Things That Matter

Some Puerto Ricans Plan On Leaving The Island To Give Their Family A Better Life, While Others Tell Us They Feel Guilty Leaving

Nelson Feliciano fills 16 empty soda bottles and milk jugs with brownish-yellow-colored water from the Ojo de Agua, a swollen stream in Aguadilla, a municipality located on the northwestern tip of Puerto Rico. “We’ll use this to bathe,” he tells mitú in Spanish, alluding to his five daughters, ages 5, 12, 13, 15 and 18. They’re the reason Feliciano makes the mountainous trek under the searing sun once a day, and why he is considering leaving his island for the U.S. mainland.

From 2006 to 2015, more than 700,000 people fled debt-ridden Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, to cities like Orlando, New York, Philadelphia and Miami. Many more are expected to leave in the wake of catastrophic storms. One month after Hurricane Maria’s 155 MPH winds shook the entire archipelago, 80 percent of Puerto Ricans still lack electricity and more than a third of the people don’t have potable water. All over the once lush land lies rubble of homes and businesses, battered, just like the fallen and leafless trees that sit beside them. Countless homes, restaurants, gas stations, shops and jobs were also lost.

According to experts, the massive humanitarian, climate and debt crises will prompt hundreds of thousands more to leave — many are expected to never return. In the three weeks that planes have been taking off from San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, already 10,000 residents have left. Puerto Ricans, who have an imposed second-class kind of citizenship, where they are able to serve in the U.S. military but not allowed to vote for the president or elect voting senators or representatives in the U.S. Congress, can legally migrate to any of the U.S. states. But the decision to do so remains complicated and difficult for most on the island.

“If I were alone, I’d stay. But I have young children, who don’t understand the situation, and us, who know that the hospitals aren’t functioning, if I have the opportunity to leave, I will,” Feliciano says.

We spoke with several Puerto Ricans on the island about their future. Here’s what they had to say.

Shakira, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi / PR on The Map)

“I’m staying. I think a lot of people are leaving the island because they can’t take the situation or to be with family. But I’m staying because I want to be part of bettering my island. If we all leave, there are few left to make change. I want to be a part of the new beginning here.”

Alba DeJesus, Hato Rey

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I don’t want to sound like a privileged class that says ‘Puerto Rico Se Levanta,’ because there are classes that can say that and see that and others that can’t, right, so I don’t want to perpetuate that. It’s intense what happened, and it’s intense what other people are living. They’re at zero. But I don’t want to leave, and I don’t want my family to leave. It’s a hard job, and it’s a job that will require us to really see what solidarity looks like.”

Nelson Rodriguez, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m going to try to fix my home. It’s not going to be fixed in one day, but if I work on it a little bit every day, then eventually it will be. Things aren’t going to be good, and it’s going to take a long time to rebuild. It will take years and years. If I can’t rebuild it, then I’ll go to the U.S. I have family in Boston and the Bronx.”

Lydia Osorio, Loíza

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“Honestly, my perspective is clear on leaving Puerto Rico. And it’s not just because of what’s happening now with Maria. No. It’s because what we are going through with the government. It’s forcing us to immigrate even if we don’t want to. You look for a job, and there isn’t one, or you have to wait or it’s complicated. There’s a lot of factors that go into play for a Puerto Rican to immigrate. If I go, I’d go to Orlando, Florida. My dad and my oldest daughter, who is 16, are there. And that’s where I’m at.”

Rubén, Vega Baja

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’ll stay here till I die.”

Sophia Rivera, Guaynabo

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m in college, and I’m going to stay studying here. I see myself at least helping as much as I can. If I’m outside, I will help as much as I can. This island, and everything in it, has helped me be the person that I am, and if I would be in another place, I wouldn’t be this good person. I know I’m a good person because I’m giving everything that I have to my community, and that’s the biggest opportunity that I could get here. It’s giving what I can to the people who need it.”

Joel Ortiz, Carolina (by way of the Dominican Republic)

(Photo Credit: Kat Lazo / PR on The Map)

“I would prefer to stay here and live here, but the situation is very bad. Even if you want to leave, it’s very hard to find tickets.”

