‘Exodus’ From Puerto Rico: A Visual Guide
Before Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, there already was an unprecedented migration from the Caribbean island to the mainland United States — at least in part because of the US commonwealth’s financial crisis. After the storm, academics are starting to use words such as “exodus” and “stampede” to describe the massive outflow of people.
“This is the greatest migration ever from Puerto Rico since records have been taken,” said Jorge Duany, a professor of anthropology at Florida International University. Some reasons for the migration are obvious: Millions of Americans living in Puerto Rico were left without power or running water because of the Category 4 hurricane. Schools were closed. Jobs lost. There seemed to be little hope on the horizon. Puerto Ricans are American citizens and can move to the states without visas or other paperwork. And so, many did.
Yet the scope and shape of this diaspora remain mysterious.
Some of these data surprised me and some didn’t. The map is exactly as I expect. Florida has been the go-to place for Puerto Ricans for the last few years, even jokingly being called the 79th municipality of the Island. New York being the number 2 destination isn’t either. Most people have a family member there. I find myself sadden, but I can’t blame them for looking for better opportunities.
What surprised me, and felt like a punch to the gut, was the future projections. With the best estimates being that there would be a little less than 3 million people here vs almost 4 million people that were mid-2000s, the economy will not recover. There will be no oversight board that will be able to fix this. Statehood will not achieve anything.
This is heartbreaking for me.