V Interesting

Midterms Aren’t Mid, Zombies, The Power of Puerto Rico

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The U.S. midterm elections always shake up politics, and this year is no exception. V breaks down how races all over the country have gotten competitive in unexpected ways, making voter turnout all the more critical. Plus, the science of how Halloween works its magic on us — yes, there’s a specific reason why eerie smiles are scary. Then, V shares a powerful conversation with Wilfred Labiosa, the executive director of Waves Ahead, an organization in Puerto Rico that works to protect the island’s most vulnerable communities, especially its queer elders.

Follow Waves Ahead Puerto Rico on YouTube and at @wavesaheadpuertorico on Facebook.

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V Spehar, Wilfred Labiosa

V Spehar  00:00

Hey friends, it’s Tuesday, October 25th,2022. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m Spehar. And today we’ll talk about what is likely to happen in the upcoming midterm elections, and just how much will depend on voter turnout. Plus the science of why we’re scared pantless by certain things, as Halloween is right around the corner, then we’ll talk about public health efforts in Puerto Rico that started well before the pandemic, they focus on the communities that need support most, especially after the recent hurricanes that hit the island. All of that and more on today’s be interesting from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. First up, what is likely to happen in the upcoming midterms and what is still unknown. When we think about presidential elections, which I want to provide you we are still two years away from it is too early to be talking about. But when we are we are often hearing about swing states, sometimes they’re called battleground states or purple states, since they don’t consistently vote red or blue. It’s a toss-up as to like which candidate they’ll support. Well, in the midterm elections, there are micro versions of those toss UPS happening everywhere, state representatives, senators, the people who will fill those spots can completely change the makeup of Congress, and then all of a sudden a president can’t get laws passed because of partisan gridlock. The midterms are where this split can start. Congress has historically gained representation for the party opposite the president, like how the Democrats took back control of the House and 2018. And lots of folks were real happy about that, because the majority had the potential to block conservative laws from Trump.

V Spehar  02:01

Politics is like sports and that you’re not always running the bill down the field to score. Sometimes you’re relying on defense to stop the other team from scoring points. So there’s a lot of talk about local seats turning red in a few weeks because of this historic pattern. At the same time, it all comes down to the swing states. And there have been years where voters have bucked trends in even the most predictable of places. So let’s talk about the popular predictions first, and then the ways that things could end up different this year. Democrats are expected to win 12 US Senate seats and Republicans are expected to win 20. So this outcome would be in line with what happened in the past. But importantly, even these gains wouldn’t flip the Senate to the Republicans on their own because some of the wins are going to be for incumbent senators. In other words, these folks are just running to keep their same spot not necessarily like add to their ranks. Republicans are favored to win 20 Senate seats, yes, but they still need two more, 22 total to gain the majority. And even though Democrats are only expected to win 12 races, they also only need two more to keep their majority.

V Spehar  03:09

Now Pennsylvania went blue for Biden in 2020. And right now, it has one Democratic senator and one Republican, that Republican is Pat Toomey who has served for like ever and he is retiring. So that is the seat that Democrat John Fetterman and TVs Dr. Oz a Republican are running for. And Dr. Oz hasn’t exactly gotten the best press. But lately he’s been gaining traction for his takes on the economy. Can Fetterman prove he’s the better man, we’ll have to wait and see. Pennsylvania Senate races getting the most attention, I would argue, but races for Senate seats are thought to be a toss-up in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin as well. But that doesn’t mean that everything else is settled. Which is why now and always participation in the midterms isn’t a throwaway thing. You have to show up to the polls. There are states like Florida and North Carolina, which were expected to pretty reliably keep their Republican senators. But people are like, not really thrilled with the way that the hurricanes have been handled and are now kind of maybe looking the democratic way. While in Colorado, that you term Democratic senator is facing an unexpected challenge from a Republican. Same goes for the House of Representatives. Okay, every single, all 435 of these seats have to be decided by vote this year. And polls are showing it is pretty likely for Republicans to win more than Democrats but again, with no majority for either party 19 seats and the party majority won’t be settled until it actually comes time to vote. So you got to show up. Now, Michigan is another particularly competitive race. The state redrew its district lines this year, so it is harder to know where the voters stand literally and politically. Politicians are looking to assert themselves on this blank slate and the fight really shows in the money that they have spent to do it. When looking at the House and Senate races, Michigan has spent more ad money this year than any other state, $29 million. Just in this election cycle, the drama, the stakes, and the makeup of Congress is just one consequence of midterm results. Now, there are also governors and all of the changes that they can make. So if you didn’t hear me the first few times, you have to vote, you have to make it to the polls this time. Listen, as just one example, it’s state governments that will decide or not, if Biden’s marijuana pardons, we’ll be able to help more people. As we mentioned on last week’s show, which you should definitely check out.

