Vintage Film of one of the greatest, Ismael Rivera a.k.a. “Maelo”, a Puerto Rican composer and singer



Ismael Rivera a.k.a. “Maelo” (October 5, 1931 – May 13, 1987), was a Puerto Rican composer and singer of Puerto Rican music.

Early life

Rivera was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, a sector of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was the first of five children born to Luis and Margarita Rivera. His father, Luis, was a carpenter and his mother a housewife. As a child, Rivera was always singing and banging on cans with sticks. He received his primary education at the Pedro G. Goyco Elementary School and then went on to learn carpentry at a vocational school. He also shined shoes to help his family financially and when he was 16 years old, he worked as a carpenter. During his free time he would hang around the corner with his best friend Rafael Cortijo and sing songs. La Fundacion Ismael Rivera In 1948, Rivera and Cortijo joined El Conjunto Monterrey, where Rivera played the conga and Cortijo the bongos. Rivera was unable to work full-time as a musician because of his work as a carpenter.

Musical career

In 1952, Rivera joined the U.S. Army but was quickly discharged, because he didn’t speak English. When he returned to Puerto Rico, he went to work as a lead singer with Orquesta Panamericana, thanks to the recommendation of his friend Cortijo. With Orquesta Panamericana, Rivera recorded and scored his first hits with the songs “El charlatán”, “Ya yo sé”, “La vieja en camisa” and “La sazón de Abuela”. However, an incident between Rivera and another band member, over a girl, led to his departure from the popular band. In 1954, he joined Cortijo’s Combo and recorded the following songs, which soon became hits in the American Latin community:

  • “El Bombón de Elena”
  • “El Negro Bembón”
  • “Juan José”
  • “Besitos de Coco”
  • “Palo Que Tú Me Das”
  • “Quítate de la Vía Perico”
  • “Oriza”
  • “El Chivo de la Campana”
  • “Maquinolandera”
  • “El Yayo”
  • “María Teresa”
  • “Yo Soy del Campo”

Amazing footage of one of the greatest. Ismael Rivera a.k.a. "Maelo", a Puerto Rican composer and singer of some of the Best Salsa out there.

Posted by Utah Salsa on Monday, January 18, 2016

El Sonero Mayor

Cortijo’s Combo continued to gain fame and so did Rivera’s reputation as a lead singer. Rivera was named sonero mayor by Cuban producer Ángel Maceda, owner of club Bronx Casino in New York; this is based in an interview done to Ismael.

The band went to New York City and played in the famed Palladium Ballroom, where the orchestras of Tito RodríguezTito Puente and Charlie Palmieri also played.

Rivera married Virginia Fuente in 1951. He also had relationships with other women like Gladis Serrano, who was the wife of Daniel Santos. Rivera had five children: Ismael, Jr., Carlos, Margarita, Caridad, and Orquídea. In 1959, Rivera, together with Cortijo and his Combo, participated in the European produced movie titled Calipso, starring Harry Belafonte. He traveled with Cortijo’s Combo, which also included Rafael Ithier and Roberto Roena, to Europe, Central and South America.

Rivera was arrested for drug possession after a trip to Panama with the Cortijo combo. According to later reports, various band members regularly concealed illegal drug shipments, but this time the Customs inspectors were waiting for them. Rivera took the fall, sparing other members. But this event led to the break-up of Cortijo’s Combo. Shortly after, Rafael Ithier regrouped some of the former members and formed El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico.

Upon his release from jail, Rivera formed his own band called Ismael Rivera and his Cachimbos. This successful band lasted for eight years. Rivera reunited with Cortijo and recorded “Juntos otra vez”. Later, Rivera went solo and did well with the recordings of “El Sonero Mayor” and “Volare”. He scored his greatest hit with “Las caras lindas (de mi gente negra)” written by Tite Curet Alonso. On May 14, 1974, Rivera participated in a concert at the Carnegie Hall which was recorded live. Rivera sang a song from Bobby Capó called “Dormir contigo”. One of his last public performances was in Paris, as an opener for Bob Marley in 1978.

Later years

Rivera was a faithful pilgrim of the Black Christ procession in PortobeloPanama, from 1975 to 1985, and even wrote a song about the Black Christ, known affectionately as “El Nazareno”. Rivera was baptized as the “Brujo de Borinquen” in Panama.

The death of his childhood friend, Rafael Cortijo in 1982, affected him emotionally to the point that he couldn’t sing in the tribute to Cortijo celebrated at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. Rivera was actively involved in the creation of a historical museum which depicts the contributions made to the cultural life of Puerto Rico by the black Puerto Ricans.

Ismael Rivera died on May 13, 1987 in the arms of his mother Margarita, from a heart attack. He was buried at the Villa Palmeras cemetery in Santurce, Puerto Rico.


On October 5, 2008, Puerto Rico’s governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá signed a proclaim stating that every anniversary of Rivera’s birth will be celebrated as “Día Conmemorativo del Natalicio de Ismael Rivera”.

On September 27, 2001, the Puerto Rican Senate approved the law #134 declaring October 5 as “Ismael Rivera Day”. In Villa Palmeras, Santurce, Puerto Rico, there is a plaza named “Plaza de los Salseros” which has a statue and plaque dedicated to Ismael. Celia Cruz recorded a tribute to Ismael Rivera and so did Dario y su ComboRican.


  • De Colores (1968)
  • Controversia (1969)
  • Lo Último en la Avenida (1971)
  • Esto Fue lo Que Trajo el Barco (1972)
  • Vengo Por la Maceta (1973)
  • Traigo de Todo (1974)
  • Feliz Navidad (1975)
  • Soy Feliz (1975)
  • De Todas Maneras Rosas (1977)
  • Esto Si Es lo Mío (1978)
  • El Sonero Mayor (1980)


  • Con Todos los Hierros (1967)
  • Juntos Otra Vez (1974)
  • Eclipse Total (1975)
  • Llaves de la Tradición (1977)
  • Oro (1979)
  • El Sueño del Maestro (1980)
  • Sonero No. 1 (1982)
  • Maelo… El Único (1992)
  • Legend (1992)
  • El Sonero Mayor Vol. 1 (1992)
  • El Sonero Mayor Vol. 2 (1997)
  • El Sonero Mayor: Latin Roots (1999)
  • Maelo: The Fania Legends of Salsa Vol. 8 (2001)
  • La Época de Oro Vol. 1 (2002)
  • Historia Musical de Ismael Rivera (2004)
  • Salsa Legende: Best of Ismael Rivera (2004)
  • La Experiencia (2004)
  • Mucho Corazón (2005)
  • Su Época Dorada Vol. 1 (2007)
  • Su Época Dorada Vol. 2 (2007)
  • Dos Grandes de Siempre: 16 Éxitos (2008)
  • Grandes Éxitos Vol. 2 (2008)
  • La Herencia (2008)
  • Historia de la Salsa (2009)
  • Greatest Hits (2009)
  • La Esencia de la Fania (2009)
  • A Maelo (2011)
  • Selecciones Fania (2012)
  • El Sonero Mayor (2012)

Further reading

  • Ismael Rivera, el sonero mayor (1993) by César Pagano (Colombia)
  • Salsa, sabor y control!, sicologia de la musica tropical (1998) by Ángel G. Quintero Rivera
  • Dos libros sobre Maelo
  • Dialogo (1998) by Francisco Cabanillas U.S.
  • Bailando en casa del Trompo (1999) by Lil Rodríguez (Venezuela) and
  • Ismael Rivera, el sonero mayor by Rafael Figueroa Hernández.
  • “El Entierro de Cortijo” by Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá.


