The Mess of Knots: Ponce, Patriarchy, and La Mujer Mala: An Interview with Eleanor Parker Sapia

The Mess of Knots: Ponce, Patriarchy, and La Mujer Mala: An Interview with Eleanor Parker Sapia

Ivelisse Rodriguez, PhD

Editor’s note: This interview is the sixth in a series that will focus on contemporary Puerto Rican authors. Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico, and a collection of poems.


Ivelisse Rodriguez: Ponce, La Perla del Sur or La Ciudad Señorial, is considered the second city in Puerto Rico. In your novel, A Decent Woman, you note how Ponce used to be the capital of Puerto Rico; you detail the high-society life in Ponce and its mores. These particulars help bring the city to life. How does the city itself function as a character in your novel?

Eleanor Parker Sapia: Puerto Rico, a new possession of the United States in 1900 when the story opens, is very much a character in my novel—a woman lured into a relationship with the United States with hope and promises of safety, protection, food on the table, and a brighter future. The reality was that the US government had a business plan. They quickly devalued and began to replace the Porto Rican peso with the American dollar, taxes were raised, farmers were evicted from their lands, English was imposed as the co-official language, and new regulations were forced on the Puerto Ricans.

I was an exhibiting painter of still life and portraiture for nearly 30 years before I decided to write a novel. I’m told my first passion shows in descriptions and attention to small detail in my first published book—portraiture of place with words. In A Decent Woman, there are stark contrasts between Ana’s world of poverty, struggle, and racism as an illiterate, black midwife, and the world of the upper class and privilege that newly-widowed Serafina learns to maneuver after her second marriage. I chose to depict three barrios of that era, Playa de Ponce, San Antón, and el pueblo de Ponce, each with its distinct voice, mood, flavor, music, architecture, and history. As such, the actions and futures of my characters were limited by external forces, at times unbeknownst to them, and determined by the confines of the socio-economic condition of where they lived and worked. It was important that the setting/place of this book evolve as the women and society evolved, or lack thereof.

IR: The title of your book, A Decent Woman, immediately begs the question of what constitutes a decent woman, and, normally, this idea of decency is tied to the sexuality of women. In your novel, you mention throughout how prostitutes are treated in Ponce, how there are these systematic programs to exile them from “decent” society, how color and class are conflated with sexuality/prostitution, and how prostitutes are marked by the passbooks they have to carry, etc. This is the way Ponce treats prostitutes, but you have a different approach. Emilia and Maria, two prostitutes in your text, are humanized; they are women who laugh, who cry, who are mistreated, yet they are rendered as whole characters. What do these two characters help say about prostitution in Ponce?

EPS: The characters Emilia and Maria came to me in the rewrite and editing phases of the manuscript, and there was no doubt they would be fully-fleshed characters since I’ve previously worked as a counselor, refugee caseworker, and a Spanish-language family support worker. I have great sympathy for women of that era, who were played against each other in a patriarchal society.

Through further research, I was reminded of how intrinsically linked ‘la otra y la mujer mala’, the prostitute, were to women’s stories—as much a part of their stories as marriage and motherhood. It was important to include a more complete portrayal of society and the situations in which women found themselves—from begging in the streets to feed their children; to widowhood; playing the hostess at charity events and society balls; and to inviting politicians, clergy, and the men of ‘high society’ into their beds to make the rent and pay bills. Each woman sought to secure male protection and security, and hopefully, to keep a man from straying—that was the tapestry I attempted to weave, while discovering the mess of knots, changes of colored threads, and disarray on the underside as meaningful and beautiful as the finished product. Looking beyond the obvious—that’s what fascinates me about a character and a story.

Later, I was saddened to learn of the treatment of prostitutes in Ponce and later, about the forced sterilization of thousands of Puerto Rican women. That spoke loudly of the great hypocrisy in Ponce at that time: the myth of la sagrada familia, born of arrogance and racism, deceit and male dominance. The men who were wagging their fingers and agreeing with their wives about the dangers of prostitution were busy playing house with other women and fathering children out of wedlock. Their wives, the women of the upper class and early feminists, many of whom truly believed they were helping out their wayward sisters, were accomplices in two campaigns to rid Ponce of prostitutes, and in doing so, added to the desperation, poverty, and abuse of women of little means. The characters Emilia and Maria helped to tell that part of history.

IR: In your novel, male doctors advocate a shift toward modernity by having women give birth in hospitals, eclipsing the midwife and painting that practice as backwards. This limits Ana’s, the main character, work as a midwife. This is one way that “modern” medicine is used against women. For Emilia and Maria, their bodies are not their own in the medical world. When they are jailed, they are subjected to pelvic exams in front of others with instruments the women feel are not sanitized. And there are other moments where the medical treatment is even more invasive. How is medicine and so-called progress used against women’s bodies in Puerto Rico?

EPS: There were many issues and themes in the early days of so-called progress in Puerto Rico—colonialism, misogyny, population control, poverty, religion, male doctors invading the birthing room and pushing midwives out of business, and experiments performed on Puerto Rican women in the advancement of modern medicine, namely forced sterilization. Women were needed in the workforce to make money for American corporations, specifically the sugarcane industry. A good example is from the 1930s when clinics performing sterilization procedures were installed inside the factories, so the women wouldn’t lose time on the factory floor.

Men were in positions of authority and in control of the lives and bodies of women and of their children. Sadly, this is still the case in many parts of the world today.

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IR: In Adrienne Rich’s seminal article “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” she posits her idea about the lesbian continuum which focuses on any strong bond between women. One of them being friendship. Friendship is central to your novel, and it is the relationship that is sustained throughout the life of the two main characters, Ana and Serafina. Discuss the significance of friendship in your text.

EPS: In 1900 Puerto Rico, while emotional relationships and friendship between women were considered important, especially between women and their comadrona, only men were thought to provide real security with financial benefits as they controlled every aspect of women’s lives. Even childbirth with a midwife, which for centuries had been strictly a female-dominated experience, was in danger of extinction in the cities as hospitals and clinics were built and male doctors entered the birthing room. The strong bonds of friendship between women were constantly tested in a patriarchal society.

Ana would agree with Rich’s assertion that women can benefit more from relationships with other women than with men, as she’d suffered at the hands of one man at an early age, and though she is still struggling, she is a self-made woman. Ana, who is forty when the story opens, has little use for men for the first half of the book. The teenager Serafina has lost her mother, so they inevitably develop a strong mother-daughter bond, which is an easy, yet complicated relationship. All is well until Serafina gets caught up in her second husband’s world of privilege, where Ana has no place as a poor, black woman. Much later in the story, Serafina is a mother of four children and a woman of society. She will come to believe that she has outgrown Ana until tragedy strikes in Serafina’s life. Ana is the first person she contacts and their friendship resumes with lessons learned about loyalty and friendship.

IR: Can you tell us what you are working on next, and what your objectives are with your writing?

EPS: I’m currently working on my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Old San Juan and on the islet of Isla de Cabras, where once stood a maritime quarantine station that was later used as a lazaretto for containing patients of many diseases, primarily leprosy. It is the story of a highly imaginative and naïve Puerto Rican novice nun, who impulsively volunteers to serve the lepers at Isla de Cabras under the protection and tutelage of a rotund, secretive Spanish friar, who moonlights as a rum runner. Into the mix will arrive a young American Protestant minister on a clandestine mission for the American government at a time when the Spanish were being forced to leave the island, and Catholicism and Protestantism were in hyper-competition for souls on Puerto Rico.

My goal in writing novels is to transport readers to exciting, new worlds and to introduce them to the complicated history, rich culture, and beautiful people of Puerto Rico. I hope my books and poetry will stimulate, provoke, expose, and challenge myself and others. Here are two of my writing mottos: ‘Write through the scary bits; that’s usually where the meat and the essence of the story are found’ and ‘This is what we want for ourselves as writers and as readers—we want to reach others and we want to be moved.’ I hope that comes across in my books.


Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Ivelisse Rodriguez grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She earned a B.A. in English from Columbia University, an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College, and a Ph.D. in English-creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her short story collection, Love War Stories, is forthcoming from The Feminist Press in summer 2018. The Belindas, a fiction chapbook, is forthcoming from Tammy in summer 2017. She is the senior fiction editor at Kweli, a Kimbilio fellow, and a VONA/Voices alum. She is currently working on the novel The Last Salsa Singer about 70s era salsa musicians in Puerto Rico. To learn more about Ivelisse visit: http://www.ivelisserodriguez.com.

© Ivelisse Rodriguez. Published by permission in Centro Voices 13 December 2017.
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Puerto Rico: It’s Better Than Nothing?

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My two cents today:

From what I’ve read and heard, officials on the island, mayors in PR, first responders, members of the National Guard and the US military, and FEMA employees on the ground, were frustrated, anxiously waiting for word to act and mobilize, while having to follow protocol, use proper channels, wait for the perfect organizational chart, a memo, an email, a call from higher-ups in Washington, and for marching orders to trickle down.

