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Would you move home to a place that’s sinking under the weight of a $72 billion debt?
For Puerto Ricans, there’s no easy answer.
An average of 230 people leave the island every day due to the lack of economic opportunities tied to the debt crisis, according to data published by the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla has called the situation the “worst economic and humanitarian crisis” in the commonwealth’s history.
The government is facing its biggest challenge yet — being forced constitutionally to make an $800 million payment on Friday, even if that means cutting down on essential public services.
Puerto Rico’s complex political relationship with the United States means that islanders are U.S. citizens, which makes moving to the mainland as easy as hopping on a plane. But they don’t enjoy the same protections as the 50 states — such as the ability to vote during presidential elections — or get the same federal funding for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. And they can’t restructure their debt without Congress’ input.
It’s not all mass emigration, though. There are a number of locals bucking the trend and returning home despite the economic crisis. Among them, there are women who believe the next step in their paths is helping to create a renaissance in spaces such as the arts, agriculture, and technology. Many of them were met with skepticism, but that didn’t stop them from taking up the challenge.
Ahead, meet the inspiring Puerto Rican women who've returned home despite the economic crisis.
Courtesy of Sheilla Torres-Nieves