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Rebuilding La Perla

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  • Rebuilding La Perla

    San Juan Woos Residents Of Barrio

    By Matthew Hay Brown

    October 20, 2002
    Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
    All rights reserved.

    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    · Salsa blasted from loudspeakers on the bandstand. Players from the Santurce Crabbers basketball team led teenage boys through drills on the open-air court. Children with balloons tied to their wrists shimmied amid the swaying green palm trees of the freshly painted little park.

    Last month, drug dealers brandishing automatic rifles boasted on television that the police couldn't enter La Perla. But police arrived in force five weeks ago to chase the dealers out of this seaside barrio at the edge of Old San Juan.

    If that was the invasion, now comes the regime change: The city moved in on Saturday with entertainment, food and services aimed at winning residents over to a new vision for their neighborhood. The Police Department set up a booth here to recruit new officers.

    "Now that the drug business is on hold, there is an opportunity for the people to take back their community," said Robert Alsina, director of the city department of urban development.

    But with an intrusive police occupation, residents say, the plan is off to a bad start.

    They complain of officers entering homes without warrants, stopping cars as they pass through the main gate and searching children's bags as they leave for school.

    "If you treat La Perla well, La Perla will treat you well," said Ana Maldonado, a mother of four. "If you do not treat La Perla well, things are going to go badly."

    A force of 125 officers descended on this closely knit community of 2,000 last month, arresting more than 20 residents, shutting down drug labs and shooting galleries and seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in weapons, drugs, and cash. Officers in bulletproof vests continue to guard entrances to La Perla and patrol the streets; officials say they will remain indefinitely.

    Saturday's fair represented the next phase of the city's vision for La Perla. Local leaders dedicated the new Plaza Ismael Rivera, a patch of green named for the great salsa singer from the neighborhood. The health department offered blood-pressure screenings and cholesterol tests. Alsina spoke of plans to rebuild crumbling houses, renovate failing water and sewer lines and draw new residents to the neighborhood.

    "We are trying to improve the standard of living," he said.

    The fair came days after residents held a news conference to complain about the police.

    "Here we were submitted under the police to a regime of terror," said Jorge Luis Gómez, 43, a welder. "If the house, your house, strikes them as suspicious, if you have air conditioning, if you have grates, if your house is very nice, it's proof that you sell drugs and that gives them the motive to enter your house, not only one time, but two, three, four times."

    Alsina said Saturday that the absence of drug activity in La Perla had created a window of opportunity.

    "The drug business has infected this community for a long time," he said. "The only way to take it down was a complete takeover."

  • #2
    Rebuilding La Perla

    It seems to me that the motivation behind the siege of La Perla is, as always, the almighty dollar. If the poor people are driven out of the place, the developers can now move in. What developer in his/her right mind would not want ocean front real estate like La Perla?
    It was incredibly stupid of whomever flaunted the business of drug dealing by flashing their products and there guns in front of television cameras.....REALLY DUMB. I would not be surprised if that person(s) is o longer walking on this earth, compliments of his partners in narco trafficking.
    The poor people always suffer.....from poverty, crime, drugs and prostitution....but the final insult comes when they are run out of their meager homes in barrios everywhere, so the money men can move in for an almighty dollar. Then where do they go? Where have all the people of La Perla gone? The drug dealing has been displaced, but where are the addicts now? Where can I go to help them by setting up a new clinic like the two that were shut down by the police?


    • #3

      I agree with you, however, the PR gov't needed to do something. I actually believe it needs to do more for the residents of this old slum and the poor of Puerto Rico. Just sending troops and militarizing the slum for a few weeks, take out some of the drug dealers and then leave only does so little in the long run. A few months later it will seem as if the police never came; everything returning as it was before with the drugs and crime. The PR gov't should be supporting the programs inside, allow the residents autonomy and voice on their issues and allow a smaller, but permaneant police presence there with the say of the law-abiding residents.


      • #4
        What developer in his/her right mind would not want ocean front real estate like La Perla?

        You said it all in a nutshell; I was wondering how long it was going to take before this actually happened. How sad for those decent perhaps few those who live in La Perla who will not be protected from the greedy, powerful and cruelty of development and the power of money. Instead what should be done is preserve what we have there and help the poor that are there to manage it correctly. To me La Perla is no more different than the Morro it's a monument that should be preserved, dealt with, beautified like the streets of Old San Juan and saved not knocked down or in the future be over ran by the greedy ignorance of others. Es un insulto y una desgracia Sra.Govenadora si usted esta dejando esto pasar. Yo nunca ido a La Perla como muchos solo la visto de lejo, pero solo me imagino que hay muchas casitas viejas de ante, hasta las letrina's que yo me acordaba de en las casitas que mi abuela vivia en Santurse en los 60's eso se debe de conservar no destruir.
        Ecuajey I would like to know more about this issue where can I read or find out about it and what can be done to stop any destruction of La Perla if it has'nt been done so already.