Make no mistake, the White House, the administration, DOD, the generals, FEMA, all knew what was coming at Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean with Hurricane Maria, and what had already happened with Irma. They knew, yet inexplicably dragged their feet.

I respect and I’m grateful for everyone involved in assisting Puerto Rico and the USVI in the aftermath of this catastrophic natural disaster. Someone described Maria as an atomic bomb. I also respect those in the military in the US, who’ve been working behind the scenes in the relief effort. They know it’s important work, and I know their families are proud of the efforts their loved ones are making on behalf of Puerto Rico. My Dad, a thirty year veteran of the US Army, even my ex-husband and his brother, each 27-year Army veterans and West Point graduates, all veterans of the Vietnam War, would say, “It’s part of our job; it’s what we are paid to do.”

We cannot ignore that the preliminary relief effort in Puerto Rico was a debacle and worse yet, that Trump looked the other way. Yes, the Jones Act is waived for ten days, and that will be incredibly helpful, but ten days clearly isn’t enough time to put things right in Puerto Rico and in the USVI. You only have to look at the NASA video of the Caribbean islands to know, ten days won’t be enough time. There are still ongoing rescues, containers of supplies sitting in ports, men, women, and children are still without power, potable water, and food. Many of us still haven’t heard from our loved ones and friends in Puerto Rico.

The military is capable of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of soldiers, equipment, supplies, communication equipment, to the other side of the world to set up bases. I’m praying that same decisive action and extraordinary capability is now used in the Caribbean.

Many friends responded to my dismay that the Jones Act waiver is only for ten days with, “It’s better than nothing”. To that I say, I understand what you’re saying, but Puerto Rico has been hearing those words and sentiments for decades, as they were forced to put bandage upon bandage on a crumbling infrastructure and economy with little help or relief from Washington. No, it’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

We must strike now while the iron is hot–continue to bring relief to the islands, attention to the Caribbean, and it’s high time to abolish the Jones Act.

Yes, we can do better in every single way. Thank you.   #PRstrong#PuertoRico

 

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

Hurricane Maria, the Strongest Puerto Rico Landfall in 85 Years

Hurricane Maria, the Strongest Puerto Rico Landfall in 85 Years, Unleashes a Siege of Destructive Winds and Flooding

The Weather Channel

September 20, 2017, 8:15 AM EDT

here:%C2%A0https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/hurricane-maria-category-5-leeward-islands-virgin-islands-puerto-rico

Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane after pummeling the Virgin Islands.

This is the most intense hurricane landfall in Puerto Rico since the Great Depression.

Maria’s minimum central pressure Tuesday evening was the lowest for any Atlantic hurricane since Dean in August 2007.

Maria may then pass near the Dominican Republic Thursday, then the Turks and Caicos Friday.

Hurricane warnings have now been issued for the Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas.

It remains too early to determine if Maria will ever threaten the U.S. East Coast next week.

 

Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, became the strongest Puerto Rico landfalling hurricane since the Great Depression and continues to lash the island and the nearby Virgin Islands with destructive winds, flooding rain and storm surge.

The eye of Maria came ashore near the town of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, around 6:15 a.m. AST Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

The eyewall of Maria continues to carve through Puerto Rico, including the island of Vieques. In advance of the eyewall, the National Weather Service issued an “extreme wind warnings” for several eastern Puerto Rico municipalities.

Here is a sampling of peak wind gusts seen so far in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as of early Wednesday morning. Thanks to NOAA meteorologist Alex Lamers for assistance compiling these peak gusts.

  • Western St. Croix, Virgin Islands: 137 mph (sustained winds of 106 mph)
  • Isla Culebrita: 137 mph
  • Gurabo: 120 mph (WeatherFlow station)
  • Camp Santiago: 118 mph
  • El Negro: 116 mph
  • Yabucoa: 116 mph (WeatherFlow station)
  • San Juan: 110 mph (WeatherFlow station)
  • Fajardo: 100 mph
  • San Juan (Luis Muñoz Marin Int’l Airport): 91 mph (stopped reporting at 5:35 a.m. AST)
  • St. Thomas, Virgin Islands: 86 mph

A storm surge of over 5 feet was recorded by a NOAA tide gauge at Yabucoa Harbor, Puerto Rico, and intense south-southeast winds continue to pile water into the harbor on the east side of Maria’s circulation.

Through Wednesday morning, here are some other peak storm surge values, above the average high tide level:

  • Fajardo, Puerto Rico: About 2.3 feet
  • Christiansted Harbor, St. Croix, Virgin Islands: About 2 feet
  • Culebra, Puerto Rico: About 1.7 feet
  • San Juan Bay: About 1.5 feet
  • St. John (Lameshur Bay), Virgin Islands: About 1.5 feet

Flash flood warnings have also been issued in much of eastern Puerto Rico. Over a dozen river gauges reported levels above flood stage already, with more heavy rain moving in.

