Puerto Rico’s Economy Continues to Decline

Morayma Reyes Alejandro Garcia Padilla, governor of Puerto Rico, has referred to the island as being in an economic “death spiral.” Monday marked a historical moment in the spiral, when Puerto Rico went into default for the first time ever. Paying back a mere $628,000 to creditors of its Public Finance Corporation of the $58 million debut bill on Monday, those who will be hurt the most by going into default will be the island’s residents. Most of the debt is owned by Puerto Ricans through credit unions.

The government is strategically choosing to not pay its debt due to creditors of the PFC because the entities that own the debt have little legal power to fight back in court. While other debt, some of which is controlled by Wall Street hedge funds, were paid on Monday, due to their legal clout. “This was a decision that reflects the serious concerns about the Commonwealth’s liquidity in combination with the balance of obligations to our creditors and the equally important obligations to the people of Puerto Rico,” said Melba Acosta Febo, president of Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank.

While Puerto Rico has the same amount of outstanding debt as New York state, it’s economy isn’t nearly what it is in the Empire State, with Puerto Rico’s value at $69 billion, and New York at $1.2 trillion. Former government employee Omar Rodriguez recently left the island first the first time to move to Austin, Texas where he works at a restaurant and as an assistant teacher. “I wouldn’t imagine having the same quality of life in Puerto Rico at the moment and that saddens me,” said Rodriguez.

Unemployment in Puerto Rico is almost double the rate in mainland United States, which is driving Puerto Ricans to flee in the island in search of firmer economic ground. With a shrinking population comes a reduced tax base, making it nearly impossible for the island to pay back its debts. To top it all off, Puerto Rico is also experiencing a severe drought with the government rationing water and some families going without running water for days.

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Puerto Rico Experiencing Increasing Migration Numbers

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Source: Pew Research Center

As Puerto Rico’s economy continues to experience a steady decline , more people are finding themselves moving to the United States in search for better opportunities. This migration wave is one of the largest to date, just short of the epic 1950s era. According to a data collecting online tool, there are now more Puerto Ricans living in Florida, than in PR.

One of the biggest factors attributing to the country’s declining economy is the huge governmental debt, that is now amounting to 73 billion dollars. One important thing to keep in mind is that PR’s debt does not mirror its population’s needs. Its debt is comparable to a large state like NYC, however, its population is closer to Connecticut. This situation is due to a number of things, including out of means spending and migration. The latter reduces the tax amount the country is able to collect, which is necessary in establishing a reserve to start repaying the debts. Other clipping factors include overspending, high energy costs, and a dependency on borrowing funds from other countries.

Migration is common among people of all ages and classes, especially college students. After completing higher education, most graduates look for job opportunities in the states, or different countries. These numbers greatly diminishes the output of internal economy, and eliminate any chance on economic development in the field of law, medicine and business . According to this article “between 1980 and 2000, the average annual migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland United States was 12,000 people. From 2010 to 2013 — when the economy started tanking — that figure jumped to 48,000 people per year.”  Many believe that the worst is yet to come, as the country’s biggest electricity provider, PREPA,  is approaching a debt payment of 400 million dollars this July. Even though most of the Caribbean is turning to more efficient and natural energy options, PREPA continues to rely on oil fields and “inefficient” spending.  

Must See-attle Spots

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Views from Seattle

1. Pike Place

Pike Place is one of the most famous market places in Seattle. People can walk around and visit the individual vendors which start selling right at 9 AM. Pike Place offers fresh food, amazing atmosphere, original Starbucks, flowers, and tourists. What more can you ask for?

2. The Seattle Waterfront

Visitors can kick off their trip by walking through the bay and the skyline views will follow you on the other side. Besides the amazing views, people can expect a plethora of entertainment such as bars, restaurants and movie theaters.

3. Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture is a fun public park where people can take a swift walk near the waterfront, as well as free tours through the city to learn more about its history. Some notable installations include the Eagle, Typewriter Eraser and many others. 

4. Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

This is a must visit for fans of Seattle, and despite the confusing layout of the museum visitors can enjoy the displays which vary from modern to contemporary. And for those who are conscious of their budgets, the museum offers free visits every Thursday!

5. The Foremont Troll 

This is a fun local art work from the Seattle community and it is an attraction for people who want to take a goofy photo and further explore the statue.  The Troll is made of concrete materials and thought out by local artists in the 1990’s. It’s unique to the area, fun and quirky, and the countless photo ops further prove its popularity among tourists. 

6. The Space Needle 

The Space Needle is an iconic monument in Seattle standing at 605-ft tall and 848 stairs. It is one of the best known symbols in the US, which also acts as an observatory to look over the beautiful city, in its glory. While enjoying the views, visitors can also have dinner.

7. Discovery Park

People who have visited this park say its the best place for hikes through the woods and walks on the beach without getting to far from the city. The park has a great mix of trees, forest, shoreline, and some history as well.  Favorite hikes include the North Beach Trail, which you can get to easiest by the North Parking Lot. 

