New York to Close Restaurants and Schools and Italian Deaths Rise due to Cronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Sunday that no gatherings with 50 people or more — including weddings, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events or conferences — be held in the United States for the next eight weeks in one of the federal government’s most sweeping efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The C.D.C. said that its recommendation, which would drastically change life in the United States for the next two months, does not apply to “the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses” and added that it was not intended to supersede the advice of local health officials.

“This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities,” it said, “and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.”

And the C.D.C. urged people to take care with even small gatherings. “Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene and social distancing,” its recommendation said. “When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.”


Upbeat and Powerful Ode to Puerto Rico You Have Been Waiting For

Singer-songwriter Gracie Laboy returns more powerful than ever with a new, empowering and sensual bilingual single. Combining an irresistible reggaetón beat with the unique sounds of Puerto Rico’s beloved native frog, the coqui, Laboy released “Boricua” — a colloquial name for a person of Puerto Rican heritage that derives from the Taíno word, Boriken, which means Land of the Brave People.

In her new jam, it is inevitable not to be seduced by Laboy’s honey-dipped vocals, pumped-up lyrics, and sultry vibes. “Boricua” will definitely make you feel somewhere between a crowded nightclub and an isolated romantic beach.

Gracie Laboy’s devotion and pride as a Latina singer-songwriter are absolutely noticeable in all of the details of the track, including the single artwork. The cover includes photos taken by her grandfather on the island in the 80s as well as photos Gracie took from her time in Puerto Rico in 2018.

There are so many layers we need to discover from this Latina Pop and R&B singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, CA. We took the initiative to learn more from this emerging talent. Find below BELatina‘s exclusive interview with Gracie Laboy.

When did you realize music was your passion?

Music has been my passion since I can remember. But I think I realized I wanted to be a singer when I grew up when I was touring Italy with the Children’s Chorus of Washington. As cheesy as it sounds, I learned that music is a universal language during my time touring there, and I saw firsthand for the first time the power of music. I remember making people cry performing in a tiny town in Tuscany where no one spoke English, and I also have a vivid memory of impromptu singing a few songs with a group of five people while we were riding in a gondola in Venice and nearby tourists and locals erupting in applause from above us on the bridges and around us in other gondolas. Seeing how music impacted people’s souls and emotions made me realize this was something I wanted to do forever.

Do you come from a family with a musical background? What do they think about your career?

Actually, neither of my parents and none of my grandparents are musical, but I think my great-grandma was a singer, and I have a few second cousins on my Puerto Rican side that are musicians. So I’m not really sure where I got the “talent” from, but I know music and rhythm are in my blood just by being Boricua. Even though my parents aren’t musical, they appreciate it so much and are huge supporters of music and the arts in general. They are honestly my biggest fans and their support means the world to me! They know it’s a hard and scary career, so they do whatever they can to support me.

Please walk us through the inspiration behind the lyrics of “Boricua” and the importance of including coqui sounds.

I was inspired to write “Boricua” after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in Fall 2017 when I was living in Valencia, Spain doing my master’s [degree] in music. Parts of the island, including where most of my relatives live, didn’t have power or running water for 6-9 months. All the shops except the Walmart in the Humacao shopping center were STILL closed when I went in November 2018. In the hurricane aftermath, some members of my extended family were instrumental in getting and preparing food at the community center in Mariana so people could have hot meals during the long period of a power outage. They also helped come up with creative solutions for energy during this time.

Seeing my extended family and the island come together during this tragedy and somehow still stay positive with music, food, and the community was so inspirational and reminded me how strong Puerto Ricans are and that being Boricua is special. I knew I wanted to write an uplifting song that was in a way an ode to the island and an anthem of pride. The coqui sounds are important to me because it is something that is very unique to Puerto Rico. If you are Puerto Rican or if you have ever been to the island, it is a sound you’ll recognize, since as soon as the sun sets they get very loud.

For some reason, their calls/noises are very comforting to me, in the same way, that rain sounds make some people feel at peace. The coqui sounds on my track “Boricua” are actually taken from a voice memo on my phone that I recorded when I was there in 2018. I love connecting with my Puerto Rican heritage, and am proud of being Boricua, so having an original song to show just how much pride I have means the world to me. Puerto Ricans have gone through a LOT lately, with the devastation of Hurricane Maria, challenges to the economy, and now the numerous earthquakes in the past month, so I hope this song can be an anthem for Boricua pride and reflect the joys of being on the island.

How do you unapologetically embrace your roots?

I embrace it all, the good and the bad. I grew up with my dad speaking to me in Spanish a decent amount, but I would usually respond in English; as I got a bit older, I put a lot of effort into learning Spanish because it was important to me to connect to my Puerto Rican roots. I also have learned how to cook certain Puerto Rican foods from my abuela. I embrace the language, the food, the music, and all the parts of being a Latina!

What’s the next step in your career? Any concerts or world tours soon? Any collaborations?

I’ve released all the music I have, so the next step for me is getting back to writing new music! This is definitely scary, but really exciting, and I can’t wait to see how my sound develops over time. I hope to write more bilingual songs and innovate in the reggaeton and Pop/R&B/Latin Pop fusion areas. I also want to perform around LA more in 2020! I hope to do a more formal tour in 2021.

As a proud Puerto Rican, everything that recently had happened on the island might have a huge impact on your life. After hurricanes, earthquakes, corruption and more, which message would you like to send to your fellow Boricuas?

