Puerto Rico’s Ignored Public Health Crisis (Video)


Puerto Rico has one of the highest HIV/Aids infection rates in the United States, and more than 50% of these cases are caused by intravenous drug use. HIV can be spread by sharing syringes and drug equipment for injectable drug use. The reuse of an HIV blood-contaminated needle or syringe by another person has a high risk of HIV transmission since HIV infected blood can be injected directly into the bloodstream.

It is estimated that there are about 60,000 intravenous drug users in Puerto Rico. A survey by the government itself also estimated that there is a treatment gap of 92%, with only a small portion of drug-users receiving detoxification services. There isn’t easy access to clean needles in Puerto Rico which is why many addicts reuse or share them. Due to a lack of funding to combat the issue from the government, nonprofit organizations such as El Punto en la Montaña are attempting to pick up the slack. El Punto en la Montaña is a group that offers medical supplies to addicts who live in rural areas that are out of the reach of government services. Founder Joseph Carroll Miranda and a small team of volunteers deliver clean needles, juice, snacks, and educational pamphlets to addicts every week. Addicts are also put into detoxification programs if possible.

Watch the video about Puerto Rico’s public health crisis below (due to graphic nature of video, viewer discretion is advised):

More on Puerto Rico’s Public Health Crisis:
The Guardian | Puerto Rico’s ignored public health crisis: ‘I’ve lost a lot of friends to drugs’

Puerto Rican Tennis Champions Create Luxury Golf Course in Puerto Rico


The Royal Isabela in Puerto Rico was founded by local Puerto Rican natives and brothers Stanley Pasarell and Charlie Pasarell. Royal Isabela is set in in the municipality of Isabela in the northwestern region of Puerto Rico. The luxury gulf course is set on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is about 73 miles from the San Juan International Airport and 10 miles from the Aguadilla International Airport. This golf resort boasts its tight knit private golf community and is the ideal getaway for travelers.

royal-isabela-golf Puerto Rico

royal-isabela-golf Puerto Rico

royal-isabela-restaurant Photo credit: instagram.com/royalisabela

The Pasarell brothers wanted to bring their love of Puerto Rican culture and hospitality to Royal Isabela. The Royal Isabela is one of the top golf courses in the Caribbean and was named in honor of Queen Isabella of Castile, Spain. There are 20 intimate casitas with 1,500 square feet of living space, a private pool, and view of the ocean.

For more information about the Royal Isabela, visit www.royalisabela.com.

About the Pasarell Brothers

Charlie Pasarell was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this year and was voted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. He attended UCLA and won the NCAA men’s singles title in 1966. He served as a tournament representative for the Americas on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and was instrumental in the development of the BNP Paribas Open, a premier professional tennis event, in Indian Wells, California.

Stanley Pasarell represented Puerto Rico at the 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico City, Mexico. He won three silver medals in the 1966 Caribbean and Central American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He holds many titles and has received honors from the Stanford University Tennis Team, Hawaii Leis, and the Puerto Rico Tennis Hall of Fame.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Eat Them?

Green iguanas have taken over Puerto Rico and local residents are calling the problem the “green plague“. The iguanas, which aren’t native to Puerto Rico, have few natural predators on the island and are reproducing rapidly. Their population is now estimated at approximately 4 million which surpasses Puerto Rico’s human population that is holding steady at 3.7 million.

The iguana infestation is wreaking havoc on the island. They chew up plants and crops, burrow under roads and dikes, infiltrate electrical substations and have triggered power outages. They had one such power outage in January at Plaza las Américas, the island’s biggest shopping mall. The iguanas have often gathered on runways at the international airport in San Juan and have forced officials to delay flights until they could be removed.

According to Rafael Joglar, a biology professor at the University of Puerto Rico, the green iguanas are native to Central and South America and arrived in Puerto Rico in the 1970s as part of the pet trade. Over time some iguanas have escaped and some were set loose, and over time their population increased.

The complaints about the iguanas have increased drastically over the past few years, and in order to combat the problem Puerto Rico announced that their residents are allowed to hunt them. That did not solve the problem, so now authorities have a new solution — eat them!

The demand to eat iguanas isn’t high in Puerto Rico, but iguana meat is popular in other countries in Latin America and Asia. The hope is that Puerto Rico will gather iguanas up and export the meat to other countries. Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Galán Kercadó, believes that this could help with the overpopulation of iguanas while creating jobs, too.

Many cultures consider iguana meat a luxury. It can be roasted and eaten in stews and some consume it in hopes that it will increase their libido. Iguana oil has even been used to treat rheumatism and bruises. Iguana-loving regions have had such a decrease in their iguana population that some countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua had to enact protections to ensure the species’ survival.

Puerto Rican officials hope that they could turn this island-wide problem into a lucrative market overseas. On the other hand, members of PETA are crying foul and saying this business proposal is senseless and cruel.

Only time will tell if this proposed method will solve the issue and bring money (and jobs) to the island.

Rare Genetic Disease That Mostly Affects Puerto Ricans

Photo credit: Living on the frontlines

Did you know that there is a rare genetic disease that is most prevalent in people of Puerto Rican descent? That rare genetic disease is Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome, and it is said that 1 in every 1,800 Puerto Rico natives carries the HPS gene.

Little is known about Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS) but its most common symptoms are albinism, legal blindness/visual problems, bleeding disorders, gastrointestinal/digestive difficulties and sometimes fatal pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lungs). The symptoms experienced depends on the type of gene mutation involved. This rare disease can shorten one’s lifespan due to the lung disease or bleeding issues. Some say that normal life expectancy is 4-10 years after diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

Yeida Soto, who lives in New Britain but both of her parents are from Puerto Rico, self diagnosed herself when doing research online. At birth she was labeled with the condition of albinism. Growing up, she noted that she had other symptoms and when she brought up her suspicion of Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome to her doctor, that idea was quickly dismissed. Eventually she was diagnosed with HPS, but it was not easy since little is known about the disease and patients are often diagnosed with other unrelated illnesses.

