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Wednesday, October 9-15, 2019 - // no. 024

LEARN ABOUT THE FLOURISHING SANTURCE START-UP ECOSYSTEM P14 DEBATE CONTINUES OVER RAISING MINIMUM WAGE P12 A LOOK AT THE ABANDONED PROPERTY CRISIS P18

Puerto Rico and the Caribbean

www.theweeklyjournal.com

PUERTO RICO STOCK INDEX HAS OUTPERFORMED DOW JONES SINCE HURRICANE MARIA

>Archive

Four out of the five publicly traded companies have exceeded expectations since the hurricane devastated the island more than two years ago

A Rosario Fajardo

CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM SEEKS TO TRANSFORM DISTRESSED COMMUNITIES P20

rfajardo@wjournalpr.com

@RosarioWJournal

newly released report by Birling Capital Advisors shows that four out of the five publicly traded companies in the Puerto Rico Stock Index (PRSI) have performed remarkably well since Hurricane Maria devastated the island more than two years ago, with these four companies easily outperforming the Dow Jones Industrial Average. According to the report, the Dow Jones average for the

period Sept. 20, 2017 to Sept. 26, 2019 was 19.98 percent. By contrast, OFG Bancorp (OFG), operating locally as Oriental Bank, achieved a total return of 132.10 percent during this same time period. OFG came in first of the five companies on the so-called PRSI. Coming in second was Evertec Inc. (EVTC), operating locally as Evertec Inc., with a total return of 82.59 percent. First Bancorp. (FBP), operating locally as FirstBank, was ranked third, achieved a total GO TO PAGE 4


The Weekly Journal > Wednesday, October 9, 2019 >

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A WEEK IN REVIEW PUERTO RICO BANKERS ASSOCIATION NAMES NEW PRESIDENT

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>Courtesy Spirit

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The president and chief executive officer of FirstBank, Aurelio Alemán, was elected as the new president of the Puerto Rico Bankers Association. Also part of the board of directors are Guillermo Gómez, president of Citi, and José Rafael Fernández, president of Oriental Bank, as vice president and treasurer, respectively. During his term, which runs from Oct., 2019 until 2021, Alemán will focus on maintaining a solid industry that promotes a favorable climate for business and investment in Puerto Rico.

SPIRIT ANNOUNCES TWO NEW DESTINATIONS FROM SAN JUAN Beginning Dec. 19, 2019, Spirit will offer daily nonstop service from Newark Liberty International Airport and Boston Logan International Airport to San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Spirit will also add an additional daily flight between Philadelphia International Airport on March 1, 2020. “We are constantly looking for growth opportunities in our network and we are so proud of the growth we have had in Puerto Rico over the years,” said John Kirby, Spirit’s Vice President of Network Planning.

Powered BY El Vocero de Puerto Rico, 1064 Ave Ponce de León 2nd floor San Juan, PR Postal Address: PO Box 15074, San Juan, PR 00902

PUERTO RICO’S BANKRUPTCY CASES DROP 1.3% IN SEPT. 2019 VS. SEPT. 2018 The 5,690 petitions submitted to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court during the first nine months of 2019 reflect a decrease of 1.3 percent when compared to this time last year. According to the Boletín de Puerto Rico, the majority of the 3,457 cases filed from January to September were submitted under the Chapter 13 category, which gives individuals the chance to reorganize their finances. Standing in second place were 2,160 Chapter 7 cases seeking total liquidation.

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 return of 81.13 percent. Popular, Inc. (BPOP), operating locally as Banco Popular, with a return of 35.66 percent, came in fourth. Triple S (GTS), operating locally as Triple-S, was the only company in the PRSI that showed negative growth, as it achieved a return of -37.29 percent, and came in last on the list. According to Birling Capital Advisor’s report, the PRSI is a market value-weighted index, composed of five (5) companies headquartered and/or with their principal place of business in Puerto Rico. All five companies are traded on the national stock markets: NYSE, AMEX or NASDAQ. As a group, the PRSI companies have a total market capitalization of $11.21 billion and created about 18,518 direct jobs. “This is very good news for Puerto Rico because it shows that most of these companies have performed really well since Hurricane Maria. The analysis provides a framework for people to continue investing in these companies and Puerto Rico,” said Francisco Rodríguez Castro, president and CEO of Birling Capital Advisors. “It’s prudent to highlight how Puerto Rico’s public companies (i.e. those traded in the U.S. stock market) have recovered after Maria, except Triple-S, and that can be explained because Triple-S is an insurance company and they faced many claims after Maria that affected their business,” he said in an interview with THE José Rafael Fernández, president and CEO of OFG Bancorp. >Archive WEEKLY JOURNAL. Rodríguez was bullish on Oriental Bank. “OFG positioned for continued growth, giving other banks (the government’s health plan for the medically acquired BBVA [Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria] a run for their money,” he said. indigent) and they will become a big player. Puerto Rico in 2012 and they have been Their overall strategy is to shift to healthcare and Banco Popular is still doing quite absorbing those assets for several less [business] through property and casualty well, despite coming in at no. years. This year, they have also insurance,” he said. 4 on the list, he said. “The acquired Scotiabank [Puerto Rico]. numbers are what they are. This is a big driver for them. But if our analysis had been Oriental: Successfully Adjusting to Puerto Their stock was down but now from 2014 on, Popular Rico’s New Reality they are probably one of the would have beat everyone. For his part, José Rafael Fernández, president best capitalized stocks. The Popular would have grown and CEO of OFG Bancorp, told THE WEEKLY financials, their loan portfolio by 67 percent and that is JOURNAL that Oriental’s success has a lot to do has grown… like in automobiles. significant. But this report with the bank’s focus on adapting to the new They are very liquid and that has is only a two-year snapshot. environment in Puerto Rico. “The island has to be benefited them,” he said. Popular beat the SNP rebuilt and is in the process of reconstruction. The They have also 500 even though other island needs to be resilient. We are focusing on instituted electronicpublic companies getting closer to our clients, providing them with access technology grew faster than them the necessary capital and funding to get them through cashless ATMs, [during the two-year back up to speed and get our communities up and “cardless cash” in their period],” Rodríguez moving.” network through a noted. By the end of the year, the bank hopes to have mobile app and photo Meanwhile, Triple-S 56 branches open islandwide and coupled with its deposits, he indicated. had a big exposure to focus on technology, “we are making banking ‘fácil, “The combination property claims after rápido, hecho’ he said, echoing the bank’s slogan of of a very liquid bank Maria, but he forecasts “easy, fast, done.” Understanding that consumers with a prudent growth that the company “has today are not interested in the “old ways” of doing strategy and innovation the capacity to recover banking, he said, the bank has been differentiating has distinguished them very well.” itself from its competitors in the market. from other banks. They “They were doing OFG has also been very focused on acquiring also have little exposure quite well and then assets, growing its capital and its market share, to public corporations the storm hit. They Fernández indicated. “Demographics are a and the government, entered the health challenge. There are fewer people and they -Francisco Rodríguez Castro, president so that helps. As insurance market are older, so the market needs to adjust. The and CEO of Birling Capital Advisors news of their strategy through Salud Vital consumers are not there. So, we need to look comes out, Oriental is

This is very good news for Puerto Rico because it shows that most of these companies have performed really well since Hurricane Maria. The analysis provides a framework for people to continue investing in these companies and Puerto Rico.


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Had an individual made an investment of $10,000 on Sept. 20, 2017, these would have been the results, as of Sept. 26, 2019: Total Value

Oriental Evertec First Bank Popular Triple S

$23,284.21 $18,275.86 $18,239.56 $13,565.70 $6,302.22

Total Gain/Loss

$13,284.21 $8,775.86 $ 8,239.56 $3,565.70 -$3,697.78

Source: Birling Capital Advisors at the competitive landscape and adjust to that climate,” he said. In that sense, while the overall pie may be smaller in Puerto Rico, so too are the number of banks. Fernández added that in the short term, the pending reconstruction funds, which have yet to be released by the federal government, are very important to boost the economy. “We have an opportunity here to fix the patient once and for all,” he said, noting that other measures also need to be enacted, such as transforming the island’s energy system and lowering corporate taxes, to move the economy, improve the island’s competitiveness and attract private capital.

loans and net charge-offs. While we are closely monitoring the Puerto Rico macro environment and how it may be impacted by recent political events on the island, we enter the second half of the year with strong momentum,” he added. Meanwhile, Triple-S Management Corp. recently announced that two years after hurricanes Irma and Maria, the company and its subsidiary, Triple-S Propiedad Inc., remain comfortable with their reserves for hurricane-related claims. To date, Triple-S Propiedad has paid about $687.8 million in claims related to Maria, resolving

96 percent of the 17,746 total claims received as of Sept. 23, 2019. Of the estimated 745 claims that remain open, the company is involved in litigation in a total of 230 cases, including 48 cases filed after June 30, 2019. “Our commitment is to work on the remaining claims with all parties involved so that we can achieve a fair resolution that is in accordance with the values and conditions established in each policy, as well as the terms of our reinsurance,” said José Del Amo, president of Triple-S Propiedad.

