March 7, 2003

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

Women’s Day – Not Much To Celebrate

On March 8, 2003, the world will continue a decades long tradition of observing International Women’s Day. In the past, this day has been a celebration of the how far the world has come in improving the rights of women. This year, however, there is not much to celebrate. Since taking office in 2001, President Bush and his administration have made one policy decision after another that jeopardize the current state of women, both in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Over the past two years, Bush and his administration have:

- Reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which cuts off U.S. aid to international family planning organizations whose services included -but did not use U.S. funds for- informing women of legal abortion options, providing safe and legal abortion options, or lobbying for abortion law reform with their own funds;

- Closed the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach;

- Removed scientific information from federal websites that regarding findings that abortions do not increase the risk of breast cancer and condoms; ability to protect against HIV;

- Appointed ardent; abstinence-only education supporters to head key health policy divisions in his administration. Many of these appointees oppose condom use and believe sex outside of marriage is dangerous and that the government should control what local schools can and cannot teach, - De-funded the United Nations Population Fund by withholding $34 million in family planning aid that is used to better the lives of women around the world; - Promoted abstinence only sex-education, which fails to teach students about how to protect against sexually transmitted disease, - Packed the judiciary with anti-choice judges, and;

- Withdrawn support for Senate ratification of an international women’s treaty that requires nations to remove barriers of discrimination against women in areas like legal rights and health care.

And, unfortunately, the list goes on. It is astonishing that this administration has so quickly and easily turned back the clock on women’s rights – especially the right to control their family size and protect their health and well being. Giving women the power to control when or if they have children is essential to slowing rapid population growth, maintaining healthy children and slowing environmental destruction. We must ensure that women have access to the information and resources they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families, which will lead to a better world for us all.

Jennifer Mathews

First Vanity Fair Now National Geographic

An Open Letter

To the Editor in Chief of National Geographic,

I have just seen and read your online feature, “True Colors – Divided Loyalties in Puerto Rico” and have been appalled at the erroneous image of Puerto Rico portrayed by the same. It is the least researched or educated article I have seen or read in a long time, promoting every single misconception there is about life on the Island.

Puerto Rico is the most developed location in all of Latin America and it is even more developed than some U.S. states. Our manufacturing is second to none in the entire world. 16 out of the top 20 pharmaceuticals sold in the U.S. are made in Puerto Rico. If you have a Pacemaker there is a 50/50 chance it was made in Puerto Rico since 50% of all Pacemakers and Defibrillators are manufactured on the Island. The population is one of the most highly educated and technically saavy in the world, ranked 6th in higher education degrees awarded, and that’s without counting the people that are educated in U.S. universities and come back. Over 9,000 higher education degrees are awarded each year in Science and Engineering alone. 145 Nasa employees including 90 scientists are graduates of Puerto Rico’s higher education institutions.

If anyone traveled to any impoverished area of any U.S. city, they would find the exact same things portrayed in your feature, and sometimes even worse, without considering certain areas of Louisiana, the Dakotas, and other U.S. states. They would find the same drugs and everything else found in any depressed area of a major city. Two of these unfortunate areas are the only ones portrayed in your supposed portrait of Puerto Rico. Our economy is not based on drug trade as mentioned by miss Toensing in the interactive piece of the feature, it is based on legitimate items like high technology manufacturing (particularly electronics, pharmaceuticals (and the growing biotechnology industry with Lilly and Abbott opening new plants), and medical devices) with over 2,300 plants. Our exports in 2001 were 47 billion and our GDP surpassed the $68 billion mark. Manufacturing is 40% of GDP and accounts for 11.4% of total employment. Tourism is another economy driving industry on the island.

The political views are also misrepresented in your article as they don’t truly represent an accurate description of the political landscape and all sides of the equation. One could forever debate any information of a political nature, and most Puerto Ricans would be happy to do so (the article did get the national past time correct). The simple matter is that the article in your magazine is inaccurate and highly unscientific, and yet makes serious conclusions about Puerto Rico, its people, politics and culture. Unfortunately, many Americans will read it and believe it as gospel considering your reputation, but their source this time was just plain wrong. You are concerned about Americans not knowing where Iraq is or even where the U.S. is on a map, about the lack of proper education in the U.S. today, and yet you publish something as misguided as this article. I must say it vexes me to see this happen.

In conclusion, your magazine should get the facts straight next time, before featuring and publishing such erroneous and misguided information. It is particularly sad, considering how highly respected the National Geographic name has been throughout the years, and how most Puerto Ricans would regard your magazine as a credible and honorable source. This type of article dictates otherwise and places great doubt upon the veracity of information in your magazine in the future. Many people know Puerto Rico, have been to the Island, do business there, know the truth and will forever see National Geographic as an untrustworthy information source from now on. It is unfortunate for you, but also, for your readers including myself.

Francisco T. Fernández Esteve

P.S. In case you need a quick reference as to what I’m talking about, here is the link:

and of course, since according to you, the most important thing to know is that our people ate rodents before colonization, let’s not forget the thankfully nicer part of your feature:


Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage