San Juan Mayor Carmen Yuln Cruz Is Not Done Fighting
I said those words that will forever over echo in my mind and we are dying and you're killing with your bureaucracy in your inefficiency. I it also said. I am done being politically correct. I m madda style. After hurricane. Maria devastated puerto rico san juan mayor carmody lean crews emerged as one of the islands fiercest advocates carmen tells me she was called a service very young and that years living a and studying in the states made her even more puerto rican now as she prepares to run for governor. She's coming to terms with the fact that she is not destined to live a normal life so that others on her beloved island. Can you spent most of your academic career or is president of your class eighth grade school. What drew you. What was that call to service well. If i'm gonna be as i always am totally honest on the eighth grade people were complaining about the seventh grade precedent. They're like oh. He's not you know we used is to have this assemblies. I went to a very progressive high school even that it's the university of puerto rico secondary high school so it's kind of a lab school. It's not a charter school. It's a lab school and <hes> <hes> you know they would give us the books that they were gonna use the public school system for us to sit down with the writers and tell them what we thought was wrong so year a._m. At eight years old telling award winning writers you know you really need to make this a lot more comfortable because it's very boring and they would look at me like i cannot believe it and finally they talked and talked and talked and i remember i took a broom. There was a broom because they were all talking at the same time and smack that against the desk and i said i'll do it. I'll do it so really. I was an operator. Just like the old operators on world war two you know they because a all connect you right and that's what i did. I connected people in the school. I connect to people with outside. The school and it was very nice to see our dreams. Our collective dreams come true are our high school did not have a cafeteria and a friend of mine still is a friend of mine said. Why don't we run the cafeteria all throughout my life life. My voice is not been at the center of the stage. I've been the platform for luck voices. Go to come together and be at center stage so it was always very nice to make sure the things got done. You get into boston university. You tell your dad basically i'm going. What does he say no and my mother said no and my grandmother said yes. My grandmother gave me the money to apply for college. This grandmother had grown up working on a sugar plantation asia on yourself. Is that a different chrome now the same but my grandmother she herself did not work my great-grandfather did and when it was time for her to work at the plantation he made a choice that will touch our lives and change our lives forever. He said now you're going to school because we need somebody to learn to read and write it was it it was a way also making a life but of opening different spaces on my grandmother very quietly took me to take the s._a._t.'s. My parents didn't no and gave me the money to apply for college and i said well i got into boston university and and i'm it doesn't matter i'm taking the loan owned and i'm going but the lone wasn't enough and they ended up mortgaging their home twice but didn't tell you they didn't tell me i found that out when i graduated from masters at carnegie mellon university. They ended up mortgage in there so i could have an education. Do you think you would have felt differently. If you had known that i think i would probably fought and said now that that's love i love when you are are willing to put everything on the line because that's all they own their home so so they put everything on the line so i could get an education so every award that i've been humbled in getting and i i nah i don't keep any at home. They're all in my parents house because it's their living and studying in the states change your perception of of puerto rico's relationship yes. Yes i became more puerto rican. I became more proud of being puerto rican because for the first first time i also experienced i wouldn't tell you that i was discriminated against but there was this this phrase that i hate it or your puerto rican but you don't look at <hes> and i remember hearing that and saying well. What was what am i supposed to look like and i said added to the person. What do you mean i truly did not understand the more different people wanted me to feel the more for in tune that i became with my own hopes and aspirations but that difference was there i didn't i didn't pray an english. I'd love an english. My experienced experienced through the environment was through a glass that was definitely tinted puerto rican and let you go to carnegie mellon for grad school study public management and policy. Was there any part of you that entertains staying on the mainland no even though i don't call it the mainland because i would make me the second and but even though i got married i always thought my husband at the time and i would go back to puerto rico and then i had my daughter mighty nine pittsburgh pennsylvania selena and i went back home major achiever. You've been achieving your entire life right. It's just like thing after you have a house your your parents house is filled with awards. How did it feel to come back and say i tried this marriage thing and it didn't work ah it felt very natural because one of the