V Spehar  05:43

Biden just signed an executive order to issue pardons at the federal level for marijuana possession charges. But spoiler alert, the vast majority of these charges were not processed at the federal level. Most people charged with simple marijuana possession were processed in a state court. So it’s not actually up to Biden, he doesn’t have control in that space. That is something that a governor will have to decide. And governors are elected in the midterms, people. Some of them are campaigning on the promise that they extend Biden’s pardons to state offenses, and that’s a big sell for some people. And that’s just one platform promise. 36 states are voting on governors this cycle 36, including ones where the highest leaders have taken a hard line against things like abortion rights and immigration, like Florida, Kansas, Texas, is your state one of them that has a governor’s race. Mine is we’re voting up here in New York, read up on what they’re trying to make happen in your state because this is the thing that’s going to impact your daily the most. Now, I know I sound like a broken record. But friends you got to vote in the midterms. surprising results happen when more people turnout than expected. And that is directly a product of folks voting even though they weren’t originally planning to. Early voting is open in a lot of states right now you can make a plan to vote on election day, just go out, do it for the sticker, right. That’s what I’m doing. I will be there two Tuesdays from now and I hope that you will too.

V Spehar  07:13

Now, if you’re not sure who to vote for in the midterms, it’s probably a safe bet to go with whoever is fighting climate change and opposed to like, I don’t know, the Mississippi River drying up because the Mississippi River, which is the second longest river in the nation, is literally drying up. Along the river in Memphis, Tennessee, the water has reached its lowest recorded level ever. All over the country, rainfall is scarce, droughts have stuck around shipwrecks and bones are turning up as the water recedes. For real it is it’s spooky out there. Just picture in your mind what it means for something resting on the bottom of body of water to be visible. It means that that waterline is pretty darn shallow. So it should be no surprise that boats are having all kinds of trouble passing through specifically barges, which transport big slabs of cargo with water levels so low barges might drag on the riverbed and get stuck. So some barges might not be able to use the river at all. Others are forced to take more trips carrying less weight, which slows everything down and increases the cost. Bloomberg reported that 1000s of barges have been backed up as a result. And all of this is because of the environment, not labor shortage the way that we’ve seen it ports throughout the pandemic. Now, what’s extra scary here is how disruptive this can be for both the US and the world. The United States is the world’s biggest exporter of corn, and the second largest of soybeans. We are a huge player in those markets and 60% of our exports of corn and soybeans have to travel down the Mississippi at some point 60%, and that is just some wild math my friends. I mean, like I am shuttering thinking about this, most of the corn and soybeans in the world rely on one river being full enough for the boats to use, which you think would not be a lot to ask but it is apparently the Star Tribune in Minnesota explained that crops from Minnesota farms are transported to grain terminals along the river. Then they get shipped on barges all the way down to Louisiana, with water levels at historic lows, all of that is disrupted. Now, it’s not quite at the level of the ever given blocking the whole Suez Canal but we are not far off. Okay, boats are getting stuck on a smaller scale and it is happening over and over and it is happening along one of the most crucial commercial passages in the United States.