RACE, IDENTITY & PERCEPTIONS: This Latina Wants You to Stop Denying Her Her Blackness


This Latina Wants You to Stop Denying Her Her Blackness – Because Race Is Complicated

(Content Warning: racial slurs)

Originally published on Vanessa Martir’s Blog and republished here with the author’s permission.

I’d been in Wellesley for all of a few weeks when it first happened.

It was the fall of 1989, my first year in boarding school. I was walking with another ABC (A Better Chance) student back to our dorm on the outskirts of the Wellesley College campus.

We were the “scholarship kids”— her a St. Lucian girl from Flatbush, me a Boricua-Hondureña [Puerto Rican-Honduran]* from Bushwick. We were walking along Washington Avenue, the main street that runs through the town, past the Town Hall that looks like a castle, and the duck pond.

I don’t remember what we were talking about or if we were even talking, but I remember his face, bloated and red and angry.

He stuck that face out of the truck that slowed down as it passed, then he threw a lit cigarette at us, two teenage girls – her 16, me 13 – and said, “Go home, n*ggers.”

We jumped away to avoid getting burnt and stared at the truck as it sped off. She started crying, a quiet, blubbering cry that shook her shoulders. I stayed quiet the rest of the walk home.

The following year, a black girl who was all of a shade darker than me told me I didn’t know prejudice – “because you’re not black.” She pursed her lips and shook her head. I thought back to that lit cigarette and that bloated, red face.


In the summer of 1985, my mother took us to Honduras for the first time.

One morning, my brother Carlos and I were picking naranjas [oranges] off the tree whose branch extended out into our family’s patio.

We were just kids – I was nine, Carlos was 13. We just wanted some oranges.

Suddenly the neighbor came running out of her house screaming. She called us malditos prietos, thieves and criminals for picking fruit off her tree. She said she’d rather they rot than have us eat them.

My brother pulled open an orange with his fingers, put it to his mouth and sucked on it while he stared at that woman. She sneered and called him, “un prieto sucio” [a dirty dark-skinned/Black person].

My brother laughed, juice dripping down his chin, grabbed my hand, and walked off. I gave her the universal fuck you sign – the middle finger.


I didn’t grow up talking about race. There was no time for that.

There were other more important issues – like keeping the fridge full and making sure that crack, the drug that ravaged our neighborhoods in the late 80s and 90s, stayed outside our doors.

It was hard enough keeping the family together, but I look back now and can see the ways that race influenced my life: in how my sister was always called the pretty one “con su pelo rubio” [with her blond hair]; that black girl in seventh grade who said, as my friends and I were walking by, “I hate these little Spanish bitches swearing they all that.”

Sure, there were some racial tensions in the largely black and Puerto Rican neighborhood I grew up in in Brooklyn, but the pervasive issue was poverty.

We were all poor.

We all lived in the rubble and crack that was 1980s Bushwick.


The summer before my senior year, I participated in the LEAD Business Program at UPenn’s Wharton School of Business for three weeks.

One day, we were talking about who knows what when I started talking about my sister, how amazing she was, how I looked up to her, how gorgeous she was.

“She has this straight blonde hair and light eyes. She’s just beautiful.”

A black boy I had a thing with said, “You talk like she’s all that because she’s white, Vanessa.”

I didn’t know what to say, but I look back on that moment as a key step in my awakening to my racial consciousness and the ways that the European ideals of beauty were instilled in me.


Years ago, my mother told me a story of when we kids were really little.

She went to a “face to face” (pronounced “fay tu fay”) appointment at the welfare office and brought us in tow – my sister, la gringa [the light skinned/white one] who then had almost-white-blonde hair; my brother, el moreno [the dark-skinned/black one]; and me, la india [the Indian/Indigenous/darker-skinned but not as dark-skinned person as morenos].

The case worker stared at us then back at mom. “Those are your children?” she asked.

“Seguro,” [of course] mom said, without blinking.

“Those are not your kids!”

The woman said we didn’t even look like we were related to each other, much less to her. She accused mom of trying to cheat the system, and even called security, threatening to bring her up on fraud charges.

Mom said, “Yo le quería meter en la cara con las actas de naciminto de ustedes,” [I wanted to hit her on the head with your birth certificates]. And if I know my mom, she would have done exactly that, smack that woman upside her head with her paperwork.


We hear so much about those Latinos who straight out negate their blackness.

Like my ex-boyfriend’s Dominican mother who whispered with pride that Trujillo was her distant cousin. I heard this woman say, “Yo soy india”  [I’m Indian/Indigenous] several times over the six year relationship I had with her son.

I remember staring at her full lips, wide nose, and coarse hair, her dark skin that she took caution with, staying out of the sun, walking around with an umbrella on especially beaming days, “Ay no, ese sol me va ‘cer prieta y yo no soy prieta,” [Oh no, this sun is going to make my dark/black but I’m not black.”

It all made sense when I learned the history of the Dominican Republic and how Trujillo would put make up on his face and hands to lighten his skin.


In an interview in the March 2015 VONA newsletter, Mat Johnson wrote:

I thought the mixed race advocates were sellouts at first, just trying to run away from their own blackness. Over time, though, I began to feel that by just saying I was black I was denying half of my family and my own cultural influences. Also, I was being forced to fit into an archetype that visually I didn’t fit. The constraint and struggle of that started to wear me down, so I had to reexamine my identity.

Your proclaimed identity should fit you, not the other way around.

I’ve been thinking a lot about race, as a Boricua-Hondureña[Puerto Rican-Honduran] who identifies as both black and indígena [indigenous], because I am both and neither is mutually exclusive.

Here’s the thing, I’m all for conversations about blackness. They are necessary. But to have a complete conversation, we need to talk about how some people, African American and even my own Latino people, have denied me my blackness because “you don’t look black,” they’ve said.