I think I would encourage everyone to try and stay positive, stay strong, and most importantly stay KIND. I think in stressful, intense situations like natural disasters and political issues, people can be quick to point fingers and be nasty to each other, but I really don’t think that is ever the solution. I myself am trying to educate myself on what is actually happening and what possible solutions are, and I would encourage my fellow Boricuas to do the same. At the end of the day though, we are a people of strength, resilience, and we value and prioritize community and family, so I know we will get through whatever life throws at us.


Corona virus and Bible

I was talking to a friend and I want to share my thoughts with everyone. The Bible predicted the times we’re going through. If you read Luca 21 verse 10 that’s what’s happening. And it’s not God who wants this for us but he is the man who has come to this. Free will. Now they have taken away all the “comforts” but not life.

Governments decided despite closing everything and if they didn’t, people would still think about it. Because we are people who are given free will and we can choose. We are choosing to be generous, supportive and good.

The reason is they took away the reason to be selfish. All closed, all activities and productions. What remains is this serenity that squeezing us will be fine. And in all of this, people who are still greedy, cynical, talking about money. They pop up because they are the minority. People are understanding, they no longer have respect than their governments that are still exercising nonsense power.

They keep masks, they want the vaccine just for themselves… Little powerless men who no longer have a people to lead. Peoples are leading themselves in a revolution that renounces selfishness but takes consciousness of the others. The closeness to the people who are working for us has made us obedient. Because it’s true that we’re always arrogant and we mean “I would have done that” in every field. But you have to be in the field. And this time we are all on board in silent respect for doctors and paramedics, auxiliaries and volunteers who are risking their lives for us. We are obedient because they ask us and why not being able to face this pandemic (finally something we shut up in) the only thing we can do is obey. It’s already a virtuosity.

Nothing left to be cynical about might as well be good. The spiral of goodness will be the vaccine of this era when we allowed ourselves to believe it omnipotent and that will bring us back to simple things. If it were to be a way to live without having to wear armor, I hope this virus stops making people die but remains as a reminder. The rulers will have to fight each other, we will no longer be bargaining goods. No, nothing will be like before.

Taken from a post from an Italian friend.


NY Baricans Join Anti-Gov’t Protests, Amid Call for New Office to Aid Diaspora

New York is home to over 700,000 Puerto Ricans, and many more have migrated to the Big Apple after a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane María and the recent earthquakes that shook the island. Though the city offers vital assistance programs, many people affected by the disasters don’t know how to access them, prompting a proposal to create a dedicated office to provide guidance to the Boricua population.

Councilman Ritchie Torres introduced a bill Jan. 23 seeking to green-light the Office of Puerto Rico-New York City Affairs. The office, which would require a still undetermined million-dollar budget investment, would be tasked with lending displaced families a hand on basic paperwork, obtaining access to municipal programs, getting important documents from the island’s government agencies and applying for assistance during their transition to living in New York City.

“An estimated 130,000 Puerto Ricans fled after Hurricane María, equivalent to 4 percent of the island’s population. Although thousands of families have come to New York looking for a better future, they do not know where to go for help. People from other places often turn to their consulates, but Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and there is no such place in the city,” said the Bronx councilman, adding that the office would be called PRNYC.

“The idea is for Puerto Ricans arriving in New York to be able to connect with services through this great office, as well as find out ways to be referred to humanitarian aid programs and obtain documents they are missing. That is the least we can do for a place with which we have a special relation and that is in a state of humanitarian crisis,” Torres added.

Víctor Martínez, the founder of Diaspora for Puerto Rico, an organization created to help over 2,000 families who left the island after Hurricane María and sought refuge in New York, warned of a “new wave of migration,” to the state, spurred by the ongoing crises back home. “Thousands of people have lost their homes, others are sleeping outdoors out of fear, and they do not know where to find help or how to get their documents when they get here. That is why it is important for this office to become a place where we offer guidance,” said the activist.

Meanwhile in Iowa … Members of the Power 4 Puerto Rico advocacy movement talked with caucus voters and worked to pin Democratic presidential candidates down on their plans for the island.
Valerie Rivera, who moved to New York after Hurricane María and is currently living in a shelter, described how difficult it was for her to adapt to the city without the help of a support office. “My mother and I fought very hard to be able to get assistance, and even to obtain identification documents. Having a place to go to do this type of paperwork will be of great help to those seeking to start a new life here, in the place we call our home,” she said.

[Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans in New York marched to protest the latest corruption scandals in the island. Below are excerpts from a story by El Diario’s Marielis Acevedo-Irizarry]

Members of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York expressed their solidarity with the march held in Puerto Rico on Jan. 23, in which thousands of Puerto Ricans demanded the resignation of Gov. Wanda Vázquez for her poor management of supplies donated for the victims of Hurricane María. Even though the 20-odd crowd was smaller than the ones seen during earlier protests this summer, the group gathered in Union Square to condemn what they describe as corruption within the Puerto Rican government, citing the recent discovery of warehouses full of donations.

One demonstrator, identified as Amalia Olivera, said she joined the protest “because my people are dying on the island due to the atrocities [the government] is doing to them. My family and my culture are there. The suffering of my people who are in the streets keeps me up at night.”

Gianina Santiago, a resident of Ponce, came to the city for a few days to escape the stress caused by the earthquakes.

“I am here because of the government’s corruption and their mismanagement of emergency supplies,” Santiago said.

Ana Portnoy, spokesperson for New York Boricua Resistance, the group that organized the protest “in solidarity with the massive protests in Puerto Rico, and also to demonstrate against the criminal negligence of the central government in Puerto Rico and the federal [government.] We want people to know that several of the agencies responsible for the abandonment that Puerto Ricans are enduring are here in the United States.”