For instance, some people with HPS don’t fit the image of what a person with albinism would look like. Soto explains, “People think of white hair, red eyes — the way an animal with albinism would look… but we have dark skinned, black haired people.”

Diagnosis for HPS can be done with a simple non standard blood test.

There is a new documentary out, titled RARE, that follows 3 HPS patients and their experiences in a drug trial to treat some of their symptoms. It follows the Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Network (HPS Network) to try to treat the disorder’s deadly lung complication. The vice president of HPS Network, Heather Kirkwood, stated that “Even in areas where there’s a big Puerto Rican community, you’d think they’d have known about it, but they don’t.”

Here is the promo video for Rare:

RARE was produced by the Stanford Center for Bioethics (more info at www.rarefilm.org). The HPS Network is a non-profit organization that serves families affected by HPS, visit their website at www.hpsnetwork.org.

For more information about HPS, check out the video below (Part II talks about the disease, Part I is the touching background story of the patient which I will also add below):

Part II: Mystery Diagnosis (OWN) – Hermansky Pudlak Syndrome

Part I: Mystery Diagnosis (OWN) – Hermansky Pudlak Syndrome

$5 Million Can Buy You a Castle in Rincon, Puerto Rico


If you have $5 million to spare you can be the proud new owner of the Castle of Rincon in Puerto Rico. The 9,000+ square foot mansion that sits atop a private mountain in Palatine Hill is playfully referred to as the “JLo Castle” by local residents… and for good reason. The gated fortress boasts its own watch tower, helicopter landing pad, an extensive security system and more.

According to Forbes:

The Castle of Rincon has four bedrooms, five bathrooms, two kitchens, a library “guarded by an armored knight,” and a great room peddling a wood-paneled ceiling and seating for 100 guests. There’s a rooftop observation deck and you can take your pick of either the glass elevator or the floating spiral staircases to access it. Balconies wrap around most of the main house and doors slide open to catch the mountaintop breeze. Outside, the coral deck hosts a saline pool with spa, a wet bar, and a changing area with bathroom and laundry facility (so you don’t have to drag wet clothes inside).

Other buildings in the gated compound include a guest house, a three-car garage with attached wine cellar, a carriage house and a “barn”. The driveway tapers off to a helicopter landing pad as well. And scaling down the side of the mountain is an actual lookout tower. The Hellings (current owners) use it primarily for meals, as it offers views of the entire valley and beachfront below.

The listing agent Nicole Travis claims that the compound is powered by 95% green energy and the utility bills usually run around $75 per month due to the installed wind turbines and solar panels. For those of you worried about doomsday, the current owners also added a 30,000 gallon water reserve tank.

What more could you ask for? A video plus photos of the mansion in Rincon below

English to Replace Spanish in Puerto Rico Schools


Starting in August of 2012, the Puerto Rican public school system will be introducing a comprehensive Bilingual Generation program. The goal, according to Governor Luis Fortuño, will be “to ensure that in a period of 10 years each and every child who graduates from high school in Puerto Rico is perfectly bilingual, with full command of both Spanish and English.”

The program will replace Spanish with English as the language used to teach most courses in 66 of the system’s 860 schools. According to Education Secretary Edward Moreno Alonso, in 31 schools children aged 5-9 will be taught all courses in English except history and Spanish. The other 35 schools will offer some of the course work in english, and eventually the government plants to complete the switch to English in all schools within 10 years.

There are differing opinions on the motive of this change in the Puerto Rican public school system. Alonso states that the change is due to parents’ demands. Others believe that the real motive behind the change by Fortuño is to have Puerto Rico annexed to the U.S. as its 51st state. Whatever the case may be, word is that the schools that are implementing the changes have the longest waiting lists, which is a sign that bilingual education is in fact in high demand.

Both Spanish and English are the official languages in Puerto Rico but according to statistics, only 30% of Puerto Rico’s residents speak English at a high level. Spanish is the primary language for 96% of the Puerto Rican population.

New Upscale Mall, The Mall of San Juan, to be Built in Puerto Rico


Taubman announced in recent months their plans to begin construction on a 640,000 square foot mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The state-of-the-art, two level enclosed mall will be known as The Mall of San Juan. The Mall of San Juan will be the first upscale mall on the island and is already set to include the very popular high fashion department stores Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. The $405-million shopping center will also include more than 100 specialty stores and restaurants, approximately 60 percent of which are anticipated to be new to the island.

taubman-mall-of-san-juan-inside“We are thrilled to bring Saks Fifth Avenue to Puerto Rico and to The Mall of San Juan,” noted Steve Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Incorporated. “We look forward to delivering our distinctive, world-class selection of luxury brands and memorable service experiences to the residents of and visitors to the island.”

“The Mall of San Juan will be a very exciting shopping destination for Puerto Rico and we’re glad we’re a part of it. Our first priority is to serve the local island customer with a Nordstrom store of their own featuring great quality and luxury fashion for everyone in the family. It’s an added bonus to be able to serve visitors to Puerto Rico too,” said Erik Nordstrom, president of stores for Nordstrom.

The development is adjacent to the San Jose Lagoon at the south end of the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge and is just two miles away from the international airport. The Mall of San Juan will be designed to reflect the rich culture and heritage of San Juan, but with a fresh and contemporary twist. In addition to The Mall of San Juan, there are also plans to build a hotel and casino.

The projected opening of The Mall of San Juan is late 2014.

Source: Taubman, PR Newswire