V Spehar  09:36

And what’s extra ironic and kind of tragic is that these boats are relatively gentle on the environment compared with rail and trucks. Barges can carry freight way further than a trucker a train can and they produce less carbon dioxide while doing it. So having to rely on other forms of transportation is likely making things even worse in the meantime. And then there’s the personal impact when I was at the White House, yes I was at the White House, go back and listen to our September 20 episode to hear all about it. I had the chance to talk with Vice President Harris, the room was discussing water as a resource and it felt necessary to point out that the resource comes in a lot of different forms, and they’re all really important. One form is financial, obviously, maybe as a channel for trade like the Mississippi. Another form is ecological for all the surrounding wildlife to thrive. Plus, we need drinking water too. And yet another form is using the water for pleasure. Up here in New York, my God, the great lakes are beautiful. Honestly, they’re worth protecting for that reason alone, but there are tons of others also. And I let VP Harris know, it’s not just about what we can use the water for, but the ways in which it enriches our lives that is so important to protect as well. Billions of dollars come from the Mississippi’s trade industry and billions of dollars come from tourism and outdoor recreation as well. Not to mention it’s also like our drinking water right for like millions of people in dozens of cities. Okay, we have to protect the water we have to have drinking water rights, right.

V Spehar  11:11

With all this scary stuff happening in the world who needs fake scares, a lot of people apparently it is spooky season Halloween is less than a week away and Halloween weekend is even closer. People are going to willfully go out in the dark of night or even darker haunted houses and inevitably they’re going to feel scared. Now, you could hate Christmas, you can ignore your birthday. You can think that St. Patrick’s Day is cheesy or cheap. But Halloween is an interesting outlier. Try as you might to not buy into it, you probably involuntarily feel the impact. Because there are just some things that are universally scary. You can’t deny feeling uneasy when something shadowy is creeping around slowly toward you in the dark or better yet, when something shadowy is running towards you in the dark. One of the reasons the business of fear, like haunted hayrides, or horror movies is everywhere, is because there’s a kind of like formula for making something scary. Allow me to explain. Throughout history, there’s been all kinds of stuff that posed a danger to humans and humans learn to feel like skeeved out by that stuff like the darkness or venomous animals like spiders and snakes, because of the real harm they witnessed coming from it. people alive today are all descendants of people who stayed alive in the past, maybe because they were scaredy cats, okay. And that way people alive today are also hardwired to fear the things that people have always feared, we are able to protect ourselves because we internalize information about threats and we learn from it. If something matches what we’ve seen before it sets off alarm bells in our mind.

V Spehar  12:48

At the same time, if it doesn’t match, that can be a whole different kind of scary, when something’s just a little bit off, it betrays our expectations, and then we just freak out. That’s why mirrors and reflections can be so freaky, something slightly off, forget it. There are theories that this betrayal of expectations is extra scary when the irregularities happen on the human form. Because we react as if it’s a sign of disease. Having evolved over time to survive, we want to protect ourselves from illness and death. Suddenly, an aversion to zombies makes a lot of sense, right? Because like anything that approximates humans, but then does something really bizarre, like turns its head around or smiles for too long, or moves too fast, or like oh my god, now I’m even freaked out. The elephant in the room is that Halloween is a celebration, we’ve made it into a whole holiday of scaring ourselves. And it’s one that a lot of people really enjoy. So like what’s up with that? For one, the brain is pretty decent with context. Without you having to do anything, it can assess if something is a real threat. Or if say it’s just on a television screen or something, your fear response is dialed down accordingly. So even if you feel scared, it’s fundamentally different than the response you would have if you were in real danger. And two, some chemicals that are released when we’re scared are the same ones that get released when we experience pleasure. Now that is wild. I’ll let you guys deal with that and your own personal lives but who is coming with me to see Halloween ends?

V Spehar  14:15

Just like a lot of folks who are afraid of the dark a lot of people are afraid of needles and if somehow those people find it in themselves to go under the needle to get a tattoo. It’d be real tragic if they discovered they were also afraid of lasers. A lot of people are regretting tattoos as of late and laser tattoo removal is hot right now. Analysts forecast that the tattoo removal industry will continue to grow over the next five years. One particular chain of removal studios Removery, already has 100 locations across the US, Canada and Australia. And listen, if you spent any time on the internet lately, you know firsthand that a lot of people are wishing their ink would just go away. Victoria Beckham recently removed tattooed dedicated to her husband, David Beckham even though they’re still happily married. She claimed she didn’t like how it looked and she wanted to do a tattoo cleanse that is very elegant, very oosh spice of her, and following multiple charges brought against the musician known as Rex Orange County for sexual assault. droves of fans are contemplating removing their tattoos dedicated to his music. Then there’s Pete Davidson. While the comedian was dating Kim Kardashian. He got several tattoos inspired by her, one about our kids and other about her lawyer Lee pursuits. Now eagle eyed fans have been speculating he’s getting one of those tattoos removed based on the presence of bandages in that area. Well, that would be a new development. Pete’s no stranger to tattoo removal. Once he started acting in movies, he realized it took multiple hours for artists to cover up all of his tattoos with makeup, so we decided to start the process of getting them removed. While on Late Night with Seth Meyers in 2021 he talked about the inconvenience brought on by his tattoos announcing quote, so now I’m burning them off. Okay, now, how accurate is that description? Right?

