Melissa is Outraged About the Use of the Puerto Rican Flag on Beer Cans

Photo Credit: Latino Rebels

Photo Credit: Latino Rebels

Just two years after MillerCoor’s offensive EMBORÍCUATE ads (that were ultimately pulled down due to the mass outrage on social media outlets) the Puerto Rican flag is now being placed on cans of Coors Light as a “stamp of approval” from the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Coors Light’s sponsorship and marketing for the Parade directly correlates our culture to an offensive stereotype of alcoholism, which is especially shocking when the theme of this year’s parade is Health.

Melissa has wrote a letter to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade’s Chairperson, Madelyn Lugo, along with four fellow Puerto Rican elected officials, expressing their disappointment of the Parade’s board and sponsors. Instead of focusing on the positive attributes and contributions of the Puerto Rican community, the sponsors that are working with the Parade have misrepresented our culture as a whole.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to Ms. Lugo, below:

If you are as equally disturbed as we are, share your concerns with the National Puerto Rican Day Parade (Twitter: @PRparadeNYC/Facebook), who has chosen to align themselves with MillerCoors.


Take a 10-Day Trip to Puerto Rico with Comité Noviembre

This will be the seventh year that Comité Noviembre (CN) will be holding their Annual Trip to Puerto Rico – Buscando Nuestras Raices VII. You must be 21 or older to partake in this 10 day/9 night trip that will take place from Tuesday, August 6, 2013 to Thursday, August 15, 2013. Enjoy all that Puerto Rico has to offer with educational workshops, films, live entertainment and guided tours through San Juan as well as small mountain towns, coastal landmarks and museums. CN is a non-profit organization that keeps the Puerto Rican life alive in NYC through celebrating its’ social, cultural, educational, economic and political accomplishments.

Space is limited so if you are interested, reserve your spot now or contact CN for more information. Early Bird Special must be paid in full on Monday, May 6, 2013. That is also the same date that a deposit of $500 is due to hold your reservation.


Contact Information:
Teresa A. Santiago – 914.263.6599 –
Angel Santini – 212.677.4181 –
Lourdes R. Torres – 646.541.8326 –

For the high-res PDF flyer – click here.

And The Winners Are…

We want to thank everyone that participated in PB this year, whether you volunteered, were a delegate, voted or even talked about the PB process to a neighbor. It’s because of District 8’s participation that our second year of PB was such a great success. And because of that, Melissa decided to allocate a whopping $1.9 million to the projects that were chosen and voted on by you, the people.

Last night Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto spoke at our Participatory Budgeting Unveiling Celebration. We were thrilled to hear her affirm that she would be launching the first PB process  in San Juan, Puerto Rico soon; where select areas in the city would decide on how to spend $1.5 million. Stay tuned in the coming days  for photos and reflections on the PB celebration and the Mayor’s visit. 

So without further ado, we are proud to present the winning projects:


PB Celebration PPT_laptops

PB Celebration PPT_tech




Total Vote Counts:

7. Play for All: PS 155 Playground Renovation (#1 – 416 Votes)
8. Air Conditioning Wiring for PS 72 (#9 – 362 Votes)
9. SMART Board Technology for Schools (#8 – 355 Votes)
10. Lighting Upgrade in Douglass (#5 – 353 Votes)
11. Auditorium Upgrade at Manhattan Center HS (#10 – 307 Votes)
12. Upgrades for Gaylord White Senior Center (#15 -304 Votes)
13. Peaceful Valley Community Garden (#3 – 301 Votes)
14. Playground Upgrades at Washington (#6 – 285 Votes)
15. New Fitness Equipment for Cherry Tree Park (#14 – 278 Votes)
16. Safety Upgrades at the Heckscher Building (#13 – 231 Votes)
17. History/Media Lab for PS 171 (#11 – 215 votes)
18. Backyard Renovations for UPACA 6 (#16 – 199 votes)
19. Layered Access at UPACA 6 (#17 – 148 votes)
20. New Subway Canopy (#21 – 139 votes)
21. Multi-Media Information Kiosks (#20 – 106 votes)

Join Us for the Second Annual Participatory Budgeting Celebration, with Special Guest San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto

PBNYC vote image small_1It has been a great week in District 8, with hundreds of community members coming out to vote for projects that they believe in. If you haven’t had a chance to vote yet, there’s still time – check out the list of voting sites and times on our PB site, conclude the weeklong voting process, the Second Annual Participatory Budgeting Celebration, unveiling the winning projects, will be held on Monday, April 8th from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Johnson Community Center (1833 Lexington Avenue).

We are very excited to announce that our Second Annual Participatory Budgeting Celebration will feature a very special guest, San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto.  As you may remember, Melissa had the honor to deliver the keynote at her inauguration. Mayor Carmen Yulín  has pledged to implement a PB process in San Juan and is coming to see how the process works in our district.