Banco Popular Posts Strong Second Quarter 2019

A press official at Banco Popular told THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that bank officials would be available to discuss various issues during an upcoming roundtable with reporters. The bank will also report its third quarter 2019 results later this month. In July, Banco Popular reported a net income of $171.1 million for the second quarter 2019, compared to net income of $167.9 million for the first quarter 2019. “We had a strong second quarter, with increases in net interest income, non-interest income, loans and deposits. Our results were driven by robust activity in our Puerto Rico business, which showed growth in credit and debit card activity, continued strength in our auto business and increased mortgage loan originations,” Ignacio Álvarez, president and CEO of Banco Popular in a statement. “Additionally, our U.S. business achieved loan growth after a slow start to the year. Our credit quality metrics continued their positive progression, with reduction in non-performing

Ignacio Álvarez, president and CEO of Banco Popular. >Archive


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Mortgage Bankers Association: Nowhere To Go But Up Affordability remains a challenge for many Rosario Fajardo

P

rfajardo@wjournalpr.com

the Puerto Rico Association of Realtors’ annual billion. This represents a whopping decrease of 82 conference. percent in 14 years. “We have López, who is a senior vice received a really big blow,” he president at Banco Popular, said. outlined the travails of the realHowever, the real-estate estate industry in the past 14 market is moving in the In 2016, there years. By way of comparison, right direction, López said were 5,500 property he said in 2005, there were 11 to realtors. And it’s not just foreclosures commercial banks in Puerto in the well-known areas of islandwide; in 2017 Rico and 50 mortgage banks. To Condado, Dorado and Old there were 3,700; date, there are five commercial San Juan. “Real-estate prices and this year, the banks, 21 mortgage banks and, have increased dramatically [in projection is similar, with the sale of Scotiabank these areas], but that’s another noted Silvio López, Puerto Rico to Oriental Bank, kind of animal. I also mean in president of the there will be four commercial regular neighborhoods. I have Puerto Rico Mortgage banks on the island. seen buyers paying above the Bankers Association. He also noted that in 2005, appraised value. The market is about $11.2 billion worth of stable and values are going up,” mortgages were transacted in he noted. Puerto Rico, while last year there were just $1.7 López said Banco Popular, the main bank in

In fact...

@RosarioWJournal

uerto Rico has touched bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up. That is the message of Silvio López, president of the Puerto Rico Mortgage Bankers Association. “In Puerto Rico, it is easy to point the finger and blame. It is difficult to accept our own personal responsibility. But I am optimistic because even with what has been happening in Puerto Rico, the volume of mortgages has been going up,” he said during

Real-estate prices are going up in many areas, not just in Condado and Dorado, but also in regular neighborhoods, according to the Puerto Rico Mortgage Bankers Association. >Archive


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Puerto Rico, serves just over 60 percent of the mortgages in Puerto Rico. Contrary to some local media reports, property foreclosures have not gone through the roof in recent years, he explained. In 2016, there were 5,500 property foreclosures islandwide; in 2017 there were 3,700; and this year, the projection is similar, he noted. “Property foreclosures have also stabilized and despite most Puerto Ricans having low incomes, our homeownership rate is about 69 percent, one of the highest, if not the highest, compared with other countries.” In fact, he said Puerto Rico’s home ownership rate is higher than that of the United States and Germany. Still, there are challenges that need to be dealt with. For example, López said that “the biggest challenge, what we have heard on the street is that buyers cannot find properties. So, there are tremendous opportunities out there.” This is another sign that investors, primarily from the U.S. mainland, “are waiting in the sidelines to see what happens to Puerto Rico. We need to instill confidence and we need to improve the economy,” he said. Another challenge López mentioned is that the number of condos that have Federal Housing Administration (FHA) certification for the federal loan program has dropped from about 700 several years ago, to just 135 today. The FHA certification is important because without it, homeowners cannot buy or refinance properties in that condominium with federally guaranteed loans, including FHA and reverse mortgages. In others words, these buyers have more limited financing options, thus restricting affordable housing opportunities for many people.

Big houses are no longer the wave of the future in Puerto Rico, as households are smaller and residents are growing older. >AP file photo

services.” As the population continues to age, there will be increasing need for housing that is friendly to the elderly. Gone are the days with two-parent families and several children. Gap Between Today, many households have no Affordability and children, or perhaps Availability one child, while others The same issue are comprised of was also highlighted single, aging residents. by Emilio Colón “We are designing Zavala, president new spaces of the Puerto Rico that are termed Builders Association. universal design, “Most people can pay which improves mortgages of $99,000 accessibility. This [for their properties] is about more than but what is available resiliency because are properties of we also have to deal between $150,000 and with the construction $159,000. There is a code and adapting gap in accessibility,” he ourselves to the -Emilio Colón Zavala, said. “We need to close tropics and climate that gap. For example, president of the Puerto Rico change,” Colón with the change in Builders Association explained. demographics, do we According to the really need homes AARP, universal of three to four design in housing includes having wider doors and bedrooms? Why not smaller properties?” entryways so that the properties are wheelchair The industry is aware of the demographic accessible, have a “no step” entrance and all living challenges and is responding, he said. “There is space on one floor, among other features. The demand, but households today are smaller and intent is for general utility and market appeal to all they are aging. This requires different needs and

We are designing new spaces that are termed universal design, which improves accessibility. This is about more than resiliency because we also have to deal with the construction code and adapting ourselves to the tropics and climate change.

sectors. In terms of resilience, Colón said the industry must focus on mitigating hurricanes and flooding, as well as using “green building” features. “Why do we use potable water for toilets? Does this make sense? Why not seawater? Let’s look at what other jurisdictions have done. In the U.S. Virgin Islands [USVI], properties collect rainwater. They need to do that. Necessity is the mother invention.” In fact, at least 80 percent of Hong Kong residents has been using seawater to flush toilets since the 1950s, since the city has scarce freshwater resources, just like the USVI. According to the Chemical and Engineering News website, salty wastewater is less toxic than potable water. “As coastal populations and water demand rise, this idea may become more attractive elsewhere, though some researchers have worried about the release of potentially toxic by-products to coastal areas from treating seawater with chlorination. To the contrary, a [2015] study suggests that the practice not only helps conserve freshwater but also may protect wildlife in marine ecosystems,” the website said. Based on the association’s data, in terms of demand, their biggest need is for properties under $150,000 in value, followed by properties of several million dollars each. This high-end luxury market is being fueled by Act 20/22 investors who must buy properties in Puerto Rico, as part of amendments to the laws. “This is important because it requires a stronger commitment to Puerto Rico,” Colón said.


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Puerto Rico Department of Labor’s Unemployment Rate Lower Than Federal Estimates Researches from UPR-Cayey note discrepancies between two major studies

T Giovanna Garofalo

ggarofalo@wjournalpr.com

@giopgarofalo

he Investigations Institute of the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey Campus (UPR-Cayey), revealed that there is a discrepancy between the P.R. Department of Labor’s 2018 estimate of unemployment on the island versus the data provided by the American Community Survey (ACS) of the U.S. Census Bureau. Dr. José Caraballo Cueto, a professor and researcher for the Investigations Institute, informed THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that the U.S. Census Bureau released its findings last September and that the ACS was the largest socioeconomic survey for Puerto Rico, “let’s say, 12 times larger than the Department of Labor’s [survey].” According to the Investigations Institute, the ACS places Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate at 15.1 and 4.9 stateside in 2018. Meanwhile, the P.R. Department of Labor estimated for the same year that the unemployment rate was 9.2 locally and 4 in mainland U.S. Thus, the difference in percentage points was 5.9 and 0.9 in Puerto Rico and the United States, respectively.

However, the P.R. Department of Labor’s market study for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 placed unemployment at 8.4 percent, and 10.2 percent for the previous fiscal year. Regardless, the numbers are still below the estimates provided by the federal government. Caraballo Cueto explained that the term unemployment applies to people who are not working but are actively seeking a job. In contrast, a person who is neither working or looking for employment falls outside the labor market. The professor noted that this distinction is noteworthy when analyzing the local department’s findings because it could be impacted by the study’s methodology. “What is the Department of Labor’s methodological problem? That the pollsters go out on work days to interview people in homes. In that sense, if a person is looking for employment on a weekday during work hours, it is highly likely that they are handing out resumés and attending interviews, among others. That can lead these pollsters to claim that a person is outside the labor market when in reality, they are looking for jobs,” he reasoned. He added that an underestimated unemployment rate has a collateral effect on the labor participation rate because if more unemployed people are crossed off as not seeking employment, they are removed from the labor participation market, which in turn lowers its rate. Considering the information documented in the ACS, Caraballo Cueto affirmed that the

labor participation rate in Puerto Rico would be higher than the estimate provided by the local Department of Labor. Although he pointed to dissimilarities between the federal and local estimates, Caraballo Cueto observed that both concur that the unemployment rate in Puerto Rico shrank from 2017 to 2018, a fact he attributed mainly to rebuilding efforts after the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017. The professor also noted that the dip could be attributed to the fact that many unemployed people migrated to the mainland U.S. in 2018, in what is considered the greatest exodus in the island’s modern history. “In that sense, one can say that the unemployment rate dropped. However, saying that it is below 10 percent is not entirely correct,” he asserted. The Department of Labor could not be reached for comment on the methodology of their survey and the differences between their estimates and the federal government’s. Caraballo Cueto said that despite receiving several billion dollars in federal funding and the mass migration, Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate is still drastically higher than that in stateside U.S. and even other Latin American countries. “Instead of celebrating that the unemployment rate is lower, we must consider how lacerated the country’s economic model is if despite receiving a large sum of nonrecurring funds the [unemployment] rate is at such a high level as 15 percent,” he affirmed.


