What is the common denominator among Puerto Ricans?

What is the common denominator among Puerto Ricans?

What is the common denominator among Puerto Ricans? is the third project in the We the People series created by the Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades. Dissemination in the media —radio, television, and the print media— has made it possible to present dialogues on topics that we believe unite us as a society.

In contemporary Puerto Rico the commercial media constantly focus on that which divides us, what drives us apart, what keeps us living as adversarial tribes. Maintaining this adversarial vision limits the possibility for encouraging dialogues on what we share as a people. Therefore, the What is the common denominator among Puerto Ricans? project is based on the premise that there is a cultural foundation for addressing a number of topics that can be a starting point for a political, social, and economic consensus.

The prevailing practice of the commercial media in Puerto Rico is to emphasize conflict and discord among the different groups in our society as a marketing strategy. This practice primarily consists of focusing media attention on scandals and controversies, for example, between political adversaries. As a result, there is a generalized perception among Puerto Ricans and those who observe our society that the issues that divide us are stronger that the ideas we share. In other words, that we Puerto Ricans are immersed in a reality of conflicting values and aspirations, making it impossible to engage in a process for agreeing on common goals. This practice of only trivializing public issues, as a means of entertaining, undermines a reasonable and constructive discussion of fundamental social issues. As we know, this discussion is vital for ensuring the preservation of a truly democratic process.

Therefore it is imperative to design, promote, and broadly disseminate in the media a fruitful dialogue among different academic, social, and community sectors. In order to involve these sectors in public conversations, they must be given a voice in the media. This implies stimulating the involvement of well informed humanists in the public discussion of a range of topics related to the shared beliefs of the Puerto Rican people. This discussion is of vital importance in promoting a better quality of life. A humanist approach to topics that will create awareness of the issues we can agree on is an alternative to the current dialogue of the media, which is characterized by an over-simplified focus and biased interpretations. This participation is also an opportunity to nurture an alternative public discourse that can help to identify the factors that unite Puerto Ricans, so that we can find our common ground.

As part of this project the Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades proceeded to inquire into the opinions of different sectors, with a view to selecting six topics to be discussed in an alternative kind of dialogue on radio and television. The topics that were chosen were: our identity as a people; the democratic tradition we have been able to build; the gastronomy we have created over time; music as an expression of our beliefs and customs; religious feelings as a reflection of an attitude towards life; and sports, as a manifestation of our cultural affirmation. We believe that social consensus can be expressed through this range of topics.

We acknowledge the invaluable work of the Ana G. Méndez University System, in particular Nueva Visión, Channel 40, for producing and transmitting the radio and television programs, as well as for editing and publishing this book. The invaluable help of Nueva Visión, Channel 40, allowed us to design and present an alternative to the model of triviality and entertainment that currently prevails in the commercial media. The radio and television programs as well as the texts that have been published will be included in the Puerto Rico Online Encyclopedia (www.encyclopediapr.org) created by the Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades. It is our hope that these programs and texts will highlight the importance of accepting that what we have in common allows us to safeguard our social cohesion and reach a level of democratic governance that will benefit our entire society.

Through this project we propose to keep on contributing to the understanding of the relationship that Puerto Ricans, as human beings, have with their environment. To paraphrase one of the founders and former Executive Director of the Fundación, the historian Arturo Morales-Carrión, our purpose is to make it possible that all of those who are interested in Puerto Rico can become aware of the factors that have shaped our history, in a spirit of free inquiry which seeks to penetrate the haze of the future.

We wish to express our gratitude to the humanists who participated in preparing the texts and offered their insights in the radio and television programs: professor Luis González-Vales (Democratic Tradition), mister Roberto Gándara-Sánchez (Identity), professor Magali García-Ramis (Gastronomy), professor ángel G. Quintero-Rivera (Music), professor Marcelino Canino-Salgado (Religious Feelings), and professor Félix R. Huertas-González (Sports). We also acknowledge the work of professor Mercedes Casablanca-Torres, who assumed the task of summarizing the texts and writing the introduction to this book from a historical perspective. In addition, the Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades is greatly indebted to the journalist Helga I. Serrano- Gutiérrez, of the Center for the Freedom of the Press in Puerto Rico, who so skillfully moderated all of the programs. And finally, we thank all of the humanists who participated in the discussion in the radio and television programs.

What Unites Puerto Ricans? was an idea created by the Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades with the objective of proposing a positive approach that could lead us to identify the topics, issues, and values that unite us for historical and cultural reasons. We would like to acknowledge the National Endowment for the Humanities and its initiative, We the People, for sponsoring this project. We are confident that it will be an example for other projects that propose to turn a contemplative gaze on our cultural idiosyncrasies.

Juan M. González-Lamela, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades

Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: December 29, 2009.

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