V Spehar  16:05

Well, first of all, yes, it probably will burn but it’s not always done with lasers. Sure, you could just blast them off with a laser but you can also use a special type of abrasion to essentially like scrub them off. You can even get surgery which is most effective for tiny tats. In any case, the area being worked on will be numbed. And now if you get squeamish just hang tight with me because we’re going to quickly run through what comes next. If you’re going with lasers, a machine sends down a powerful surge into the skin to essentially break apart all of the ink. Once the particles of ink are small enough, the body can work on flushing it out through fluids the way it would get rid of like any other toxin, you gotta go back multiple times for laser removal because it’s a gradual process of fading the tattoo. For surgical removal, the inked part of the skin is basically just scooped out. And then you get stitches to close the surrounding skin around the part that was removed. And dermabrasion is the most bob the builder of the three, that’s when you get to use a special scrubbing tool and essentially sand off your skin into the layers of ink are gone. Okay? I as a person with tattoos can feel all of my skin right now. And it is so overwhelming. As you can imagine, this is not the most flawless process. Okay, you’ve just stabbed ink into your skin. So the process of trying to get it out is going to be tricky. Some people report not seeing much effect, some develop blisters and scars. Oh, plus, it’s a process that can cost hundreds of dollars and it’s something that you have to repeat if you’re going in with lasers. Lasers are also less effective on darker skin tones, as well as within colors beyond black and blue. Depending on the type, you might get a tattoo removal done and a private studio. Alternatively, some dermatologists offer the service right inside the doctor’s office or hospital. Even if you do go to a private business for the procedure, it is recommended you still consult a dermatologist before you do any of this at the same time. Nobody can stop you. You can walk into that tattoo removal studio just like you walked into that tattoo shop. Just be prepared for the price and the potential for scarring. After the break, I’m going to chat with Wilfred Labiosa, the executive director of an incredible organization in Puerto Rico. The group has spent years giving supplies and resources to vulnerable communities on the island, which has been extra important through the pandemic and recent hurricanes. Stay tuned to hear about how they’ve been helping and what other people could do to help them all that after the break.

V Spehar  18:50

Welcome back friends. Today I am here with Wilfred Labiosa be executive director of an organization called waves ahead. It’s based in Puerto Rico and I am just so inspired by the volume of help he’s been able to give folks, Wilfred, welcome to the show.

Wilfred Labiosa  19:06

Thank you for the invitation.

V Spehar  19:08

So tell the folks at home who you are and what you do.

Wilfred Labiosa  19:13

Sure. So I’m with Wilfred Labiosa, I’m the executive director and co-founder of waves ahead. Waves ahead is a leading organization and at the moment unfortunately the only organization focusing on the needs of LGBT elders and the LGBT general community. We are the only service providers which means that we are focusing on the mental health of the individuals across the island from four community centers and with five different programs that we have. Our community centers are welcoming of all including our allies, including those who really need services, but cannot find that in the elder focused organizations which means that we have heterosexual straight individuals receive In services from us as well.

V Spehar  20:01

Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. And I wanted to take it back a little bit before we get to the centers. To talk just a bit about your history you were a psychologist still are but graduated in 2019. With a PhD in Social Work, what made you pursue that?

Wilfred Labiosa  20:17

So, I have been working all my life since I left my bachelor’s degree, I have been working in the field of mental health, and specifically with the Latino community in Massachusetts, because I lived there for a while, more than half of my life. That gives you some inkling about my age. But anyway, over 27 years, I stayed in Massachusetts. And I saw that there was so much racism and classism issues. And then within the Latino community in general, there was so much homophobia, and LGBT phobia in general, that I decided to work on programs that really incorporated my intersectionalities of being gay, and Latino men. And so I started to work in the field of mental health. And when I moved to Puerto Rico back now, in 2014, I saw that there was nothing, you know, in Puerto Rico, for me as a Latino, gay man aging. And so as a gay man, having had the experiences of living in the United States, I know how services should be for us, that services should be equal, for all of us, no matter our sexual orientation, or gender identity, that we should be able to access whatever we need, at any moment, because we’re also humans.

V Spehar  21:41

Yeah. And that’s part of the magic of waves ahead. Right. I was reading that, you know, in focusing on LGBT elders, you’re dealing with a lot of feelings of societal isolation, lack of community homophobia, which leads to anxiety and depression, mental health. Can you talk a little bit about just what the current state is, right now for LGBT elders?

Wilfred Labiosa  22:02

You know, it’s sad, but we are resilient at the same time, we have gone through so much, even before the hurricanes of Maria, of 2017, we have a very much unstable economical system, because of during President Obama, they instituted this board that would supervise our financials. And so is called promesa, in Spanish promise committee. And since then, we have seen our economical decline. And although all of this funding is being promised to Puerto Rico, and is arriving, you know, we still have this board that supervises everything that comes into Puerto Rico, for supporting our recovery efforts. So our elders are really impacted LGBT elders even more, you know, we continue being marginalized and forgotten by not only the federal government, but the local government, as well as the central government. And so there’s a lot of anxiety that you see in you can see it and that’s something that is so interesting for me is that, you know, you read about it, you learn about it in psychology, or clinical social work, but to see anxiety is just so sad. And so, you know, we’re providing the supports that they need, trying to stabilize their basic needs, in order for them to feel a little bit more comfortable about how they’re living in, in what conditions they’re living, meaning, you know, don’t believe the press in the sense that they’re saying Puerto Rico’s already energized, it is not, the percentage are very low of you know, electricity, and even water. So water is something that is also non-existent and people are not talking about it. You know, for example, I can tell you in my home, I live in the capital area of San Juan in an area called Rio Piedras, which is where the university is, and we had electricity and water throughout the hurricane. It all went out after the hurricane left. No electricity, no water for the metro area, but many parties in the metro area. Were fine during the hurricane. So the south part of Puerto Rico has been impacted the most. I had maybe five days without electricity. My community center in San Juan had over 10 days without electricity. So elders are resilient.

V Spehar  24:41

Yeah, that’s got to be a huge public health issue. And like you’ve said public health issues are also mental health issues. What is the day to day like right now?

Wilfred Labiosa  24:51

So it depends where you live. So for example, in […[, where we have one of our centers, our center was really impacted by the waters of Fiona. So we had to close it and move to a hotel lobby. So we’re working from a hotel lobby, they gave us a room. And that’s where we give sessions. And then outside. In the lobby, we provide all the case management. So those individuals every day, they have to go and search for food so they can cook, we have been providing hot meals because of that need. We didn’t want an elder to come to us searching for food to eat. So we are providing over 2000 meals every day from our community center in […]. And we half of those we provide them to their homes, because their elders who may or may not be bedridden, but that they all live alone. And most of them are 90% of those elders are living alone.

V Spehar  25:50

Yeah. And I’m having a sobering realization, as I’m listening to this saying, like, oh, why are they home alone, but LGBTQ elders oftentimes don’t have families or children that are there to take care of them. It really is the community that we have to take care of each other.

Wilfred Labiosa  26:05

And we have, you know, what is that phrase we make our own families? Yeah. There’s a phrase in English for that. I’m blanking it out right now.

V Spehar  26:13

Your chosen family.

