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May 7, 2002

 

I awakened refreshed and ready for the day. I was awake very early because I wanted to meet Carlos and go with him to the television station (Teleonce) to snap some photos of him being interviewed. So, I found myself standing on the sidewalk outside our hotel at 5:20 AM waiting for him to arrive. Fortunately it was warm but not hot, a cool breeze was blowing by (there always seems to be a breeze in Puerto Rico) and the sun was about to rise. The hotel is very close to the beach, so while I was not able to see the sun actually pop up out of the ocean, it was very pleasant and the sky was magnificent, all pink and a few other colors I am sure were there but I am unable to identify because of my red-green color blindness. Anyway, it looked great.

 

Carlos came roaring up about 20 minutes late and a trend was set for the rest of the trip things end late and start late. I don't mind, once I am able to predict that everything happens 15-20 minutes late, I can deal with it. We talked about being on television, anticipated some questions, and soon we were at the station. As we entered the gate and got our passes, someone else arrived who seemed to know whom I was. It turned out to be Walter Murray, professor of philosophy at Interamericana University of Puerto Rico, the host of the event. He had seen a picture of me and recognizes my grim visage. We introduced ourselves and I was glad to be able to follow him into the station. He is on the tournament organizing committee and had been given the assignment of coming to the television station. Several other debaters besides Carlos had also been invited, and they soon arrived. They must not have gotten started on time either.


| PREPARATION FOR THE SHOW | ON TV: MURRAY AND DEBATERS IN BACK, AUTHOR AND CARLOS IN FRONT |

 

Walter Murray and I struck up an informative conversation right away as we talked about the tournament, his work on it, and my work to promote debate in general. I sensed instantly that I had found a new ally. We found where the program was being filmed and we stood around waiting for someone to orient us. Alberto and Rosadella, Carlos'parents arrived, and everyone seemed to know them. Felipe, the host of the show, appeared and embraced Alberto like a long lost friend. Little did I know that Walter Murray was positioning me to be interviewed instead of him. We had a cup of coffee (I broke my caffeine fast) and talked some more. Alberto told us a little about the show and the format. Then, we were on. In we went, and when someone went to clip a microphone on me I knew something was amiss. I was just supposed to be there to take a photo of the interview. Then, before I knew it, Carlos and I were sitting up front and it was lights, camera, and action. Felipe talked about the event in Spanish, and then asked me a question in English about why debate was important. I was surprised at the bilingual nature of the program, but it was clearly part of the format to use both Spanish and English. I gave a fairly pat answer that seemed to satisfy Felipe. Then, Carlos was asked a question in Spanish, and although he seemed a little nervous for the first few seconds, he got it together and did a nice job (or so I was told afterwards). Three other debaters from three other countries stood behind along with Walter Murray. It was over in about four minutes, and Felipe got to mention that Carlos had a famous father.

 

We exited the station quickly because we had to get to the tournament in time for the opening. The traffic was terrible (rush hour) and we also took a few wrong turns. We finally got the right directions and arrived at the Bayamon campus of Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, known to most people simply as "Inter." As so often happens we saw some debaters wandering and knew to follow them. We arrived just as breakfast was finishing and I got to grab a bite while greeting so many of my friends from the previous year who were there. Anabella Caldera, Eva Cordoba, and Victoria from Nicaragua, Jose Julio, Benito Escobar and Roberto Vega Masso from Universidad Diego Portales in Chile, Carlos Navia Rey, Felipe Sainz Trapago, Jose Martinez and others from Spain, and others I am sure I am forgetting. Jackie Massey and Anthony Pagan were also there. Jackie was beginning to discover that this is a tough place for vegetarians to eat, especially a vegetarian like Jackie who is not wild about vegetables.

 

The Inter Bayamon campus is quite beautiful. All the buildings are new, the grounds are beautifully landscaped, and there are many lovely places to sit and have conversations outside. It had become clear to me that many things in Puerto Rico occur outside. We left the building where breakfast had been and went over to a central building with a large theater in it for the opening session.

 

The tournament itself was being dedicated to Ricardo Alegria, a very well known person in Puerto Rico who had spent his life championing and documenting Puerto Rican culture, art, and identity. This opening session was to introduce the teams and coaches (they like to call them "trainers"), hear welcomes from administrators, dedicate the tournament to 'Don Ricardo,' and then hear a short talk from him entitled, "Races, cultures, and our national identity."

| RICARDO ALEGRIA SPEAKS | ALEGRIA RECEIVES HIS COMMENDATION |

| PRESIDENT FERNOS WELCOMES US | FACES IN THE CROWD |

 

The Dean of the Bayamon campus and others, and then President Fernos of Inter greeted us. Then the teams were introduced. A colleague of Sr. Alegria introduced him, and he was awarded a citation from Inter. Then came his lecture. Although I am not fluent in Spanish, it gets better every time I go to a Spanish speaking country, and Sr. Alegria spoke very clearly, so I got most of it. He talked about the indigenous peoples, who were in Puerto Rico originally, and the cruel fate they had met at the hands of the Spanish and at the mercy of the germs and infections they brought. He then talked about the importation of slaves in Africa and the impact this had on Puerto Rico. Finally, he talked about Spanish and American influences and commented about how a mixture of all these influences created the current Puerto Rican identity, and how important it was to treasure all of them, especially those influences in danger of being forgotten.

 

Lunch was next on the agenda, and this was one of the few meals that were not strictly traditional Puerto Rican food, it consisting of pasta with chicken and Alfredo sauce. The lunch was jolly with considerable fellowship. The debaters were beginning to warm to each other and laughter could be heard throughout the room.

 

The gathering made ready for a day trip to Ponce on the south coast, but we would not be joining them. Anthony and Carlos both had additional final assignments to complete and I had a publication deadline to meet. They would email their work and I would email my text to Controversia (the IDEA journal). We returned to the hotel and we all seemed to be productive. I emailed my text early in the evening. Carlos had gone to his house to do his work, where the lucky guy had built in Internet access and lots of workspace. After that Anthony, Jackie and I found a simple restaurant that seemed to cater to locals (always a good sign) and it seemed like many workers, including police and security personnel, were there for a late meal and a cold beer. I love the way beer is served in Puerto Rico, exceedingly cold. It reminded me of the way beer is served in northern Mexico and Baja California, where I have spent a lot of time. The meal was inexpensive, delicious, and (you guessed it) traditional. The seating was outside and the sea breeze was simply delicious.

ANTHONY IS JUST TOO BUSY WITH SCHOOL WORK TO SWIM! ===>

 

It was off to bed and sweet dreams after a busy day.

CONTINUE TO THE NEXT DAY