Life is good. I recently moved back home to Puerto Rico after 7 years in the USA. Life is good. I recently had my first daughter, she’s four months old today. Life is good. I have a beautiful and intelligent wife that loves me. Everything is more than OK.
Let’s take a step back for a second… I left PR in 2007 because I was looking to build a career. I have been keeping an eye on the economic and social situation in Puerto Rico for several years and I’ve been wanting to move home for quite some time (I confess, I’ve been looking for the right spot to move home from the second I left) but it never felt like the right moment…until the winter of 2013-2014 rolled around. During this time there was a lot of news about Puerto Rico’s economy and the difficulties it was facing. There was also a lot of news about different measures government and enterprises were taking to grow the economy and push forward. Full disclosure: I’m bullish on Puerto Rico. At the same time, anyone who lived north of Virginia and East of Idaho at any point between October 2013 and May 2014 knows this last winter was f***ing brutal. The cold weather and the impending birth of my daughter, combined with my bullishness towards the future of Puerto Rico, served as motivation to begin stepping up my efforts to get home.
As a part of stepping up my efforts I posted a message on my high school alumni page on LinkedIn stating my intentions to move home. In the post I explained my experience and the industries I was interested in working in; I did this with hopes that some of the people in my alumni network could lend a helping hand. The first response I received was not what I was looking for. It was an honest, thoughtful response from an attorney that attended the same High School as me urging me not to move to Puerto Rico because of the economic situation. The following was my response which I felt compelled to share with you all because I believe it is a message that does not receive enough attention:
“Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your advice… I am, although, going to respectfully decline the advice. I have not made the decision to move home lightly… it is a result of… months of research, analysis, and some soul-searching. My desire to move home is fueled, in part, by my desire to raise my newborn daughter near our immediate, and extended, family; by my desire to have a positive impact on society in Puerto Rico and by my belief that there is a wealth of opportunity in Puerto Rico.
There are many economic problems on the island but within desperation, and desperate economies, often lies immense opportunity. This is a thought reinforced by multi-billionnaires like John Paulson that have decided to bet $1 Billion+ of their money on Puerto Rico. A thought also reinforced by the fact that some of today’s strongest corporations began during the Great Depression (i.e. Macy’s, GEICO, Sony Music, Ricoh, Hasbro, Revlon)…
Furthermore, in my opinion, the economic situation in the USA is not really that much better than in Puerto Rico when looked at closely. The US is broke, but it prints its own money so it is able to create a perception of affluence. In many states there are better public benefits than in PR but you pay a very high tax-rate to get the services. This can negate the additional income made by virtue of working in a “sound” economy. The problems in Puerto Rico are not very different than the problems in many other countries. They are real, but they are not insurmountable.
I propose a change in the subject and the language we use when discussing the future of Puerto Rico. Even my father heard the same warnings of an island in despair while he was considering moving our family to Puerto Rico in the 80’s and his father heard the same things in the 30’s and 40’s. Let us engage in conversations of how to take advantage of the incredible human capital present on the island… of how we can use the natural beauty of our island to attract foreign money through tourism… of how we can start taking back the agriculture economy that is being hi-jacked by companies like Monsato, etc.
I did my best to be concise in my response since it is a complex issue (probably failed the concise part) and I assure you my intention is not to create dispute, but to create productive, positive and solution-oriented conversations. I’d love to sit and have a conversation and an adult beverage, or two, because through conversation we create solutions and uncover opportunity.”
This response opened several doors for me and ultimately helped me get a very good job in the financial district of Puerto Rico. It’s very important we change the vocabulary we use when discussing the future of our Island. Once we drop the pessimistic vocabulary we can have an optimistic conversation about the future.