A Good Day With A Great Mayor

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by Rafael Caro Cotto, Puerto Rican Agenda

Screenshot 2016-06-08 11.31.37 Screenshot 2016-06-08 11.31.44

On a day that started with the warm sun and an almost cloud-free sky, it was a good day to be at our museum. The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, in the heart of Humboldt Park in Chicago, was the place to be. It had been one of the first days of the year to hit the 70 degree mark, and that always brings out the birds and a sense of hope and rejuvenation. This past Friday the 15th, a welcoming “charla” (chat)/ luncheon was held for Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, the honorable Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the capital of the Caribbean. Having been personally introduced to her, like the day’s weather, she was warm and inviting. First, an introduction of the Mayor was done by our people’s Professor, José E. Lopez. Then he asked the museum’s Director, Billy Ocasio, to the podium where the Director presented her with an official Congressional Gold Medal that had been given to the museum, finally honoring our brave war heroes, the Borinqueneers. Since the museum is the only National Puerto Rican museum, the Smithsonian bestowed the iconic medal for their curation. Mayor Cruz Soto, or simply “Carmen” as she said she preferred, stepped up to the podium, flashed her large, bright smile, which causes her hazelish eyes to squint, and spoke. She spoke in English and rather than give a typical political speech, she seemed to speak from the heart. Her vision for San Juan and even more importantly, the whole island of Puerto Rico, is clear. The Mayor won her post and was encountered with the usual major urban problems of poor housing, inadequate education and a huge fiscal deficit, among other things. Now, although not out of the woods, because she’s relentless and continues to fight for equality and the betterment of all, the fiscal crisis has been resolved enough that there is now a surplus. No taxes were raised and no one was forced out of their jobs, which the naysayers said she had to do in order to “fix” the problems. All of her achievements and goals are clear and venerable, while her strength and determination is great and typical of our women. However, what stayed with me was how she ended her chat. She cited the Declaration of Independence’s “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Although this is part of the United States, she expressed that this goes beyond its natural borders and it should stand for the rest of the world as well. And the rest of the world includes the great people of the smallest nation in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico. I’m certain that the now, veteran Mayor of this beautiful, historic city, will restore this golden jewel that it has always been and she will carry the rest of the island on her powerful Boricua shoulders onward and upward. I was truly honored to chat with this great mayor, on a beautifully good Chicago day.

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