9 < The Weekly Journal > Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Be on trend... be on trend...

B

www.elvocero.com/revistas/zona


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Puerto Rico Aims to Achieve UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals The Statistics Institute launched a portal to measure the island’s progress Giovanna Garofalo

T

ggarofalo@wjournalpr.com

@giopgarofalo

he Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (SI) and the United Nations Association of the United States of America, Puerto Rico Chapter (UNA-US Puerto Rico), announced an alliance to create a digital portal

that includes all available information regarding the island’s progress toward achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN). The website contains information about the UN 2030 Agenda, which represents a framework of global action with specific, measurable goals to improve the quality of life for all individuals. The portal primarily seeks to provide the greatest amount of data to measure Puerto Rico’s development in each respective area and to generate affirmative action in order to accomplish these goals by the established year. “The collaboration that we are doing with UNAUSA Puerto Rico is to share efforts and resources to set the SDGs in motion; to look at these goals with a vision toward 2030,” Dr. Orville M. Disdier, interim executive director of the SI, stated.

In Sept. 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 SDGs with a total of 169 targets or indicators with the goal to create a fully inclusive space where all peoples can enjoy peace and prosperity, as well as to protect the planet’s ecosystems. These SDGs are no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation, and infrastructure; reduced inequality; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water, as in, protecting marine life; life on land (safeguarding terrestrial ecosystems); peace, justice, and strong institutions; and partnerships to achieve the goal.


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The latter refers to the Rico to accomplish the SDGs by will entail “additional but necessary” working directly or indirectly toward importance of revitalizing global 2030, considering the island’s tasks that will require collaboration achieving SDGs in Puerto Rico. partnerships in order to strengthen socioeconomic and political from the public and private sectors, One of these projects is related the means of climates, as well as as well as from residents. to the SDG for quality education, implementing the infrastructural “With the collaboration of the created by a special education measures to challenges. people and with us, along with other teacher, Bryan M. Rivera Medina. achieve the SDGs. To this, Disdier entities... it will be possible to do The goal of this project, called On this, Ana affirmed that the that. So, it is a commitment. We ‘Reading Faces,’ is to ensure that Sustainable G. Jara, project portal aims to set are introducing a product that is students have an emotional Development Goals: manager for the forth discussions not final, that is in process and that education for socioemotional SI, stressed that and actions to is tied to a commitment. We want bonding and to ensure access to • No poverty the institute’s improve Puerto every one of you... to help us do it,” functional and academic skills; this, • Zero hunger efforts rely on Rico’s standing. Disdier stated. by means of artificial intelligence • Good health and wellpartnerships with “Undoubtedly. The portal includes a section (AI). being organizations All countries face called ‘Exemplary Projects,’ whose To learn more about this and other • Quality education and agencies to major challenges purpose is to highlight those projects and the program’s goals, visit • Gender equality provide data so and Puerto Rico organizations or individuals who are www.ods.estadisticas.pr. • Clean water and that the institute is not the sanitation can include the exception. That • Affordable and clean highest possible is why we aim... energy number of for public policy • Decent work and economic growth indicators in its on how we can • Industry, innovation portal. achieve this. But and infrastructure “Part of the the important • Reduced inequality effort that we are thing is to • Sustainable cities and performing are include the SDGs communities alliances and the in the framework • Responsible most important because that will consumption and aspect and our allow us to have production primary focus a clear north,” • Climate actionLife are indicators; the SI official below waterLife on land to have the said. • Peace, justice and strong institutions greatest number He added, “it • Partnerships to of indicators for would be ideal achieve the goal Puerto Rico and for Puerto Rico for us to compare to have a vision ourselves with toward the other jurisdictions future and to and the other indicators worldwide,” know what it hopes to accomplish Jara said. by 2030 in each of the SDGs. On the website’s menu there is Therefore, for governments to be a link to the partners involved in facilitators in that process or in compiling the information, which that vision of the future instead currently include the SI, the P.R. of losing focus and not paying Department of Education, the U.S. attention to that highly important Forest Service, the U.S. National framework.” Park Service, the Environmental Moreover, Disdier Protection Agency, the National acknowledged that the SI’s Institutes of Health, the Puerto greatest obstacles are scarce Rico Manufacturers Association, economic and human resources. the Puerto Rico Psychology According to the interim executive Association, the Puerto Rico Bar director, the SI has held talks Association, University of the Sacred with the Financial Oversight and Heart (Sagrado Corazón), and the Management Board (FOMB) University of Puerto Rico. so that this fiscal entity can “It is very important to redistribute the budget in order maintain partnerships with those for the SI to be able to retain its organizations because the thing we staff. need the most is data. We (the SI) “In order to achieve all this, we are a secondary source; we are the need... enough resources to set ones who provide access to that the process in motion and for data, but we need them from other those collaborations to begin to agencies or from investigations of move the wheel. The institute is other agencies... They are the ones doing that, and we will continue to who will help us achieve the greatest do so, and we will go on with the number of indicators,” Jara added. project until accomplishing the Dr. Orville M. Disdier, interim executive director of the SI, explained that the portal THE WEEKLY JOURNAL necessary goals,” he said. aims to set forth discussions and action to improve Puerto Rico’s standing. asked if it is feasible for Puerto Disdier stressed that the SDGs

In fact...

>Josian E. Bruno Gómez


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Raising Puerto Rico’s Minimum Wage Should be Examined Economists agree that the increase should be attempted, as long as Puerto Rico’s different sectors and industries are carefully studied to determine their corresponding wages

I

Claudia Guerrero Negrón

newsroom@wjournalpr.com

@cguerreronegron

n a piece of legislation presented in the House of Representatives last week by representative Joel Franqui Atiles, it was proposed that the Puerto Rico minimum wage be incremented to $8.25 to help employees within the private sector, which would come into effect 12 months after its approval. Manuel Laboy, Puerto Rico Economic Development Secretary, says he wants jobs to be created and for workers The project, House Bill 2264, also proposes to have a fair salary. >Archive the creation of an Interdisciplinary Commission that will conduct a study in order to see how the acts. In fact, ever since the federal $7.25 wage workers’ representatives. If an increase takes different industries and sectors in Puerto Rico are was imposed, we haven’t necessarily seen the place, we have to do it in an orderly fashion and doing economically, which would be composed of generation of employment, on the contrary, we a lot of things should be taken into consideration University of Puerto Rico professors and economy see that each time there’s less employment, and because the private sector is the one that creates experts. less employment that is good, which is the most jobs,” said Laboy. This part of the legislation is crucial according important part,” said Brugueras, who also spoke Heriberto Martínez, who is also on the AEPR to Alba Brugueras, president of the Puerto Rico about the importance of a minimum wage board Directors Board, coincides with the thought that a Association of Economists, (AEPR by its acronym in which Puerto Rico had before its elimination raise to the minimum wage is necessary, however Spanish), who says by the Pedro Roselló it is too early to tell what the effect will be on that raising the administration in 1998. the economy. Like Brugueras and Laboy, the minimum wage is In a radio interview economist explained the importance of studying something that has with NotiUno, Puerto Rico Puerto Rico’s industries first. to be attempted. Economic Development “I compared the medium salary with that of the Brugueras added Secretary Manuel Laboy Virgin Islands, Guam, Florida, Texas, New Jersey that, in fact, the said that if this legislation and Puerto Rico’s is the lowest, by far. Puerto Rico’s increment should is to be implemented, there economy is an economy that is driven mainly by be a higher first has to be a study done the internal demand. The primate consumption amount, but to understand how this of homes represents 87 to 88 percent of the total that it should be will impact businesses, gross national product (GNP). So as workers start implemented in a specifically within the earning a little more and start using their credit gradual manner. private sector. cards, that is a positive impact. We are an economy  -Puerto Rico “It has been “Right now, regarding that depends on consumption,” said the economist. Economic Development Secretary more than 20 this bill, what I To the argument that this would have a years since they recommend is that we negative impact on private sector businesses, Manuel Laboy raised the federal look at the reports, that Martínez reiterated that the increase in sales that minimum wage we can have a roundtable, the wage increment would entail would make it to $7.25 and we still haven’t seen any significative both the government, the private sector and the worthwhile.

If an increase takes place, we have to do it in an orderly fashion and a lot of things should be taken into consideration because the private sector is the one that creates jobs.


