Puerto Rico: “The Point Is” to Cross Borders and Facilitate Dialogue

[El punto es = The point is]

El punto es… [es] was created by a group of Puerto Ricans who were fed up with having limited access to information, free from political manipulation, regarding what was happening in Puerto Rico.

In their letter thanking collaborators [es], they explain that the idea came about during the student strike at the University of Puerto Rico [en], when they had to turn to alternative media sources in order to follow the pro-public education protests and the cases of students being subjected to police abuse. For the publication's founding editors: Mariángel Gonzales Rodríguez, Auralís Herrero Lugo, Suset Laboy Pérez, Núria Net Costas, Gamaliel Ramos Oliver, Jeca Rodríguez Colón and Salvador Vélez Padilla, it all began from wanting to know what was really happening.

Since 2010, this group of talented individuals has worked on a voluntary basis to shape what has become a refreshing website, where the opinions of Puerto Ricans on the island, in the United States and in Spain can converge.  They anticipate expanding their network to “countries like Suriname, Greenland, the Netherlands – even Vietnam”.

The point is… To cross borders; to have a space dedicated to Puerto Ricans around the world; and to be a bridge for those who “carry a piece of Puerto Rico” wherever they end up.

Global Voices interviewed the team of the blog.

Global Voices (GV): How did El punto es… come about?

El punto es (EPE): The impetus for establishing El punto es… [es] came from our concern about knowing what was happening on the Island. Every time something happened, it seemed as if the only – albeit disorganised – way of finding out quickly was through Facebook. We believe this collective frustration drove us to act. So El punto es… was born. Now, although the idea was conceived in New York, it has taken shape on the Island and further afield. So much so, that the website was designed in collaboration with Puerto Ricans in Manhattan and Puerto Rico.

GV: How do you choose the text and images?

EPE: The content [of the site] is democratically approved by the editorial team. Having more than one person approving the contents helps us to maintain an open mind. We have learnt to publish articles that do not have the whole editorial team's approval; and to reject articles that we all agree upon because they do not adhere to our objective of sharing various points of view, without showing any bias. It is important to maintain a point of view that is free from geographical, political and social borders. The point is that there are many points, and we want to include points of view of all shapes and sizes. If the stories are related to Puerto Rico or Puerto Ricans, expressed respectfully and follow our editorial line, we share them with our audience.

GV: What stories have you published that have not been covered in the traditional press? What stories would you like to cover?

EPE:Traditional media on the Island is so focused on tabloid news and violence, that at times it can seem as if nothing positive is happening. Apart from publishing traditional news stories with a more personal and familiar tone, we publish stories about local initiatives such as the Food Department [es](a Puerto Rican business which distributes crops and ecological products) and the Concalma [es] bag collection.

We also provide a space for artists in Puerto Rico and in the diaspora and touch on issues regarding the Island's alternative subculture and we often discuss the theme of identity, but from a more cultural perspective. This focus is less concerned with status, which is a favourite of traditional media, and more to do with realities of identity.

We have recently published articles which, for one reason or another, have not been published by the press. We have also been publishing breaking news before traditional media. For example, we are publishing [an article] regarding racism in Puerto Rico [es] – considered taboo by many. We also drew attention to the Al Jazeera report [es] on the Island's economic and social crisis, 3 or 4 days before the local media.

We want to continue covering stories that deal with the reality, frustrations and joys experienced by Puerto Ricans on the Island and abroad. We want to continue doing this in the same candid way we have always had. One of the things we like about El punto es… [es] – and what our audience likes, too – is that we speak openly, honestly and informally. We are not afraid to interact and we speak to our audience across the spectrum. This is something that traditional media, for whatever reasons, do not tend to do.

Themes regarding identity, such as articles written by Nuria Net [es]and Suset Laboy [es] in response to the famous letter from Felipe Luciano [en] were well-received. The same happened with the article about one of our collaborator's battle against lupus [es]. Basically, stories about people are very popular. People react positively to them.

GV:   Reactions and feedback [to your work]? Unexpected links with other groups?

EPE: The consensus seems to be that we offer perspectives that make people think. We include things that we are not accustomed to reading in the news in Puerto Rico, the country where blood seems to pour out of newspapers.

People also react to our tone. Our stories are presented in a concise manner, they are straight-forward and confident. People appreciate that we are respectful of their time and are not asking for [them to contribute] articles as long as doctoral theses. They also appreciate that we give praise where it is due and recognise the good things that Puerto Ricans have to offer on the Island and abroad.

We are very lucky because we are launching at a time when alternative platforms are on the up in Puerto Rico. We respect everybody. For this reason, we maintain conversations and relationships with the other alternative media coming from, or focussing on the Island.

GV: “El punto es…does not adhere to a specific or predetermined line of political thought or opinion“: How have you detached yourselves from the vicious circle of party politics and political manoeuvring that pervades journalism in Puerto Rico?

EPE: The reality is that we detach ourselves from this vicious circle by taking perspective. Many members of the editorial team have one eye on Puerto Rico and the other elsewhere. By seeing things from afar, we can see that party politics and political manoeuvring do not solve anything. We try to distance ourselves from this. It is not always easy, but trying is one of the central premises of our project, so we always bear that in mind.

We publish stories with a great deal of respect, ensuring that we do not react to them mindlessly. The article on the McCain comments about JJ Barea [en] is the perfect example. Whereas much of the media quickly condemned the senator, we had to take a deep breath and probe more, even though we wanted to go crazy. This is how we were able to dispel the rumour.

We would be lying if we said that we are 100% impartial, but we are not lying when we say that we try to be impartial with every story we choose to publish. We want writers of diverse points of view to feel comfortable in our space, and we want to cultivate this same attitude amongst our readers, because to learn is to come into contact with many different points of view. Learning does not have to result in polarization, but in dialogue and growth.

GV: The future of El punto es is?

EPE: We are currently planning the official launch party to celebrate the success we have had… We also want to publish more political analysis, to open the doors to more collaborators, to cover more stories. Basically, [we want to] grow, grow and grow.

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