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Like Shakespeare

Friendship—Alina Marrero (second from left) at an Introduction-to-Buddhism meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 2023. Photo courtesy of Alina Marrero

by Alina Marrero
San Juan, Puerto Rico

“We have no active youth!”

That’s how Ruta 66 Chapter felt for years. Members always made causes, and our meetings have always been joyful. But with the pandemic, something needed to change.

I’m a journalist, playwright and theater critic. In the arts, a time of crisis can be the greatest opportunity. Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest plays during the plague. The disasters of World War I brought about the Dada artistic and literary movement. The pandemic was our crisis.

COVID-19 terrified me, and I wouldn’t leave my house. I lost a lot of friends from it. The people of Puerto Rico also faced hurricanes, earthquakes and economic failure. But I chanted. Like Shakespeare, I decided to create the best from the worst: victory with everything—with work, with art, with raising youth! 

It wasn’t just me; it was our whole chapter. The Ruta 66 members together realized we needed to work harder, we needed to strengthen our daimoku and win with la estrategia del sutra del loto! [1]

The first thing that changed was how we chanted. It strengthened and deepened, becoming like the roar of a lion.

Through chanting and action, we broke through our limitations. 

Discussion meetings became like parties. We would welcome one another joyfully: “Hello, hello! How are you?!” I started to feel comfortable to leave my home, and I decided I would do shakubuku every time I went out. In each Uber, I handed out a little tarjeta[2] that says Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!

That’s when the youth began to emerge. 

One district leader, María, met a young woman, Alejandra, at an event for cancer patients and survivors. María spoke about Buddhism with participants.

“I want to try it!”

Alejandra started practicing with us, bringing her son, too. They’re still practicing strong, and both María and Alejandra are in remission—on the road to no more cancer!

Another women’s leader, Carolína, introduced her daughter and son. Many other youth already in our chapter started to attend activities and support behind the scenes, too!

Before I realized it, every district in the chapter—Carolina, Río Grande, Caguas and Sur—was brimming with youth! They emerged one by one, very naturally, through our daimoku and steady efforts.

When the Each District, One Precious Youth campaign started in 2023, Ruta 66 determined to raise eight new youth in our chapter! And I wanted to start with my own efforts.

In February, I had to Uber to work at the same time a commemorative women’s meeting was happening. When I joined on my phone, I saw that there were no youth guests in attendance… None?! How come?! 

Then I realized that my driver looked like he was in his 20s…

“Do you want to go to a Buddhist meeting?”

“Yes, yes!” he said. “When?”

“Right now!”

He loved the meeting, and he’s come to more! I even connected with his mother. I’ll shakubuku anyone. I do things like that for kosen-rufu.

Through our united efforts, the youth of Ruta 66 have started growing! When our SGI-USA Puerto Rico Buddhist Center first opened in August 2022, many of the behind-the-scenes staff—including all Soka Group and Gajokai—were youth from our chapter!

Alongside these efforts, my career flourished, too! At the vanguard of art, I developed ideas for plays, and I was invited to participate in a Zoom theater festival. By mid-2021, I premiered a play and directed two more, one of which won me a prestigious playwriting prize! And after overcoming many challenges, including harassment and other resistance, I received an award recognizing me for my work as a journalist and theater critic. Career goals I had dreamed of for years, I accomplished in the pandemic, amid crisis, while fighting to advance kosen-rufu in Puerto Rico.

Speaking of dreams, just the other day, I was leaving a meeting at the Buddhist center and overheard three young men speaking—all members of Ruta 66. The meeting was over, the center was closing, but they wouldn’t leave. We had to tell them, “It’s time to go!” They wanted to talk more about Buddhism and Ikeda Sensei—it was like a dream, one that we made a reality through our daimoku.

July 7, 2023, World Tribune, p. 9


  1. Spanish for “the strategy of the Lotus Sutra.” ↩︎
  2. Spanish for card. ↩︎

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