In this clip, Valencia addresses two issues. In the first half, she discusses the United States welfare system. In the second half, she discusses how sticking together as a community can benefit Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in New Jersey and beyond, and how that may be achieved. Part 1: Because Puerto Ricans have long been attacked as embracing a “culture of welfare,” and because Valencia once lived on welfare, I ask her about the welfare system. Valencia traces the evolution of the welfare system in her response. She talks about the system as a good idea gone wrong; the danger of entrenchment that often becomes cyclical; and difficulties in breaking out of the system. Some of those difficulties have to do with initiatives that restrict rather than incentives that nurture development and upward mobility. Valencia criticizes the system as flawed. She emphasizes the fault does not lay with the recipient. She points out that welfare initiatives are created by individuals who have no actual experience of poverty, no on-the-ground understanding of the lives they aim to change. Moneyed elite are the least likely candidates to run a functional and just welfare system. The welfare system, as it is now, perpetuates poverty rather than alleviates poverty. Valencia nods toward solutions that would benefit individuals and the economic system of the United States as a whole. Part 2: In its origins, the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey sought to bring together Puerto Ricans from across the state of New Jersey into a unified community working toward social justice. I ask Valencia to talk about the themes of community and “sticking together” and how they may benefit Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in New Jersey. Valencia grounds her response in the increasingly racist and highly vocal discriminatory social and political climate of the time, particularly but not limited to, the presidential running and primaries leading up to the 2016 Presidential election. Valencia begins by taking apart the term “Hispanic” and criticizes the “clumping” together of peoples from all nations together as if they were one entity without distinctions. This clumping is prevalent in the United States, from the layman to the media to politicians. Many injustices are shared, currently and historically. Yet Valencia points out a key difference: Puerto Ricans are United States citizens and their issues must been seen in that light; Latino issues are currently centered around immigration and being undocumented. These key differences are often polarizing between the communities, but they need not be. We need to come together and to work together: “We have separate issues. We don’t have to be separate and apart.” Valencia offers alternatives.
Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey