puerto rico bankruptcy


The denomination, Puerto Rico evokes a destination rife with abundance. By substituting, Pobre for Rico, it suggests a place of great need. Thus it is currently in Puerto Rico. The small Caribbean island within the U.S. orb is on the verge of bankruptcy.


In 1493, during the Second Voyage, as his ships 17 cruised through an archipelago in what would become known as the Greater Antilles of the Caribbean Sea of the Caribbean Sea, Christopher Columbus set foot on Borínquen or Borikén, as it was known to the indigenous Taínos. The smallest of those islets, it measures only 110 by 40 miles. The Taínos as a tribe disappeared centuries ago. Nevertheless, their present-day descendants – now an amalgam of Spanish and African blood – still refer to themselves as Borinqueños or Borincanos.



christopher columbus statue


Although Columbus's stay was only about 2 hours, it is forever commemorated on the island. Approaching the Spanish fortress city of Old San Juan from the upper, ocean-front road, there stands a statue of Columbus in the center of Plaza Colón, which is named after him. In the western city of Mayagüez, that tribute is repeated. In a section of the Greater San Juan area known as Caparra, there lies the remains of a residence once supposedly occupied by Ponce de León, the vaunted seeker of the Fountain of Youth. Prominent in the foreground of the island's capitol, facing the Atlantic Ocean, there is a statue of a scolding John the Baptist, after whom the capital city is named. In Loiza Aldea, descendants of the black gold brought to the island to replace the decimated Taínos, still scamper up coconut trees, to the delight of tourists. Not too long ago, their rope ferries still transported people and cars from one side of the river to the other.



el morro


Discovery; conquest; extinction; bondage; the Stars and Stripes – thus is the lore of this jot in the panoply of Spanish ambition in the New World.


In 1898, the American Eagle, prodded by yellow journalism – decided to spread its neo-imperialist wings from the far-flung Pacific to the romantic Caribbean. When this incredible flight was over, the Spanish had been evicted from Cuba and Puerto Rico. The American flag was planted on the latter. Army and Navy bases were established in Puerto Rico. The U.S. Justice Department and Post Office moved in. American school teachers were imported in an attempt to inculcate Puerto Ricans with American culture and the English language. Nevertheless, a contingent of Puerto Ricans opposed the Americans from the very beginning.


Via the 1917 Jones Act, Congress made all Puerto Ricans citizens of the U.S. Regardless, on separate occasions, in the 1950s, Puerto Rican extremists attempted to assassinate President Harry S. Truman and did manage to shoot up the U.S. House of Representatives while it was in session.


The U.S. Congress granted Puerto Rico home-rule as a Commonwealth. With the U.S. imprimatur having been well established, two major political parties resulted, reflecting the sentiments of the Republicans and the Democrats. A small portion of the populace remained independence-minded, with an even smaller number of them, now and then, consisting of the hardcore Independentistas.



isla verde puerto rico


In the 1960s, a joint U.S.-Puerto Rican operation entitled, Bootstrap/Fomento was initiated in order to boost the economic viability of the island. This attracted mainland business, which increased the presence of mainlanders on the island. This venture was instrumental in reviving and beautifying Old San Juan. After the Castro takeover in Cuba, many of the U.S. interests there switched to Puerto Rico. Large hotels began to book the best of American showbiz talent. The area from Isla Verde through the Condado Strip and on to Old San Juan became a year-round destination for tourists worldwide. Then, the green monster of nationalism reared its five-percenter head.


The Independentistas insisted that, by allowing performers from the mainland and other countries to monopolize the entertainment venues, Puerto Rican performers were being slighted. The fact is that Puerto Rican performers are the equal or better of any in the world. However, because they are not known internationally, they did not draw the type of attention required to sustain that same high level of tourism. Consequently, visitors to the hotels and other, related venues throughout the island suffered tremendous economic losses.



Puerto Rican independence march


A refurbished area of Old San Juan began to attract the huge tourist ships. Although those short stays helped some Old San Juan businesses, it was no comparison to the overall, island-wide support to economy that the hotels were able to generate.


With the economy at an all-time low, for the past decade there has been a steady exodus of Puerto Ricans to the mainland. After the granting of citizenship, there was a steady trail of Puerto Ricans to New York City. That population gradually grew to balance that of the island. This new immigrant clash with mainland culture was dramatized on stage and screen by Westside Story. When this writer was growing up in Philadelphia in the 30s and 40s, there were no Puerto Ricans. Today, they are as visible as any other minority group. These latest arrivals, however, head for the State of Florida.. At first, it was Miami; now there is a growing Puerto Rican presence in the Orlando area.


Back on the island, with a depressed economy and rapidly disappearing tax base, they are at the threatening point of literally having the lights turned off! The power company, deeply in the red, is attempting to work out an agreement involving the stockholders and the U.S. Government, which would allow it to re-structure its debt. The alternative is bankruptcy.

***** ***** *****

Out here, in the Caribbean,

Quite soon, we may not be seein'.

'tWere this not enough,

Now, "zika's" our stuff.

'sToo much for a human bein'!

[This writer is a former resident of Puerto Rico. En mi Viejo San Juan is a song cherished by Puerto Ricans. Here is a link to Tommy Dodson singing my translation of that song, the only English version authorized by the composer, Noel Estrada.]




Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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