The issue is that people like me do not fit into their construct of what race is.

I’m writing this as I stare at a picture of my deceased brother and I to the left of my computer screen. When you negate my blackness, you deny him as my brother. I can’t have that. I won’t have it. I will respond viscerally.

I get that this essay is going to get some folk riled up and shifting uncomfortably. I’m cool with that. These conversations are necessary and long overdue.

Yes, I am black. I am also indígena.

It is not up to the world to decide my identity for me. Seriously, what’s good with this policing of one’s racial and cultural identity? To say that I have a “choice” is to say that I can “choose” to deny my black brother and my black aunt and my grandmother and my great grandmother and the long history of blackness in my blood.

Not gonna happen.

This construct of race is much more layered than people want or care to admit.

I’m cool with dialogue. I am not cool with some cualquiera [whatever] claiming dominion over my identity.

You can take several seats with that pendejada [bullshit]. I’ll open an auditorium full of seats for you, if you wish.


I had someone, an academic, try to impose the label of “afro-latina” on me. Friends have asked me, “Why don’t you call yourself afro-latina?”

It’s an accusation.

They are saying I am denying my blackness.

Here’s the thing: Yes, I am black, but that’s not all of who I am.

It’s problematic to impose an identity on someone. It’s problematic when my blackness is denied of me because “you don’t look black.”

Because my hair is curly and my skin is that of my Mayan ancestors, because, see, I’m not just black, tambien soy indígena [I’m also Indigenous]. One does not negate the other. Why does it have to?

I think of my great-grandmother Tinita, her skin brown like the frijoles [beans] she shelled in the patio for hours, her waist-length hair pulled back into a braid that hung over her shoulder.

When she heard about what the neighbor had said to my brother and me, she laughed her toothless laugh and pulled us into her chest. “Si somos prietos, y que?” [Yes, we’re dark-skinned/Black, and so what?]

Then she sat us down and served us tortillas and frijoles with her specially made crema and the white cheese she soaked all day to remove some of its saltiness.


One time, when I was in my mid-twenties, I went to a barbecue at my mom’s house with my boy, an African American writer.

Mom greeted him politely and showed him how to climb out the window of her first floor apartment into the backyard where the grill was already on and people were milling around eating and sipping on beer.

When he was outside, Mom pulled me aside and said: “Tu no estaras con un moreno, Vanessa.” [You are not going to be with that black man, Vanessa.]

I gasped and said, “Ma, you know we’re black, right?”

She rolled her eyes and went back to seasoning the meat.


When was eight or nine, I was playing with a black boy from around the corner named Damon. We were playing scully in the street with the bottle caps we filled with wax.

My second mom Millie, a Boricua straight from the campos [rural area] of Lares, was sitting on the stoop of our building peeling an orange with her pocket knife.

She called me over, feigning to offer me a piece.

When I reached for it, she pulled me closer and whispered, “No te atrevas enamorarte de uno d’esos prietos, ¿oistes?” [Don’t you dare date one of these black guys, you hear?]

I ate that orange slice slowly, trying to hide my frown.

When I was done, I told Damon that I had to go inside. I didn’t play with him much after that.


Race is a complex thing.

It’s been a unique experience for me as a Latina who looks more like her indigenous roots, but who is one of only five light-skinned people in my family, my mom, my sister and me, and our kids.

Once, when I was pregnant with my daughter, my daughter’s father said some shit to me that still shocks me ten years later.

We were on our way home after having dinner at my grandmother’s house with the rest of my family. I was rubbing my huge belly when he looked over at me and said, “Our kid could be black, V.”

He sounded exasperated.

An “Oh my God” lingered in the air like one of those fogs in scary movies that portends some shit is about to go down.

“And?” I said, all Brooklyn attitude and what the fuck.

“Nothing, I’m just saying, ma.” He knew he was in trouble.

“You know your mother’s black, right?” I said and glared at him.

He sucked his teeth and rolled his eyes. “Ay, forget it,” he said.

We never talked about it again, but I wondered what crossed his mind when he saw our daughter for the first time. I wonder if he said a silent prayer thanking God for her having inherited his lighter skin.


This essay has been simmering in me for a long time, but I knew I had to write it when the other day a black poet attacked VONA for not including any black alumni in the line-up of a faculty-alumni reading at an AWP event entitled Consequences: VONA/Voices Generation One.

There are multiple issues with the accusation (including an assumption of maliciousness without knowing how the alumni were selected), but this essay addresses one: the negation of my blackness and that of another Latino writer on the line-up.

This woman talked about the invisibility of blacks without realizing (or perhaps, not caring) that she too was imposing invisibility on Latinos like me who have time and again been denied their blackness.

I took that rage and put it into this essay.

Race is such a layered, complex thing.

I won’t pretend to have all the answers. I won’t pretend to know fully how to confront and talk about race in ways that will make everyone happy.

I understand that my views on race are complicated by my experience being one of two or three Latinas in the entire boarding school I attended, at a time where race was polarized into white and black (which is still very much is).

I had too much melanin and was too Latina to fit into the white world, and I was poor to boot. I didn’t have enough melanin to fit in with the black kids, so where did I belong? I didn’t.

I had to learn how to pave my own path. Create my own little niche, which largely meant solitude. That solitude gave this rage time to gestate.

This is what I know at almost 40:

1. I cannot and will not deny my indigenous blood to fit a construct of race that’s not inclusive of the layers that make me me, especially since my appearance is clear evidence of that Mayan blood.

2. To deny a Latin@ her blackness just because she doesn’t “look black” or has a different experience because she’s not African American, is to be ignorant of history.

There were millions more Africans taken to the Caribbean and Latin America in the African slave trade. You think racism is bad in the US? Go to Latin America, and then we can talk.

This attempt to erase my history and my blood because it doesn’t fit into your construct of race is problematic on numerous levels, and must be included in these oftentimes uncomfortable conversations about race.

3. I’m done being politically correct and trying to tiptoe around these conversations because I’m often attacked or dismissed. That shit’s been happening to me since I was a kid, and I’m tired of it.

I have my story and you have yours. A dialogue is possible, albeit probably uncomfortable, but for you to impose your view of blackness on me is a single story, and we already know what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has to say about that: it’s dangerous.

This is why I penned this here essay: because I’m tired of the divisiveness within our own communities.

I counter and confront it in the way I do best: by writing about it, screaming and raging and crying on the page. Es con hablar que nos entendemos. [It is by talking that we understand each other.] I’m ready to talk when you are.


Argument analysis: Puerto Rico — special no more?