13 < The Weekly Journal > Wednesday, October 9, 2019

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Documentos a presentar: cuidado de pacientes (ejemplos: pañales, cuido,

Cómo solicitar la ayuda:

www.defrentepr.com

De Frente al Alzheimer, Inc. 130 Ave. Winston Churchill, PMB 154 San Juan, Puerto Rico 00926 ayuda@defrentepr.com

Tienes hasta el 15 de noviembre

DE FRENTE AL ALZHEIMER


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Gustavo Díaz, The Brave Venturas President, takes a group of individuals around the city of Santurce, connecting them with places like Centro Para Emprendedores in Ciudadela at the Foundation For Puerto Rico headquarters. >Photos by Gabriel Lopez Albarrán

A Start-Up Scene Experience

If you would like to know more about the Santurce start-up ecosystem, this is a tour designed for you

W Claudia Guerrero Negrón

newsroom@wjournalpr.com

@cguerreronegron

alk along Santurce’s buzzling urban city streets and meet the individuals at the forefront of the start-up scene in Puerto Rico. Tour alongside potential collaborators while you visit all the hotspots you need to know to expand your new business. Learn

the ins and outs of the flourishing entrepreneurial hub that is the Juan Ponce de León street. These are all possible with Join Based’s AirBnB experience curated by Gustavo Díaz. Díaz created Santurce’s Flourishing Startup Scene tour with one question in mind: “What are all of the essential people and places that an entrepreneur who moves to Puerto Rico must know about?” This is an experience that tells you specifically where you can find the tools to create or expand a business, where you could move to that is immersed in the start-up scene and the specific individuals you must get in contact with to get your business off the ground. The tour starts off at Café Comunión, named as San Juan’s coolest coffee shop, setting an energized tone for the rest of the tour. Co.Co. Haus, one of the co-working spaces in Santurce, is up next. Co.Co. Haus was one of the first coworking spaces to pop up on the scene, and it is home to many Act 20 corporations, which makes

for an excellent first stop. From here, the tour heads over to Lote 23, a food truck park that also serves as an experimental pop-up platform which allows up and coming restauranteurs to test the waters and see if their menus are well received. The space hosts numerous social events weekly. At Lote 23, you will meet the head of operations, Nicole Martínez. You will then walk over to Foundation for Puerto Rico, where Centro Para Emprendedores is located, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch their business ideas and providing them with the necessary tools needed. Tools like trainings on how to work through the difficulties of Puerto Rico’s permit paperwork that can be a nightmare if not approached correctly. Apart from offering a set of services, like financing and corporate image development to small and medium sized businesses, they offer


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workshops like Start-up Weekends, an intense, They still remembered us a year later, which just 54-hour workshop to develop an idea, get a shows how collaborative the atmosphere is business model validated and create here in Puerto Rico,” said Reese. Halló a viable product. At the end, the launches on Oct. 12. teams who were able to execute Next on the tour was Piloto their idea are rewarded by a 151, another co-working space panel of leading experts in the that has expanded into three community. different locations. It was Jan Reese, one of the one of the pioneers in the entrepreneurs who moved Santurce co-working space to Puerto Rico in April of scene offering services  like 2017, who was also on the helping businesses tour, said that if it weren’t for transition smoothly into this experience, his business Puerto Rico’s ecosystem and would have never providing tech services left the idea stage. like information Even though his security and software team didn’t win, the solutions. workshop helped When we visited the him develop the idea Boys and Girls Club of of his gig economy Puerto Rico, Jennifer app, Halló, designed Hopp, an entrepreneur to connect workers and tech influencer, with employers in a was impacted with how delivery-like service. much work there is still “Going back left to be done and was to Centro para eager to find out how Emprendedores was she could help. - Jennifer Hopp, great because we Patricia De La started Halló on their Torre, their private entrepreneur and tech influencer Startup Weekend. partnership director,

The energy in the co-working spaces we visited is just different than Silicon Valley. It’s just growing so fast, the energy is palpable. There is also a sense of camaraderie that is not felt elsewhere.

spoke about the many collaboration opportunities that exist for new businesses who like to get involved helping the community, like hiring interns. While providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed, businesses acquire extra hands who are put to work. Hopp, owner of her own Venture Capital fund called ATO (Against The Odds), moved to the island after several years of flying back and forth between Silicon Valley and Puerto Rico visiting up and coming start-ups back when the ecosystem was freshly kicking off. With ATO, Hopp is committed to supporting and helping kick off young businesses who are fresh on the scene, providing services like market validation to make sure they are ready to launch. “The energy in the co-working spaces we visited is just different than Silicon Valley. It’s just growing so fast, the energy is palpable. There is also a sense of camaraderie that is not felt elsewhere,” said Hopp. Reality Realty was visited last, meeting up with Iván Zavala, Reality Realty’s CEO, who filled us in on how fertile the Puerto Rican ecosystem is for expansion right now with the Export Services Act (Act 20) which provides a four percent maximum tax rate for new export services businesses in Puerto Rico as well as many other generous tax incentives for newcomers. If you want to join the tours, please contact: (787) 342-3549. 

Patricia De La Torre, Private Partnership Director, The Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico, speaks to entrepreneurs about challenges and collaboration opportunities.


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Investor’s Guide to Charitable Giving By law, new Act 22 grantees have to donate $5,000 to an organization that fights child poverty

A Cynthia López Cabán

clopez@wjournalpr.com

@cynthia_lope

s set forth by the new Incentives Code unveiled three months ago, the next crop of beneficiaries of government tax credits granted under Act 22 will be imposed additional requirements starting next

year. Aside from purchasing a residence and living on the island for at least 183 days a year, future investors will have to make a $10,000 charitable contribution. Originally, it was a $5,000 donation to any goodwill cause. However, after the amendments, a grantee can donate $5,000 to any charity or nonprofit organization he or she wishes to support with the other $5,000 going to a charity that fights child poverty and that is listed with the Joint Special Commission of Legislative Funds for Community Impact, a polemic condition challenged by current grantees during public hearings. At the request of THE WEEKLY JOURNAL, the Joint Special Commission provided a preliminary listing of 198 institutions that included well-known non-profits as well as religious, educational, sports foundations and/or libraries established by former politicians, among other organizations. Adolfo Rodríguez, an adviser to the committee presided by Rep. Antonio Soto Torres and Sen. Migdalia Padilla Arvelo, explained that the document was elaborated from a list of organizations that have requested and were allocated public funds during the past legislative session. The preliminary list only offered the names of organizations in no particular order, but Rodríguez indicated that the final directory would provide a brief description of each organization. The final directory must be completed and approved by the members of the Joint Special Commission, whose names have yet to be disclosed, by the end of the current session, which concludes its work on Nov. 19.

The committee presided by Rep. Antonio Soto Torres and Sen. Migdalia Padilla Arvelo explained that the document was elaborated from a list of organizations that have requested and were allocated public funds during the past legislative session. >Carlos Rivera Giusti

“Close to 600 organizations requested legislative funds. We examined the organizations to identify the ones involved or that are working with the prevention of child poverty,” Rodríguez indicated. “We are still refining the list, other organizations might be added.” After its approval, the directory will be published in English and Spanish on the Commission’s website. According to the law enacted by former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on July 1, the Joint Special Commission has to publish the list of organizations on or before Dec. 31 of each year. In the preliminary list are organizations like Crearte, Julia de Burgos Domestic Violence Shelter, Hogar Ruth (a domestic violence shelter) Museum of Contemporary Art, Salvation Army, New Evolution Cycling Team, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, Camuy Beach Club, Puerto Rico Police Association, Rafael Hernández Colón Library Foundation, Center for Puerto Rico, Foundation Antonio Fas Alzamora, EDP University of Puerto Rico, Voices: Foundation Topy Mamery,

Evangelical Ministry the River of God, Gurabo Marching Band, and Mabo Health and Sports Foundation.

The Objection

During the hearings to discuss the changes to the Incentives Code, Rob Rill, founder of the 20/22 Act Society, objected to the amendment because it took way the investor´s discretion and relinquished it to a listing of entities compiled by the Legislature. “The problem is when politicians change the money route... All the money would go to a specific organization controlled by a commission in the Legislature,” Rill stated at the time. “They will decide which organization is on the list. It’s not acceptable, it’s suspicious.” Estimates from the 20/22 Act Society and the Department of Economic Development and Commerce indicate there are now at least 1,400 grantees under Act 22. Projections estimate that the number will increase to 3,293 in 2025.