Joselin, Old San Juan

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“It’s a compromise we have to make to stay, to stay to uplift, to construct. We don’t just want to reconstruct the country. The country that is behind us didn’t work. We need a new one.”

Vanessa Foy, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I won’t leave my country. I was born here, I grew up here and here I’ll wait to die.”

Genisis Quiñones, Loíza

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I can understand why people are leaving. There’s no money. …We’ve been thinking about leaving even before Irma or Maria happened, but I think my mom wants to stay because she doesn’t want to leave her father. … We don’t want to leave just because this happened and there aren’t any jobs. No, just because things are bad and then when things get better we want to come, ‘cause that’s gonna look bad, you know? We’re Puerto Rican, and we’re supposed to stay with the people that we love, even though things get bad. I think we are going to stay.”

Luis, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m not leaving. I was born here, I lived my whole life here and I will die here. Where would I even go? To the cemetery. That’s where I’ll go.”

Diana Cassanova, Aguadilla

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“A lot of people are leaving, and that’s a big mistake. If it’s hard to survive here that it’s cheaper, most of these people are going to end up in a shelter because the rents out there [in the U.S.] are ridiculous. I cannot survive no more in New York. I did it for 30 years. Once I retired, I cannot survive on my social security. So I came back here. And I won’t leave. I don’t want to be a burden to my kids. I’m here.”

Mariana, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi / PR on The Map)

“I am staying for now, but I lost my job, and so I need to leave to make money to return with more competitiveness and more money. We can’t judge the people who are leaving because of necessity because it’s a reality. We are going through a humanitarian crisis and an economic crisis, that already existed but now intensified with what just happened. If I have the opportunity to leave and work for a month, I’d do it. But ultimately it is necessary for us to stay, and, if we leave, for us to return so that we can continue to work for our community.”

Gabriel Díaz Rivera, Río Piedras

(Photo Credit: Raquel Reichard / PR on The Map)

“I’m planning on staying. That’s why we are doing what we are doing, to construct a Puerto Rico for ourselves. The rich and the millionaires will stay on the island. … And it’s important for us to stay to enjoy our terrain and to have a greater influence in the fixing of this country and getting out of this crisis, to create a country that’s for the people and not for the same small few that has benefited.”

Reporting for this article was made possible through PR on The Map, a Latinx independent media team put together by grassroots organizer and former Green Party Vice Presidential candidate Rosa Clemente to produce unfiltered, unapologetic and intergenerational coverage on Puerto Rico. Donate to PR on The Map here.

READ: Puerto Rico Is Completely Flooded And Could Go Months Without Electricity. Here’s How People In The U.S. Are Uniting Beautifully To Help

Let us know how you are helping out the people devastated by natural disasters in the Caribbean and Mexico in the comments.

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‘Siempre, Luis’ Is A Touching Love Letter From Lin-Manuel Miranda To His Father

Entertainment

‘Siempre, Luis’ Is A Touching Love Letter From Lin-Manuel Miranda To His Father

Mat Hayward / Getty Images for The Latinx House

We all have that one person who has changed the world for us. For Lin-Manuel Miranda, that person is his dad. The Puerto Rican entertainer created a documentary to tell his father’s story and it is a love letter to his father.

“Siempre, Luis” is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s love letter to his father.

The trailer for the HBO Documentary is a moving testament to the indomitable spirit of Luis Miranda. The Puerto Rican powerhouse helped lead a movement to get Latinos involved in and interested in politics focusing on Puerto Ricans who had left the island.

Lin-Manuel’s documentary is a deep dive into the life of the man who raised the creator of “In The Heights” and “Hamilton.” Luis was Lin-Manuel’s inspiration when playing Alexander Hamilton in his wildly popular and famous musical.

“He’s just a relentless motherf*cker,” Lin-Manuel says in the documentary.

The documentary takes people on a ride covering decades of Luis’ life. The main focus is his political activism and how one man helped create a movement to get Latinos involved in politics. Luis leveraged the hate and pushback against the Latino community as a way to energize and mobilize Latinos to get them involved like never before.

