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El Sentinel

Mainland 'Boricuas' Finally Get Attention From Puerto Rico

By Walter Pacheco

October 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 El Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Regional offices of the government of Puerto Rico in the United States are shifting gears to better address issues concerning Puerto Ricans in the 50 states.

Two new offices were created, in Houston and Cleveland, to serve a growing Puerto Rican population.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration already operates nine offices in Boston, Chicago, Hartford, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando and Philadelphia.

"For years, many of these offices were used primarily as lobbying centers for the needs and concerns of Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico," said Puerto Rico Gov. Sila M. Calderón of the offices mostly spread along the East Coast.

"[These offices were] often to the detriment of programs and services that benefit Puerto Ricans living in the cities in which they are located. Many have become all but invisible to those who need them most."

The Puerto Rican population in the U.S. totals more than 3 million, according to Census 2000 figures.

The existing Puerto Rico offices serve more than 2.5 million people, but the surge in the Puerto Rican population -- up 28.5 percent since 1990 -- has prompted the need for more offices.

Population growth on the island over the last 10 years was less than 7 percent, the slowest in recent memory.

The new office in Houston will oversee close to 7,000 Puerto Ricans, while the Cleveland-based office will focus on more than 25,000 -- or 73 percent of Cleveland's Hispanic population.

Issues the offices plan to tackle include Boston's high drop-out rate and low college enrollment among Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics, and health care and AIDS education in New Jersey's Puerto Rican community.

The office also will help in funding the Puerto Rican Cultural Institute housed at Humboldt Park in Chicago, said Celeste Díaz-Ferraro of the main office in Washington.

"The Institute will be on the edge of Paseo Boricua, which is an economic development area with shops and restaurants," Díaz-Ferraro said. "Chicago has one of the most organized Puerto Rican communities in the country."

Other nationwide issues include training community-based organizations to apply for federal and state funding, an extensive community outreach program, as well as voter education and registration campaigns for upcoming elections.

Directors for the new offices have not yet been selected, but the offices are scheduled to open by the end of the year. The Los Angeles office director will be chosen shortly afterward.

"I believe the time has come to let them know that those of us who live back in the island are there for them as well," said Calderón. "We are, after all, but one family."


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