It doesn’t happen often, but there are times when the very last words spoken by a lawyer during a Supreme Court argument sum up very clearly what the whole hour has been about.  That happened on Wednesday, when a lawyer’s closing, plaintive comment was: “Please do not take the constitution of Puerto Rico away from the people of Puerto Rico.”

Actually, there does not seem to be any real risk of that, but the entire argument in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez-Valle had the rather morose quality of suggesting that Puerto Rico was about to slide back into the nineteenth-century status of a mere colony, not a proud Caribbean master of its own destiny.  If it is true that Congress has as much power over the island as was suggested, especially by a federal government lawyer, the island’s dependent status is clearer than it has ever been for more than six decades.

That prospect was entirely opposite of what the current government leaders of Puerto Rico had sought in taking their case to the Supreme Court.  They wanted a declaration that, at least up to a point, Puerto Rico was entitled to the dignity of “sovereignty.”

Part of the problem in achieving “sovereignty,” it appeared, is that the Court was not exactly sure what that word means.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents grew up in Puerto Rico, tried a definition, and others attempted some definition.  Justice Stephen G. Breyer brought out the fact that the U.S. government stopped making reports to the United Nations about Puerto Rico as a dependent territory after it achieved its current, semi-autonomous status.

But the exploration of that basic political concept was so meandering that, fairly late in the argument, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that the Court just forget that, and find an alternative approach to deciding this case.

Kennedy was getting at the fact that the case, in some ways, is not at all about sovereignty.  That comes up only because Puerto Rico’s basic goal in this particular case (although the larger implications are enormous for the island) is to be able to put on trial, under its own criminal law, two men whom it has charged with illegal gun possession.

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court has forbidden it to stage that prosecution; because the two men have already been convicted of the same crime in federal court, Puerto Rico cannot separately pursue its own charges without violating the constitutional ban on “double jeopardy.”  According to that court, only separate “sovereigns” can prosecute the same person for the same crime, and Puerto Rico is not a sovereign, in that sense.

Kennedy noted that the Court has issued a series of decisions spelling out the “dual sovereignty” concept in a series of cases, and it is not about to overrule those.  So, he asked, have any analysts suggested an alternative approach to deciding when to apply sovereignty notions to multiple prosecutions?  He put it this way: “Has there been any suggestion by commentators, and so forth, that this whole inquiry of sovereignty and source of power is a little bit misplaced?”

Puerto Rico’s lawyer in the case, Washington attorney Christopher Landau, is relying on several precedents for his basic argument that the source of power to prosecute for crimes in Puerto Rico is the island’s own constitution, which went into effect in 1952 when Congress invited the island into a relationship — new for a U.S. territory — with a large measure of self-governing autonomy, including the right to have its own constitution and to have its own legislature pass criminal laws.

Christopher Landau for petitioner

Christopher Landau for petitioner (Art Lien)

Despite Kennedy’s doubts about the sovereignty aspect of “double jeopardy,” when Landau and another attorney — Adam G. Unikowsky of Washington, D.C., who represented the two accused men — were at the lectern, almost all of the back and forth with the bench was about what to make of sovereignty.

Landau repeatedly insisted that the Puerto Rican constitution went a long way to give the people the power of self-determination, not full sovereignty in a formal international sense but something short of that.  Unikowsky insisted, however, that what Congress had done was simply to give it a measure of autonomy while delegating its powers to the island, perhaps only temporarily.  His two clients, of course, want Puerto Rico to be treated as lacking in sovereignty, and sharing only in the sovereignty of the U.S. government, so that they could not be tried by each government separately.

Adam G. Unikowsky for respondents

Adam G. Unikowsky for respondents (Art Lien)

But it remained for a federal government lawyer, Nicole A. Saharsky, an assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, to go the furthest to diminish Puerto Rico’s current constitutional status.  For all of her fifteen minutes at the lectern, she repeatedly cited authorities and history which suggested that Puerto Rico has never had anything like sovereignty.

The Court, she said, “has been very careful to guard who is a sovereign under the Constitution and who is not,” and has done so especially in deciding who could conduct multiple prosecutions without violating the ban on “double jeopardy.”  For her main authority, though, she relied upon the Constitution’s sweeping grant of power to Congress to adopt laws and regulations to govern U.S. territories.

Nicole A. Saharsky, Asst. to Solicitor Genral

Nicole A. Saharsky, Asst. to Solicitor General (Art Lien)

When Justice Sotomayor said that, when Congress allowed Puerto Rico to set up a self-governing constitution in 1952, it had given up the congressional power to veto laws passed by Puerto Rico’s legislature, Saharsky said she did not think that was right.

Justice Breyer asked her pointedly whether “Congress can take back” what it had given Puerto Rico in 1952, and she did not hesitate to say that it could.  She went on: “Could Congress revise the arrangements it has with Puerto Rico?  We think the answer is yes, and that that follows from the structure of the Constitution and its history.”  It is, she said almost mechanically, it is a territory.

The island’s attorney, Landau, had a few minutes for rebuttal, and framed the issue he thought central to the case this way: “What happened in 1950 to 1952, and is that constitutional?”

“It is shocking,” he said, that the lawyer for the two accused men and the United States government “are using the territorial clause as a restriction on power, a limitation on power of government.”  Congress, he said, can use its power to come up “with inventive solutions,” including alternatives to the dependent status of a colony.  Puerto Rico’s constitution, written by its own people, reflected just such a solution.

And, in a moment, he finished: “Please do not take the constitution of Puerto Rico away from the people of Puerto Rico.”




Muchos hablan de como Estados Unidos tiene bloqueado a Cuba y no se dan cuenta de que Estados Unidos también tiene bloqueado a Puerto Rico del resto del mundo.

El bloqueo estadounidense contra Puerto Rico nos:

1. Impide tener relaciones políticas y económicas con otros países del mundo.

2. Impide poder ser miembros de organismos internacionales.

3. Obliga a solo poder usar la marina mercante estadounidense, la cual es la más cara del mundo causando que paguemos altos costos por alimentos y productos.

4. Obliga a depender casi en su totalidad de productos y alimentos importados estadounidenses causando que no desarrollemos nuestra agricultura y no tengamos una industria nacional fuerte.

5. Impone un sistema de ayudas diseñado para enriquecer a las mega tiendas estadounidenses y mantener a los pobres sumizos y en la pobreza.

6. Obliga a ser un mercado cautivo para Estados Unidos y sus mega corporaciones causando que dichas mega tiendas destruyan a los negocios nacionales.

7. Ata las manos y no nos deja tener los poderes necesarios para ser dueños de nuestro propio destino y nos convierte en esclavos de un país que no le interesa nuestro bienestar, sino que nos utiliza como un negocio rentable.

