply.

Life of a Nation

The voices and images from Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria.

Photo: Edgardo Santana
Cartload of sugarcane near Guanica.

Birth of a Nation: The Colony, The Territory, The State

 

 

Puerto Rico’s journey from an almost-independent island to today. Debt, difficulties, America business and the United States Congress.


Life of a Nation

Verve Observation

Life Of A Nation

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Photo: Edgardo Santana

Several of the designers and models in our Eyes of A Nation piece, were in Puerto Rico when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck or traveled back after the storm. We collected some of the images and recollections and observations about the long road to recovery.

 

On September, 16, 2017, a tropical wave became a tropical storm and Hurricane Maria made landfall on the southeast side of Puerto Rico, sweeping across the island toward the northwest edge of the island before leaving Puerto Rico days later.

 

Immediately in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the death toll was estimated in the 60s. But as a result of ineffective infrastructure,  poor medical aid and a devastated power grid unable to service hospitals and emergency areas across the island, an estimated 3000 people perished, studies revealed almost a year later.

 

While all natural disasters are tragic, the eyes of America and the world are on the United States executive and congressional response. The island of Puerto Rico has a unique relationship to the United States. It is a territory, neither independent as a country, nor a state, while Puerto Ricans are United States citizens.

From Google Maps
Photo: Phillip Wong

Marie Vilanova

 

Marie Vilanova’s family home is in Cayey, Puerto Rico. It’s a small town in the eastern center of the island of Puerto Rico. She heard from her mother the day before the storm struck, and then wasn’t able to hear from them for two weeks until they could get to San Juan for the little phone service available on the island.   

She returned in January of 2018 and reported that “when I went in winter gas stations were ruined, stores didn’t have their signs or anything and the highway, even now, is still under construction on one side and it’s barely being done. You never see anyone working there.”

 

A new mall had opened outside of San Juan with Saks and Nordstrom attracting big brand names to Puerto Rico for the first time. Saks left. Nordstrom has closed and Marie thinks they may not open, or open as a smaller store.  At present “looks like an empty mall with like only a few stores open.”

Edgardo Santana

 

I got back from Puerto Rico last night after a couple of weeks of plenty of sun and inspiration as well as a dose of reality.  It is hard to believe how bad things remain almost a year after Irma and Maria hit the Island, and it is impressive how determined and resilient people are.  

 

The recent memory of the massive destruction left behind by Maria which still fresh in everyone’s minds I think will last a lifetime.  Nature is slowly coming back; there are thousands of trees dead but still standing even though they pose a threat to people on the roads….  I saw communities with the blue canvas like roofs which FEMA provided as well as plenty of debris.

 

. . . .the roads are a mess and there are no traffic lights at many busy intersections which has been blamed for accidents. There is congestion even on highways.  There are areas without power which is inexcusable (he wrote this is in August 2018) and people are being billed for electricity, water services and tolls by government agencies even though they’ve had no service for many months, could not go anywhere during the crisis . . . .

 

A lot of the prime spots on the Island are up for sale and there is an influx of lots of people from around the World; India, Turkey, China, to name a few.  The present government wants to privatize some beaches and even sell some of the small Islands off the mainland.  Needless to say, people are concern and the debate about Statehood prevails even after the incident in which paper towels were thrown so disrespectfully to citizens seeking help.

 

Tourism is coming back but it will be a while before anyone can break even as people abroad believe that things remain pretty bad.  A stroll through my favorite place, Old San Juan, was pleasant but a lot of businesses have closed and some areas look very different because the trees were uprooted by the winds and then there were high waves that destroyed light posts, fountains, etc.

My sister took me to visit Los Banos de Coamo; a resort with thermal water pools where people go to relax and renew themselves and it was emotionally painful to see the destruction, which seems beyond repair.  The place was being remodeled when the disaster happened and it is now gone.  The part where pools were improved for the general public to use, were left intact so we were able to use them.  The road to get there was rough but there was quite a crowd, predominantly Puerto Ricans on vacation from the States.  

 

My dear town of Salinas is slowly recovering and it was sad to see the mangrove trees by the coast destroyed and restaurants still in shambles.   My parents backyard was destroyed and all the trees that were once the sunbathing spot of iguanas are no longer standing which now makes it easy to see further away where the river passes by and one of the out of town communities.

