Democrats Hob Nob at Hispanic Chamber Event

Attendees at the Hispanic Chamber's
Political Hob Nob this week./
photo by Dilia Castillo

María T. Padilla

It was a decidedly progressive crowd at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's Political Hob Nob this week in Orlando.  

That's because –shock of shocks– Alan Grayson, one of the most liberal members of Congress, easily won the hob nob straw poll for District 9. Grayson surprised many at the sold-out event because he won not by a little, but by a lot: 90 votes versus 65 for his closest competitor, Peter Vivaldi. The results may have put to rest the Hispanic Chamber's image as a Republican hangout.

"Latinos want the same thing we want," said Derrick Wallace, candidate for Orange County Commission District 6, which is majority African American. District 6 is the locale for what is expected to be the Orlando area's last political hob nob on Saturday.

Poltical hob nobs have become effective fundraising tools for organizers and there have been many this political primary season, from Seminole to Osceola counties. Candidates use them as an opportunity to toot their horns. Although straw polls are not scientific, winning a straw poll gives pols crowing rights. 

Other Democratic winners included gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, who showed up
Charlie Crist with running
mate Annette Taddeo (far left)
./ Maria Padilla
at the event with running mate Annette Taddeo, after opening up a campaign office in east Orlando. Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos López Cantera were no-shows, after they had confirmed their attendance, according to chamber sources. That's the second recent example of Scott standing up the chamber; he also
was a no-show at the Hispanic Expo earlier this year.

"Half of life is showing up," said state Sen. Darren Soto (D-14), who is running for re-election unopposed, echoing the words of Hollywood director Woody Allen

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Back to School Tax Holiday Starts August 1

Get ready, get set, go! Florida's school-tax holiday begins August. 1

María T. Padilla

Florida's school tax holiday begins August 1, a sure sign that it's time for back to school.

From August 1  through 3, Floridians will be able to save the sales tax portion of their school purchases, ranging from school supplies ($15 or less) and computers and computer accessories such as printers (up to $750) to clothing and shoes (which increased to $100 or less, from under $75 last year). 

With the exception of one recession year, Florida has had a school-tax holiday since about 2006, allowing parents to save money on getting their children ready for class.

And it's not just Florida that offers a back-to-school sales tax savings. At least 16 states, from Alabama to Virginia,  offer a sales-tax reprieve in August, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. 


Do Puerto Ricans Have a Negative Image?

María T. Padilla

Portrayals of Puerto Ricans on the big and small screens often have been less than flattering. From the gangs in West Side Story to the gangsters in Carlito's Way, this has been a consistent portrayal.

A former University of Puerto Rico professor earlier this month made a presentation about the negative images and stereotypes about Puerto Ricans that are still devastatingly popular in the United States. 
Jorge Duany, a nationally recognized expert on Puerto Rican migration who now is head of Florida International University's Cuban Studies program, prepared the PowerPoint for a Latino Studies conference in Chicago, titled "Imagining Latino/a Studies:  Past, Present, & Future." It was the largest gathering of Latino scholars ever.  He will soon publish a column about his presentation in El Nuevo Día newspaper in Puerto Rico. 

 "Latina/o Studies 'has come of age'," according to the organizers of the conference. It would be about time. 

Below is Duany's presentation, minus six slides that provide additional examples of negative movie or screen images. (They are "The Young Savages," 1961; "Q&A," 1990; "Carlito's Way," 1993; "Nuyorican Dream," 2000; "Law and Order 2001: Sunday in the Park with Jorge," 2001; and "Random Family," 2004. I omitted the slides for reasons of space, since I had to convert each slide into an image in order to upload to the blog. Plus, I think you get the idea. The comments published with each image are strictly my own.

The presentation raises several big questions. As Duany's title indicates, does the media portray Puerto Ricans negatively? Is this still happening? If so, why does the media continue to disparage Puerto Ricans?  And, how much do these negative images hurt us today?   

Click below to see the slides. Please leave your comments. 


Closing the Gap: Getting Hispanics into College

Audience listens to panelists at the Puerto Rican Summit
on Education at the Valencia College-Osceola campus./
photos by Maria Padilla

María T. Padilla

Valencia College recently secured a 49-acre site to build a new campus in Poinciana, an unincorporated area of Osceola County with 53,000 residents. The selection follows a $1 million legislative appropriation this year to get the ball rolling on planning the campus,  likely to cost $23 million.

However, it may take two years before the first spade of dirt is turned at Pleasant Hill and Reaves roads, according to Valencia officials, a length of time Osceola can ill afford.

“I view this as closer to a genuine educational emergency,” said Valencia College trustee Lew Oliver in an official press release.  “When 50 percent of Orange County high school graduates go on to college, but only about 35 percent of Poinciana students go on to college…That’s an awful lot of people whose future opportunities are measurably less bright because they don’t have access to a nearby college.”

This crisis impacts mostly Hispanic students, which predominate in Osceola County schools and Valencia's Kissimmee campus, the setting of a recent Puerto Rican Summit on Education attended by dozens of people and a panel of school and college officials, including Osceola schools Superintendent Melba Luciano;  Valencia College-Osceola Campus President Kathleen Plinske; state Sen. Darren SotoRandy Hanna, chancellor of the Florida State College System; and Rick Roach, outgoing Orange County School Board member.


Puerto Rican Coalition Seeks Influence

Members of a proposed Puerto Rican coalition
held a second meeting recently to work on a name and agenda.
/Maria Padilla
María T. Padilla

Several Puerto Rican organizations looking to form a political coalition are still trying to hammer out a name and an agenda. 

In the second meeting of the dozen or so coalition members,  organized by the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) and held at the Asociación Borinqueña in east Orlando, the group inched closer to formally establishing itself. 

Betsy Franceschini, PRFAA regional director based in Kissimmee, asked members to come up with names and agenda items for the new group for the next meeting in August. 

It became clear that holding the proposed coalition together will take work to bridge the issues that sometimes divide Puerto Ricans. 

"We have to be seen as one unit, one single voice," said Juan Hernández Mayoral, the head of PRFAA, which is based in Washington, D.C. "That's what we have to do here today. You can't imagine the influence we can have."

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