“It is an incredible honor for me to welcome such an incredible woman and inspiring leader to our city for the first time since being elected Mayor of San Juan,” said Council Member Mark-Viverito. “Mayor Carmen Yulín is bringing a new style of democracy to San Juan. I am truly excited that she has committed to roll out a PB process in the city, which will help bring transparency and direct public input in how the government allocates resources. I look forward to continued collaboration with the Mayor’s administration in continuing to strengthen ties between our two cities and across the Puerto Rican diaspora.”

PB Celebration Flyer_eng

Para ver el volante del evento en español, haga clic aquí.

WHATSecond Annual Participatory Budgeting Celebration
WHO: Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, PBNYC, and Community Voices Heard
WHEN: Monday, April 8th from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
WHERE:  Johnson Community Center (1833 Lexington Avenue)
RSVP: or (212) 828-9800

Join Melissa & Other Puerto Rican and Dominican Elected Officials in Watching the World Baseball Classic Final Uptown

If you follow Melissa on Twitter, then you know she’s been following the World Baseball Classic (WBC). And tonight, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will meet in the World Baseball Classic title game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Sparks will fly as local Dominican and Puerto Rican elected officials will be joining together to watch the finals of the WBC tonight at 809 Lounge in Washington Heights at 8 PM. Join Melissa, Council Members Rosie Mendez and Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assembly Woman Gabriela Rosa and more. All are invited to attend and celebrate the two Caribbean countries’ advancement to the finals and cheer for your respective country or country of choice! It is sure to be a fun experience for everyone, excitement is encouraged!


PS: Go Puerto Rico!

Melissa Speaks at the Inauguration of Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto of San Juan

Yesterday, Melissa was honored to speak at the inauguration ceremony for Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, the newly elected mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

For so long we have watched and hoped for a moment like the one in which we find ourselves right now. A moment that is truly a transformative one for Puerto Rico and all its people. The people are demanding that their government represent the needs of the majority and not that of a small sector of interests. Some people have compared this moment in Puerto Rico to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which literally helped reshape and reframe the public discourse around income inequality and government representation…

Her message has been simple but powerful: “Un San Juan Para Todos” (“A San Juan for All”). Her inclusive vision for the future of San Juan extends to all – old and young, women and men, poor and wealthy, members of the LGBT community, immigrants… everyone. Even those that did not vote for her. Those who historically have not had a voice in our society are included to bring forth a new future for San Juan, together with our inspiring mayor.

All this means that new ways of doing business must be put in place. I am proud to say that Mayor Carmen Yulín – who I consider a sister in struggle – has committed to engaging in a participatory budgeting process here in San Juan, a way to turn the power over to the people and their communities to decide how to spend public dollars. I was among the first Council Members to engage in this process in New York, which is only the second city to do so in the U.S. It was an honor for me to invite Carmen Yulín to City Hall to discuss this initiative with her, and I look forward to seeing it happen here in San Juan.

To watch Melissa’s speech, commence at the 38:30 mark:

For the full transcript, in English & Spanish, click here.

Melissa Celebrates the Resignation of Puerto Rican TV Personality Kobbo Santarrosa

Melissa released the following statement regarding the resignation of Kobbo Santarrosa from the WAPA-TV program SuperXclusivo. Santarrosa’s character on the show, La Comay, had inspired a grassroots boycott of the show, after a history of homophobic comments and recent remarks about the brutal murder of publicist José Enrique Gómez.

“On Wednesday, Puerto Rico rejoiced at the resignation of Kobbo Santarrosa from the widely-watched WAPA-TV program SuperXclusivo. Santarrosa’s resignation followed a massive grassroots campaign and boycott targeted at his character, a puppet named La Comay, who consistently spewed hateful, homophobic rhetoric on air. Most recently, La Comay made remarks in response to the brutal murder of José Enrique Gómez that he “looked for” his own death because he was in a particular neighborhood.

“I am truly moved and encouraged by this incredible victory, and congratulate all my Puerto Rican brothers and sisters who united so forcefully in this campaign, which linked our demands for an end to the horrific violence on the island and for an end to hate speech on our airwaves.

“In the context of the major electoral victories of Governor Alejandro García Padilla and soon-to-be-inaugurated Carmen Yulín Cruz, we are in the midst of a transformative moment on the island, where people at the grassroots are really driving incredible change at all levels and demanding that their government truly represent the needs of the majority and not that of a small sector of interests. Let’s not forget that a grassroots movement also defeated two harmful propositions that would have shrunk the legislature and given judges the right to deny bail in certain cases.

“I thank and congratulate Pedro Julio Serrano, a friend and longtime leader in the struggle to get La Comay off the air, for this victory, as well as all others who led and participated in this campaign.”

