‘Live Boricua’ Campaign By Puerto Rico Tourism Department Draws Backlash
A new campaign by the Puerto Rico Department of Tourism invites foreigners to “Live Boricua.”
“In Puerto Rico, we call ourselves Boricua,” reads the ad. “It’s a unique name honoring our Island heritage, but it’s so much more.”
For islanders, being Boricua is not a commodity, much less in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
A campaign by and for foreigners, not for Puerto Rico
As Bianca Graulau, a Puerto Rican freelance journalist, explained, being Boricua, “it’s more than a label. It’s culture; it’s identity.”
In a video shared on her Instagram account, Graulau explained the origin of the term and the paradox of using it to exploit the island further.
“Boricua is another way that we, Puerto Ricans, call ourselves, and it comes from Borikén, which is the way that our indigenous ancestors called this land before it was colonized,” the journalist explains.
“But with this campaign, the tourism department commercialized [the term ‘Boricua’] to try and get tourists to spend money on U.S. hotel chains,” she added.
In fact, the campaign invites visitors to stay at Marriott properties. Its main image was a blond-haired family, which made the message very clear.
“Snowmen and sleighs are so last season,” the Discover Puerto Rico Facebook post reads. “Drop a (sun) if you’re ready to celebrate these holidays from Puerto Rico’s warm and Golden shores.”
And tourists have responded to the invitation
Airlines like Frontier and Spirit announced major expansions and increased routes to and from Puerto Rico. Likewise, international golf and volleyball championships have increased visitation to the island.
However, Graulau continued that the campaign aims “to get tourists to spend money on U.S. hotel chains.”
“These companies already profit off the land and have prime Access to natural resources,” the journalist continues. “But with this [new campaign], the government helps them also profit off the culture.”
According to a report by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico, the government’s projects go further.
New proposals have put a “for-tourists-only” San Juan Bay on the discussion table.
In addition to gentrifying island residents, the proposals “will bring changes to the area’s coastal ecosystem,” the media outlet explains.
To make matters worse, the infrastructure and project are in the hands of IDEAS, a U.S. design firm hired to work on the changes.
“A sort of mini Disney, I call it,” said Margarita Gandía, a businesswoman and Old San Juan resident. “These projects turn Old San Juan into a ghost zone.”
Or a new Hawaii, as perceived by Graulau, who asserts that exploiting culture and identity only benefits the foreign companies that invest.
“The native peoples have already seen their culture watered down and used to promote tourism to benefit U.S. companies,” she explains. “Their identity has also been presented as something to be consumed, all while some of the most important principles of these indigenous cultures are ignored, like the respect for the land.”