Although in recent years there has been an almost constant migratory movement from Puerto Rico to other areas of the United States such as Florida, Texas and the east coast area, this trend could be reversing in recent months with the crisis caused by the pandemic of the coronavirus and the high volume of unemployment it has generated.
In fact, there are moving companies that have been registering significant growth in the movement of families back to Puerto Rico in recent months.
As described by Ricardo Martínez, general manager in Puerto Rico of the La Rosa del Monte moving and goods movement company, since “mostly since last May we have been noticing a greater volume of moving shipments entering Puerto Rico.”
The increase has been such that, coinciding with the days that they could not operate due to the restrictions that were imposed on the Island with the executive order to combat COVID-19, containers were accumulated in the port and they had to reorganize deliveries.
“We were closed by executive order from March to May 4. But since we reopened, we noticed a trend at the time of the movement of removals entering Puerto Rico, ”said Martínez.
He confirmed that the removals come “mostly from the area of Central Florida, Orlando, Ocala” and other locations in that area, in which a large community of Puerto Ricans has settled. He added that “we have also seen an increase in removals entering Puerto Rico from New York and Philadelphia.”
“The big boom is from Central Florida, from all that area of Orlando, Tampa, Kissimmee, Ocala and all that central area. It is an increase of more than 15 to 20% between May, June, July and August ”, he highlighted.
The businessman commented that -in general- this type of moving movement occurs when the economy is not good and people move in search of other options. He recalled that this scenario was lived after the hit of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, when many people moved from Puerto Rico to Central Florida.
Now, that movement seems to be taking place in reverse, with the entire crisis caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as the clients themselves have expressed to La Rosa del Monte.
“We do not have studies as such (on the reasons for the migratory movement), but from the comments of the clients, what they tell us is that it is because of the pandemic and because they have been left without work,” said the businessman. “There are many Puerto Ricans who work in service areas, which due to the pandemic have closed. There are many who work in ‘fast foods’ (fast food restaurants), at Disney, and closing and reopening with fewer staff affected many. By being unemployed, as many say, ‘better to be unemployed in Puerto Rico than in Florida.’
Martínez confirmed that he is aware that this increase in moving to Puerto Rico is not only happening with La Rosa del Monte, but also with other moving companies.
“We are working and doing our best to serve all customers, but yes, there is a lot of stress and workload. We have work ”, affirmed Martínez.
“We respected the executive order and we were closed for about 50 days. And all those containers stayed in the ports ”, he explained. “As May entered we had a high volume of containers and we had to establish an itinerary to move all that merchandise. And that has caused that, unfortunately, some deliveries have been delayed. But we are making the deliveries and we will fulfill the deliveries as soon as possible, ”he added.
Martínez explained that, at one point, “we had 60 large containers” waiting at the port to be transported to their destination.
And to give you an idea of what that represents in terms of moving, he explained that, in each of these containers, he has the belongings “from 10 to 15 families”, which they distribute throughout the island, including Vieques and Snake.
“And that boom is still happening right now. We continue to receive cargo, they continue to arrive, and that significant volume continues compared to previous years ”, assured Martínez.
Demographer Raúl Figueroa Rodríguez celebrated and saw hopeful signs in the fact that moving companies are observing more movement back to the Island, but warned that caution had to be exercised before talking about any possible trend or migration back to the Island. Well, there are no data or studies that can still support something like this.
“It’s one thing for people to come back. But you have to see how many people are dating. It is necessary to see if that quantity is really of more people arriving than leaving to live there ”, he warned.
He commented that, after the impact of Hurricane María, “many people left, but many returned in 2018.” However, before the COVID-19 pandemic, “the trend was again of more people leaving Puerto Rico.”
Figueroa Rodríguez commented that “there are always factors that push this decision to migrate” and, although again he made the caveat that there was no information or data to speak with certainty about what may be happening at the moment, it could be inferred that “ in this case, if there is an attraction factor, which was employment, and they no longer have it, then that factor is reversed and they return to Puerto Rico ”.
“One situation in Florida was that lack of control they have with COVID-19. In Puerto Rico these levels of lack of control were never reached, and there is that perception that here it is much safer, “he evaluated, recalling that the issue of security is for many part of what they consider when migrating outside the Island.” So if you take away his job, you add the danger of COVID-19, and he’s attractive enough to come back. “
“And if you add the component that schools are now online, you can also do it from Puerto Rico, as it would be another reason to return to Puerto Rico,” he added, recalling that the factor of looking for better schools and a better education to children are usually in the equation for parents who migrate out of Puerto Rico.
It is known that with the COVID-19 pandemic the economy around the world has been greatly affected and business closings and employee layoffs are the order of the day. In the United States it is no exception, and in states like Florida the situation has been even more critical.
“That is something that may be happening right now. But that they stay in Puerto Rico later, well, we have to see, because things in Puerto Rico are not very good either, “said the demographer.
He clarified that, according to the latest data, after the hurricanes, the tremors and now with the COVID-19, there is “a lot of movement that is not permanent. We see people who left where things stabilized, the light returned and that. So that is not migration as such, because these are people who leave for a few weeks or months, but do not really have the intention as such to change their residence … ”.
In this case, however, the fact that they are moving a considerable volume of belongings with moving companies could indicate that there is an intention to change residence.
“You have to see if there is a net movement to migrate (that is, more people returning than leaving). You have to see the characteristics of those people who return, if they are young ”, insisted the expert.
Primera Hora tried to get official information with the State Department on the situation of migration to Puerto Rico, but they reported that – at the moment – none was available.