things that living in the states gives you is a sense of freedom that you're not shackled to who would other people may think latinas. We are shackled to oh. You can't get a divorce ooh and it. All of my friends have been married for the longest longest time has divorced she ties. You know yeah so you know i. I decided not to stay in marriages that things didn't work out for both of us. <hes> <hes> or things didn't work out for one of us or sometimes. Some people didn't want to be married to me anymore so i. I didn't think about it honestly salihi most of the time i think i go komo vejle mata vado you know i i just think something should be done and i go for it and sometimes my grandmother grandmother used to say you must be a very young soul. You haven't been here before because just the way you go at. Life is just like like there's there's no tomorrow as an old so am deeply envious of that that delightful but it gets you do a lot of trouble. I bet ninety two you come back to puerto rico becoming advisor to send one a mayor salaam. Maria run two thousand you run for the house of representatives to be loose news news yeah two thousand eight. You're elected to the house of representatives as a member of the p._d._p. Larch at large of the popular democratic credit party. How would you explain ideology of the p._d._p. If we're talking about status the basic starting point is a non-colonial non-territorial on territorial but it is a relationship with the united states and how that takes shape it depends on who you speak to in the leadership leadership of the p._d._p. And what i'm trying to ensure that we go back to his those routes on one thousand nine thirty nineteen forty. The popular pillar democratic party was the answer to the question of who will be the voice of those that have less us who will be the voice of the people that are working in the sugar cane plantations for fifty cents a day whole will be the voice voice of a kids that have burkey losses and have no health insurance who would be the voice of ensuring that those that had more than have have more at the expense of those that have less. It's also wild though because you did not start here. I mean this has been a a shift in ideology for you. What what happened in your life. Who did you meet that pulled you to the left. You know the the minute. You say the left people go. Oh my god pulls me to a set of values that are more important than than any label certainly liberal ten ten years ago. I did not believe in allah teheran marriage. I believe in marriage was only for a man and a woman. I now believe that love is love and it doesn't matter how you love or you you love as long as they're adults that consent that's it but then i had friends that looked at me and said i love you dearly but i'm in a relationship with a man anant and i'm in a relationship with a woman and woman and i know you love me dearly as a friend. Tell me why you think i'm not worth as much as you are and i got nothing i had nothing. I nothing that made sense because a god that i serve as lawf- so i started thinking about didn't make sense to push. I my values and other people. I was complaining to a friend of mine a few months ago. I said you know i. I wonder if i should just this cohen live a normal life and she said you don't know what normal is and he chuckled and he said no and i i looked at him and i thought what and he said you cannot live a normal life so that i can give my daughter's a normal life so l. latino women sometime we're. We're taught that we need to wait. Art turned speaking that our voices are in powerful enough matt. We're not enough. We are wherever bid enough than anybody else. Our voices can carry far and further than anyone else's lookit could delores you know she was the one that came out with the seaside boy. They and we don't want to take and we don't need to take anything away from who says that chavez but she still added. Our voices are important. One thing giuliani are really proud of when it comes to this show is amplifying voices that we're not used to hearing. That's why we want to recommend a new podcast called self evident. It's a show the story is about asian americans in ways the challenge the usual narratives. I listened to their latest episode which goes deep into how aetna me's americans are responding deportations under the current administration. It is an eye opening and really personal story that confronts the myth of the good immigrant from within the community immunity and self evident has whole range of stories from second-generation filipino-americans quarter life crisis to a korean american gender queer writers struggled to get there hairdresser to agree to a buzz so check out self evident wherever you listen to latina and visit self evident show dot com to learn more. Let's rewind. Take me back to before hurricane maria hit. Did you know what was coming coming. Will we had just been hit with hurricane. Irma about seventy percent of the island did not have any electricity already it was it was taking far too long to get the electricity the power back up in san juan about half of san juan recovered electricity <unk> after irma and half of it didn't and all of a sudden we hear about this other thing and i remember the first time i saw it on tv. She wasn't very organized. She was like all over the place and and and i thought well if she gets organized it's going to hit his and she came exactly on the same path now. The problem is when hurricanes come through the southern part of puerto rico once they hit land. They changed