 

I visited the Island of Culebra and spent a day at Flamenco Beach which was once one of the top 10 beaches in the World and saw that it still is a gem however like many other beaches in the mainland and in Culebra itself, seaweed has come up to dirty the beautiful fine white sand and the foul odor it produces has proven to be a tough issue to deal with.  Fishermen have had many losses as fish population decreased and farmers have also struggled because they lost their crops.

 

The color is coming back more intense than ever and there is hope in the air for life to be good again.  I believe this is a new beginning which will be fruitful and the boricuas are finding their voices and expressing their feelings through all forms of art: The murals in Santurce, Old San Juan, Culebra and many other towns, the music that tells the story, sculptors, writers are documenting everything, dance has taken a new form to tell this particular story, etc.  I feel the need to continue to contribute by making larger, colorful pieces that clearly demonstrate how colorful, strong and determined the people of my beloved Island will always be.

EOANCOA090818-0345
Photo: Phillip Wong

Charlene Ortiz

 

I live in the town of Salinas.

 

Preparing for the storm was extremely stressful. I was at university when my parents called and told me to come home early because a storm was approaching. The first thing I did was go to the gas station and fill my car with gasoline. Then I went home and prepared the windows, I removed everything from the floor and put them in plastic bags because we live near the beach and the hurricane could cause flooding in my area. My mom went to the supermarket to buy water, ice, canned products and food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

 

Two weeks before Maria, Hurricane Irma passed near Puerto Rico and caused lots of damage in some areas, but when news of Maria’s approach came, there wasn’t much response. But as the storm grew in strength and grew closer, people began to take it seriously.

 

The day before the hurricane was scheduled to hit, all my family including our pets went to my grandma’s house to spend the night and day of the hurricane there. (She is more inland and on higher ground). That night we didn’t sleep at all. The hurricane hit land on Puerto Rico at 2am. There was a lot of wind blowing. We could see the trees falling and flying all over. Windows looked like they were about to explode. Water started to enter the house. The electricity went down as soon as the winds of the hurricane struck the island. It was a horrible experience. Everything outside was flying. There was a lot of noise caused by the wind. It was very scary. Most of the damage happened during the night, so when the sun came out that morning and we saw what happened during the night it was really impressive.

 

The street looked like a river. All the big trees were down. Aluminum ceilings, pieces of wood, chairs and garage doors where flying all over. The winds kept blowing and blowing. Nobody went outside that day because the Hurricane lasted a few hours.

The next day I finally got to go outside. Everything was a disaster. We couldn’t drive because of all the trees that were on the street. I went with my family driving slowly to my house. It was very sad. All the wooden houses where gone,  basketball courts flew and got stuck in the streets. All the houses and cars had leaves and dirt all over. The signs of the streets and stores where also gone. We live near the beach so the piers were broken and the boats smashed against each other. One of them sank. The water of the sea and river overflowed and caused flooding near my house. It was sad to see all the people cleaning all the mud, throwing away furniture or crying because they lost everything.  We didn’t have signal, internet or electricity so we couldn’t communicate with anyone and make sure all family and friends were okay. Family in the US were worried because everything happened very sudden, but no one could reach us.

 

A week later, the phone signals started to work again, but only at night and in certain places (for example the highway). People would stop in the emergency lane to get signal and communicate. It was a very slow signal so we could only make quick calls. About two weeks later, people started to run out of food, ice and water. The markets where still closed. The only ones that were opened were almost out of food too. To get in the supermarket we had to wait hours outside on the sun. Also, to get gasoline people were sleeping in their cars waiting in the line for the truck to come to buy $10 limit on gas.

 

            Once a week, a truck passed my street to give us water and food from MRA. Weeks later, my phone signal was re-established so I had the opportunity to talk with some friends and they invited me to become part of a group that was helping people that lost everything during María.

 

As a group we visited other towns in Puerto Rico that were really affected by the hurricane but were slow to get aid. We brought them food, candy, clothes, toys and personal stuff. We also performed Batucadas and I dressed up as different characters to play and dance with the kids of refugees. It was really nice. I had the opportunity to meet and help people from different parts of the island that lost their homes. I heard their stories. They made me cry many times with their stories but I know that I made a difference in each of them and that makes me very happy. Maybe I lost material things and didn’t have electricity for months but I made a difference in hundreds of people and to me, that’s more important.