Melissa Mourns Loss of Hector “Macho” Camacho

Melissa released the following statement regarding the death of Puerto Rican boxing legend Hector “Macho” Camacho:

The El Barrio community and Puerto Ricans worldwide are mourning the loss of Hector “Macho” Camacho, a boxing legend who was shot last Tuesday and died on Saturday. Camacho was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and moved to East Harlem as a child with his family where he lived in the Johnson Houses NYCHA development. His life was a complicated one but his accomplishments have brought pride to Puerto Ricans on the island, in El Barrio and beyond. He was a dynamic fighter who won world championships in three weight divisions and left an indelible mark on the sport of boxing. He was also a charismatic entertainer and a proud Puerto Rican.

In recent years, there has sadly been a rise in drug-related murders and other violence in Puerto Rico. It appears that Camacho fell victim to this unfortunate trend. My community and I send our condolences to his family and will continue to honor his memory.

Melissa Denounces Racist Anti-Obama Tweets by Advisor to Speaker of Puerto Rico House of Representatives

Melissa has denounced racist tweets sent to President Obama by an advisor to the Speaker of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives named Heidi Wys (@HeidiWys) on July 26, 2012.  In response to a photo of Barack and Michelle Obama holding a birthday cake, which was tweeted with the message “Someone has a birthday coming up,” Ms. Wys replied “Who cares? Take her to Burger King, buy her a sundae with double banana, take her to your homeland, Kenya.”  Last month, Ms. Wys replied to a tweet regarding an Obama fundraiser saying, “Wah! Wah! I feel like vomiting! Dinner with a guy borned in Kenya and claims he was borned in Hawaii!”

She has sought to “defend” her comments by saying that she is not a racist since “mis sobrinas más queridas son prietas” (“my dearest nieces are dark skinned”) and that she is just anti-Obama.  She tweeted yesterday, “Combato a Obama con todas las fuerzas de mi corazon y pasion como descendiente de alemanes!!” (“I am fighting Obama with all my heart and passion, as a descendent of Germans!!”).  These tweets come just a few months after another set of racist Twitter attacks by Zaida “Cucusa” Hernández, a former Speaker of Puerto Rico’s House, against Rafael Cox-Alomar, a Democratic candidate for Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in the U.S. Congress.

“Heidi Wys’ comments against the President are vile and disgusting, and represent the height of ignorance,” said Melissa. “I am sickened by the continued racist attacks from prominent political figures in Puerto Rico. Instead of setting a civil tone and engaging in a responsible debate, Ms. Wys has stuck by comments that are inflammatory, highly offensive and continue to demonstrate the deep-seated racism that abounds in Puerto Rican political and social discourse.  I call on Ms. Wys to retract her comments and issue a real apology. If she continues to spew this kind of hateful and ignorant diatribe, she should be fired.  I also call on all Puerto Rican elected officials to denounce these racist statements.”

Ms. Wys currently advises Puerto Rican House Speaker Jenniffer Gonzalez of the Partido Nuevo Progresista, the political party that supports statehood.

Melissa Mourns the Loss of Puerto Rican Scholar Ricardo Alegría

Photograph by Héctor Méndez-Caratini, taken at the Alegría residence, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito issued the following statement in response to the death of renowned Puerto Rican scholar Ricardo Alegría:

I am very saddened by the death of the extraordinary Puerto Rican scholar Ricardo Alegría.  No single individual has done more to preserve Puerto Rican history, heritage and culture than Mr. Alegría.  During his long and fruitful life, Mr. Alegría helped so many of us proud Puerto Ricans – whether living on the island or stateside – to understand and appreciate more deeply our roots, and to preserve the history of the island within our collective identity as a people.

As founder of the Institute for Puerto Rican Culture and the Center for Advanced Studies on Puerto Rico, Mr. Alegría dedicated his entire life to studying the origins and evolution of modern Puerto Rican culture, focusing in particular on the strong influence of the island’s Taino heritage.  He also worked tirelessly to preserve the archaeological beauty and history of Old San Juan and other parts of Puerto Rico, which continue to serve as a visual reminder of our history.

Mr. Alegría’s work has been of importance not only to those Puerto Ricans living on the island but also to the millions of us who are part of the diaspora and have to make even greater efforts to preserve our cultural heritage.  As part of ASPIRA of NY I had the great honor of leading a group of young Puerto Ricans born and raised in New York on a trip to the island to help them learn about their culture and their history.  Mr. Alegría humbly welcomed us into the Institute and personally led a talk with the youth, which was as impactful for me as it was for them.  The ability to witness the generosity of his spirit in taking the time to speak with these teenagers was a truly unforgettable experience and one that speaks to his character as a person.

Mr. Alegría, “protector y promotor de nuestro patrimonio”, has left for us Puerto Ricans such incredible contributions, thereby ensuring that his memory lives on for generations to come.  I send my condolences to his family and to all Puerto Rican people as we mourn this terrible loss.