Skip to main content

The Sad State of Puerto Rico

This past month has been fun. Univision declared a celebration for Puerto Rico's independence, an event that hasn't happened. And the Huffington Post shared a racist tweet from the adviser to the speaker of the Puertorrican House of Representatives.

In other news Canada has the same crime rate as Puerto Rico. No, no, I mean the BBC reports Canada has less number of murders (598) for a population of around 35 million that Puerto Rico has with just 3.5 million (around 1,000). But what's a factor of ten between friends?

Yet friends of mine on Facebook still defend Puerto Rico as if it wasn't that bad. It was bad in 1993 when I finished H.S. and we had almost 1 murder per day. Now it's at over twice that.

What's going on?

From afar you have a different perspective that from inside. But all I'm seeing is the fulfillment of trends that have been a long time going.

1. Brain Drain. This was a problem 15 years ago, but it was pretty much ignored. Now it lands with such strength that it's near impossible to find certain medical specialists in Puerto Rico.

2. Poor Education. However nostalgic graduates of the UPR are, the average graduate now is nowhere near the proficiency that an average graduate back in my grandfather's time was. And that's just an example of decay, education is bad all over the island. The value of normal scholarship plummeted. I worried about this when friends of friends had not read any book for pleasure in their lives and I found myself only being able to talk to an older generation about literature. There is a huge gap between generations here.

3. Complacency. I wanted to say denial but it's not denial. It's a complacency, almost as if all the disorder in the island was the result of a divine providence. For all their pride in the island, people don't take ownership of its problems. They'd rather say it's not that bad, and keep themselves isolated. This leads to worst thing going on: the feeling that only someone else can solve the problems; someone else like "the government" or industry.

4. Industrial Model in a Post-Industrial World. The world has gone through a mayor shift recently, from an Industrial model that supplanted the agrarian one before it, to a post industrial one. Many jobs of today like software design didn't exist before. There is a new type of economy here, one that depends not on industrial production but on design and research. Yet Puerto Rico is still looking for that industrial revolution breakthrough when it needs to build a post-industrial one. From not building a tech-driven industry like Israel, to not building renewable sources of energy, Puerto Rico is stuck in the world of the 50's.

5. Chasing the Money not the Value, and budgeting to the wrong priorities. I keep hearing this: "And where is the money going to come from?" I wonder if money is so scarce how come government building have AC? (This is a trivial example, but it just shows that it's priorities not absolute money at stake. If it was absolute money there'd be no money for AC either.) How come an adviser can earn over half a million dollars in three years? There is money. There is no will to use it for the important things.

6. Government beholden to public-sector unions. While Republicans over here wage an unnecessary war against unions, in Puerto Rico unions wield such power that the government is not just afraid of them but paralyzed by them. This wouldn't be a big deal if the government wasn't the biggest employer in the island.

7. Decaying infrastructure. This one fortunately is being dealt with (as with the addition of the urban train) but its pace and priorities seem skewed. Hearing that there is a power blackout in Puerto Rico is common. This is horrible for industry on the island. And the lack of affordable high-speed internet crippling. We don't need more roads and bridges. Where we're headed we don't need roads...


Popular posts from this blog

How to configure Ubuntu's keyboard to work like a Mac's

Typing accents on a PC is a complicated Alt + three numbered code affair. One feels like a sorcerer casting a spell. "I summon thee accented é! I press the weird magical key Alt, and with 0191 get the flipped question mark!" For a bilingual person this meant that writing on the computer was a start-and-stop process. With Mac's it a whole lot easier, just Alt + e and the letter you wanted for accents and alt + ? for the question mark. No need to leave the keyboard for the number pad and no need to remember arcane number combinations or have a paper cheat sheet next to the keyboard, as I've seen in virtually every secretaries computer in Puerto Rico.

Linux has a interesting approach to foreign language characters: using a compose key. You hit this key which I typically map to Caps Lock and ' and the letter you want and voilá you get the accent. Kinda makes sense: single quotation mark is an accent, double gets you the ümalaut, works pretty well. Except for the ñ, wh…

Fixing Autocomplete in Github's Atom Text Editor for Ruby

I really like Github's Atom Text Editor. I really like that it's multi-platform allowing me to master one set of skills that is transferable to all platforms and all machines. 

On thing that just burns me of the default set-up in Atom is the Autocomplete feature that seems to change my words as a type them. Because Ruby uses the end of line as a terminus for a statement you usually finish a word with pressing the return button and you get really annoying changes to your finished typed word a la MS Word. I find myself yelling "No that's not what I wrote!" at the screen in busy coffee shops.

I disabled autocomplete for a while but it is a very useful function. Then I found out they changed the package that gave the autocomplete to a new one called "Autocomplete Plus" that gives you more options. All that I needed to change to make autocomplete sane again:

1. Open Atom's Preferences
2. Search the bundled packages for "Autocomplete Plus"

3. Go to t…

Contrasting Styles of Writing: English vs. Spanish

There is interestingly enough a big difference between what's considered good writing in Spanish and English. V.S. Naipul winner of the 2001 Nobel prize for literature publish an article on writing. In it he emphasizes the use of short clear sentences and encourages the lack of adjectives and adverbs. Essentially he pushes the writer to abandon florid language and master spartan communication. This is a desired feature of English prose, where short clipped sentences are the norm and seamlessly flow into a paragraph. In English prose the paragraph is the unit the writer cares about the most.

This is not the case in Spanish where whole short stories (I'm thinking this was Gabriel Garcia Marquez but maybe it was Cortázar) are written in one sentence. Something so difficult to do in English that the expert translator could best manage to encapsulate the tale in two sentences. The florid language is what is considered good writing in Spanish but unfortunately this has lead to what …