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Special Issue of CENTRO Journal Explores Post-Maria Puerto Rico

by Centro Staff


The CENTRO Journal’s latest issue, “Puerto Rico Post-Hurricane Maria: Origins and Consequences of a Crisis,” is now available for purchase via Centro’s online store. Centro Director Edwin Melendez and University of Connecticut professor Charles Venator-Santiago served as guest editors for the special issue, which will also include a semester-long book tour of colleges around the United States. 

“We are a critical juncture in the reconstruction effort,” said Dr. Melendez. “We are approaching 18 months since Hurricane Maria and it’s important that politicians, scholars, policy experts, and every other potential stakeholder all have as much information and context as possible to be able to work together on the next steps going forward.”

To that end, the issue establishes a timeline for the crisis in Puerto Rico that spans from 1976 to present day. 1976 is of course the year when a federal tax exemption for U.S. companies based on the island—popularly known as Section 936—was enacted. Zadia M. Feliciano’s article is an overview of the 20-year period in which the tax exemption helped to fuel the Puerto Rico’s manufacturing economy, as well as the 10-year phasing out period that coincided with the advent of the current economic crisis.

Dr. Melendez picks up the story ten years later with a pair of articles exploring the political and economic consequences, respectively, of the controversial P.R.O.M.E.S.A. bill signed into law by President Obama in 2016. Next, economists Pablo Gluzmann, Martin Guzman and Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz evaluate the relationship between debt relief and debt sustainability, ultimately concluding that “the island’s current debt position is unsustainable.” Similar concerns were expressed by island residents during a recent public forum in Puerto Rico in which austerity measures and the slow pace of distribution of federal hurricane recovery funds were discussed.

On a similar note, the fate of the energy grid remains an integral part of the broader conversation on Puerto Rico’s future. Amid growing interest in alternatives to fossil fuels and the privatization of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Efraín O’Neill-Carrillo and Miguel A. Rivera-Quiñones discuss the link between energy policy and the potential for sustainable energy options.

Shifting to U.S. policy, William Suárez II’s article focuses on the relationship between a controversial maritime law known as the Jones Act and the resurgent agricultural industry in Puerto Rico. Marie T. Mora, Alberto Dávila and Havidán Rodríguez then build upon their research into the demographic and socioeconomic connections between Puerto Rico and the diaspora. They do so within the context of what they have termed La crisis boricua, which, in turn, reflects the onset of the economic crisis, from 2006 onwards. Similarly, Centro researcher Jennifer Hinojosa establishes a direct correlation between Puerto Rico and the diaspora via the the impact of post-Maria migration to the mainland and the resulting depopulation of the island. At present, 3.2 million Puerto Ricans live on the island, compared to close to six million living in the United States.  

In their article, Jason G. Irizarry, Rosalie Rolón-Dow and Isar P. Godreau examine the mainland response by institutions of higher learning to the displacement of students in Puerto Rico. CUNY, for example, allocated funds to cover the cost of tuition and other fees for incoming students, while offering in-state tuition to all who enrolled. “Después del Huracán: Using a Diaspora Framework to Contextualize and Problematize Educational Responses Post-María” also looks at the impact of migration on stateside school districts, a topic of successive Centro research briefs published in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Centro research associate Carlos Vargas-Ramos utilizes electoral data in his contribution, “Political Crisis, Migration and Electoral Behavior in Puerto Rico.” Lastly, guest editor Charles Venator-Santiago closes the special issue with an article that expands upon his previous work on the Puerto Rico’s incorporation into the United States as a territory and its relationship to political status.

To purchase a copy of the CENTRO Fall 2018 issue, click here.

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices 28 March 2019.