Influential Women of Puerto Rican Origin

As we say goodbye to National’s Women’s History Month, Morayma would like to reflect on some of the most influential women who are of Puerto Rican origin. As a native Puerto Rican herself, Morayma appreciates the work and precedent set forth by these women, which has inspired her to work harder and pursue a career in the medical field. As we move forward and continue to fight for women equality, it’s important to reflect on what these women have done for society as a a whole and learn from their courage.

Top Four Landmarks In Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an exotic destination for many people, but some of its rare beauty is passed over for beaches and all inclusive resorts. Often, people who chose to experience the tourist version of a country tend to miss out on some amazing attractions these places have to offer. This is no different for Puerto Rico- a country that is rich in culture, history and sightseeing. Below are four of the island’s must see landmarks:

1. Castillo de San Felipe del Morro

Morayma ReyesCommonly known as the “El Morro”, this is one of the best known attractions in San Juan, as well as one of the richest in history. The castle is over 400 years old and it was used to protect the city from travelers, war and even traders from the New World. When visiting this old citadel, one can experience how soldiers lived in the 1500s and bypass war memorabilia such as cannons and sentry boxes. A full majestic view of the city from the top of the El Morro is an extra perk of visiting this landmark.

2. El Yunque
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Cascading through the Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island, this beautiful natural wonder is breathtaking. People can kayak during the day and marvel the bountiful flora around, and in the evening witness the forewent waterfall shimmering in the moonlight. This place still remains all natural and has yet to be touched by man.

3. Camuy Caves

Morayma ReyesThis cave system is one of the largest in the world, and its sub-terrain has a diverse eco- makeup. The ravines in the caves stretch as far as 600 feet deep, past an underground river. The adventurous can take this excursion even further by sliding, body rafting and even jumping inside the cave’s edges.

4. Culebrita

Morayma Reyes This is a private beach that is all natural and only a few people have access to it. Located on the east coast of the main island, Culebrita can only be reached by a water taxi or private jet. One of the main attractions of the beach is Playa Tortuga or “Turtle Beach”, which is spread across golden sand and see through blue waters.

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island, and it can offer different experiences to people who chose to take on a unique route when visiting this historical place. Despite your vacation plans, you can’t go wrong even if you spend your whole time sipping a Pina Colada on the beach.

Tax Breaks For the Wealthy

Morayma ReyesPuerto Rico’s economic down fall has been happening for over a decade now, and with minimal to no sign of improvement the government has introduced tax breaks for visiting US citizens in hopes of reaching an economic recovery. In 2012, PR introduced a law that allows U.S  citizens, who live on the island for over six months, to pay close to no taxes on their income and expenses. A recent study conducted by the Department of Economic Development and Commerce found that a little over 200 private equity and hedge fund moguls have made plans or already moved to Puerto Rico in order to take advantage of this law.

Any person who moves to Puerto Rico is exempt from paying a local or federal tax on capital gains, as well as no taxes will be applied to their salaries. In 1917, the US granted US citizenship to all Puerto Ricans, which allows the islanders to leave for the US for better job opportunities. Between 2005 and 2012 close to 280,000 doctors, engineers and other professionals moved to the US to pursue their careers. With this new law in place, the PR government is trying to lure in a wealthy tier of US citizens in order to increase spending and give their economy a boost. 

Many economists hope that personal and corporate spending, such as buying homes and retail space, as well as other materialistic spending will contribute to the development of the economy. However, many are cautious of this new law, and are questioning the the true value of importing hundreds of millionaires and billionaires in an island that has currently the lowest income per capita in the US. Only time will tell if the introduction of this tax exempt law will have any significant influence on the economy, or if will just further divide the country between the have and have nots.

Top Resorts in Puerto Rico

Morayma ReyesPuerto Rico is one of the most traveled to destinations around the world.  And why wouldn’t it be? With it’s exquisite beaches, dense rainforest, and delicious local cuisine, Puerto Rico is the place to be.  But when you’re traveling, it is important to find a safe, comfortable and relaxing resort with great reviews.

First on the list  is the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort .  Located on the northeastern corridor of Puerto Rico, this resort has been named the top pic three years in a row for Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot & Gold List.  The resort sits right at the tail end of The El Yunque National Rain Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States.  In The St. Regis Bahia, you can choose your room to look out at either the ocean, the rainforest gardens, a beautiful golf course, and if you’re really lucky – all three.

Each room of the resort is unbelievably comfortable, with beds that you could rest in for days.  But why would you with all the endless amounts of activities to participate in during your stay at this resort, from golf to exploring the rainforest, to laying out by the beach – this resort has it all.  And, if you do want to leave, Old San Juan is only a thirty-minute drive from the resort, where you can walk along centuries-old streets detailed with 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial buildings. Not only can you admire the beauty of San Juan, but you can go boutique shopping and sit at old cafes, which truly encompasses Spanish colonial aromas.