Wilfred Labiosa  26:15

Exactly. Thank you for that. So your chosen family, many of them is us waves ahead. And you know, and people say, Well, you shouldn’t be your family. Well, yeah, we have to because interesting, very different than in the United States. Here in Puerto Rico, the highest incidence of suicide attempts, and death by suicide are among older adults is not the youth. Like in the United States, we continue educating ourselves about prevention among youth, knowing Puerto Rico is the older adults. And this past year, it lowered itself to 45 to 50. So before he was older, now he’s even a little bit younger, 40 to 45, 45 to 50. So, you know, it is a reality, a sad reality for us, in the public health that, you know, people say, oh, well, you can live without electricity. Yeah, but if you’re already dealing with the trauma, of hurricanes, of an economical instability, of earthquakes of a pandemia, of COVID, and then monkeypox as well, you know, you’re dealing with a lot of situations that really impact your mind. And if you can be all the resilient you want. By when he gets to the point, even to us, even to me, let’s put it to me, at times, I just block out, I just have to, you know, shut down everything and just take care of myself for a day before I can go out there and take care of others. Because we’re living the situation. We’re not in the United States coming here to deal with this, […] is a Puerto Rican entity 100%. We just need to survive ourselves and provide those services. So you know, it is a complicated thing.

V Spehar  28:00

Yeah. And you mentioned COVID. I mean, we’ve been talking about the impacts of the most recent hurricane and hurricane Maria in 2017. That leveled the country in many ways. But when COVID came and still is here, it is still the pandemic, folks. It’s not over despite what people say, How did the social distancing change the way that you operate it?

Wilfred Labiosa  28:21

You know, I have to be lucky, we are lucky, and I am lucky to when all of this was happening. The beginning of 2020. It was far it has been more than two years, I think, of this time is the war. But I was in New York meeting with sage because we are an affiliate of sage. Sage is the oldest and the largest organization focusing on LGBT elders. They’re based out of New York. And they were saying about the COVID is coming. And there when I was in New York, I was able to connect with Zoom and get an account over there for us here. And I have to teach everybody about Zoom within two days. So we change everything to zoom, we have over eight different accounts in zoom. We bought seller phones, for all of my staff for work. And within three days, we only had to close down three days before the governor. At that moment, she shut us down on a Thursday, and I was doing all this work. I was back here in Puerto Rico on Sunday evening. So until Wednesday for those three days we shut down. We got everything which was an extra expense that we were not planning for waves ahead, and then we were the first ones out there giving sessions online on the phone. And we were visiting people from the outside giving them the box of food. We were leaving it outside and saying hey, it’s over there. And we will be over here until you pick it up. So no one steals it, you know, but there was so much need about food stability and food sustainability, throughout not only the elders, but the LGBT people, many of our community members are in the tourism industry and the tourism industry died just like that. And it didn’t recuperate itself for almost a year here in Puerto Rico. And so many of our community members, brothers and sisters in the LGBT community just needed to take care of each other, take care of our own. Understanding that COVID was around and we didn’t know why was COVID says that it was so infectious. We had to make a change, and continue giving the services because people were dying not only of COVID, but of their mental health, a lot of death by suicide occurred here in Puerto Rico. And people are not talking about it.

V Spehar  30:52

Going back to, you know, folks on the continental US who are not fully aware of what’s been going on in Puerto Rico. And they see as a vacation destination, or they don’t see it as a fully formed state, or there’s like all of this misinformation about the way that the United States should or would like to treat Puerto Rico. What are you seeing around you as far as federal help? Is there help coming?

Wilfred Labiosa  31:19

I have to be hopeful that there is federal aid coming. You know, this administration is very different than the past administration, they have acted quickly. I’m very hopeful that the future will be better with the aid that is coming. The past administration promises aid that never arrived. It is on the paper, meaning there are a lot of papers out there, thrown around that there’s billions of dollars coming to Puerto Rico and will come soon, but that administration is gone. So the new administration had to inherit all those all us kind of notes, you know, you all was this, you all was that, in order for us to be able to move forward. But unfortunately, the days don’t stop for the administration to catch up. So it’s not that I’m defending the current administration. I’m just saying that work has to occur at the same time that we are in hurricane season. So one thing cannot stop because of the other. So he has to be on a moving process, that the electrical grid is horrible in Puerto Rico. Yes, we knew that before Fiona, we know and now after Fiona, but in something needs to occur. But other aspects, according to that need to also occur, you know, nonprofit organizations like waves ahead, are still waiting for funds, not promised to us directly, but indirectly from the past and the current administration to do our work. Because the central government is not doing the services, is not providing the aid. And it shouldn’t provide the aid or the help, doesn’t Obama should not be doing it. It should be divided among nonprofit organizations who know that community, who know how to better impact our society here in Puerto Rico. So I am hopeful that the aid has been promised will be kept and that it arrives, and that it has a date and time of arrival. And that I still haven’t seen.

V Spehar  33:21

Is there anything that we could be doing to best advocate for exactly what you’re saying, which is like there are federal funds. They’ve been earmarked the money is there. This is the situation this is the promise to Puerto Rico. But when you’re giving it to the central government, it’s not matriculating out into the people the way that it needs to be. Is there anything that we can be doing to advocate as mainland Americans, most people are listening from a state right now to tell the President that we want to see more nongovernmental organizations getting these grants more directly or to try to fix that part.

Wilfred Labiosa  33:55

The easiest thing is for to talk to your local legislator or senator of your state and tell them what are we gonna meet aid Puerto Rico needs help. Puerto Rico has many organizations that can help. Let’s say someone whose lives in this doesn’t want to waste ahead fine, find another entity that you connect with. My point of doing this today is not for only ways I had to receive it, is to bring out the voices of people that are not heard in Puerto Rico, that you need to talk to your senator and legislator because they impact directly Puerto Rico, they indirectly impact Puerto Rico and if your legislator have never heard of Puerto Rico, or don’t understand what’s going on in the Senate or in the house, to educate themselves, they have plenty of aides. Just put someone to learn about Puerto Rico, he or she will love to take a trip here or even connect with us to get educated, so tell them learn about it right now. A very concrete example you can call the congresswoman for Puerto Rico, Jennifer Gonzalez office and tell her that she needs to continue supporting waves ahead. And our shelter project. She adopted it as one of her projects to pass by legislation to give directly funding. But there is a frozen in that Senate and House Judiciary Committee. She needs voices of other people outside of Puerto Rico saying we need that shelter. This will be the first and only shelter for elderly and LGBT people in the whole island, the only one and there’s over 80 something shelters per region here in Puerto Rico. There’s over 300 shelters. There’s none of them welcoming of our LGBT people. None of them focus on elders, we need that. And now this would be in Cabo Rojo are mostly impact Fiona, if we had the funds, we could have been at least half of it done before the hurricane season. But because of the delayed of over a year, we are where we’re at in Cabo Rojo right now. We have people sleeping in the streets, because they don’t have a home. They don’t have a shelter that they could call home for few weeks for few months before we sought out their construction of their house or whatever it is. So I know I’m mad. But we all need to get educated about things that are in our neighborhoods. And this is not maybe in your neighborhood, but we are part of the world and we’re part of the United States. And so we are your neighbors, we are your brothers and sisters, because we’re humans, we’re not aliens, it doesn’t matter our language differences. It doesn’t matter our religious or spiritual differences. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight. It just matters that we are suffering, that we’re dying not only of COVID, but have an impact without having water or electricity. And if you’re going through cancer, dialysis, or any of the other circumstances, we are dying, Fiona directly did not kill anyone here in Puerto Rico. But now people are dying because they cannot survive.

V Spehar  37:01

Well, we are going to take just a quick break. But when we get back we will have more with my friend Wilfred. Have you heard about the new Lemonada Book Club powered by Penguin Random House. Each month we choose a book to feature across all of our shows, and October’s book is Be not afraid of love by Mimi Zoo. It is a collection of powerful essays and affirmations that follow Zeus’ journey toward relearning love, after a violent romantic relationship, get more information and sign up for our newsletter at lemonadabookclub.com

V Spehar  37:44

What are people asking you to do most right now? Like what are you being called on to do most urgently?