course and they rip right through the metal so the three days before mighty. I woke up at three in the morning crying. I called the immediate staff and i said look when the clock starts ticking in a few hours. I need you to buy everything you can. We had enough food water surgical surgical care and medication for our hospital and our nine health clinics enter h._i._v. clinics. We had enough for one on monday. I said we need to buy more so we went out to the market and we hoard it generators and we ordered the lights that you can use a night and and we bought an day millions of dollars worth of materials that we would need we also said aside a two gas stations that we rented to be able to have all of our fleet with all of our trucks and our police carson an ambulance served. We were as ready as we could be but we weren't really ready hurricane hits. It's devastating at what point in the aftermath do you realize help is not coming. It was about a week and all we would receive from female. Was we need you to go into the internet and send us your request. We we need you to print a memo. I keep saying that this can't be right discuss. This just can't be right. It can be that bureaucratic. It could a bureaucratic and it couldn't take that long because we have been told that help was already on the ground before the hurricane well if help help was already on the ground how long to take to for it to be deployed so i i remember we gave all the documentation they asked for because we were at the largest shelter in puerto rico <unk> lemon thin and we had ten twelve generators we give the information into fema once i personally handed it to <hes> the head of fema in puerto rico the time and all of a sudden no we need it again and i said i remember coming back from that meeting in saying they're going to let us die. I don't know why but they were going to let us die so i pulled all the staff together and i call my communications director and i said i wanna have a press conference inference. I don't know who would come but i want to have a press conference just about an hour or two hours before that gorda send us i nobody asked me to do this. Two hundred thousand pounds of food and we started receiving aid from <hes> the then mayor on philip levine from miami date. He got an a plane private plane and he got a whole bunch of medicine and and first aid material and somehow got my phone and said mayor my name amos phillip levine on here to help you and could you come to the airport and get the stuff that that i'm getting an and i kept thinking how can this man from miami date get on a plane and come here and the president of the united states is saying that the logistics are unsurmountable that he cannot. I get it done so i i said those words that will forever echo in my mind and is we are dying coming here and you're killing us with your bureaucracy and your inefficiency believe it or not. There were some people in puerto rico that were mad that i said that and zeh endangered they help that the federal government was giving us well. They weren't giving us any help. I i also said i'm done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because i could hear the voices of the people around we could could hear the voices of the mayor's that would come to the coliseum to get food and water because they didn't have any four people <hes> the crisis of the elderly saying. I haven't had my chemo my radiotherapy. I haven't had my dialysis and it was evident. What was happening but the trump administration trey. Shen was more interested in looking good and spinning this as a good no story than doing what they were supposed to. Did you single trump out to call attention to. It was happening on island. Did you think it was the most effective way to goodell no. I singled him out because he was the responsible party here. I singled him out because he was the one line to the world saying that oh we have done tremendous tremendous work in puerto rico. It's fantastic with the amount well no. It wasn't fantastic. I singled him out because he penned are horrible time against katrina horrible time and he tried to put one disaster over another. I remember i was there in that meeting. I remember him saying oh puerto rico. You have throw. I don't know if you know this but you have thrown our budget out of whack for all the money we have thrown down here and i remember saying this man dozen to serve for me to come to this meeting but i represent everybody in san juan and if you do not respect the man you respect the office so i went and when i shook his hand i said mr president. This isn't about politics six. This is about saving lives. He tried not to say hello to meet. The press said mr president the mayor of san juan because they put me in a corner right. Nobody puts baby in her corner and <hes> and the the fresh kind of shamed them into <hes> shaking my hand and i waited till he extended because he whatever you want to me but not to sign what not to puerto rico so i- singled him out because he is responsible. I single him out for the deaths of three thousand puerto ricans that did not need to die but because of his obstinate and victim to behavior towards the people of puerto rico died because because it took him too long to put things in order to get things done those of us who live in this area brace ourselves every every hurricane season. You're bracing yourself and you have a recovery that is incomplete at best. It's it's just starting up <hes> they're still thirty thousand blue roofs or roofs tarps puerto rico and it's expected