“La Perla” Residents: Targets of Discrimination?

María Miranda (Puerto Rico Daily Sun) writes about Puerto Rico’s La Perla residents: “They feel like they’re being persecuted, and sense they are targets of discrimination and prejudice because they live in a poor community. They fear they may lose their homes, their neighbors, the only place they know. But at least other poor communities from different towns around the island announced Tuesday that they will be helping La Perla residents to make sure their rights aren’t violated and they continue living in their seaside homes.” Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

At a news conference at the Bar Association in Miramar several community leaders and members of the Zero Evictions Coalition Puerto Rico Chapter said that they were all positive that all of the incidents that have occurred at La Perla recently are part of a “very well thought out plan” aimed at the eventual eviction of residents to build an expensive hotel and Mediterranean like residences.

The group’s spokesperson Mirta Colón Pellecier charged that both the police and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority operations were part of bigger plan aimed at scaring residents away so slowly one by one, they will start moving elsewhere. “La Perla has some 200 homes, 56 of the homes were confiscated during the police raid last June. An additional 50 properties are reportedly public obstructions, according to officials. Half of the community is already out of place. This is a very well-orchestrated plan to evict the residents,” Colón Pellecier said.

Colón Pellecier recalled that the unpleasant events at La Perla began to take place on a Wednesday with the police raid conducted that dawn, then on a Thursday Aqueduct and Sewer Authority workers shut off the resident’s water. “Then on a Friday, PREPA shut off the power, leaving the entire community in the dark. They (the government) knew they could only do this after community leaders were arrested.”

Attorney Alvin Couto will be representing La Perla residents in case the state tries to evict them. “The first thing we must do is to identify the owners of the 56 housed confiscated by the police during the raid and then we have to make sure these homes do not pass to the hands of the federal government within 30 days after they were confiscated,” said Couto.

Isabel Feliciano, a social studies professor, said that every time the government speaks about La Perla they try to criminalize it and never point out the “good things that happen there.” They call the imprisoned community leader Jorge Gómez, Jorge Perla. Instead of calling it La Perla they call it the Black Pearl. But the truth is that they want La Perla…it’s has a very privileged location on the ocean, truly beautiful,” Feliciano said. “What they need to be talking about is how to further develop La Perla. They need to find the talent we have down there; we have kids that are great in sports, arts, music.”

Gómez’s daughter, Yashira, said that ever since she can remember, La Perla community has been the topic of conversation among very rich developers that would like to make the “Santorini of the Caribbean” right where La Perla sits. “Sometime between 2005 and 2007 Donald Trump was fascinated with La Perla as it would be a great place to make a resort. He was looking at it from above and wanted to walk down and see it closer but his bodyguards wouldn’t let him. La Perla residents saw this, heard him we know what’s going on. Also some Spanish developers apparently have their eye on the area as well,” Gómez told reporters. [. . .]

Gómez, who was born and raised by her father and mother Irma Narvaez at La Perla, recalled listening to her great-grandmother speaking about the first woman mayor of San Juan, Felisa Rincón de Gautier. “My great grandmother would say that Doña Fela had ordered for a water duct to be installed to give water to the people of La Perla, as they were too poor to pay the bill. The order added that we would never have to pay for water services. And that order was crystal clear to all the administrations that came after her, as we didn’t have to pay for water until the authorities shut it off several weeks ago,” Gómez said.

For full article, see http://www.prdailysun.com/news/La-Perla-residents-face-specter-of-eviction

For more on La Perla (and photo featured here), see http://citymatters.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/la-perla/

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