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U.S. Supreme Court Declines ERS Pension-Fund Case Opens door to ERS bondholders’ claim to payments Rosario Fajardo

I

rfajardo@wjournalpr.com

@RosarioWJournal

n a victory for Employment Retirement System (ERS) bondholders, the U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday (Oct. 7) to review an Appeals Court ruling regarding the assets of the Puerto Rico government’s ERS pension fund. The review was filed by the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB), which represents the Puerto Rico government under the federal Promesa law, known as the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act. As a result, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, dating to Jan. 2019, is maintained. According to that decision, bondholders who hold about $3 billion in ERS pension debt have a legitimate claim on the ERS assets. Based on the recently filed Plan of Adjustment

to restructure Puerto Rico’s $74 billion debt loan and $50 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, ERS bondholders would receive the largest haircut among creditors. Those holding ERS bonds, which the FOMB considers unsecured credits, would receive a massive haircut of 87 percent. By way of example, if an individual bought $20,000 in “zero coupon” ERS bonds 10-12 years ago, these bonds would now be worth about $4,000 today, based on the Plan of Adjustment, according to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL’s calculations. It is unclear how the Supreme Court decision affects the Plan of Adjustment, although the FOMB indicated it would have no impact. “The treatment of the ERS bonds under the recently filed Plan of Adjustment for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is not affected by [Monday’s] Supreme Court decision. The way the ERS bonds are treated under the plan has not been contingent on the outcome of this case. In addition, there is other litigation involving the validity of the ERS bonds, as well as the scope of the security interest under the bonds, that is still ongoing,” said Edward Zayas, spokesman for the Oversight Board. As part of the proposed adjustment plan, government retirees would receive the smallest haircut, a flat 8.5 percent after $1,200 a month. Other specific recovery terms in the adjustment plan include: A 36 percent reduction for holders of General Obligation bonds issued before 2012 and a 28 percent reduction for holders of Public

Building Authority bonds issued before 2012. In related matters, insurance company Assured Guaranty categorically said it does not support the Plan of Adjustment, alleging that it is premised on terms that “violate Puerto Rico law, its constitution and Promesa. The plan also ignores the rule of law on which our society and financial systems rely, and constitutional liens and priorities. The plan was developed in the absence of consensual discussions with the island’s long-term and largest creditors and is based at its core on a Plan Support Agreement whose signatories represent only a small fraction of the outstanding debt it purports to restructure.” Assured also said that the FOMB has “repeatedly produced fiscal plans without appropriate input from the island’s long-term creditors, based on unrealistic and inaccurate financial assumptions and projections. These actions in Assured Guaranty’s view have cost the island hundreds of millions of dollars in litigation fees and time wasted. “Assured Guaranty believes that solution needs to be driven by consensual resolutions and accurate financial data, and not by attempting a cramdown on investors who have supported the island for decades,” the company said in a statement. The FOMB did not respond to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL’s request for a reaction on these allegations.


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BY NICK PASTRANA, JD

Solving the Abandoned Property Crisis

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uerto Rico’s urban landscape has a severe problem of abandoned properties in prime locations. Investors often expect this scenario to translate into better prices and more investment opportunities for new and better developments. This does not happen. Here’s why. In the past year, our firm conducted a study of the number of abandoned properties in the city of San Juan. Our research showed there’s a total of 265 abandoned properties between Condado, Miramar and Santurce. Santurce has 123; Condado has 68; calle Loíza has 31; Miramar has 21; and 22 there are in Punta las Marías alone. In the process of making this inventory, we learned that the main causes of this abandoned property crisis are speculation, inherited properties and tax delinquency. There’s a couple companies that buy and hold abandoned properties waiting for the right time to sell. One of these “long-term” investors that we stumbled upon has held one of his iconic Ponce de León corners since 1982 without making any improvements or paying any taxes. Other properties have been abandoned for generations, owned by several

inheritors that own too small of a share to care about these properties. These inheritors owe astronomical amounts in back taxes as well. The back taxes become a problem of its own. Once a property owes more than it’s market value, it passes a point of no return, the property can never be sold. This has been allowed to happen because for some unexplainable reason Puerto Rico doesn’t foreclose properties for back taxes. In 2016, CRIM performed its first foreclosure for back taxes in 25 years. In lieu of an efficient lien market, this broken property tax policy has created the wrong incentives to sit on properties. If the government fixed this, owners would need to keep the property in productive use in order to pay their fair share of taxes. Another tax policy that has proven to work out well for cities with the same abandoned property problem has been to replace the current property tax regime with a land-value tax one. This change in the tax regime will penalize idle property and incentivize development, thus recalibrating incentives. On the other hand, the municipality of San Juan has been shy to enforce the existing public nuisance laws to address this issue. At a state level, we have been waiting for a ruling for the newest public nuisance law for over two years now.

STATE OF THE ART ESTATE AT OCEAN PARK

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This Ocean Park residence has been completely renovated maintaining its Spanish Revival origins. The estate has 5 bedrooms, 4 full bathrooms and 2,950 square feet. of living space. For more information and photos please contact Nick Pastrana at (787) 562-1235.

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ART DECO APARTMENT AT OCEAN PARK This modern Art Deco apartment is conveniently located at San Miguel Street, just 5 blocks away from Ocean Park beach. For more information and photos please contact Nick Pastrana at (787) 562-1235.


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By Rafael “Tatito” Hernández House of Representatives Minority Leader

E

Experience in the Backpack

xperience, from the Latin word “experientia”, means having seen, sensed or known something. Having experience is a form of knowledge that is gained from certain events or happenings in one’s life. In short, the human being has the capacity to acquire knowledge from experiencing an event on several occasions. This knowledge is obtained from repeating procedures (knowing how to do something) or first-hand (empirical). It is, therefore, knowledge acquired a posteriori, after one has had the experience itself. The usefulness or value of having experience depends on each individual. Normally, experience is linked to maturity and age- more gray hair, more experience. However, not everyone knows how to make the most of his experience to turn it into useful wisdom. When asked what are the principal characteristics of a leader, experience comes to mind first and foremost. It is this level of maturity that allows us to hold opposing views and accept disparities with respect. A mature individual can fully appreciate the challenges of governance, the political authority to lead, but always has in mind that government exists to provide the essential needs of the people being governed. Experience breeds strong character in an individual and will impede deviating from supporting just causes. Every decision will be made aware of its consequences. The more vulnerable sectors of our society will be protected by an experienced leader. It is what Puerto Rico requires in these challenging times. As one matures in all walks of life, the leader emerges strong and self-confident. At the time of making decisions, all this experience supports the leader; it is the principal internal personal resource to rely upon so that intelligence, acumen, knowledge, prudence, good judgment…all combined, result in wisdom. A wise leader combines knowledge

with experience and this leader will be in a much better position to evaluate prudently future courses of actions. In Puerto Rico, we have seen the lack of maturity and therefore, the lack of wisdom of its leaders. It was clearly reflected in the offensive scandal with text messages, in the loss of containers with aid to those in need after the hurricane, in concealing the number of deaths during and after the tragedy, and in setting as priority during that period of natural calamity the promoting of the public image of the leader. This lack of experience and wisdom is the principal reason for essential services to the people not being coordinated efficiently and effectively, for the reduction of funds to the municipalities, the Medical Center and the University of Puerto Rico, creating instability and uncertainty on the island. We saw the government unable to protect the essential services to our people, prioritizing public debt service before taking care of health, education and security and the serenity that our elderly have a right to in their final years. We are but just a few days before everyone wanting to be an elected official in Puerto Rico will file their candidacies. Voters need to be watchful and meticulous in evaluating the characteristics of leadership that each candidate brings forth. Open up their backpacks and look for those qualities you want to see in your leaders. See what positions they took during these most challenging times confronting Puerto Rico. See what new ideas they bring to find solutions to our problems. When our government is suffering from an incredible lack of credibility everywhere, this is the time to start thinking how we are going to contribute with our vote to steer the ship in the right direction. Most are tired of unfulfilled promises made by traditional politicians and the dishonesty in deceitful pledges made during campaigning to get the vote. Only electing experienced, truthful and straightforward candidates will allow us to recover the credibility in our system.

By World Association of News Publishers

One Year On, and Still No Justice for Jamal Khashoggi

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orld’s press continues to demand justice for Saudi journalist murdered in Turkey by operatives sent from the kingdom and widely believed to be acting under orders of the country’s highest authority. On the one-year anniversary of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, there is no sign of justice while the perpetrators of the crime remain unidentified and the masterminds behind his killing are still at large. To end this injustice, the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) supports global calls for an independent criminal investigation led by the United Nations to be backed up by meaningful, decisive actions from states with the capacity to hold Saudi Arabia to account. “Mr. Khashoggi’s murder cannot go unanswered and there can be no return to ‘business as usual’ with a regime that has ridden roughshod over international law, human rights and the profession of journalism’” said WAN-IFRA CEO Vincent Peyrègne. “We call for justice for Jamal Khashoggi and an end to this charade of innocence, deflection and diversion which does nothing but perpetuate a level of impunity that chills the entire profession of journalism,” said WANIFRA President Fernando de Yarza Lopez-Madrazo. “Mr. Khashoggi’s death and the circumstances surrounding it remain a stain on our collective conscience and are an insult to the laws and protections that are supposed to govern the international system. Saudi Arabia must be held accountable, and those responsible must face justice.” On Oct. 2, 2018, Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to collect documents related to his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. But he never came out. For the next two weeks, the Saudi government denied any knowledge about Mr. Khashoggi’s whereabouts, claiming that he had left the consulate after an hour. Then, on Oct. 20, state television reported that he had in fact

been murdered in an operation ordered by a Saudi intelligence officer. However, conflicting information about his disappearance continued to surface, with differing reports on how Mr. Khashoggi had died. More than a month later, Saudi Arabia’s attorney general admitted that he had been given a lethal injection inside the consulate and that his death had been premeditated. Since Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, 11 people have been charged over the journalist’s death, with five facing the death penalty. However, a high level of impunity surrounds the case in which none of those charged have been identified, despite intelligence reports from multiple global sources - including the CIA - supporting the theory of official Saudi involvement. In a damning report released in June 2019, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, concluded there was credible evidence of individual liability amongst high-level Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The UN report stated that Mr. Khashoggi’s killing violated six international laws “and was the result of elaborate planning involving extensive coordination and significant human and financial resources.” At a ceremony on June 1, Jamal Khashoggi was posthumously awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom, WAN-IFRA’s annual award recognising individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom. While the crimes against Mr. Khashoggi go unanswered, the climate for media freedom in Saudi Arabia remains in severe decline. Reports indicate at least 16 journalists are known to be behind bars, although the actual figure could be far higher. Critical independent coverage of religion, foreign policy, the military and the kingdom’s ruling family continues to be stifled via tight controls over content and the threat of severe punishment for dissent. The country’s extended influence over large sectors of the media across the Arab region – and beyond - perpetuates a lack of independent critical voices and an absence of accountability for those in power.


