Things That Matter

Hurricane Maria Devastated Puerto Rico’s Agriculture Industry. This Website Is Helping To Bring It Back

Puerto Rico has faced numerous hardships within the last year as a result of Hurricane Maria. One of the them has been getting fresh produce. Puerto Rico currently imports about 85 percent of its food, a situation that became evident following Maria. That’s why José Nolla Marrero, a 17-year-old Puerto Rican high school student, created E-Farm, a digital e-commerce platform that connects farmers across Puerto Rico with consumers. It’s an ambitious idea that started when Marrero was 15. Two years later is playing a vital role in the revitalization of Puerto Rico.

Food and farming play a huge role in the economic stability of Puerto Rico, which makes platforms like E-farm so important in the island’s recovery.

Before Hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20, 2017, Puerto Rico was beginning to see signs of an entrepreneurial wave as start up tech companies sprouted up across the island. The 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum ranked Puerto Rico third in the availability of scientists and engineers.

Marrero is the perfect example of this young wave of entrepreneurs but instead of wanting to leave the island he wanted to connect with the people there. He participated in multiple entrepreneurship programs that earned him more than $40,000 in grant and seed money to help him develop the platform.

E-Farm was founded on the basis of helping farmers sell their produce to consumers in a modern way. Through the app, you can see and get to know the farmer and where the food is coming from before you buy it.

“I found out that people wanted a way of buying these products directly and that’s how the idea of E-Farm itself came about,” Marrero told NBC News. “My goal with E-Farm is to make every farmer an entrepreneur, so that they can be self sufficient and that they can sell their products directly to consumers.”

When Hurricane Maria hit, E-Farm’s growth was quickly halted because of what the storm did to produce in Puerto Rico.

When E-Farm first launched there was successes but things quickly turned south when Hurricane Maria hit. The storm devastated about 80 percent of all the island’s crops and damaged Puerto Rico’s dairy industry and coffee plantations.

“Hurricane Maria decimated the entire agricultural industry in Puerto Rico, which made it impossible for me to sell, since none of the farmers could sell themselves. I was also personally impacted,” Marrero told NBC News.

After Maria, there was a sense of isolation on the island since there was no electricity. With no internet and no cell service, E-Farm temporarily shut down and Marrero had difficulty even finishing school since he took online courses.

Today E-Farm is seeing a relaunch as the agriculture industry begins to recover in Puerto Rico.

E-farm today has 24 registered farms on it’s website and has shipped goods to consumers across Puerto Rico, New York, Connecticut and as far west as Montana. Marrer is currently in talks with five other farms as well as he tries to keep growing his brand.

Marrero wants the long term vision for E-Farm to be a bridge between farmers and consumers.

For farmers who sell their products on E-Farm, the platform has been instrumental in getting their businesses back up as well.

“Helping a farmer or helping anyone in your community in particular, I’ll put it this way, it feels better than getting an A+,” Marrero said. “It shows how your work really affects people in a positive way.”


READ: Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll Is Now Close To 3,000 People Instead Of The 64 People Originally Reported

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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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