The next resort on the list is the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino  , situated along Condado Beach in San Juan.  This resort has been rated a 4-diamond when it comes to luxury and entertainment, which means you can have the most peaceful vacation or the most adventurous.  This resort’s rooms and suites have just been upgraded with a combination of upscale and homey decorations to make you feel as comfortable as possible.  Not only does the San Juan Marriott have one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico, it also has a pool with a water slide and whirlpool; and if swimming isn’t your thing, there’s always the casino.

Last, but certainly not least, on this list is the Waldorf-Astoria’s El Conquistador Resort  .  This resort is home to five unique villages, including the popular tropical getaway: Las Casitas Village.  The Resort includes a plethora of restaurants and bars, has it’s own Spa, and is family-friendly with tons of water-front activities to participate it – you can even visit Palomino Island for some snorkeling.  This resort fully encompasses what it means to relax in soothingness of nature – from the sounds of animals in the rainforest, to the sounds of the waves crashing along the shore, this resort is truly wonderful.

Puerto Rican Debt Troubles Continue to Worsen

Morayma ReyesFor many Americans, Puerto Rico is viewed as a sunny vacation spot right in our back yard, but not many are aware of the economical struggles PR has been facing the past decade. Puerto Rico’ labor and unemployment rates are almost double that of the mainland US. These troubling conditions force almost 10,000 Puerto Ricans to leave their homes and head for the mainland in search of work and stability.

Compared to the rest of the Caribbean nations, PR has some of the lowest fixed investment rates and they continue to show little improvement in the future. The situation remains unstable as many foreign venture capitalist firms are withdrawing and even cashing out of their investments in PR. These trends negatively affect financial operations within the country, and will only damage future economic stability. In addition to declining foreign investments and demoralizing unemployment rates, public debt is also on the rise. A recent study found that nearly 15 percent of the Puerto Rican budget is dedicated to paying the country’s steadily rising debt, leaving little room for development opportunities.

After the introduction a law aiming at restructuring of the country’s debt, current traders and bond recipients are growing nervous at the possibility that the billions of dollars acquired by PR and the public masses might not be paid. This new law signed by governor Garcia Padilla allows pubic  businesses and corporations such as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to default and restructure their their debt budgets without a penalty. In turn, this law hurts venture capitalists who have invested billions of dollars in PR, as well as the government’s future ability to participate in the bond market trading.

In April 2014, governor Garcia Padilla addressed the public with a new legislature that reflected a billion dollar cut in public spending and other economic actions. Along with these domestic changes, the Puerto Rican government is also working closely with US bail out agencies and experts in order to guide them through this difficult time and find possible solutions.

Top 5 Traditional Puerto Rican Dishes

Dr. Morayma ReyesIf you have had the pleasure of enjoying Puerto Rican traditional dishes you will know too well the unique and eclectic  ingredients used to make these unforgettable meals. Although the island’s culture is deeply rooted in the Caribbean culture, its cuisine is distinguished enough to stand on its own. Below you will find a list of five traditional dishes that one can find almost everywhere in Puerto Rico:

1. Arroz con Gandules

This is a signature Puerto Rican dish that has become extremely popular throughout latin America and in the past few decades it has made its way to the Untied States as well. This meal is an easy combination of pigeon peas and it can be paired with pork, chorizo, ham, red peppers and even olives. Sofrito is a special sauce that is used to give this dish a little kick and differentiate it from your run of the mill rice and beans plate. In many communities, Arroz con Gandules is served during special occasions and around the holiday season. 

2. Lechón

Lechon is a pork dish that is traditional to Spain and it became popular to its colonial conquests around the world. This recipe is simple to prepare given that all it requires is a whole pig and charcoal. The slow roasted pig is served with a variety of dishes and is usually a staple meal during festivals and other national festivities. This beloved dish even has its own road in Guavate, Puerto Rico, known as the Ruta Del Lechon. 

3. Mofongo

This tasty and filling meal is a plantain based dish that is made of mashed friend plantains, broth, garlic, olive oil and pork bits and/or  bacon. An infusion of broth and vegetables, stewed chicken, shrimp and other protein is poured over the mofongo. This national dish can be found in any Puerto Rican restaurant and the variety in which it can be moderated can fulfill anyone’s diary restrictions. 

4. Asopao

Asopao is a savory dish that is a combination between a paella and soup. The hearty meal can be prepared with chicken, rice,  garden vegetables and a variety of seasonings that give it an extra kick for those who enjoy a spicy meal. This dish is perfect if you are looking for a light dinner that is also filling.

5. Fried Snacks 

This final entry is dedicated to a wide variety of fried foods that can be enjoyed as snacks or appetizers before a big family meal. Some of these snacks are capurrias or fried turnovers, or my favorite – almojábanas, which are cheese-flavored rice fritters.

The variety and colorfulness of Puerto Rican cuisine is not lost on foodies. The rich culture and bountiful ingredients give these meals a unique flavor that is not easily forgotten.

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