8. Mantiene ignorantes ya que no nos enseñan en la escuela la historia de atropellos y abusos que sufre Puerto Rico desde que fuimos invadidos por Estados Unidos en 1898 y nos hacen ver a dicho país como si fuera Disney y a América Latina como “repúblicas bananeras”.

9. Ha lavado el cerebro y nos ha robado nuestra dignidad y orgullo de ser puertorriqueños y de pensar que Puerto Rico puede ser, como lo son muchas otras, una nación libre e independiente.

10. No nos permite renegociar nuestra deuda ni declararnos en quiebra.

Ya es hora de acabar con el bloqueo estadounidense contra Puerto Rico que atenta contra nuestro desarrollo económico, dignidad como pueblo y que nos aisla de América Latina y del resto del mundo.



Puerto Rico defaults: When the salsa stops


The commonwealth has run out of wealth. Will Washington save it?

PUERTO RICO’S creditors have plenty to complain about, but they can’t claim they weren’t warned. Last June Alejandro García Padilla, the governor of America’s Caribbean outpost, announced that its $72 billion public debt was “unpayable”, and that a “unilateral and unplanned non-payment of obligations” loomed. Half a year later, he has fulfilled that threat: on January 4th the government missed a $36m coupon on paper issued by its Infrastructure Financing Authority. “There were those who said I was bluffing,” he says. “I told the truth. To avoid a new default, [bondholders] have to sit down and negotiate.”

Unlike fiscal crises elsewhere, the decision did not set off pot-banging protests or queues at cashpoints. On the contrary, the governor was all smiles the next day as he welcomed children into La Fortaleza, his colonial-era palace in the capital of San Juan, for the eve of Three Kings’ Day, which Puerto Ricans (boricuas, as they call themselves) celebrate as much as Christmas. Plaza las Américas, the city’s mega-shopping mall, was packed as parents finished shopping for gifts to put under their children’s beds overnight, and waiting times at popular restaurants were over an hour. The contrast between the island’s dire public finances and its holiday spending binge was surreal, and impossible to sustain.

Only in a territory as unconventionally governed as Puerto Rico could this through-the-looking-glass economy persist. America conquered the island from Spain in 1898 and granted its residents citizenship in 1917, just in time to draft 20,000 of them for the first world war. In 1952 the island became a self-governing “commonwealth”, subject to American law but excluded from federal income taxes and from voting representation in Washington.

Federal investment and tax breaks helped Puerto Rico develop from a sugar-based economy to a pharmaceutical-manufacturing hub. But once producers like Ireland and Singapore began to compete and the tax preferences expired, the island did not develop a new comparative advantage. As part of the United States, Puerto Rico could not devalue its currency, and the national minimum wage inflated its labour costs. But being American offered benefits as well. Residents could move to the States to find work, and were eligible for federal welfare payments if they stayed. Meanwhile, the government could issue tax-exempt municipal bonds, prized by mainland investors.

As a result, the economy slowly hollowed out. The population has fallen from 3.9m to 3.5m during the past decade, with young workers accounting for much of the exodus. Those who stayed tended either to depend on the state—as students, public employees, pensioners or recipients of federal largesse—or to fall into the sprawling underground economy and bustling drug trade. Candidates from across the political spectrum have won office by keeping the gravy train running: more than a third of Puerto Rican schoolchildren are classified as having special needs, inflating the teacher-to-pupil ratio, and the island’s health plan for the poor would be the envy of any American state. A paltry 40% of working-age boricuas are in the labour force, and just 57% of personal income in Puerto Rico comes from formal private jobs, compared with 76% for the 50 states, according to José Villamil, an economist. Investment has collapsed, from 27% of GNP in 2001 to 13% today. Yet retail sales have held steady since 2008. The only way to maintain consumption was via massive borrowing: during the past 15 years, the government’s nominal debt load has tripled.

This system worked as long as mainland investors retained their appetite for Puerto Rico’s high-yielding bonds. But after Detroit went bust in 2013, municipal creditors fled to safety and the commonwealth lost market access. That forced Mr García Padilla to cut spending and raise taxes. The island’s only children’s hospital, whose budget has been cut by 14% in the past two years, lacks CT and MRI machines. Overall spending has dropped by 6.2% since 2013, while tax increases have raised revenues by 8%. This has exacerbated the island’s decade-long recession. The government’s audited 2014 financial statements are long overdue, but according to Mr Villamil GNP shrank 0.9% that year and a further 1.7% in 2015. The sharpest decline is forecast for 2017.

“The numbers don’t add up in Puerto Rico’s books,” Mr García Padilla says. Only by reducing and delaying the government’s liabilities, he argues, can the island resume growth and generate enough tax revenue to maximise repayment to creditors. However, the commonwealth’s awkward status within the United States has stymied his efforts.

If Puerto Rico were either an independent country or the 51st state, it could abrogate its central-government debt, because states cannot be sued in federal court. As an “unincorporated territory”, it may not enjoy this privilege. Similarly, in 1984 Congress excluded Puerto Rico from Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code, which covers “instrumentalities” of states such as local governments and state-owned enterprises. In 2014 the territory passed its own version of Chapter 9, but it was struck down in federal court (though the Supreme Court is to hear its appeal). Mr García Padilla is desperate for Congress to change this. But the hedge and mutual funds that hold large swathes of its debt oppose the idea vigorously, and so far the legislature has failed to act. “The bottom line is our political status,” says Juan Torruella, a Puerto Rican federal judge who voted to reject the territory’s home-grown bankruptcy law. “Any way you put it, Puerto Rico is a colony. What happens in Puerto Rico is decided in Washington.”

Unless and until the law changes, the government will keep juggling liabilities to stave off default. After 17 months of talks, the Puerto Rican power company recently struck a deal with its creditors. But with 18 different issuers and the treasury running dry, such an agreement will be hard to replicate at scale. To conserve cash, Mr García Padilla is taking his sweet time to pay tax refunds and public contractors. Guillermo Martínez of GM Group, which provides security guards, says $4.5m of his firm’s bills to the commonwealth are over 90 days past due. Just like its bondholders, the government has these suppliers over a barrel. “If we stop providing services, will they pay me, or the people who will replace me?”, he asks. “Puerto Rico has been good to us. We have to help the government—until we can’t afford it any more.”

After exhausting such gambits, Puerto Rico is now resorting to payment prioritisation. In August it failed to pay a legally unenforceable “moral obligation” bond. And last month it “clawed back” rum taxes originally destined to pay infrastructure bonds in order to make good on its constitutionally guaranteed “general-obligation” bonds. That left the lower-ranked securities to default. Mr García Padilla says that if he must pick between servicing debt and paying police, nurses or teachers, he will choose the latter, which would set off a constitutional crisis. Without a reprieve from the federal government, a cascade of lawsuits appears inevitable.

