Community Lawyering in Puerto Rico: Promoting empowerment and self-help
“No me des el pescado, enséñame a pescar”
“Do not hand me fish, teach me how to fish”(1)
Law 232 of August 27, 2004 has a special meaning to the people residing in some of Puerto Rico's poorest communities. It was the result of the hard work, during a period of a year and a half, of leaders from some of these communities and my students, the students of the community development section of the Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law. The story of Law 232 can provide insight into what the role of a lawyer can be in the battle against poverty. To understand the story of this Puerto Rican law, one has to go back to August of 2002. During that month the University of Puerto Rico's School of Law Legal Aid Clinic inaugurated its community development section.
(1) Popular saying frequently used by Jorge Luis Oyola, leader of the Los Filtros community, located in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. I want to thank Carmen Correa Matos, Hiram Meléndez Juarbe, EfrénRivera Ramos, Dan Squires, William Vázquez Irizarry and Lucie White for their help with this paper. I dedicate this paper to the memory of my mother, Myrta Cruz Pérez.
(2) Associate Professor of Law, University of Puerto Rico School of Law. B.A., Georgetown University; J.D., University of Puerto Rico School of Law; LL.M., Harvard Law School; M.Jur., Oxford University. This is an expanded version of a paper that was originally presented at SELA (Seminar in Latin America of Constitutional and Political Theory) in June, 2005. The paper was subsequently published in Spanish by the University of Palermo (Argentina).
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