I am a huge fan of David Begnaud of CBS News. His posts are the first I see when I go to Facebook. In my opinion, he’s the only journalist who’s truly impartial in his reporting about Puerto Rico. Even when practicing impartiality, he’s an ardent supporter of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans. His Hurricane Maria coverage was exceptional, as was his reporting about Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, the #RickyRenuncia protests and more recently the #WandaRenuncia protests. Both governors admitted to knowing about food and supplies that lay in a warehouse, undelivered to people on the island following Maria and the 6.4 earthquake on January 7th. Begnaud is the only reporter willing to go the extra mile to accurately report what’s going on here.
From the moment my husband and I resurfaced with phone and Internet access seven days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, my friends and family stateside—now seeing Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans through my eyes, and no longer as the island of perpetual sun, numerous beaches and the fort in Old San Juan—began looking to me to keep them informed. All of them asked me then and continue ask me, “how can we help Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans on the island?”
Honestly the answer is simple. Donate to trustworthy organizations and spend your tourism dollars here, but there’s a caveat. Let’s hold a pin there for a moment.
When I saw this post on Begnaud’s Facebook page yesterday, I just about flipped.
For the complete article, click here.
How to Donate to Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans
Apart from numerous Big Pharma and other U.S. companies using Puerto Rico for “off-shore” manufacturing, Walmart and other big box stores like Home Depot and Costco, there’s no industry here. The island is poor, with a median income of $20,296 annually. Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans clearly need help, and if our current and previous governor like to keep life-saving supplies from the neediest of people, donating to trustworthy organizations and tourism are the answers. Look at these figures.
How can it be that salaries are so low when there are so many big box stores, numerous Big Pharma companies and so many luxury hotels on the island? Because these companies aren’t owned by Puerto Ricans, they’re all owned by Americans and they pay people $7.25 to operate their precious companies. Sure some make higher salaries, but they’re one quarter to a half of what Americans in the states make for the same job.
There are only two solutions: one is to donate money and supplies to people you know and trust will actually deliver it those who need it. Stories abound about the Red Cross and others diverting donations to line executives’ pockets. So how do you know whom to trust?
It helps to know the people personally or to spend time doing your homework. For example, my friend Joel Berrocal is a long standing member of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce. I know that every dollar raised in their fundraising goes directly to Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans. Every dollar.
Additionally, a friend of Joel’s sent tents and mattresses donated to her to be delivered to people whose homes were destroyed in the 6.4 quake near the Ponce and Guanica regions. They’re living outside. Fortunately it’s not cold here.
Both have personal ties to the island, so they have no agenda other than helping people who need it.
Experiential Travel Helps Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans
Tourism is the other obvious choice, but not the kind that patronizes the big name hotels and attractions, but rather experiential travel, which helps “mom and pop” restaurants, food trucks and Puerto Rican owned attractions, and staying in Airbnbs not hotels. In other words, ensuring your tourism dollars benefit locals not multinational corporations. So when I see articles that impede the ability of extremely hard working small business owners from feeding themselves, it unnerves me.
Every time you eat in a restaurant owned by Puerto Ricans, you get to do two very important things:
- Eat a yummy meal that has a rich history and culture baked into it
- Help a local person feed their family
I can assure you none of these mom and pop restaurants are making anywhere near the kind of money chain restaurants you can find back home are raking in. By donating to trustworthy people and/or patronizing small businesses, run by hard working Boricua, you are doing more for Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans than you ever could donating to corrupt organizations like the Red Cross.
So How Can You Help Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans?
Book your flight today. Tell Jet Blue and other airlines you want to spend your winter vacation on La Isla del Encanto and prove them wrong. We’re at the beginning of our tourist season and we need you!
And if you need a vacation planner because you can’t find too many local businesses on the Internet (most on the island do not have an Internet presence), here’s what Purple Coquí Tours will do:
Featured image photo credit: Wendy Seda.