to be kinda busy so we are not ready. We are more conscious than before. I think on an individual level people are you're more ready than they were less time now. They don't keep water and medication food for one week. They keep it for a month. We are now so caught up in talking about irma talking about maria but the island was in a precarious position. Yes fryer to those natural disasters. <hes> financially precarious s. positions as a seventy two billion dollar debt dealing with brain drain the most talented <hes> an educated upwardly mobile leaving the island. What would it actually take not just to rebuild puerto rico to where it was before those storms hit two reimagined island and i think you're on the right track i i don't. I don't like talking about rebuilding. I like talking about transforming because obviously one of the things that were really wrong about my hair but at the same time it was a mirror we had to face. We cannot escape was that maria took away literally about thirty million trees so there was no hiding and i've said this before our poverty and our inequalities buying palm trees and p nicholas. Um literally there for everyone to see now so you can't escape it anymore. If you were one of those people that wanted to escape it so one of the things that that five believe we need to do and that's what we're doing. In san juan is get into this tally of looking for permanent solutions to two recurring problems not putting bandits solutions on issues and and you know lot has been said about the green new deal oh and and how it it is good for the environment but we need a green deal. It's not new because we didn't have one before so we need a green deal. We need to look at the energy sources and move away from the fossil fuel like a vampire. Vampire moves away from across and are just as fast as we can. You know you just have to have to move away from that quickly it and emerge from this with a fish and a vision that understands that we have a stronger stronger relationship with the people of the united states that there are some structural changes that needs to take place in that relationship with the government government of the united states puerto rico is a colony and their many avenues to fix that <hes> not just one. Let's talk about that because that that is the question right. It's the question that looms over puerto rico you yourself. Don't believe in statehood know why puerto rico as a nation and and <hes> you know we were we had been invaded and colonized before by the spanish we had reached a level of autonomy when the spanish american war broke out in eighteen ninety eight and i think status needs to change but you know look i believe personally in free re-association. It's like a pre-nup. We both sat down. We say you know what can i give you. What can you give me and people say well. What can island a hundred miles by thirty thirty five gift to the united states will right now it is it is estimated that american companies in puerto rico take out of puerto of forty forty billion dollars a year and prophets and they get about eighty percent of that <hes> they can get preferential tax treatment in the united states. Those those are things that can continue the only pay four percent tax rate in puerto rico. I think that should be increased just a little bit just imagine if we had five billion of those just five rather than forty billion thirty five billion taken as prophets so would i believe in is a self determination asian process to me. If i truly believe in democracy the process is as important as a result and to have all voices be hurt art. Tell me about your decision. In this twenty twenty race to support senator bernie sanders. I wasn't a bernie sanders supporter. One thing struck with me stuck with me with bernie. He is committed. He's consistent and he's courageous ages for him. Puerto rico was not an opportunity to get delegates. He stayed committed to the cause. Also the puerto rican people he put a bill into for consideration of the senate to have one hundred percent parody on a medicaid we get about fifty five cents on a dollar but we pay the same he fought ought against the fiscal control board that is putting a story de measures in puerto rico that are really forcing us into an even further spiral of economic horror what the core of this not campaign but transformation that bernie percenting to the american people is about our not inherently truly latino values. You respect the family so you don't separate them at the border. You have a sensible path to <hes> an immigration policy. You respect the value of education. You know that in order to be a fully participating citizen in democracy needs to be healthy you stand up against everything that makes love unequal unfair and unjust and you are on compromising about it. You want somebody to get it done. Forget about the label think about what's in it for you and your family and bernie sanders just a person to get it done. I've got us running for governor. Yes i a._m. I am running for governor decision to big decision. <hes> probably for the same reasons that <hes> bernie's running for president. That's that's why i support him with seattle. I in many things and it's time time for change starts from the bottom up. Thanks as always for joining us. Latino latina is executive produced and owned by julie williams and meet maria. Murielle is our sound designer. Caroliina rodriguez is our sound engineer. Emma forbes is the shows in turn. We love hearing from you. 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