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MAC en el Barrio Transforms Local Communities Through Artistic Expression

The social outreach program aims to empower marginalized communities through multiple commissions and workshops

T Giovanna Garofalo

ggarofalo@wjournalpr.com

@giopgarofalo

he Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC by its Spanish acronym) is celebrating its fifth edition of MAC en el Barrio: de Santurce a Puerto Rico, a largescale cultural program that aims to transform distressed or overlooked communities through the power of art and creative expression. MAC en el Barrio was conceived in 2014 by

Marianne Ramírez, the museum’s executive director, as a means to expand the MAC’s vision and mission beyond its physical location in the Santurce sector in San Juan. Since then, the program has impacted 21 communities in multiple sectors and barrios in several municipalities, including Cataño, Guaynabo and, most recently, Loíza. THE WEEKLY JOURNAL visited the MAC’s site to meet the executive director, several project coordinators, artists, and even someone who could attest to her firsthand experience as a member of a community that has received ongoing support from the museum through MAC en el Barrio. Omayra Rivera, an architect and project coordinator, informed that there are 28 artists currently working on MAC en el Barrio’s multiple projects. These projects start as either art commissions or workshops to help residents achieve sustainability for their communities through art. “MAC en el Barrio stems from the desire to take museum outside of its walls,” she said. Antonio González Walker—a project coordinator

and artist who works with visuals, audio, and installments—said that the goal is “for artists to join a community and from that exchange develop an artistic proposal that in theory reflects the community’s needs and interests. Simultaneously, it brings an artistic voice to the community’s identity.” “How are these communities selected?,” THE WEEKLY JOURNAL asked. “These are communities that have had a long history of struggles—such as the communities of Vietnam (Guaynabo) and Trastalleres (Santurce)— they are historic communities. We identify strongly with the social causes of these communities because, at the end of the day, it is a social outreach program,” González Walker replied. Rivera said that the museum also receives proposals from artists or members of these communities who want to expand the project’s outreach. González Walker added that MAC en el Barrio is an interdisciplinary program that includes a broad range of artists and art forms—such as visual arts,


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Marianne Ramírez, executive director and curator in chief of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC), explained that the program is conceived to impact all sorts of publics.

Nilda Álvarez, a project coordinator, originally became involved with the program after experiencing its impact firsthand. She now oversees the Capicú project in Río Piedras. >Photos by Gabriel López Albarrán

theater and dance—and sometimes a certain type of artistic expression is more suitable to a specific community. One of the program’s permanent projects is Capicú in Río Piedras, which has been in place since 2017. This project comprises of two workshops: Arte en la Plaza, which includes an exhibit at Plaza del Mercado, and Bienestar Creativo, which provides art-centered activities to senior citizens. Nilda Álvarez is a resident of this community and after witnessing firsthand the potential in Capicú she contacted the museum to be further involved and now oversees this project and coordinates its programming. Expanding on Bienestar Creativo, she explained that on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. a group of senior citizens gathers to do low-impact exercises in an artistic environment and on Thursdays, at the same hour, they take painting and drawing workshops. “I feel very proud to work in Capicú and with the MAC, that I am participating as a member of the community. I discovered that many attendees of this workshop are very talented so now, on Fridays, they will be able to give their own workshops,” Álvarez said.

A Tool Against Gentrification

While cultural movements and artistic implementations on marginalized communities are often criticized in the U.S. mainland for expediting gentrification and the displacement of disadvantaged residents, the MAC’s executive director affirmed that this project avoids these processes because it empowers residents of these communities to take the reins of their areas’ development. Ramírez said that the program responds to how they can use culture to highlight the plights and address the needs of these communities and their residents. Specifically, so that Puerto Rico “can

learn about other types of heritage that are equally a thorough site research in Vietnam and also saw valuable and that we must protect, and to stop the documentary “Vietnam, Puerto Rico” by Gabriel those processes in the sense that we all want the Miranda, which showcases the marginalization of country to progress, to see development, to occupy this coastal community. abandoned spaces.” As artists get in touch with the residents, they However, “those developments must take place develop a strong bond of mutual growth, Ramírez taking into consideration that we must find a way said. “What we want to foment is for artists to to solve the situation so that we can all coexist and get into direct contact with residents because it to not set aside a group of people to benefit other produces a spark that is truly magical; there is no processes,” she added. other way to describe it,” she asserted. Ramírez stated that one of the program’s The executive director said that one of the most mission is to provide access to all groups of people, rewarding outtakes from this experience has been including projects designed for targeted age groups the fact that the MAC has inspired these residents and even homeless individuals. “It is conceived to to lift their own communities with their impact all sorts of publics—to represent own initiatives in order to empower some values that defend diversity and their communities through other inclusion,” she explained. sectors that are pivotal to their Moreover, the artists who development. participate in these projects “We began to facilitate undergo a process of researching a sort of dynamic that the area, talking to the people has had very concrete and exchanging ideas to target achievements in these these communities more communities. With support effectively. from the museum, they “The program per se is a have been able to start resident one because the idea of their own community these projects is that projects, not just from a they spend a number cultural approach,” she said. of months working For his part, Miranda on making exchanges stated that art has a with the community, naturally “healing” property doing research. So it that is especially relevant to is conceived an artistic these communities after the residence program, impact of Hurricane Maria but instead of staying in 2017 and the island’s in the museum artists socioeconomic challenges. stay in the different “The energy that is communities where produced when one works -Antonio González Walker, they are working,” with art is transformative, Ramírez informed. healing and unifying. There artist and project coordinator Jesús Miranda is an is a sense of unity when art professor at the appreciating art. What University of the Sacred better than art to impact a Heart (Sagrado Corazón) and specializes in what community with everything that has happened— he described as an experimental contemporary their struggles, their woes? Art helps to heal and dance. He and six other dancers are involved recover, to transcend and to persevere,” he affirmed. in Labranza en la Orilla in the Vietnam barrio of To learn more about MAC en el Barrio and the Guaynabo. Miranda and his project colleagues did museum’s projects, visit www.mac-pr.org.

“We identify strongly with the social causes of these communities because, at the end of the day, it is a social outreach program”


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Puebla Celebrates the Richness of Mexican Cuisine

With his own flair, chef Xavier Toro’s new venture offers modern interpretations of familiar dishes, while incorporating traditional ingredients such as jalapeño, chipotle, mole, avocado and corn Cynthia López Cabán

C

clopez@wjournalpr.com

@cynthia_

hef Xavier Toro Santos loves Mexican culture. The connection runs so deep that in recent times, he’s visited the land of Frida Kahlo eight times and, in his house, he and his wife created a mural to celebrate the life of the painter remembered for her raw self-portraits. Given his penchant for all things Mexican, it’s no surprise that one day, while drinking and chatting about business with his friend Leodany Inojosa, he blurted out the idea of turning a spot that Inojosa owned on Ponce de León Avenue into a Mexican cantina. The secret ingredient: a dash of his own “sazón”. Without thinking twice, Inojosa accepted and Puebla was born. Located in the heart of Miramar, a neighborhood known for its gastronomic scene, Puebla pays tribute to the diverse offerings of Mexican cuisine and, at the same time, offers an intimate corner to indulge and unwind. “I wanted a name that embodied Mexico and its rich gastronomic experience. After Oaxaca, Puebla has become another popular culinary destination,” Toro explained. “The name also connected with our culture. It is close to the word ‘Pueblo’ (town), which is the masculine noun of Puebla. It was simple and straight to the point.” To start, the chef recruited Kristen Rivera, a mixologist and the executive assistant of his restaurant Rare 125, a steakhouse just a couple

Behind the dishes’ names hides an explosion of salty, spicy, sweet and sour flavors that sparkle and harmonize on the plate. >Photos Courtesy Puebla

blocks away from Puebla. Together they crafted a food and cocktail menu that combines Mexican ingredients with a modern twist. Contrary to the bright colors associated with Mexican art and culture, the restaurant adopts a more demure, rustic and relaxed tone. Decorated with soft lighting and pastel colors in shades of cream and orange, the 12-table eatery -with capacity for 60 patrons- exudes the warmth and charm of a familiar place where everybody knows your name. “I am attracted to small spaces, to that sense of closeness and intimacy that they create,” Toro said. The menu is unpretentious, yet intriguing. It includes the classic appetizers like refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. Entrées come with homemade pork rinds and tortilla chips.

