The discussion about retaining the Somos conference in Puerto Rico rather than relocating it to the Dominican Republic has always been a matter of principle, partnership, and pragmatism. The choice to remain in Puerto Rico honors the enduring bond between New York and Puerto Rico, respects labor rights, navigates political sensitivities, supports Puerto Rico's recovery, and addresses logistical considerations.
Firstly, the conference's commitment to unionized venues reflects a deep respect for workers' rights and solidarity. Moving to a non-unionized setting in Santo Domingo would not only undermine these values but also detach the conference from its foundational principles of supporting labor movements.
The historical and economic ties between New York and Puerto Rico further strengthen the argument for maintaining the conference's location. The over 30-year relationship has fostered mutual benefits, including simplified travel logistics for U.S. participants due to Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. territory. The recent economic agreement between New York and Puerto Rico’s Governors on November 10, 2023, underscores a commitment to continued collaboration, which hosting the conference in Puerto Rico would reinforce.
Puerto Rico's ongoing recovery from natural disasters is another critical consideration. Properly known as Somos el Futuro, the conference has historically contributed positively to the local economy, and continuing to host it there supports the island's recovery efforts, demonstrating solidarity and commitment to Puerto Rico's resurgence.
Finally, the logistical challenges of moving the conference to Santo Domingo cannot be overlooked. The requirements for passports and currency exchange introduce unnecessary complications for participants, potentially limiting attendance and participation, especially for those who may face difficulties in obtaining travel documents or managing foreign currency exchanges.
A potential alternative would be expanding the conference to three venues in 2025: Albany in the spring, the Dominican Republic in the summer and Puerto Rico in November, with possible expansion in 2026 to other Latin American countries such as Mexico and/or Colombia. This would also offer a win-win way to transition the financial impact of the move, a way for the conference to benefit both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and the year after other Latin American countries, instead of the severe blow because of the immediate move to the Dominican Republic.
The choice to keep the Somos conference permanently in Puerto Rico is a testament to the enduring partnership between New York and Puerto Rico, a commitment to labor rights, contributing to Puerto Rico's recovery, and a pragmatic approach to logistical considerations. This decision honors the conference's legacy and the relationship between New York state y La Isla del Encanto – Puerto Rico.
Michael Nieves is secretary of the Somos New York Board of Directors, CEO and President of Spanish language television network HITN and a member of the City & State advisory board.