Because of the closeness of the vote (3,000-plus votes for the Populares) the whole issue ended up in court, but the elections were finally certified. By law, the new governor must be sworn in by the first week in January—this occurred on January 2, 2005 .
The whole event was planned weeks earlier. However the invitations didn’t arrive until December 29th. I had to make quick arrangements and head out to Puerto Rico at the last minute. Thank God my mother lives there, making it much easier for me.
Many guests didn’t have time to get there at all but I arrived in time and had a prominent place in the audience. I was seated next to the Mari Carmen Aponte, Executive Director of Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA).
Next to me where various congressman and senators from the U.S. and ambassadors from Latin America , from countries such as La Republica Dominicana, Antilles , Guatemala , and Panama (Rubén Blades).
I was one of several Boricua mainland elected officials invited. I later found out that the governor would like to sponsor a Commission of Puerto Rican mainland elected officials to serve as advisors on issues that impact the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico . Felix Arroyo, Boston city council president, will head this effort and I have been asked to participate.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at Luis Muñoz Marin Park , 10 minutes from La Fortaleza. It was a festive event with Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vila asking Puerto Ricans to set aside the colors of their party and only recognize the colors of the Puerto Rican flag as a signal of unity throughout the island.
That evening, a private gala was held at the beautiful Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico with many of Puerto Rico ’s famous citizens and artists in attendance. Following was a public dance held at the Caribe Hilton. There were two stages featuring such bands and singers as Chucho Avellanet and the Puerto Rican National Orchestra. It was truly spectacular and totally Boricua event.
I also took the opportunity to advocate to the incoming cabinet that it was imperative that the offices of PRFAA in the U.S. —in particular, the Cleveland office—remain open to serve the Puerto Rican community. I think this message was taken to heart by those I met including the new secretary of state, Elisabeth Pont.
It was a wonderful experience and I was glad to be able to see first hand how similar the processes of election and law in Puerto Rico mirrored those of the United States .
This relationship which centers on the issue of status—commonwealth vs. statehood—will drastically change within the next 5-10 years when a binding vote of the people will occur. I believe that statehood will prevail in the long run.
Cleveland , Ohio
Editor’s Note: The PR elections commission on Dec. 28, 2004 , officially declared Anibal Acevedo Vila the new governor of Puerto Rico , ending a contentious recount that lasted nearly two months. With all votes recounted, Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party received 963,303 votes (48.4 percent) compared with 959,737 (48.22 percent) for Rossello. Third-party candidate Ruben Berrios, who supports full independence for the island, garnered 54,551 votes (2.74 percent). Only the governor’s race in Washington State was closer.
Adrian Maldonado, Cuyahoga County Director of the Office of Procurement and Diversity and Berea City Councilperson (Ward 1), contacted La Prensa about his experiences relating to this election and subsequent inauguration of Acevedo Vila. Above are Mr. Maldonado’s observations and comments on his participation in the electoral process and celebration of the inauguration. Mr. Maldonado’s letter has been edited.