Fortunately, a solution could be forthcoming. The Treasury Department has proposed a mechanism that would allow a restructuring of the constitutionally guaranteed debt. Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, has promised a “responsible solution” by March. What would be life-changing sums of money for the commonwealth are rounding errors in the federal budget. Rescuing Puerto Rico might prove a relatively cheap way to curry favour with Latino voters in this year’s congressional and presidential elections. And the Supreme Court may yet rule that state-owned companies can enter Chapter 9. Three Kings’ Day may have already passed. But Mr García Padilla has reason to hope that the camels will soon bring a belated gift.


The Legal Status of Puerto Rico: Supreme Court Preview: Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle


Thanks to the Federalist Society for inviting me to contribute as an “independent expert” to this Supreme Court preview. I want to draw readers’ attention to a case that’s received little attention so far, partly because the Court only recently decided to hear it. The case, Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, implicates the question that has haunted U.S.-Puerto Rico relations since the 1950s:  what is the legal “status” of Puerto Rico and what precisely is the island’s legal and constitutional relationship to the United States? As the well-crafted certiorari petition began: “This is the most important case on the constitutional relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States since the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1952.”

The specific issue is how the Double Jeopardy clause and the “dual sovereignty” doctrine apply to criminal prosecutions brought against the same defendant in federal court and the Puerto Rico courts. The Double Jeopardy Clause protects against successive prosecutions only by the same sovereign; the States have long been treated as separate sovereigns from the federal government for these purposes. The question is whether the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, established in 1952, should be treated similarly to a State for purposes of double jeopardy. Puerto Rico is not a State, of course, but the federal courts since the 1950s have treated Puerto Rico as legal akin to a State for many legal purposes, such as state immunity from suit doctrines, including in cases I argued before the D.C Circuit in 2006 and before the First Circuit in 2004 (I have not had any involvement in Sanchez Valle).[1]

The argument that Puerto Rico is not a distinct sovereign from the national government, which the current Supreme Court of Puerto Rico accepted, is that Puerto Rico is still a “territory” of the United States for constitutional purposes and that when Puerto Rico enacts its criminal laws—or any other laws—it is not exercising the powers of autonomous self-government but only the powers that have been delegated to it by Congress. Thus, the courts of Puerto Rico are in essence courts of the United States, Puerto Rico and the United States are “the same” sovereign, and once there has been a federal criminal conviction, a defendant cannot be tried for the same crime in the Puerto Rico courts. On the other side, the argument of the government of Puerto Rico is that the relationship of the United States to Puerto Rico, which the United States took possession of from Spain after the Spanish-American War of 1898, was fundamentally transformed in 1952, when Congress and Puerto Rico entered into a “compact” that created the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. As a result, Puerto Rico held a Constitutional Convention and adopted its own popularly-ratified Constitution, which the United States Congress and the President approved. Since then, Puerto Rico has been a self-governing entity in much the same way as the States and should be considered a separate “sovereign,” entitled to prosecute criminal defendants under its own laws, for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The issues are historically and legally fascinating, but also the most politically explosive and divisive issues in Puerto Rico:  they go to the existential question of what Puerto Rico is and what its current and future relationship to the United States is and is likely to be. The issues also now profoundly divide the lower courts. The 1st Circuit, the federal court of appeals with the greatest expertise in Puerto Rico issues, has long held that Puerto Rico is a separate sovereign for double jeopardy (the 11th Circuit disagreed back in 1993, but rarely hears such cases). The Puerto Rico Supreme Court used to agree with the 1st Circuit, but in the decision under review, overruled its prior decisions and held that Puerto Rico is not a distinct sovereign.

The Supreme Court only episodically takes a crack at legal issues concerning Puerto Rico and even more rarely on legal issues that so directly implicate Puerto Rico’s fundamental legal status. I typically avoid getting into the business of making Supreme Court predictions, but I believe the Supreme Court, with a large majority, will reverse the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. But the specific outcome on the Double Jeopardy issue is less important than what the Court will say about the surrounding issues connected to Puerto Rico’s legal status. Even small statements related to this issue potentially will have great significance for debates and executive-branch and congressional-branch policy going forward on Puerto Rico’s status. Moreover, this is the first Puerto Rico case the Court will have heard since Justice Sotomayor joined the Court, and it would be surprising, given her powerful interest in these issues, if she did not write extensively on Puerto Rico’s legal status. Justice Breyer, too, has considerable familiarity with these issues from his time on the First Circuit, and he too is likely to have well-developed views.  Sanchez Valle is under the radar screen for the moment, but it promises to be one of the most interesting cases of the Term.


4 Reasons Independence Is the Right Path for Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico is in a state of emergency. Its public debt, which Governor Garcia Padilla recently declared unpayable, is $73 billion and counting. Unemployment is hovering at a dismal 14 percent and 46 percent of the island’s inhabitants are living below the poverty line, a rate higher than that of any state on the mainland.

Puerto Rico’s recent surge in out-migration is also cause for concern. Spurred largely by the economic crisis, a historic exodus of residents to the mainland translates to a shrinking tax base which, in turn, puts additional strain on an already weakened economy and burdens those remaining on the island with higher taxes and dwindling resources.

Although a variety of suggestions have been proposed to save the island from default, here are four reasons a clearly articulated, multi-year transition to independence is the only long-term viable solution for Puerto Rico.

1. Puerto Rico’s serious and worsening economy is largely rooted in its colonial status.

As a U.S. colony, Puerto Rico’s insolvent municipalities and public corporations cannot declare bankruptcy. And because Puerto Rico is not independent, it is prohibited from seeking help from international financial institutions, leaving it with few options in the face of what seems like inevitable default. Yet while the right to declare bankruptcy is important in helping the island restructure its mounting debt, it is only part of a short-term solution to a crisis that is, at its core, deeply structural.

Puerto Rico’s economy is both limited by and dependent on Washington. Constrained by U.S. federal laws and regulations, the island’s economy lacks the structural capacity to thrive on its own. Puerto Rico has no control over its monetary policy and little control of its fiscal policy. Issues related to immigration, foreign policy and trade are dictated by U.S. law and U.S. regulatory agencies.

Further, because Puerto Rico has no actual representation in Congress, decisions are made with little to no consideration for the needs and general welfare of the island’s residents. Indeed, Puerto Ricans must adhere to laws passed by a government in which they do not participate. Independence would grant Puerto Rico a platform to address the debt crisis on its own terms and afford the island’s 3.5 million inhabitants the right to self-determination.

2. Statehood is a pipe dream.

Economic and cultural arguments aside, statehood has never been a real option for Puerto Rico. Contrary to Alaska and Hawaii, which were deemed “incorporated” territories with the intention of moving toward annexation to the Union, the decision to keep Puerto Rico as “unincorporated” was a ploy to avoid statehood.

Indeed, Puerto Rico’s status as an unincorporated territory means that it “belongs to, but is not part of the U.S.” And that is unlikely to change. A Republican-controlled Congress would never admit Puerto Rico — with its massive debt and overwhelmingly Democratic (and non-white, Spanish-speaking) voting base — into the Union, even if such a determination is made by the island’s residents.

3. Other nations have proved that independence is possible. 

For far too long, the people of Puerto Rico have chosen to accept the comfort of a familiar yet broken status quo over the uncertainty of real, revolutionary change. Indeed, many on the island and in the diaspora adhere to a colonized mentality, one that believes an independent Puerto Rico is economically unsustainable. But liberated nations across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America have demonstrated otherwise.

Singapore is a prime example. With a size 14 times smaller than Puerto Rico, less natural resources, and a significantly higher population density, Singapore has thrived socially and economically since gaining independence — even exceeding the per capita income of the United States.

4. An independent Puerto Rico would more readily protect the welfare and the rights of its people than the United States. 

Since the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, Washington’s relationship with Puerto Rico has been one of exploitation and convenience. From the Ponce Massacre and government-sanctioned programs aimed at forcibly sterilizing working class Puerto Rican women to unethical testing and human radiation experiments on Puerto Rican prisoners, the U.S. government has a shameful track record of transgressions on the island.

And let’s not forget Vieques: for more than 60 years the U.S. Navy used the island of Vieques as target practice. Though the bombings stopped in 2003, the U.S.’ legacy on Vieques continues in the form of destroyed land (over half the island is uninhabitable), shattered livelihoods, and increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses — the result of contamination from years of continuous bombings.

Yet because Puerto Rico lacks any real autonomy or representation, these and other travesties — both social and economic — are largely ignored. Independence would hold accountable elected representatives at all levels of government and restore power to the people.


Former Young Lords Talk Latino Activism

young-lordsDo you know about the Young Lords? They were only about 19 years old when this group of predominantly Puerto Rican activists took over a church to feed hungry kids, commandeered an x-ray truck to get tuberculosis screenings in their neighborhoods and got the city to pick up festering garbage. Their legacy lives on in school breakfast programs and other services that were lacking then.

Former Young Lords Talk Latino Activism

Do you know about the Young Lords? They were only about 19 years old when this group of predominantly Puerto Rican activists took over a church to feed hungry kids, commandeered an x-ray truck to get tuberculosis screenings in their neighborhoods and got the city to pick up festering garbage. Their legacy lives on in school breakfast programs and other services that were lacking then.

Posted by NBC Latino on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Puerto Rican Christmas Traditions


Asalto or trulla are other words for parranda. 

Aguinaldos is what Puerto Ricans call their Christmas songs. Some of the songs are very religious and these are called villancicos. Some have a criollo flavor and they are called décimas navideñas. The rest are either traditional aguinaldos or popular Christmas songs.

Despedida de Año or Año Viejo is New Year’s Eve (December 31st). It is celebrated in Borinquen with firecrackers and parties that last until morning. When the clock begins to chime for midnight some people eat one grape at every chime – for good luck. Then at midnight everyone hugs, and people go outside and honk the car horns and there are fireworks everywhere. A few minutes later most Boricuas listen to “El Brindis del Bohemio”, a traditional poem for that occasion, usually heard on the radio. (We have posted this poem on our site). 

Día de los Inocentes falls on December 28th. This feast used to be celebrated much like a carnival, where men dressed as the “evil soldiers of Herod” went house to house, “kidnapping” the first-born boy from every family. To recover their children, the families offered the soldiers gifts and candly. This tradition continues today in a small town called Hatillo. The town joins in a parade and later participates in a public party at the town square. This carnival originated in the Canary Islands brought to Puerto Rico by our ancestors.** The celebration in the rest of the island is more like April Fool’s Day in the USA, where people trick each other. 

** The “canarios” are our closest Spanish ancestors and many of our traditions and most of what makes us Hispanos comes from this ancestry. 


Misa de Aguinaldo is a Catholic Mass that is almost completely a song service. Aguinaldos are sung and the musical instruments used are the traditional cuatro (Puerto Rican guitar), guitars, güiros, and maracas. Misas de Aguinaldo are held for nine consecutive days ending on the day before Christmas Eve. The mass is held at dawn (usually at 6am). 

Misa de Gallo is a Misa de Aguinaldo held at midnight on Christmas Eve. It is a very solemn but festive mass often including carolers, children dressed as angels and nativity characters, and lots of candles. Many families attend this festive and beautiful mass as a tradition. 

Nochebuena is Christmas Eve (December 24th). In Puerto Rico, as well as other Latin American countries, the big holiday celebration is held on Nochebuena. Family and friends get together for a festivities and traditional foods of lechón asado and pasteles. The parties often last till morning. On Christmas Day people rest from Nochebuena. 

Navidad is Christmas Day (December 25th). Most modern Puerto Rican families celebrate with Santa on this day. Homes are decorated much like in the mainland but include a lot of palm trees and their branches. Families set up “nacimientos” or “pesebres”. The Three Wise Men or Los Reyes are prominent in the pesebres.


Parrandas is Christmas caroling Puerto Rican style. Friends gather late in the evening to go from one house to the next singing traditional songs. The parranderos must surprise the unsuspecting friendS and wake them with their music. The home owner has already given plenty of “hints” that he is prepared to receive a parranda. The parranderos gather outside the front door and at a signal the musicians play and the rest sing. At each house they stop for a while and party, then they go to the next house. At each stop the owners of the house join the parranda and it grows in numbers during the evening. 


Traditional Holiday Foods – The main dish is usually roast pork served along with arroz con gandules, plátanos, and pasteles. Pasteles are made using mashed green bananas the dough is filled with meat and is wrapped in the leaves of the banana tree. Holiday desserts include “arroz con dulce” (rice cooked with spices, sugar, milk, and coconut milk) and “tembleque” (a custard made with cornstarch, sugar, and coconut milk). They are eaten cold, when its consistency becomes solid. The nougat, imported from Spain, is another popular sweet dish during the Holidays. Coquito is the traditional holiday beverage and is made using coconut milk and rum. A roast pig on a spit, called “lechón asao,” is a traditional day long event that can be done anytime during the Christmas holidays. 


