The Puerto Rico you knew was a tropical destination. White sandy beaches and vibrant blue hues from the sky were the picturesque scene you'd expect. Pastel colored houses and people chattering about in the cobblestone streets of Viejo San Juan were just the norm.
The Puerto Rico I experienced two months ago was true to the new stigma of debt, poverty, and disparity. Everyone knows the U.S. territory is suffering with a debt toll of $70 billion. From years of mismanagement by the government, the people of Puerto Rico are left with this tiresome burden.
What news reports do not show is just how desolate Condado, Piñones, and Isla Verde have become. Granted I stayed mainly in the country's capitol, where one would expect it to be populous and buzzing during the vacation season. Surprisingly, I saw nothing but vacant bars, restaurants, and rooftops during "happy hour". Taxi drivers were nothing short of desperate for their next customer. It was apparent Puerto Rico had become deserted. Even as a first timer I knew something was off. It wasn't until my friend said, "Last time I came here there were so many people. I've never seen the streets so empty" that I came to terms with how bad the island was suffering.
The debt crisis in Puerto Rico has not only crippled the country but it has crippled the tourism industry tenfold. Abandoned hotels and apartment complexes stood high while overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean. Endless "For Sale" signs displayed without a consumer base financially able to buy. The most shocking part was the actual absence of tourists. Puerto Rico is no longer the quick Caribbean getaway it once was. While close in proximity to the United States it is apparent we aren't going there. Not only have the Puerto Rican government and its people given up but Big Brother America has closed its doors as well.
Puerto Rico cannot sustain a tourism industry when their own flee to the United States to seek refuge for the centuries old notion of the "American Dream". Puerto Rico is in crisis and they need help.