A flash flood emergency was issued for the Rio de La Plata Basin in central Puerto Rico. River levels had risen 20 feet since midnight near the town of Comerio.

The National Weather Service office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, warned of “catastrophic damage” from Maria’s winds, as well as “life-threatening rainfall flooding having possible devastating impacts” in a hurricane local statement issued Wednesday morning.

Maria was the strongest Puerto Rico landfall since a Category 4 September 1932 hurricane.

Prior to both Irma and Maria, only four other Category 4 hurricanes had tracked within 75 miles of central Puerto Rico in historical records dating to the late 19th century. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was the last to do so prior to 2017, though it had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane as it clipped the northeast tip of Puerto Rico, according to the NOAA best tracks database.

Current Watches/Warnings

Hurricane warnings have now been issued for the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeast Bahamas. Hurricane warnings mean hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.

Hurricane warnings remain in effect for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, Vieques and in the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, from west of Puerto Plata to the northern border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti and from west of Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic.

Hurricane watches also include St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and in the Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to Cabo Engano.

Portions of the Dominican Republic, particularly near the north coast, may see hurricane-force winds develop as soon as Wednesday evening continuing into at least Thursday morning. There is still some uncertainty, as any slight jog of the eyewall north could keep the most intense winds off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

In the southeast Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, hurricane conditions are expected to arrive by late Thursday, but conditions will already begin to deteriorate, there, by Thursday morning.

A life-threatening storm surge raising water levels up to 6 to 9 feet above ground is possible in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

In the hurricane warning area of the Dominican Republic, water levels may rise by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels, with a storm surge of 1 to 3 feet possible elsewhere along the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Water levels up to 10 to 15 feet above normal tide levels are expected near and north of the center of Maria in the southeast Bahamas, as well as the Turks and Caicos.

Puerto Rico may see 12 to 18 inches of rain, with locally up to 25 inches in some areas, through Friday.

The Virgin Islands are expected to receive a total of 8 to 12 inches of rain, with locally up to 16 inches.

The northern and eastern Dominican Republic, as well as the Turks and Caicos are forecast to pick up 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated 12-inch amounts.

These rainfall totals have the potential to produce widespread, life-threatening, potentially catastrophic flooding and mudslides.

For the complete article with videos, photos, and maps, click the link below:

here: https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/hurricane-maria-category-5-leeward-islands-virgin-islands-puerto-rico

Hurricane Maria: Jangled Nerves and Prayers

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My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean islands, and with Mexico. This afternoon, I’m thinking of the people of the small Caribbean islands, who are currently suffering the devastating effects from Hurricane Irma, and who face the real possibility of more devastation with Hurricane Maria. It’s unthinkable, yet a reality. I wonder if Barbuda will ever recover and if Barbudans will return to their beloved island. I worry for the people of Dominica, Tortola, the British and US Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, and Guadalupe. And of course, I am beside myself with worry for my family and friends in Puerto Rico.

I know the resiliency and courage of the people of the Caribbean, but Hurricane Maria is a beast. I’m grateful to the countries helping in the recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout the islands, and I’m especially proud of my fellow Puerto Ricans for welcoming and assisting our Caribbean brothers and sisters to our island–Puerto Rico is truly a beautiful port in a storm for many. And what a storm is coming tonight and tomorrow morning.

On Monday, I spoke with my family members and friends in Puerto Rico. My aunt and cousins in Ponce and San Juan assured me their homes are physically prepared to “welcome” Maria. Well, as prepared as you can be with a Category 5 hurricane coming toward you. Emotionally? I’m not entirely sure, but I know their nerves are jangled at this time and stress is high. Our family members in the United States join me in praying and hoping against hope that Hurricane Maria goes far north of Puerto Rico and doesn’t make landfall on any Caribbean islands. That seems implausible with all the hurricane models and weather reports I’ve seen, but nonetheless, that is my prayer.

All the unknowns of a hurricane make this event very frightening. Like millions of others, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate with so much happening around the world with other hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. So, the candles are lit and I will pray–that’s what I can do today. Be present, be still, and pray for my family, my beloved island, and for mankind.