Then, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Luis’ home and magical escape. The island endured a direct hit from Hurricane Maria, which knocked out power to millions of Americans for months. Many Puerto Ricans fled the island for the mainland giving them a chance to vote for president in 2020.

“For me, Puerto Rico is this perfect place that all of a sudden doesn’t exist anymore,” Luis says through tears in the documentary. “I immediately saw it as my responsibility to rebuild the island.”

He added: “Doing everything we can becomes the job.

“I told him, ‘I don’t want to be a widow. There isn’t another you to replace you,’” Luz Towns-Miranda recalls to the camera about her husband’s mission to fix Puerto Rico.

Luis’ time talking about his work in Puerto Rico is accompanied by videos images of the “Hamilton” stage being constructed for the show on the island. There are shots of Luis offering aid to people and preparing meals for those impacted by the hurricane.

Luis’ activism has grown over the years and he is ready to keep making change.

“Siempre, Luis” is now available on HBO and HBOmax for your viewing pleasure. People have praised the film’s insightfulness into one of the Latinos who got his community activated and politically engaged.

READ: Lin-Manuel Wants To Keep Lots Of Ticket Prices Down To $10 When He Brings ‘Hamilton’ To Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico’s Governor Endorses President Trump’s Reelection

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico’s Governor Endorses President Trump’s Reelection

Ricardo Arduengo / AFP via Getty Images

The 2020 election is heating up as Nov. 3 draws closer. Both Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are seeking every endorsement possible and Puerto Rico’s governor just gave hers. Her endorsement has stunned Puerto Ricans and political pundits alike.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced endorsed President Donald Trump in his reelection.

Vázquez Garced was appointed as governor in 2019 following a tumultuous time on the island. Politically, Puerto Rico has recently undergone a series of protests because of political corruption and a chat scandal involving then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló.

Gov. Rosselló attempted to appoint his own successor before resigning following growing protest but the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional. Vázquez Garced was then appointed as governor. The Puerto Rican people then turned their protests against Rosselló to be against Vázquez Garced. #WandaRenuncia began trending when Rosselló announced his resignation.

The endorsement stunned people who just don’t understand why that endorsement happened.

“I ask all Puerto Ricans who are listening to go vote,” the governor said in an interview on Telemundo. “They have to go to vote, exercise their right to vote and evaluate who has represented being a person who thinks about Puerto Ricans and their needs at the most difficult moment. It is Donald Trump.”

The endorsement came as a surprise for people following President Trump’s disastrous response after Hurricane Maria. The president spent months denying the death count of the natural disaster and fought against aid to the island. It was during this time that the viral video of him throwing paper towels into a crowd of people hit Twitter sparking outrage among the Puerto Rican people.

Puerto Ricans really want people to remember that Vázquez Garced was not elected by the Puerto Rican people.

Vázquez Garced was supposed to accompany President Trump to a campaign event in Central Florida on Friday. Covid put a pause on that so the governor took time during an interview with Telemundo to offer her endorsement of President Trump.

Recently, President Trump approved a $13 billion relief package for Puerto Rico. The sudden move has been seen as political in an effort to get support from Puerto Ricans who fled the island for Florida because of the failed response in 2017. The president denies it saying he had been working on the package for “a long time.”

The endorsement has a very pointed purpose.

Puerto Ricans on the island, while American citizens, are not allowed to vote in the presidential election. However, the Puerto Ricans who left the island following a series of natural disaster are allowed if they are on the mainland.

Florida is one state that a lot of Puerto Ricans have landed and is a key state for either party to win the election. Political pundits have pointed to the Trump administration suddenly advancing things like the relief package as a way to secure the Puerto Rican vote.

Puerto Ricans are telling voters to listen to Puerto Ricans, not the governor of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans are not fans of President Trump. The Hurricane Maria response alone sank the president’s approval ratings with Puerto Ricans. In a recent poll, 52 percent of people in Puerto Rico rated President Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria as poor. Meanwhile, 15 percent of Puerto Ricans said his response was “excellent,” “very good,” or “good.”

READ: Political Chaos Returns To Puerto Rico As The Unelected Governor Faces Investigations And Calls For Her Resignation

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