Latin America

Mercedes Martínez-Padilla: I am so proud my union, of my people, of my country (video)

The following message of thanks was written by the president of the Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico (FMPR) in response to an outpouring of solidarity and aid in the wake of recent earthquakes. You can contact FMPR and follow their work on the union’s blog. One important aid effort is the FMPR Earthquake Survivor Solidarity Fund. No Borders News would like to thank our readers for pitching in to support it and we ask you share it with friends, family, co-workers, and activists to get the fund over it’s $10,000 goal in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s internationalism on this day of national celebration. Translation by Monique Dols.

(Video of protest by community members and educators in town of Ponce, Puerto Rico after unused material aid left over from Hurricane Maria was discovered in the the municipal government’s possession. – Source: FMPR Facebook page.)

We are so grateful for all of the overwhelming support the FMPR has received from all our beloved compañeros in the diaspora. We have been working all week on a number of fronts:

  1. Politics- #TheDisasterIsTheGoverment

-We are demanding the safety and security that the students and the workers of the Department of Education deserve. 

-We want to see the list of 500 schools that have a “short column” defect that were repaired in 2000. What is the status of these buildings after the most recent quakes?

-We want to know which schools are not earthquake resistant, through a second phase of inspections, and above all what is the plan and timeline to repair the building defects. 

-We demand that the DOE hold assemblies that include entire school communities including parents and caregivers in order to discuss the findings of the engineers in each school. There must be a discussion in each school about the emergency protocol that is unique to that school including: what to do before, during and after an earthquake, and what is the escape route and what are the meet-up points in the event of an earthquake. 

-We are requesting a meeting with the secretary of education in order to discuss these and other demands. 

  1. Bringing needed supplies as requested the community leaders in different neighborhoods of Guánica: Fuig, Ensenada, Villa Diablo y Piedras Blancas en Guayanilla.
  2. Coordinating a day of Art, Recreation and Joy for the children, youth and adults in the different encampments of the south on January 19. The day will include storytelling, puppetry, music, games, art, and a workshop on stress and anxiety management. 
  3. Discussing the possible outdoor school that would be offered daily to our children in the south. We are looking for volunteers who are interested in giving classes in order to help provide some emotional support as well as the normalcy that having a daily routine offers children and young people. 
  4. Working in coalition with other unions and advocacy organizations in the Department of Education in order to present a united front of demands and safety recommendations. We are also working together with specialists in California on emergency management protocols in order to implement life-saving mechanisms into our schools in the event of an earthquake. 
  5. Working arm and arm with the wonderful compañeros of the María Fund on themes of social justice, the disaster of politics right now, our demands to win the country that we deserve, fair treatment and affordable housing that we all deserve as citizens. Combining and coordinating so that we don’t duplicate efforts, and sharing the work in order to give one another support, so that we can resist together. 
  6. Taking a census of needs among teachers, social workers, counselors, librarians and others who are affiliated with the FMPR in the south in order to give them emotional support as well as material support. 

We have been working non-stop since January 7, doing everything we can. I am so proud of the union that I am a part of, so proud of the people of my country. A just recovery will be made possible because we have each other’s backs. 

-Mercedes Martínez-Padilla 

Jan 18, 2020