Wilfred Labiosa  37:51

Right now is about food and about medication. So a lot of pharmacies were working more with smaller pharmacies, because the insurance companies here because of the lack of electricity, I should say, you know, they cannot process prescriptions. So what we’re doing is we’re giving them funds for these individuals to get your medication at the price, meaning we’re not paying co pays, we’re paying the price of their medication in order for those individuals to have their medications, lifesaving meds. Second thing we’re doing is food not only providing them a box of food, but they cannot cook so we’re also providing them warm food. You know, I laugh about it, but it’s true. Certain other organizations bigger, much bigger than us are giving you a box of food. And then I’m telling these are going to say going great. But sweetie, how can they cook it? They don’t have gas or electricity. Oh, yeah, you have a point? Well, da, you know, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. So if you have some gas is being delivered now. So to you know, to cook with a gas stove, and crude oil is coming now, finally, after some weeks have delayed, but that’s an extra cost top you know, people cannot be for more than a week or two weeks. Three weeks, you know, certain parts of the island will not see electricity for three months. That’s a cost. So if you have a generator, you know, 30 bucks or 100 bucks per day. Come on, you do the math, and really food and meds and really just someone to listen. Someone to hear you with COVID we are using masks still you know, but we give hugs. And we you know we pass that because hugs are so needed. And that human touch you know, even though it might be from a little bit of a distance, we still have the human touch. You know this internet is great. You know and I love seeing you as well and talking with you, but it’s not the same. He’s not the same either. was sitting with you there and talking about the issue is not. So at least it helps us for now. But you know, we still need that personal touch. So we need to provide more mental health sessions, we are providing more short term sessions across the island from our centers, you know, our centers, San Juan, it didn’t get bruised at all we are solar base. So we have been able to provide a space for people to come and charge their phones and get some food and so forth. And […], which is in the south east part of the island, we have been doing good over there. We got electricity about a week afterwards, and water within three days after the hurricane. So we have been able to continue our work there, especially with elders, Puerto Rico is aging. So Puerto Rico is over 40%. Now, elders 60-55 or older, so and is expected by 2025 to be the majority or over the majority percentage of the island of elders.

Wilfred Labiosa  41:05

Why is that?

Wilfred Labiosa  41:06

It goes back to the economy. Young people want to leave the country for better opportunities of paying jobs. Minute were very few who are coming back to the island to re-energize and to do the work here. But we as a group, when we come here, we know that our salaries will be cut. We only get maybe 20% of our salaries from the state. It’s a very different way of living here. I love it. I don’t regret it, once a bit, even though I have survived hurricanes, drought, economy, whatever. Maybe that’s why I lost my hair. That’s why I increased weight during COVID. Eating my feelings. And so I think a lot of people are moving, especially doctors as well with specializations who could get paid more money in the States. They’re moving to the States, even to Europe, I know, groups of Puerto Ricans are moving to Europe for a better life for them. And that’s great, you know, and but Puerto Ricans becoming older because of that.

V Spehar  42:17

Well, Fred, what are you most proud of right now, what’s keeping you hopeful?

Wilfred Labiosa  42:20

That we are resilient, resilience, it can be something tossed around, but I have been able to know the meaning of resiliency. And I have been able to work even becoming emotional, with a lot of people from the states that understand us, people like yourselves who made this moment. Because otherwise, we will not be able to survive the work of waves ahead would not have been able to be survived or done. If people from the diaspora the gay or Puerto Rican. People that live outside of Puerto Rico understood the need for this type of service. Because here in Puerto Rico, LGBT phobias, I confront them every single time, even from the same gay people who have in power, who are in government positions, who might be gay, they’re afraid of losing their jobs. So they closed the door on us. And so I have been lucky enough to come with a lot of angels, from my encounters in Massachusetts in the United States who have supported us. And really local here, we have a group of individuals who are doing the work without expecting too much. And that has been, I’m proud of this moment.

V Spehar  43:39

Wilfred, we believe in you here and we are going to do everything we can to support your mission and get this out there into the world because the work you’re doing is so important. And so I hope that you continue to grow in this mission and more and more people find you and are inspired by the work that you’re doing. Thank you again, good luck with the efforts we will be reading for you and let us know if we can ever do anything else for you.

Wilfred Labiosa  44:01


V Spehar  44:08

Wow, it is such an honor to meet folks like Wilfried who are doing just the most amazing things. We just don’t get to hear enough about these people and just really brightens my day when we get to share these stories with you and hopefully get him a bunch more help. Be sure to tune into this Friday’s episode where we’re going to chat about the mall. Yes, the Mall of your childhood. We’re gonna go back and we’re gonna get one more Orange Julius, you can leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550, I love to hear from y’all. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts and be sure to check out some of the V Interesting extras that’s on Lemonada Premium again only on Apple podcasts. Follow me at under the desk news and take care of yourself. I will see you on Friday.

CREDITS  44:55

V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.

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