Thoughts on Puerto Rico’s Million-Dollar Construction Projects

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According to this news source, “Puerto Rico is planning a $26.5 million ‘revitalization’ plan for the island’s waterfront areas”

The construction projects will include nine municipalities and apparently produce 300 temporary and 145 permanent jobs to spruce up the look of these locations.

When I first read this I thought – ‘where is the money coming from and to whose benefit?’ Maybe for the North American millionaires the island wants to attract (and maybe as replacement for the poor and middle-class islanders escaping on la guagua aérea)?

In a country in near bankruptcy (but can’t officially file for one), under billions of dollars in debt, a multi-million dollar project is a drop in the bucket. But still, why spend it on fixing playgrounds and touching-up boulevards? Is it because Puerto Rico’s political currency is gained by building something – anything?

This reminds me when former Governor Pedro “El Mesías” Rosselló flirted with a return to politics (he eventually ran again for governor in 2004 and lost – thank God! Unfortunately his son might run for office.). Family, who were thankful he was gone were praising his return. “There was massive corruption in his administration, but at least he did something,!” they cried. What he did was build stuff – coliseums, trains, highways, etc. All construction projects that look nice, gets votes and some low-paying and mostly temporary jobs, and remain as monuments to fantasies of modernity in an island loosing nearly 50,000 people a year. We also can’t forget that construction contracts are generally tied to political connections.

The question also arises who – if anyone – is engaging the surrounding communities of these proposed seafront projects? Will residents be able to have or maintain kiosks to sell merchandise? Are government officials asking them how they think these project could be better designed or executed to more precisely fit the needs of their communities? Or are they just getting notices of construction and jobs and that’s it?

I don’t know for this exact case but I do know how governments generally work. I assume one or two meetings were or will be held to get feedback that someone will take notes on and put in a remote folder as proof that the public was “heard.”

Well, at least, architectural students from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico allegedly produced the project’s conceptual framework – at least!

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Xavi Burgos Peña

Xavi Burgos Peña is co-founder of La Respuesta magazine. He is a Boricua/ Dominicano of the Diaspora who has lived his life between New York City and Chicago. His professional experience is mostly in the area of community-building, including youth development, social marketing, and organizing against gentrification. His journalism credits include being editor and chief designer for Que Ondee Sola magazine, columnist for La Voz del Paseo Boricua newspaper, contributor to Gozamos magazine, and guest writer for Claridad newspaper in Puerto Rico. Contact: xavi@larespuestamedia.com 

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