Depopulation threatens Puerto Rico


[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] The experiences of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have emigrated are reflected in a study by Professor Jorge Duany that outlines their concerns. José Javier Pérez (El Nuevo Día) reports:

The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in the community where Desireé Torres used to live was the last straw for her. Long before the hurricane, she had plenty of reasons for deciding to leave Puerto Rico and move to central Florida seeking for better opportunities for her and her three children. And although the road has not been easy, it seems that life has been getting better for this 31 year old woman. Recently, she managed to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to extend her stay at the small hotel in Kissimmee where she has been living since she arrived in Florida three months ago. [. . .] Torres’ story is not the only one. It repeats constantly in other stories where the names change, but not the reasons to migrate.

This is reflected in one of the first studies on the Puerto Rican exodus to Florida, which predicts an upsurge in the depopulation of Puerto Rico that had begun during last decade recession and that was boosted after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on the island almost five months ago.

The study, titled The Puerto Rican Exodus to Florida; before and after hurricane Maria, was done by anthropologist Jorge Duany, an expert in Puerto Rican migration, who directs the Institute of Cuban Studies and is a professor of Anthropology in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at the Florida International University. It is based, mainly, on a telephone survey made to 351 residents of the island between January 10 and 12, 2018. The paper presents details about how Puerto Ricans live in Florida and predicts that the projections about the scope of the Puerto Rican migration to this state could be higher than previously thought.

According to the data provided to El Nuevo Día by Duany, all the people interviewed answered that they intend to move to the United States at some point. 65.2 percent said that once they emigrate, they would stay indefinitely.

Among the states selected for a potential emigration, the majority of the interviewees (36.8 percent) said they would move to Florida, 26.5 percent, to New York, and the rest mentioned other states such as Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Among those who said they would move to Florida, 45.7 percent said they would settle in Orlando, 24.8 percent in Miami, and 7 percent in Fort Lauderdale. “This suggests that the potential of Puerto Rican migration after María could be higher than what has been speculated so far,” says Duany in the study.

According to the Census, between 2000 and 2017, the island’s population declined from 3.8 million to 3.3 million people, due mainly to high emigration rates. The Census calculated that net migration from Puerto Rico to the United States amounted to 311,198 between 2000 and 2009 and to 428,421 between 2010 and 2017.

47 percent of those interviewed said that the economic crisis is the main reason to leave Puerto Rico. 18.5 percent mentioned the lack of job opportunities and 15.7 percent mentioned that they would move seeking for a better quality of life. “This result reflects the severe deterioration of living conditions in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. However, very few people (5.4 percent of those interviewed) specifically pointed out the damage of the hurricane or having lost their home as motivation to move to the United States,” says the anthropologist. [. . .]

Duany refers to the work of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, in New York, which after the hurricane estimated that between 114,000 and 213,000 Puerto Ricans would move next year and that, between 2017 and in 2019, Puerto Rico would lose 470,335 inhabitants and that most of them  would go to Florida.

Duany points out that these estimates – which surprised many because of the significant number they showed – could be too conservative in light of the behavior observed in the flow of Puerto Ricans traveling to the United States after Hurricane Maria. “Everything seems to indicate that the Puerto Rican exodus will experience an extraordinary surge in the immediate future and that the depopulation of the island, that began during the last decade economic recession, will accelerate,” Duany says, noting that, for the 2020 Census, the Puerto Rican population in Florida will surpass that of Puerto Ricans in New York and will become the main base of the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States. [. . .]

For full article, see

Also see “‘Exodus’ from Puerto Rico: A visual guide.” Hurricane Maria sent thousands fleeing devastation in Puerto Rico. Federal data obtained by CNN suggest migrants have moved to every US state — even Alaska. John D. Sutter and Sergio Hernandez, CNN:

One thought on “Depopulation threatens Puerto Rico

  1. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    My country is undergoing a process of ‘depopulation’ … beyond sad!!
    ‘ … all the people interviewed answered that they intend to move to the United States at some point. 65.2 percent said that once they emigrate, they would stay indefinitely.’

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