Rafael Cancel: Salsa Teaching Environmental Lawyer and Activist

The BBC recently featured Rafael Cancel, describing him as a salsa teaching environmental lawyer and activist. In the context of the recent student strikes at the University of Puerto Rico, the article describes: “Puerto Rico is going through a tough economic austerity programme, and 20,000 public sector jobs have just been cut. In turn, because of the need to reduce the budget deficit, the University of Puerto Rico decided to raise its tuition fees. This led to a sixty-two day strike at the University of Puerto Rico that ended last month — it was the longest student strike since the 1960s.”

The article focuses on environmental lawyer, Rafael Cancel, who has been helping the students legally, free of charge. In the included video, Cancel explains how the battle of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques to regain their territory from the US Navy, which used parts of it as a live-firing and missile testing grounds, inspired him to dedicate his life to environmental justice and served as an inspiration for the present battles being fought by the students.

Cancel, who is also known as the Salsa King, waives his salary at his environmental law practice—using the money to hire an additional lawyer—and supports himself by teaching salsa classes instead. He stresses that his activism is organized under the concept of social change. He has named it “Proyecto Cambio y/en Clave” [Project Change on Key].

Rafael Cancel, a former Truman Scholar (2003), has actively participated in numerous environmental groups, working directly with communities facing environmental problems. As an active student leader, he served as President of his law school’s student body, and his work with ANDA helped earn them the Judy Weightman Memorial Public Interest Award from the American Bar Association (2007). In May 2008, he received his JD from the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law.

For full article and video, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-10719093

For more information, see http://www.echoinggreen.org/fellows/rafa-cancel-vazquez and http://www.the40yearplan.com/article_030409_Rafa_Cancel.php

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