Open Society Foundations Announce 2020 Puerto Rico Youth Fellows
SAN JUAN—The Open Society Foundations are pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the Puerto Rico Youth Fellowships, which support young Puerto Rican leaders working to elevate justice, promote human rights, and help underserved communities in Puerto Rico.
The fellowship program, now in its second year, recognizes 10 recipients from all over the island—from central San Juan to the island of Vieques—working on a wide range of issues. Among the fellows’ projects: teaching young people about food sovereignty, strengthening support for LGBTQPIA+ youth across the island, elevating the leadership of Black youth, and using art as a medium to spark political engagement by young Puerto Ricans.
“Puerto Rican youth have encountered some of the worst living conditions in generations, from Hurricane Maria to earthquakes to the pandemic,” said Karina Claudio Betancourt, director of Open Society’s Puerto Rico Project. “Despite these challenges, their leadership has transformed the political landscape of the island and has resulted in the ousting of the former governor Ricardo Roselló, and in the defeat of colonial bipartisan control of the Puerto Rican government.”
Betancourt continued: “These projects reflect the vast range of ideas and initiatives that will help spur further transformation in Puerto Rico and will help build power and amplify the voices of communities too often left out of political and policy debates.”
The Puerto Rico Youth Fellowships Program continues Open Society’s commitment to investing in and building power among youth on the island. Open Society has been working in Puerto Rico since 2013, supporting a range of organizations, movements, and individuals that contribute to strengthening civil society, civic participation, transparency, and government accountability on the archipelago and in the diaspora. To date, Open Society has invested $20 million in Puerto Rico-related issues—and plans to continue to invest in the coming years.
“As a young Afro-Puerto Rican, I am proud of the opportunity to accompany and work with the new cohort of the Youth fellows,” said Loidymar Duprey, co-coordinator of the fellowships. “In recent years, many Puerto Rican youth have had to leave the island in search of better opportunities, driven away by the panorama of challenges and crises that the archipelago is going through. These grants open the door for young people like me to reimagine their communities and advocate for social justice and human rights from and for their home. The goal is for these young people to continue dreaming, fighting, and paving the way for future generations of young leaders and activists from Puerto Rico that we deserve.”
“It is an honor to participate again as coordinator of the Youth Fellowship—a program that in its second year continues to rely on the great power of Puerto Rican youth,” said Alvaro Fernandez, fellowships co-coordinator. “In this new cohort, I see reflected the diversity and collective resistance of Puerto Rico's social movements—movements that despite so much uncertainty will not stop growing and strengthening. I see in these 10 young people the love they have for Puerto Rico and the courage they share to continue in the fight for a better future. I congratulate all of the recipients.”
Fellowship recipients range in age between 18 and 27. They will receive up to $50,000 for working full-time on their projects for an 18-month period.
2020 Puerto Rico Youth Fellows
Edrimael Delgado Reyes (pronouns: he, him, his) will develop queer spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Puerto Rico through LaBoriVogue, a laboratory using vogue as an agent of individual transformation and collective justice.
Luis Mi Rodríguez-Rodríguez (pronouns: they, her, hers) will create content for the LGBTQ+ community through Pólvora Colectiva Cuir, a digital media collective generating safe spaces for discussion and debate within queer communities.
Camil Libertá Valentín Arce (pronouns: she, her, hers) will develop Amarilla, a workshop and community garden offering resources for a more dignified life to the disadvantaged in Aguadilla through art and agroecology.
Cristian J. Laracuente Vázquez (pronouns: he, him, his) will lead Taller Lumpen, a project developing street art as a tool for education and socialization of essential resources to combat inequality in Mayagüez.
Venus A. Páez Hernández (pronouns: she, her, hers) will develop the S.A.L.V.A. project (Food Sovereignty Achieving Agroecological Vieques), with a mission to provide educational resources to promote agribusiness development.
Jesef Reyes Morales (pronouns: he, him, his) will develop Semillas de Apoyo Mutuo en Utuado, a project to promote food sovereignty and local organizing for the agricultural workers in Tetuán, a community in Utuado.
Anna Margarita (pronouns: she, her, hers) is co-founder of Caribana Coop, a worker-owned co-op that seeks to create spaces and tools to reimagine our education and our economic, social and land relations.
Jun Díaz González (pronouns: he, they, theirs) will lead Flor de Loto, a mentorship project focusing on human rights and LGBTI youth in the area and surrounding communities of Caguas.
María José (pronouns: she, they, theirs) will develop House of Grace, a trans-feminist antiracist collective promoting mutual aid, economic justice, and artistic development for trans-feminine nonbinary individuals of color.
Cristian Eduardo Martínez Medina (pronouns: he, him, his) will develop Escuela de Liderazgo Político y Comunitario, a project seeking to support a community space for young Black leaders in Yabucoa.