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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2017 International Latino Book Awards

I am honored and pleased to share exciting book news with you! My novel, A Decent Woman, set in 1900 Ponce, Puerto Rico, was awarded Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Awards held in Los Angeles this past weekend. 
My deepest gratitude and thanks to Latino Literacy Now; Las Comadres Para Las Americas; Kirk Whisler and his amazing staff; all the judges; and most importantly, many thanks to my wonderful, supportive readers!
I am hard at work on a second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Old San Juan and the Puerto Rican islet of Isla de Cabras, Island of Goats, off the coast of San Juan. This happy book news makes me smile and offers encouragement as I finish writing the next book.
Thank you for your visit! Please read on for more information from Kirk Whisler, Latino Literacy Now, about the book awards. I will post the complete list of winners very soon.
Eleanor X
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The Largest Latino Cultural Awards in the USA Recognizes the Greatness in 233 Authors & Publishers From Across the USA & Around the World
By Kirk Whisler, Latino Literacy Now
The International Latino Book Awards Ceremony occurred on September 9th at the Dominguez Ballroom of California State University Dominguez Hills. Over the last 19 years, the Int’l Latino Book Awards has grown to become the largest Latino literary and cultural awards in the USA.
A crowd of book lovers cheered on this year’s 233 author and publisher
honorees from across the USA and from 19 countries outside the USA. The 2017 ceremony also unveiled the new, world class medals that were given to all honorees in Recognizing the Greatness they have achieved.
Latinos in the USA will purchase $700+ million in books in both English and Spanish. The number of books by and about Latinos has risen substantially. In 1980 less than 400
books were written and published by a Latino in the USA. In 2017 that number will be between 25,000 and 30,000. The bottom line is that books targeting Latinos are a growing
segment because of the rapid growth of the market and the current gaps in relevant topics being presented.
The ceremony also featured a major salute with The National Latino Trail Blazer Awards for Charlie Ericksen, co-founder of Hispanic Link; Mimi Lozano, founder of Somos Primos; Ambassador Julian Nava; and former Secretary of Labor, Supervisor Hilda Solis. Edward James Olmos, Rick Najera, and Katherine A. Díaz were this year’s emcees. The Awards also featured musical performances by Suni Paz and Georgette Baker. This list of winning books makes a great Christmas shopping list: a kid’s book for this child; a good mystery for that friend, this nonfiction book for that student headed off
to college, etc. With all the categories we have, there’s at least one perfect book for everyone.
The 2017 Int’l Latino Book Awards are another reflection of the growing quality of books by and about Latinos. In order to handle this large number of books, the Awards had 196
judges, triple the number from 2013. The judges raved about the quality of the entries. The Award sponsors included California State University Dominguez Hills as a Gold Sponsor; The California State University System, Entravision, Latino 247 Media Group, and Libros Publishing as Silver Sponsors and the American Association of Latino Engineers and Scientists, El Aviso, the Los Angeles Community College District, LA Plaza de Cutura y Artes, and Scholastic Books as Bronze Sponsors. Award partners include Las Comadres de las Americas, REFORMA, and Mi Libro Hispano.
Latino Literacy Now, is a nonprofit co-founded in 1997 by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler that has five types of programs:
Latino Book & Family Festivals around the USA: we’ve held 63 Festivals attended by a combined 900,000+ people; Awards which also include the Latino Books into Movies Awards; Education programs like Empowering Students and Education Begins in the Home; Membership programs like the Int’l Society of Latino Authors (www.ISLA.news) and the Empowering Speakers Bureau; and Content programs
like Latino Reads video show plus other online efforts. More about the Awards can be found at http://www.Award.news, and the 2018 entry form is now available.
Amazingly, sales of books by past ILBA winning authors have totaled more than 200 million copies! Winners have included many of the best-known Latino authors including
Belinda Acosta, Rodolfo Anaya, Alma Flor Ada, Ron Arias, José Antonio Burciaga, F. Isabel Campoy, Denise Chavéz, Paulo Coelho, Dr. Camilo Cruz, Junot Díaz, Gabriel García Márquez, Reyna Grande, Juan Felipe Herrera, Oscar Hijuelos, Mario Vargas Llosa, Josefina López, Pablo Neruda, Ana Nogales, Jose-Luis Orozco, Luis Rodriguez, Don Miguel Ruiz, Alisa Valdes, and Victor Villaseñor. Winners have also included well-known figures from other professions including Entertainers like Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan, Shelia E, Cheech Marin, Rick Najera, Jenni Rivera, Linda Ronstadt, and Carlos Santana; Sports notables Pedro Guerrero, Oscar de la Hoya and Jorge Posada; Media figures like Martín Llorens, Jorge Ramos, Teresa Rodriguez, and Ray Suarez; Public servants like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Henry Cisneros; and Chefs like Paulina Abascal, Jose Garces, Pati Jinich, and Daisy
Martinez.
ABOUT ELEANOR:
ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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2017 International Latino Book Award Finalist – A Decent Woman

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Buenos días!

On this beautiful morning, I was humbled and happy to learn my debut novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico, is a finalist in the 2017 International Latino Book Award and Latino Literacy Now for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book. I’m beyond honored, blessed, and proud to introduce readers, through my books and book events, to Latina/o characters and to Puerto Rico, the beautiful island of my birth.

I am forever grateful to my readers and blogger friends for their continued support and friendship as I meet so many on my travels and during book events. A huge thank you to Latino Literacy Now and everyone at the International Latino Book Award organization for their untiring, brilliant work in bringing Latino literature in English and Spanish to readers in the US and around the world.

A special thank you to my children, my loves, and my family for their unending love, encouragement, and support. I am truly blessed to do what I love–tell stories from long ago. I honor my ancestors and my family, on both sides of my wonderful family, for their love and support, and for continuing to listen and tell stories at the kitchen table and around the fire for the younger generation as we did last month at a recent Sapia family reunion in Ohio. A very special time for all!

Now, I must confess. I really miss my Tuesday Author Interviews series with my fellow authors, which I began in 2014. I’m excited to begin a brand new author interview series in January 2018, and in the meantime, I am hard at work on my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. I am in love with this new story and my new characters, who are whispering their stories in my ear. I hope you will like this new story as much as I do.

I will share the complete list of the 2017 International Latino Book Award finalists as soon as I find a good link. Congratulations to all the finalists.

Be well, be safe, and enjoy your summer! ❤

Eleanor

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, is a finalist for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book in the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book also garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman, available in paperback and ebook format:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

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Island of Enchantment or Island of False Promises?

Reblogged from Latino Rebels, Guest contributer: Marinda Hollar

Island of Enchantment or Island of False Promises?

I am a Boise State University student who went to Puerto Rico on an exchange program for a short year with the goal of improving my Spanish, learning about political processes in another cultural environment, and well, to enjoy a year in a tropical Caribbean paradise. It didn’t take long before I absolutely fell in love with the island; the beaches are so unbelievably beautiful, the people are so incredibly welcoming, the culture so vibrant and full of life. It certainly lives up to the its nickname—The Island of Enchantment. On any given corner on any given day, one can hear music floating through the air: it always seems to be either an infectious salsa rhythm or the pumping bass of the latest reggaeton song, (the local mix of reggae / rap that seems to be the music of choice for many young people here) and undoubtedly, somebody is dancing or singing or refreshing themselves with a nice cold beer while they share time with friends or family, or as is often the case, with both. The culture is so oriented in family, in sharing, in passing quality time with loved ones—whether it be at the beach, seated next to the river in the jungle, or even just hanging out at home. It is truly a delightful place to be.

However, I quickly also realized that Puerto Rico has its fair share of problems. They are currently faced with a stifling $73 billion debt, brought about by an unfortunate mix of unwise spending habits by the local government including corrupt politicians, failed privatization attempts and a plethora of unjust financial policies imposed by the United States government.

The most recent law forced upon the Puerto Rican people by the U.S. government with the supposed intention of helping Puerto Rico pull itself out of debt is the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (or PROMESA, a terribly frustrating pun which I will explain shortly). This law stipulates that a team of seven individuals, nominated by the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. federal government, in effect take control of the Puerto Rican government in order to restructure and repay the debt. They must approve the local government’s budget for the fiscal year, and they must additionally sign off on every law passed to ensure that it doesn’t worsen the crisis. This Oversight Board has the power to make demands of the Puerto Rican government, and has already imposed significant austerity manners.

It is important to note that the only purpose of the Board is to pull the country out of debt. It is not necessarily charged with the well-being of the Puerto Rican people. In fact, one could argue that there is motivation to continue to entrench the island in even more debt, as the president of the Board currently own at least $265,000 in Puerto Rican bonds, sparking debate over a possible conflict of interest, as an increase in debt would mean an increase in his wealth.

This oversight board is an uncomfortable concept. I want you to imagine this from the Puerto Rican perspective: giving up even more of your local government’s sovereignty, rendering your governor (the highest government office on the island) a mere puppet, with the country that has repeatedly mistreated and abused your people as the puppeteer. Putting your country’s future in the hands of a group of people chosen by a government that has a history of squeezing every last cent out of your people by passing such legislature as the Jones Act, which stipulates that Puerto Rico can only import goods from the United States, on a U.S.-based boat with a U.S.-baed crew, increasing the price of pretty much everything and doubling the federal taxes that Puerto Ricans have to pay. A government that makes a habit of sending your country’s young men and women to the most dangerous fronts during times of war so that your people are those who are dying en masse, and not the white soldiers. A government that has conducted experiments testing new methods of contraception on the women of your countryside in the name of not endangering their own people (even though people born in Puerto Rico are, technically, U.S. citizens). A government that has in the past gone so far as to make your own flag, the pride of the nation, illegal in public arenas. A government that is not representative of your people, your culture, your interests, or even your well-being. This is the government that chose the members of the group that basically have fiscal control of the island.

I know that I would be bitter. No, more than that—outraged. And I would most definitely be extremely dubious in regards to the true goals of the Oversight and Management Board. The PROMESA (the Spanish word for promise) from the U.S. government to “help the Puerto Rican people” by taking complete control of the local government has already been broken. In the short four months that the Board has had control of the islands finances, they have approved measures such as:

    • Increasing property taxes,
    • Increasing court fees,
    • Increasing traffic ticket prices,
    • A new internet tax,
    • Increasing the mandatory minimum car insurance,
    • Increasing the already tangled web of permits that one needs to drive a motor vehicle in PR,
    • Increasing the number of permits required for construction projects, and increasing the cost of said permits,
    • Cutting credits for projects that attract tourists (the island’s main source of income),
    • Cutting credits to revitalize urban living centers,
    • Cutting credits for investments that would develop the local economy, and the cut that personally pains me the most,
    • Cutting $603 million dollars of funding from the only public university system on the island, La Universidad de Puerto Rico.

The current governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló, has said that the Oversight Management Board requested that $603 million be cut from some part of the Puerto Rican government’s budget. He has also said that other than the university system, there is simply no other source of funding, except for the public health program. However, he also refuses to release an official list of how the public funds are being spent, and refuses to have the massive $73 billion-dollar debt audited by an economic board to determine how much of it is “legal debt” (used on projects that served to benefit the citizens of Puerto Rico), and how much of it is “illegal debt” (exactly the opposite: used for corrupt purposes, often in the form of useless projects, i.e. “bridges to nowhere,”, etc. This kind of debt does not have to be repaid, as the people should not be punished for bad decisions made by their government). The debt that Puerto Rico has accumulated over the years, legal and otherwise, is so substantial that the annual interest on the debt has reached $6 billion. With a population of 3.4 million people on the island, that means that every man, woman, and child would pay about $1,500 yearly, just to cover the annual interest. This amount becomes much more significant when one considers that the average annual income for a Puerto Rican is just $15,000. This number is bound to decrease even further if the latest round of proposed cuts by the oversight management board are approved. Without access to a quality, affordable education, the cycle of poverty on the island is bound to continue downward.

Keep in mind, the country has been in crisis mode for a while now, and the university has already seen about $300 million in cuts in the last three years. The resources are already stretched thin, with overly crowded classrooms in need of upkeep, professors’ benefits and salaries that have already taken substantial hits, and funding for research at an all-time low. The result of these proposed cuts would be disastrous: it has been stipulated that 8 of the 11 public campuses in the UPR system would be forced to permanently close their doors, leaving all the students registered in those unlucky eight branches of the university to scramble to either try to enroll in one of the three universities that remain (which will overnight become extremely crowded, and also have to take cost-reducing measures to be able to continue), or give up on receiving a higher education and settle for trying to find work in the struggling Puerto Rican economy. By the way, those that choose (or are forced, by lack of resources to pay the higher tuition) to take the latter path will potentially soon only receive a minimum salary of $4.25 hourly if they are under 25 years of age, compared to the continental U.S.’s $7.25 national minimum, another change proposed by the Oversight Board. It is also very possible that the UPR would lose its accreditation if the proposed cuts are approved, because the education will simply be unacceptable. In this case, all the time and money that the students currently enrolled will have been for nothing, as other universities and employers don’t accept credits earned in a non-accredited organization.

The options are grim for students who are already struggling to pay the relatively low tuition. The country has an astounding 46% of the population that lives below the poverty level, that is about twice as poor as the poorest state in the U.S., and faced with these new cuts to social services and increases in expenses, the whole island has troubling times ahead. The Oversight Management Board is not thinking about the future of the Puerto Rican people—they are tying their hands behind their back, blindfolding them, kicking them in the gut and asking why they don’t get up and fight. The U.S. government seems to make a pattern of setting Puerto Rico up for failure and then blaming them when the inevitable happens. They are unable to declare bankruptcy (like all U.S. states have the ability to do) because of their “commonwealth” status, (codename for colony, which is illegal according to a resolution 1514 of the United Nations- “All peoples have an inalienable right to complete freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty and the integrity of their national territory, [the UN] Solemnly proclaims the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”). And they are equally unable to declare bankruptcy as a country, because they are technically not an independent nation and are therefore considered “dependent” on the U.S. for financial support.

