Puerto Rico

The number of new Zika cases in Puerto Rico has dropped dramatically in recent weeks, yet health officials worry the full effect of the outbreak on the island may not be known for months or years to come.

Puerto Rico has confirmed more than 34,000 Zika infections since the virus was first detected on the island in November 2015.

Univision

Before Wynwood was the heart of hipster Miami, it was a Puerto Rican enclave. So Puerto Rican community leaders and business owners recently gathered there at Jimmy'z Kitchen for a campaign fundraiser.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

On Labor Day there was a good Puerto Rican party on Hollywood Beach – classic Willie Colón salsa music playing on the boom box – hosted by a South Florida group called Boricuas Realengos.

Boricua means Puerto Rican, and so the group’s name translates to “Far-Flung Puerto Ricans.”

Carlos Giusti / AP

Puerto Rico is suffering one of the worst economic crises in the western hemisphere. Adding to the U.S. territory’s problems right now is a massive, island-wide blackout - which gives Puerto Ricans one more reason to come to Florida.

(This post was updated at 2:11 p.m. ET.)

Puerto Rico's governor, Alejandro García Padilla, has declared a state of emergency over a power outage that at its peak affected 1.5 million customers.

By morning that number had been cut by a couple hundred thousand, but more than a million customers on the island remained without electricity.

One of the most surprising stories of the Olympics, which end on Sunday, was the unseeded Monica Puig's improbable march to the gold medal in women's singles tennis. Puig's win captured Puerto Rico's first-ever gold medal in the Olympics, and set off massive celebrations across the island. It was a big-ass deal.

Spencer Parts / WLRN.org

Puerto Rico’s economic crisis has gotten deeper this summer. This month the U.S. commonwealth defaulted on $1 billion of debt – and the U.S. Congress approved a federal oversight board to rescue the island.

Puerto Ricans living on the U.S. mainland want a say in how that happens. So they recently created a more unified front called the National Puerto Rican Agenda (NPRA). The group includes a South Florida chapter – which reflects the surprising growth of Florida’s Puerto Rican population down here, not just in Central Florida.

Puerto Rico's governor has signed a bill that puts the island's debt payments on hold until January 2017. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla says the island's first priority is covering payments for essential services.

Puerto Rico acted this week following reports that a key financial institution, the Government Development Bank, is nearly insolvent. A group of hedge funds went to court to block public agencies from withdrawing funds from the bank. Within hours, the Legislature moved to pass the debt moratorium by approving the measure.

San Jorge Children's Hospital is Puerto Rico's largest pediatric hospital, drawing patients from throughout the Caribbean. It's a bustling facility in San Juan, with specialties in surgery, rheumatology and oncology. It also has brightly colored live parrots at every entrance.

"It just sends a message to the patient that they're in a friendly place," explains San Jorge's vice president of operations, Domingo Cruz Vivaldi. "That they're here to be treated, but they're also going to have a good time."

Luis Hernandez: It's not like any of us ever mention where we're from unless we're asked. I don't go around saying, hello, I'm Luis Hernandez and I'm from Puerto Rico. And until recently, the last few years or so, I haven't much thought about my origins. That's because I was raised in the mainland United States, in Florida. If anything, I consider myself more American than Puerto Rican.

You may be asking, wait, aren't Puerto Ricans Americans? Well, we're U.S. citizens. But, do they, I mean we, consider themselves, again I mean ourselves, Americans?

Puerto Ricans Head To Central Florida At Fast Pace For Climate, Jobs

Sep 14, 2015
Concilio via WMFE

In a small, crowded shopping plaza, the smell of mofongos drifts from Melao, a popular Puerto Rican bakery. A few doors down people eat plantains at Puerto Chino a Puerto Rican-style Chinese spot. Others buy books at libreria cristiana, a Spanish bookstore.

This is Buenaventura Lakes, part of Kissimmee St. Cloud, where Spanish is the new lingua franca and Puerto Rican flags propped in windows is now a common sight.

Janet Colon remembers less than ten years ago when the area was different.

Residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens but can't vote for president. Yet Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton are campaigning there, following two other 2016 White House hopefuls.

Why the journey? Despite its crimped political clout, Puerto Rico is seen as one path to presidential victory. Five million Puerto Ricans live on the U.S. mainland, including nearly 1 million in the key swing state of Florida, and they care about what happens back on the island.

The National Hurricane Center has put Puerto Rico, and some surrounding islands in the Caribbean, under a tropical storm warning as Tropical Storm Erika gains strength in the Atlantic.

The warning means that residents of the island should expect tropical storm winds and heavy rain in the next 36 hours.

Here's the five-day forecast put out by the Hurricane Center:

The Miami Herald explains:

Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology

Remember Hurricane Danny roaring out in the Atlantic last week with 115-mile-an-hour gusts? When it reached Puerto Rico this morning it was wheezing.

That’s a big relief for the Caribbean islands – but it also reflects a big problem out there.

The same abnormal climate conditions that helped deflate Danny are also responsible for the some of the worst drought the Caribbean has seen in two decades.

RELATED: The Danger Of Hurricane Complacency

Ricardo Arduengo / AP

COMMENTARY

Yes, yes, Cuba is big news. President Obama’s Wednesday announcement that the U.S. will open an embassy in Havana was historic stuff.

And yet – I can’t shake the feeling that the more important story out of the Caribbean this week is Puerto Rico’s financial collapse.

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