THE PRESIDENT’S VISIT
As I watch the preparations for President Obama’s visit, I can’t help recalling a movie from some years ago called “The Pope’s Toilet”. It is about a small town which awaits excitedly the visit of the Pope. The town people use their savings to paint their homes, clean the streets, and prepare to sell food, paper flags, souvenirs, and commemorative medals with hopes of improving their economy.
One individual spends his life’s saving to buy and set up a public toilet, which no one used. Ultimately the Pope just goes through and no pilgrims stop by. The visit was a financial disaster to the town rather than bringing any wealth as promised.
The US Media has defined President Obama’s visit as political strategy and a preamble to the 2012 elections, so much more now that the Census reports that Hispanics have become the largest minority in the US. Of those living in the 50 states, more than 4.5 million are Puerto Rican and are all US citizens who can vote for the President. Those living in Puerto Rico cannot vote. If President Obama decided to stay here until Nov 2012, he cannot vote for himself.
But, what really tops the cake is that almost a million Puerto Ricans live in Florida, where most of the last Presidential elections have either been won or lost. That is an immeasurable wealth of unconquered political clout, undiscovered by its owners. (That will be a topic in a future column.).
No wonder President Obama flies down here! I can envision board meetings at the GOP headquarters, brain storming about how to counteract that stroke of genius. It won’t be easy. Most Puerto Ricans in the several states read local papers through the internet every day and are fully informed on everything that is happening on the island. If President Obama’s trip goes well, it will definitely have an impact on the Puerto Rican vote in the US, even with the predominant registered republicans in Central Florida. It’s a gesture of colonial gratitude, even if just for stopping by Puerto Rico.
In the meantime, the town people of Puerto Rico today are spending their precarious budget fixing and painting only those places the President might see; fixing only the roads his limousine will drive on; planting beautiful flowers and shrubs along the way, seasoning pinchos, buying ice for piraguas, putting up kiosks with flags, souvenirs and yes…portable toilets, with hopes the crowds and this visit might bring progress and well being to our island.
The President will whisk through Puerto Rico, and at the end, we have no guarantee that this will bring any economic benefit to our island.
Unfortunately, most in Puerto Rico will not realize what really motivated this commotion. It is the votes of our family and friends who live in the 50 states who have the most powerful weapon in a democracy, the right to vote. Imagine how thing would be in PR if we had Presidential candidates coming down here to get OUR votes!