Víspera de Reyes is the eve of El Día de Reyes (January 5th). Traditional Catholics meet to pray the rosary and to honor the three Wise Men (saints in the Catholic faith). The children get ready to receive gifts from the three Wise Men by collecting freshly cut grass to put in a shoe box for the Wise Men’s camels to eat. 

Día de Reyes is on January 6th. This is much like Christmas on the mainland. Children wake up much too early to check out what Baltazar, Melchor, and Gaspar left them. Family and friends gather to celebrate.

January 6th – Saint Gaspar’s Day of Feast 

January 7th – Saint Melchor’s Day of Feast 

January 8th – Saint Baltazar’s Day of Feast 

Octavas and Octavitas – on January 9th (after the last of the Kings days) and last for eight days. Originally these were more religious in nature and were used to glorify the Reyes and the Christ child. Coplas were dedicated to the magi. Copa: “Se fueron los Reyes con mucha alegría, vienen las octavas – Dios nos de salud para celebrarlas.” Octavitas began right after the Octavas and were eight more days of continued adoration. These were a prelude to la Cuaresma (lent).

More recently . . . . if you received a visit from a friend or relative on Three Kings’ day, you are supposed to return the visit eight days later. Today most families choose this day to take off the Christmas decorations and “officially” end Christmas.


What Did We Do Before There Was Adobo and Packaged ​Sazón​?

Within this cooking journey, I’ve made a concerted effort to make “Puerto Rican Soul Food.” To take my time in the kitchen and create a down­home, back-to-the-basics, slow cooking pot of something my ancestors would be proud of. Waiting for the bay leaf to spread its flavor, allowing the dry beans to soften, enabling the salt to boil out of the bacalao while savoring the beautiful smells of home cooking that fill the air, connecting some of the most memorable senses of my childhood.

I am grateful for these memories and for working parents with little time but immense love and determination to provide quality food for their families. Especially those who throughout the years have struggled and.necessity being the mother of invention, creating something from nothing. Thank you for showing your family your abundance of love through food. Thank you for following these cooking traditions and giving us paths to follow in the kitchen.

I understand there’s little time with the hustle and bustle of life and we want to create short cuts. We may even need to as we have hungry kids who don’t want to wait to eat. Many times those shortcuts are created using an all­-in-­one container or package. The seasonings which are staples in our kitchen, we are now realizing are detrimental to our health. Our primary offenders are Adobo and packaged S​azón. Not ​to mention Maggi and Bouillon cubes which are also universal flavor enhancers, but mostly found in communities of color. On the labels we will find ingredients we can’t pronounce, fake food coloring and artificial flavors. I hope I don’t need to tell you, this is not what I mean by Puerto Rican Soul Food.

achioteThe purpose of ​Sazón​ is generally to give flavor and food coloring to our food. It is an artificial replacement of the annatto/achiote seed. Historically, it is said that the achiote seed was used for body paint and lipstick amongst the our ancestors of the Caribbean islands and the Americas, therefore it was given the name ”lipstick tree.” The achiote seed was later used for food coloring and has become a staple of the Puerto Rican kitchen. In addition to its flavoring, achiote also carries health benefits such as carotenoids for eye-sight and is even linked to anti-­aging agents. We are almost certain that this natural food coloring was utilized and given great importance amongst our African ancestors because of its parallels to dengdeng oil used in Afro-­Brazilian cooking, and palm oil of tropical Africa. Below I will give a recipe for achiote oil, which is utilized for beans, soups, stews and rice. The use of ​Sazón​ is redundant especially when using adobo seasoning because the ingredients are repeated and your food can quickly become unhealthy especially since both are heavy in salt.

Seriously! Don’t feed into the pressures of you not being Latina/o enough because you don’t use the orange short-cut package. These products have been impactful, but have not been on the market that long. Packaged ​Sazón​ was created in the 1960’s. Companies, like Goya, continue to grow and the products are reaching other markets. According to the Washington Post, Goya made $1.3 billion dollars in 2012, making it one of the most profitable companies in the U.S. I believe we should demand better. We should demand healthier options.

Goya Sazón​ Natural y Completo has MSG, FD&C Yellow 5 and RED 40, and Tricalcium Phosphate. What a freaking joke!!!! What did we do before these packaged seasonings were created? The answer is, we simply cooked!

Adobo ingredients are: MSG, tricalcium phosphate, salt, garlic, oregano, pepper and turmeric.
Sazón ingredients are: ​Monosodium Glutamate, Salt, Dehydrated Garlic, Cumin, Yellow 5, Tricalcium Phosphate(Anti­Caking Agent), Coriander, Annatto (Color), Red 40​. ​The only 3 ingredients I can make out are salt, garlic powder and onion powder.
So here’s my bright idea. Why not use real fresh onions, real fresh garlic, aceite de achiote, paprika and turmeric for food coloring? Use large grain salt like kosher or himalayan salt to better measure your salt intake. I know that your food will taste better and you will cook healthier.
Enclosed I will share some options for adobo, aceite de achiote, and​ sazón​:

Adobo Recipe Ingredients:
● 2 TBSP salt (I use Kosher salt) or use 1-1 1/2 for lower sodium intake.
● 1 TBSP ground black pepper
● 1 TBSP garlic powder
● 1 TBSP dried oregano
● 1⁄2 TBSP turmeric
● 1⁄2 TBSP cumin (optional)
● 1⁄2 TBSP cayenne pepper (optional)

This will make enough for 1 week if you are cooking daily for a family. If you want to use less salt you can simply use 1 tbsp and not 2 tbsp. This can be stored normally as your other dry ingredients. Seasoning blend shelf life is normally 1 to 2 years. If you go over this time period, you may not become ill, but it will be less potent.

Aceite de Achiote (Achiote oil)
Recipe Ingredients
● 1 cup olive oil
● 2 1/2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds
Prep Time: 1 minutes, Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 11 minutes

1. Heat the oil and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat just until the seeds begin a steady bubble.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand for a minute.
3. Strain the oil.
Tip: Do not overheat the oil and seeds. Overheating will turn the seeds black and bitter. The oil will be ruined.
Achiote seeds

Sazón Recipe Ingredients (Note: many ingredients are shared with Adobo. If you decide to include both Adobo and ​Sazón then you will double salt intake)​:
● 1 TBSP salt (I use Kosher salt)
● 1 TBSP ground black pepper
● 1 TBSP garlic powder
● 1 TBSP dried oregano
● 1 TBSP ground coriander
● 1 TBSP ground cumin
● 1 TBSP ground annatto (or grind your own annatto seeds)
Side notes: Cumin, used in ancient Egypt, India and the Middle East. Cumin was even used as an ingredient for Egyptian mummification.

Coriander, also known as cilantro in Spanish. All of the plant is edible. Seeds are dried and used in spices.


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