For the spicy sauce connoisseur, Toro created four delicious dipping sauces with chipotle, chili peppers, guava and green tomatillos, each one with a different level of heat. Toro’s culinary artistry emerges in the taco selection, served with homemade soft or hard tortillas. Behind the typical names hides an explosion of flavor. “We marinate the meat for hours and in some cases overnight. Then we slow cook it,” Toro explained about the process of creating deep flavors. The chicken pibil taco with pickled red onions has a hint of mole, a staple in Mexican cuisine. Topped with crispy onions, the skirt steak in the carne asada taco is tender and juicy. While the pork in the taco of the carnitas sleeps in Coca Cola, before slow cooking the meat until it gently shreds


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The gastronomic experience takes off with four delicious dipping sauces made with chipotle, chili peppers, guava and green tomatillos, each one with a different level of heat.

into a web of flavor, the pork tenderloin in the tacos al pastor marinates for 24 hours. The menu doesn’t include the widely popular fish tacos, but you won’t miss them. The tuna taco with jalapeño cilantro aioli hits every note in your mouth. Also on the menu is Toro’s new creation: duck confit taco sprinkled with pork rinds and topped with a little piece of bacon. No Mexican menu is complete without the notorious burrito drizzled with cheese, the sizzling fajitas and the slender flautas. All dishes are prepared with your choice of protein. And, as an unexpected surprise, for those diehard fans of corn on the cobb, there’s an unbelievably savory corn salad that is just a joyful experience. “Our plates are elaborated with fresh produce. We offer a mix of flavors that others don’t have,” Toro told THE WEEKLY JOURNAL during a tasting of the menu. But it’s not -Chef Xavier Toro all about meat. Vegetarians also matter. The menu of the restaurant that opened a couple of weeks ago, has tacos, fajitas and carnitas plates prepared with nopales, mushrooms and “gandules” (pigeon peas) to excite the demanding palate of those committed to a meatless lifestyle. Last but not least is the dessert. Toro created his own version of a “tres leches” cake featuring a luscious corn cake drenched in milk; it is a masterpiece. The first runner up: the hot churros sprinkled with sugar and chocolate. For those who enjoy margaritas, Puebla has some attractive combinations. “I wanted to blend classic flavors with unexpected twists,” said Rivera,

one of the few mixologists in the local bartending scene. She came up with the “Flor de Jamaica” (hibiscus flower), raspberry and ginger jalapeño margaritas in a glass rimmed with salt and tajin spice. Other reinterpretations of drinks include the Oaxaca Old Fashion, Paloma and Pink Lemonade Rita. And, of course, the mixologist prepares the everpopular classic margarita. “We have all the tequila and mezcal brands available but we specialize and prepare our drinks with 1800, a premium tequila,” Toro indicated of his decision to offer his customers the best. While Puebla doesn’t skimp on quality, its prices are affordable. The price of a drink ranges from $6 to $9 and a beer from $3 to 6. Tacos sell for $4 and the most expensive dish on the menu is the fajitas that sell for $20. The restaurant, located at 625 Ponce de León Ave., has free valet parking and a daily happy hour. It opens seven days a week, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00p.m. Simply put: Toro proves that fusion cuisine, done without fancy gimmicks, works. In short: his food is delicious and authentic.

I am attracted to small spaces, to that sense of closeness and intimacy that they create.

For those who enjoy margaritas, Puebla has some attractive combinations. From the classic margarita to the hibiscus flower and jalapeño ginger flavors.


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/ Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Guide to San Juan’s

Best Bars

F

Yennifer Álvarez Jaimes

yalvarez@wjournalpr.com

@yalvarezjaimes

rom partying at “chinchorros”, hanging out at town squares and partying it up at bars in the modern hotels of Condado and Isla Verde, Puerto Ricans do it all, and San Juan is its epicenter.   Home to one of the World’s 50 Best Bars of 2019, San Juan houses a varied assortment of nightlife establishments. From a historic bar in Old San Juan to the classy corner hangouts in Miramar, this list will offer a great introduction to a city on the upswing.   Without a doubt, the neighborhood of Calle Loíza (Loíza Street) is the new “it” place at which to find bars and food with all sorts of ambiances and music. Meanwhile, La Placita de Santurce transforms from an every day, run of the mill farmer’s market during the day, into a hot outdoor club by night, complete with booming live music, great restaurants and late-night bars. Puerto Rican nightlife is so vibrant you might be surprised to find out it’s almost morning.

La Factoría Voted one of the top 50 bars in the world five years in a row, this year #32, is an absolute mustvisit for the cocktail aficionado. La Factoría is actually three bars in one. At Front Bar you can sit by the open doorways, sip a Lavender Mule or Spiced Old Fashioned and watch the people strolling through Calle San Sebastián. If you want a more lowkey ambiance, go through the red door to Vino, a wine bar serving wine by the glass or the bottle as well as cocktails and plates to share. #148 San Sebastián Street, Old San Juan

Gallo Negro Is an oasis in the middle of Ponce De Leon avenue in Santurce serving elaborate libations and boasting one of the best whisky selections in San Juan. Gallo Negro is just as well known for chef Maria Mercedes Grubb’s eclectic food menu incorporating American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Asian influences. #1107 Ponce de León Ave. San Juan


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/ Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Taberna Selfie

Jungle Bird

Self-serve draft beer stations track your consumption so you can drink away without even having to order. They also offer excellent Spanish tapas and a variety of wines. 361 Del Parque St., San Juan 

It is a modern bar with a laidback tropical vibe. The tiki cocktails are always surprising — not the usual, oversweet concoctions. #254 Canals Street, San Juan

La Penúltima The carbonated cocktails are the favorites and they are infusing their rums with bananas in a centrifuge. #1359 Ponce de León Ave. San Juan

La Taberna del Lúpulo The place for the craft beer lovers. They sell beers of small Puerto Rico brewers, such as FOK and Boquerón. They have 50 taps and 150 bottles. There is also Ocean Lab another excellent local beer. #151 San Sebastián Street, Old San Juan

Bar La Unidad It started like a lovely little hidden speakeasy with great cocktails and elegant ambiance. Now is so popular that you need to try find a spot-on Thursdays and Fridays. #562 Cuevillas Street, San Juan


26

Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra Sets Charlie Chaplin to Music The pop will continue next year and will include music from other favorite movies Yennifer Álvarez Jaimes

O

yalvarez@wjournalpr.com

@yalvarezjaimes

n Oct. 19 watch Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights to the tune of Puerto Rico’s Symphony Orchestra. This concert is part of the Symphony’s Pop Concert series, which features films and music from popular culture. “We are preparing an unprecedented symphonic show. During the concert you will see the whole film, which is one of  Charlie Chaplin’s most emblematic, while enjoying our highest musical institution, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. We are sure that it will be an unforgettable night for lovers of good music and cinema,” said  Carlos Ruiz, the executive director of the Musical Arts Corporation, about the concert that will be directed by Rafael

Enrique Irizarry. City Lights was written, directed and performed by Charlie Chaplin in 1931 and is considered the best romantic comedy of all time, according to the American Film Institute (AFI). In the film, the character played by Chaplin is a wanderer who falls in love with a blind florist and attempts to help them not get evicted from her home. Chaplin was an actor, composer, producer, screenwriter, director, writer and film editor

who gained great popularity with his hatwearing mustached character. Considered a symbol of silent cinema, after World War I he became one of the most recognized men in cinema worldwide. Ruiz informed that the pop series will continue next year and will include music from other favorite movies such as Star Wars and Independence Day.

We are preparing an unprecedented symphonic show. During the concert you will see the whole film, which is one of the Charlie Chaplin’s most emblematic, while enjoying our best musical institution, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. -Carlos Ruiz, executive director of the Musical Arts Corporation

>Archive/Carlos Rivera Giusti

/ Wednesday, October 9, 2019


27 < The Weekly Journal > Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Herencia GALA

HECHO EN PUERTO RICO

Celebrando la historia y futuro de nuestras industrias.

Viernes, 8 de noviembre de 2019 8:00 p.m. | Hotel Condado Vanderbilt

LÍDERES

COLABORADORES

1334 Ultra Lounge | Able Sales | Ana G. Méndez | B. Fernández | B Media | BeMe Caribbean Produce | Carimerc | Campo Fresco | Cervecera de Puerto Rico | CC1 | Danosa | Destilería Serrallés Dreyfous | Econo | El Vocero | First Bank | Fulcro | Galería Petrus | Genesis Security | Holsum | Indulac Island Wide | Kevane Grant Thornton | Master Paint | Matosantos | MCS | Mr. Special | Panamerican Grain | Pepsi Puerto Rico Supplies | Redes del Suroeste | Rovira Tactical Media | Tres Monjitas | Walmart Para información de auspicios y boletos, favor comunicarse al

| gala@hechoen.pr

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La Sociedad de Educación y Rehabilitación de Puerto Rico (SER) regalará un carro Honda Fit LX 2019 modelo GK5H4 al portador del boleto ganador. El sorteo se llevará a cabo el 13 de diciembre de 2019 por lo que debe hacer llegar el talonario en o antes del 12 de diciembre de 2019. El número ganador será anunciado en el periódico Primera Hora y a través de nuestra página de facebook.com/serpuertorico. La persona tendrá 60 días calendario a partir de la fecha de publicación del número del boleto ganador para traer su boleto y reclamar su premio. De no ser reclamado en ese tiempo, se realizará un nuevo sorteo entre todos los participantes. En esta segunda oportunidad la persona tendrá 30 días para reclamar su premio. Si no es reclamado durante este tiempo, se declarará premio no reclamado.