Eyes of a Nation

Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong
Photo: Phillip Wong

On September, 16, 2017, a tropical wave in the Caribbean became a tropical storm and Hurricane Maria made landfall on the southeast side of Puerto Rico four days later, sweeping across the island toward the northwest edge of the island before leaving Puerto Rico.

Thousands of people died as a result of the storm, the problems of getting aid and power to hospitals and emergency areas across the island. The island of Puerto Rico has a unique relationship to the United States. It is a territory, neither independent as a country, nor a state, while Puerto Ricans are United States citizens.

    Verve Fashion Magazine uses the designers,  artists and talents of Puerto Rico, to focus on some of the many issues that face Puerto Rico leading up to this disaster, and what the territory can do, and some are doing, to recover.

 

    Although Puerto Rico is neither an independent country, nor a state in the United States, they face many issues that the United States, and many countries around the world, have to deal with.

   Eyes of a Nation is our starting point, of that discussion.

1.

Model: Danique Blaauwendraad – Supreme NY
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace – Mar Caribe – Edgardo Santana (Lapis lazuli stone with sterling silver beads, caps and clasp),
Tasseled canvas vest – Yayi by Yayi Perez

2.

Model: Danique Blaauwendraad – Supreme NY
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace – Mar Caribe – Edgardo Santana (Lapis lazuli stone with sterling silver beads, caps and clasp),
Tasseled canvas vest – Yayi by Yayi Perez

3.

Model: Marie Vilanova
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace – Starry Night  – Edgardo Santana (Lava rock and silver),
Black and White Fluted Top – Marie Vilanova

Model: Fernanda Albanesi - Fashion Milano
Make-Up/Hair - Sareen Bhojwani - with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling - Necklace - La Grimas del Mar  (Tears of the Sea) - Edgardo Santana (Swarovski Pearls, gold filled beads, caps and chain),

4.

Model: Marie Vilanova
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Cabinet of Curiousities – Marie Vilanova

5.

Model: Fernanda Albanesi - Fashion Milano 
Make-Up/Hair - Sareen Bhojwani - with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling - Necklace - La Grimas del Mar  (Tears of the Sea) - Edgardo Santana  (Swarovski Pearls, gold filled beads, caps and chain),

6.

Model: Marcelle Mazzini - Anthm NY
Make-Up/Hair - Sareen Bhojwani - with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling - Necklace - Island Rainbow  - Edgardo Santana  (faceted agate and silver)

7.

Model: Marcelle Mazzini - Anthm NY
Make-Up/Hair - Sareen Bhojwani - with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling - Necklace - Island Rainbow  - Edgardo Santana  (faceted agate and silver)

8.

Model: Fernanda Albanesi - Fashion Milano 
Make-Up/Hair - Sareen Bhojwani - with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling - Cross tie halter - Yayi by Yayi Perez

Model: Danique Blaauwendraad – Supreme NY
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace – Tiano Mana (Taino Patience) – Edgardo Santana (Faceted Jasper with pewter beads and pendant),
Apron Jumper – Yayi by Yayi Perez

9.

Model: Charlene Ortiz - Models by WM
Make-Up/Hair - Amanda Diaz
Styling - Necklace - Full Moon over Pasture  - Edgardo Santana (Faceted green Agate with gold filled accents),
Yellow Guipure lace and mesh top and satin bottom, faux leather belt - Juan Carlos Collazo 

 

Model: Marie Vilanova
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace – Starry Night  – Edgardo Santana
(Lava rock and silver),
Black and White Fluted Top – Marie Vilanova

10.

Model: Marie Vilanova
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Cabinet of Curiousities – Marie Vilanova

11.

Model: Charlene Ortiz - Models by WM
Make-Up/Hair - Amanda Diaz
Styling - Necklace and Earrings - Flower Bouquet  - Edgardo Santana (Multicolored, faceted, round agate, freshwater pearls and gold filled accents),
White embroidered lace and mesh dress- Amneris Diaz

12.

Model: Charlene Ortiz - Models by WM
Make-Up/Hair - Amanda Diaz
Styling - Necklace - Full Moon over Pasture  - Edgardo Santana (Faceted green Agate with gold filled accents),
Yellow Guipure lace and mesh top and satin bottom, faux leather belt - Juan Carlos Collazo 

13.