Now is when I make my plea to you. Before I came here on exchange, I had no idea what was going on in Puerto Rico. I am a Political Science and Spanish student at Boise State University, and I like to think of myself as a well-informed person. I make it a habit to read the news daily, but I had no idea about the status of Puerto Rico. My knowledge was basically, “They’re almost like a state, right?”. And from what I have gathered based on the reactions of my family, friends and university colleagues back in the states, many U.S. citizens share that same level of very limited information. Puerto Rican news is simply not broadcasted in the states, and I don’t remember ever learning anything about this small beautiful island in any part of my public-school education. Because of the unfortunate collective ignorance of the American people, the U.S. government basically has free reign to continue to pass oppressive policies against the Puerto Rican people, and the country will continue to be at the mercy of their great dictator.

Unless you do something. I truly believe in the American system. Further, I truly believe that if we can rally enough people to call their senators and tell them that this issue will not be silenced any longer, we can make real change. I propose that we raise our voices, and demand that we treat Puerto Rican (technically fellow American) citizens with the respect and decency that they deserve, do away with the law PROMESA and all the false promises that accompany it, and most urgently, most immediately, demand that the $603 million not be cut from the university, because a nation without education is a nation that will be trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and an inability to bring about change.

During my time here, I have made some of the most solid friendships of my life. I have met people that are truly amazing. Their struggles to attend university despite the fact that their family is barely scraping by are truly awe-inspiring, accepting loans and graduating with thousands of dollars in student debt in order to get an education and have a shot at a better life for themselves and their families. The UPR system educates thousands of students every year that are often recruited by U.S. companies because it produces such driven and competent workers. If the funding is cut, many students won’t be able to afford to travel to other parts of the island to study, as the only campuses that will be able to remain open are on the far east and west sides of the island, and they would either have to pay for an apartment near campus or pay the approximately $40 in gas daily in order to be able to go to class. Please, help me bring attention to this issue so that the people of Puerto Rico that are trying to better their situation are able to do just that. Please, help me to put pressure on our government to stop these disastrous cuts from being made. I thank you so much for your time, and sincerely ask that you spend five more minutes to have a conversation with your local representative to show that this issue is important to their constituents.

Below I have written a brief statement that nicely summarizes the main points that the Puerto Rican people want YOU, as an American, to tell your state representative that the people here don’t have. I know it can be intimidating to pick up the phone and call, but it truly is the most effective way to make your voice heard in these troubling times. Below I have also included a list of senators and representatives on the Natural Resources subcommittee, which oversees all things Puerto Rico, that you can call to apply pressure. Please, an extra five minutes of your time has the power to make all the difference for the beautiful island, and the American citizens, of Puerto Rico.

Hello, my name is ___________ and I am a constituent of (CITY, STATE, ZIPCODE) and I am calling to talk about the situation in Puerto Rico. I don’t need a response. I believe that:

  • Before any further austerity measures are taken, it is necessary that the public debt be audited, to determine how much of the debt is actually legal, and therefore, necessary to repay.
  • The Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) unfairly imposes an undemocratic regime on the people of Puerto Rico and its government.
  • It is also trying to implement policies that will cripple the economy and the people of Puerto Rico, most notably cutting the $603 million from the UPR system. This would kill the university system as it is known here and prevent many people from studying. It must be stopped. The university needs that funding and the island needs the university.

The American people have a sense of justice and this repression of the people that are supposedly under our care will not stand. Please, raise your voice, help the people of Puerto Rico avoid the looming educational crisis that will ironically be brought about by the group of people sent to improve the economic crisis on the island. Please, let your government know that false promises are NOT tolerated in our political system, and that we demand better.

***

Sources
Bury, Chris. “Is This 1917 Law Suffocating Puerto Rico’s Economy?” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

“Directory of Representatives.” United States House of Representatives. US House of Representatives, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

Pr, Telemundo. “Obama Nombra Integrantes De La Junta De Control Fiscal.” Telemundo Puerto Rico. Telemundo Puerto Rico, 31 Aug. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Soledad Dávila Calero, María. “Professors Argue Against Further Cuts to UPR Budget.”  Caribbean Business. Caribbean Business, 10 Mar. 2017.

“The United Nations and Decolonization.” United Nations. United Nations, 1 Dec. 1960. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Original article:

http://www.latinorebels.com/2017/05/01/island-of-enchantment-or-island-of-false-promises/