THE EXODUS OF OUR HOPE

by Jose E. Enrique Fernandez

Puerto Rico faces a crisis that goes beyond debt or natural disasters. It is a crisis that hurts my soul, because we are losing the very heart of our land: its people.

Between 2010 and 2020, Puerto Rico's population decreased by 439,915 Puerto Ricans, almost 12% of the population. According to demographer Judith Rodríguez Figueroa, this massive emigration, together with the drop in the birth rate, has caused an imbalance in the age structure of the population. In the last two decades, the total number of people aged 29 and under decreased by 802,000, while those over 65 saw an increase of 269,000 people.

WHY ARE THEY LEAVING?

Behind these numbers are faces, stories, dreams and hopes. These are not just numbers, they are generations of talent that could have been pillars in the reconstruction and progress of our island. A nation is not built only with bricks and mortar, but with the hard work and determination of its people. But how can we ask our young people to stay when employment and fair wages are becoming less and less?

 

LOVE FOR OUR ISLAND DOES NOT FILL STOMACHS, NOR DOES IT PAY BILLS.

It hurts to see how our professionals, artists, workers, and dreamers decide to leave in search of a better future. And the most worrisome thing is that not only are we losing human potential, but we are leaving behind the most needy and our elderly. Those who gave their lives to build a prosperous Puerto Rico now face the uncertainty of a retirement system in ruins, without the support network of the new generations.

IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE!

We cannot allow the brain drain to continue at the rate it is going. It is our duty, both the government and the private sector, to create an environment conducive to development, with job opportunities that are competitive and attractive. Puerto Rico must be a place where our young people want to stay, work and build their lives. It is important that bold steps be taken to invest in education, in agriculture, in infrastructure and, above all, in our people.

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