Model: Marcelle Mazzini - Anthm NY 
Make-Up/Hair - Sareen Bhojwani  - with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling - Earrings - Starry Night  - Edgardo Santana  (Lava rock and silver) 

14.

Model: Danique Blaauwendraad – Supreme NY
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace – Mar Caribe – Edgardo Santana (Lapis lazuli stone with sterling silver beads, caps and clasp),
Tasseled canvas vest – Yayi by Yayi Perez

15.

Model: Fernanda Albanesi – Fashion Milano
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace and Earrings – La Grimas del Mar (Tears of the Sea) – Edgardo Santana
(Swarovski Pearls, gold filled beads, caps and chain),

16.

Model: Fernanda Albanesi – Fashion Milano
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Earrings – La Grimas del Mar (Tears of the Sea) – Edgardo Santana
(Swarovski Pearls, gold filled beads, caps and chain),

17.

Model: Fernanda Albanesi – Fashion Milano
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Earrings – La Grimas del Mar  (Tears of the Sea) – Edgardo Santana
(Swarovski Pearls, gold filled beads, caps and chain),

18.

Model: Marcelle Mazzini – Anthm NY
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Earrings – Starry Night  – Edgardo Santana (Lava rock and silver)

19.

Model: Fernanda Albanesi – Fashion Milano
Make-Up/Hair – Sareen Bhojwani – with products from FACE Stockholm
Styling – Necklace and Earrings – La Grimas del Mar  (Tears of the Sea) – Edgardo Santana
(Swarovski Pearls, gold filled beads, caps and chain),


Keeping It Cruelty Free


Keeping It Cruelty Free

Skincare from 5 Companies Dedicated to Cruelty Free Products

by Sabrina Talbert                                   Beauty Contributing Writer

What’s New in Beauty
 



If you’re like me, you’d rather spend a decent amount of money on skincare products before makeup. Keeping my skin healthy has always been my priority, and a lot of the time if can be difficult to find what works best. It can also be difficult to find effective products that are also made ethically. With Millennials leading the market, the demand for organic and cruelty free skincare products are higher than they’ve ever been. So, if you’re looking to change up beauty regimen or add more products to your collection, here are five beauty buys every girl should put on her list.



1. ANESE

If you follow beauty gurus on Instagram, this product may seem very familiar to you. For the past couple of months, Anese has been promoting its scrubs and masks all over social media. The LA-based company is currently known for its five elixirs and has expanded into masks and scrubs. Anese’s products not only smell good but also come with some pretty clever product names. From scrubs labeled “That booty tho.” ($28) to facial toners like “Can I speak to your manager?” ($23), Anese serves all the realness you need for your beauty routine.

Find it at: https://www.anese.co



2. KOPARI

If you suffer from dry skin in the winter or need that extra boost of hydration in the summer, Kopari is the perfect solution that will leave your skin glowing without giving your skin a sticky feel. Its coconut melt ($38) is 100% organic with no toxins or GMO’s. The melt absorbs into skin fast, leaving it soft, light, and glowing.

Find it at: https://www.koparibeauty.com/



3. FRANK BODY

Every girl needs her morning coffee, right? Frank Body offers a variety of coffee-based body scrubs that are also vegan. Its line consists of other scrubs for lips and face that are made to stimulate blood flow and consists of grapefruit abstract. This Aussie skin care line is the perfect detox to fight dry skin.

Find it at: https://www.frankbody.com



4. MARIO BADESCU

If your skin is suffering after a long day and you need a quick pick-me-up, the Mario Badescu Rose Water ($7) is guaranteed to give you the boost you need. Although the product is labeled “Facial Spray”, it can double as a hair spray, leaving hair smelling amazing all-day long.

Bonus Tip: Spray your brushes with rose water before applying eyeshadow to enhance the pigment!

Find it at: https://www.mariobadescu.com/



5. GLOSSIER

Looking for the right products to help you get the ultimate dewy look? Glossier is known for its simple yet effective products such as its Haloscope crystal highlighter. Infused with vitamins, this product is the perfect mix between makeup and skincare. Another Glossier go-to is the Lightweight Coverage: Perfect Skin Tint. This dewy tint comes in five shades and is great for skin discoloration.

Find it at: https://www.glossier.com