El Encuentro Nacional de la Diáspora Puertorriqueña

El Encuentro Nacional de la Diáspora Puertorriqueña (the National Conference of the Puerto Rican Diaspora) was an invitation-only meeting in Orlando last week which brought together elected officials, community leaders, and other individuals from Puerto Rico, eight States, and Washington, D.C.

The goal of the meeting was to provide a united vision for people of Puerto Rican heritage on the mainland — the diaspora. But this meeting offered unity only because it left out most of the viewpoints found among leaders in Puerto Rico and within the diaspora.

A Congressional Briefing included Congressional Representatives Jose Serrano, Luis Gutierrez, and Nydia Velazquez — all Democrats, and all supporters of the status quo. Though the event was advertised as non-partisan, only a few local Republicans were invited at the last minute. It was clearly a Democratic party.

More than that, it was a Popular Democratic Party event. The PDP, Puerto Rico’s Popular Democratic Party, is not identical to the U.S. Democratic Party, as was evidenced by the fact that Democrat Piedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, was also invited as an afterthought and did not attend.

But the PDP has not spoken with a uniform voice recently, so it wasn’t just Republicans who were left out of the meeting. Also excluded were leaders and supporters of the PDP wing that wants sovereignty for the territory and advocates of independence.

Many Puerto Rican leaders, both on the Island and on the U.S. mainland, are associated with the New Progressive Party, which favors equality and permanence for Puerto Rico in the American political family by means of statehood. These leaders were also not invited.

Unity that is accomplished by excluding all other voices is not true unity.

One of the strongest themes at the conference was recognition of the growing political power of the diaspora. One million people of Puerto Rican heritage live in Florida, an important swing state in presidential elections. With the next presidential election coming up next year, candidates and their supporters may be more ready than ever to listen to Puerto Rican voices.

All the voices should be heard.

You don’t have to wait. Contact your legislators today and make sure that they know that Puerto Rico’s status is an issue of national importance.

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