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/ Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Healing Power of

Art

An innovative form of psychotherapy involving selfexpression through painting, drawing and other expressive arts is helping patients deal with conflicts and behavioral disorders

W Cynthia López Cabán

clopez@wjournalpr.com

@cynthia_lope

hen you walk into Mind Canvas: Art Therapy Center in Guaynabo, it feels like you are entering a small art studio. For a moment, the drawings and the bursts of colors make you forget you’re in a psychologist’s office. It feels like a safe, nonthreatening space. On the counter, a message encapsulates the center’s philosophy: “Life is your canvas. No one can paint it but you.” On this Thursday afternoon, the waiting area was empty but not for long. Inside Dr. Maricel Ocasio Figueroa’s office, a

woman scribbled on a notebook with a blue pen. A thin line moved across the sheet of paper and slowly a cartoonish image began to emerge: a floating house, a dog, flowers, grass and the sun. As the page turned into a canvas of sorts, the incidental artist handed the sketch to Ocasio Figueroa for analysis. “How did you feel when you were drawing? Can you tell me what it means to you?” the art therapist asked. “This is my dog, that line is grass. In the corner of the house, I drew flowers because I need beauty in my life. Maybe that is my house or the creative place that I am searching for. It could be my parent’s home or the longing to go back to that happy place since mom and dad are dead,” the woman responded. Before offering her observations, Ocasio Figueroa examined the drawing carefully. “People usually use the paper horizontally, but you took a pen and drew on it vertically while talking. That shows a level of flexibility. With ink, you can’t erase and fix the drawing... The house, the dog and the flowers are floating, afar from the grass. It could mean that you don’t feel grounded at this moment, which is not necessarily bad,” she said.


/ Wednesday, October 9, 2019

29

>Photos by Gabriel López Albarrán

The woman laughed and nodded her head in the stroke of an eraser. agreement. “I am living in a new apartment and “Watercoloring is a hard medium to control trying to find my footing after Maria turned my life like life itself. So, I evaluate how a patient dealing upside down.” with anxiety handles the situation,” stated the This is a glimpse of what happens at Mind art therapist with 15 years of experience. “We Canvas, an art therapy center that helps people link the painting experience to the patient’s express their thoughts and emotions through life and initiate an introspection of the factors painting, drawing and other creative projects as a influencing that behavior.” way to improve their Like other forms emotional state or of therapy, the first mental well-being. session consists of In an interview a clinical evaluation with THE WEEKLY and an assessment of JOURNAL, Ocasio the symptoms. “After Figueroa explained that the evaluation, I talk art therapy examines to the patient and we the psychological discuss if he wants and emotional to incorporate the undertones found creative arts as part of in the pieces of art the therapy sessions. It created during therapy is a personal decision. to help patients You have to be open achieve a better to it.” understanding of their As a clinical feelings and behavior psychologist that and, ultimately, follows the cognitive address unresolved behavioral therapy conflicts and behavioral approach, Ocasio disorders. Figueroa is one of only As part of art four art therapists in therapy, the therapist Puerto Rico. She holds -Maricel Ocasio decodes the symbols a master’s degree Figueroa, Art Therapist and metaphors in in Art Therapy from drawings or paintings George Washington and evaluates the University. For Mind materials chosen for the artwork. For instance, Canvas, she teamed up with Stephanie Soler Ocasio Figueroa pointed out the challenges of Martínez, an expressive arts therapist, and Natalia watercolor painting in contrast to drawing with a Ramos Benítez, another clinical psychologist. They pencil, where a line out of place can disappear with offer both, art therapy and psychotherapy services,

[Art therapy] is a way to reconnect with your inner child using the imagination. It is about creating a space of openness, of not judging yourself so severely. It is about learning how to express yourself in a different way. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, artistic, or perfect. It’s just for the fun of it and in the process, you nourish the soul.

for children and adults. While in other states and countries, art therapy has been embraced as an innovative method to handle emotional and psychological distress, it is still gaining traction on the island. Studies have also shown that it can help patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. “I have parents that come seeking help for their children. When they see the results, then they open up and see art therapy as an option for them. I feel that among adults there is still a stigma when it comes to looking for help to cope with mental health issues.” In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, however, Ocasio Figueroa has seen an increment in the number of inquiries and patients. “After a crisis, we are more open to seek help and try new things,” she indicated. Despite its benefits, the treatment is not covered by health insurance. The initial evaluation costs $120, therapy sessions are $110 and group therapies are $35. “[Art therapy] is a way to reconnect with your inner child using the imagination. It is about creating a space of openness, of not judging yourself so severely. It is about learning how to express yourself in a different way. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, artistic, or perfect. It’s just for the fun of it and in the process, you nourish the soul.”


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/ Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Il Volo Italian trio Il Volo is presenting in Puerto Rico as part of their 10th anniversary celebratory world tour. The concert will feature a combination of their most famous hits as well as songs from their most recent musical production titled “Música.” When: Oct. 11, 8:30 p.m. Where: Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, 500 Arterial B St., San Juan

Bon Jovi Tribute Rock Da House Band returns to Paseo Caribe! Come and enjoy all of your favorite Jon Bon Jovi songs. Paseo Caribe offers 2 hours of free parking but valet parking is also available. Free admission. When: Oct. 11, 6 p.m. Where: Paseo Caribe, 15 Luis Muñoz Rivera Ave., San Juan

Corona Pro Surf Circuit 35th Edition The most important professional surfing competition in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Corona Pro Surf, is returning once again to Middles Beach in Isabela. Enjoy music, surfing, games, contests, educational talks and much more! From: Oct. 11-13 When: Middles Beach, PR- 466, Isabela

Orquesta El Macabeo Founded in 2008, Orquesta El Macabeo will grace us with “Salsa Gorda”, sound and lyrics that tell stories about real life.  When: Oct. 12, 9 p.m. Where: Club 77, 1102 Juan Ponce de León Ave., San Juan


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/ Wednesday, October 9, 2019

NORCECA Continental Championship The NORCECA Continental Championship is taking place from Oct. 8-13 at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan. This important volleyball championship will feature the national teams from the following countries: Puerto Rico, United States, Dominican Republic, Cuba, México, Belize, Trinidad & Tobago and Canada. When: Oct. 8 -13 Where: Coliseo Roberto Clemente, Franklin D. Roosevelt Avenue, San Juan

Festival Armonía en Clave A bomba festival filled with music, dance and art. The festival, to be held at the Plaza de los Salseros will feature Bomba Pal Pueblo, Christian Tonos and 100x35, Plena Combativa, Los Majaderos de Cachete Maldonado and many more! Proceeds from the festival will be used to support and promote cultural activities throughout the island. When: Oct. 13, 12 p.m. Where: Plaza de los Salseros, Marginal Baldorioty, San Juan

Cinema Paradiso

Detectives del Arte: Irene Delano en su Centenario Raphael “REsinphónico” Movie under the stars. When: Oct. 13, 6:30 p.m. Where: La Goyco, 1763 Loíza St., Santurce

Tour the Irene Delgado exhibition, which celebrates the centenary of this pioneering woman in the fields of graphic design and serigraphy. During this guided tour, participants are encouraged to look for clues within the exhibit. A fun and educational way to enjoy Delgado’s legacy and artwork, especially for the kids in the family. When: Oct. 12 - Oct. 26, 2 p.m. Where: La Casa del Libro, 255 Del Santo Cristo St., Old San Juan

Recognized as a “Living Legend” by the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, Spanish musical legend Raphael will be stopping in Puerto Rico with his “Resinphónico” tour. The presentation will include well-known songs as reimagined for his latest studio album— featuring a mixture of symphonic arrangements with touches of electronica. When: Oct. 12, 7 p.m. Where: Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, 500 Arterial B St., San Juan

Festival de Bomba, Plena y Jazz Stop by Old San Juan’s historic Cuartel de Ballajá to enjoy the 46th edition of the bomba, plena and jazz festival. Festival schedule: 2 p.m. - Bomba and plena lessons 4 p.m. - Majestad Negra 6 p.m. - Cachete Maldonado 8 p.m. - Edwin Clemente 9 p.m. - Angel David Matos 10 p.m. - Humberto Ramírez When: Oct. 12, 2 p.m. Where: Cuartel de Ballajá, Viejo San Juan


Profile for El Vocero de Puerto Rico

The Weekly Journal - October 9, 2019  

The Weekly Journal - October 9, 2019