As "a year of survival", this is how merchants and even Marcos 'Turín' Irizarry, mayor of Lajas, describe what 2020 has represented for this beautiful coastal municipality.
And since January of this A year it has rained in the wet for the town —located in the southwest of Puerto Rico— which in previous years has been among the most visited destinations in the Porta del Sol region.
First there were the tremors in the south, then came the 'lockdown' decree of March 15 as a precautionary measure to prevent coronavirus infections (Covid-19 ), followed by the onslaught of storm Isaías (July 30).
And all these events have disrupted economic development and tourist activity in its main point of interest: La Parguera.
“With the storm only we suffer damage Physicists in the Playita Rosada, because the waves knocked down almost half of the pier. This will entail a total repair of the pool area and it will take time because you have to request services, you have to receive the money from FEMA, buy materials and it will be a process. This was added to the quantities of sargassum that were already reaching the shores of the reserve, "the municipal executive told EL VOCERO.
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According to the president of Lajas, two weeks before the arrival of the storm Isaías, the personnel of the Federal Agency for Emergency Management (FEMA, for its acronym in English) visited the place as part of a claim of damages that the city council submitted after the passage of Hurricane María in 2017, and for which they have not yet received disbursement.
In that same visit, Irizarry told the agency that the platform already required a total repair, despite the fact that On its own, the municipality made some improvements to the platform and the mesh.
“The attraction will remain closed to the public until we reach an agreement with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) to fix it. Now what we are dealing with is waiting for a new executive order. I can't do anything until the governor allows collective transportation and public assistance to the beach. Once this happens, we will be able to start giving bathers access to the Mata la Gata and Caracoles keys again, so that tourist activity can move in the place, because here to bring visitors you have to move boats. I can't do anything but wait. We have already promoted La Parguera internationally and nationally. We are in a pandemic that is going to continue and if the executive order continues to be extended – no matter how much it invites people – they simply won't be able to come, "he denounced.
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On the other hand, Sylmarie González, representative of the La Parguera Merchants Association, said that “we are sitting idle because the use of boat ramps is prohibited, as well as the use of the main resource which is the beach. . Sunday closings affect us greatly because even the 'second home' market has stopped coming. And, in the hotels – not being able to use the pools – people have canceled their reservations to stay. Everyone in the hospitality industry had invested in training, materials and the implementation of protocols that are not currently being used, because tourists are not arriving. So the flow of people that we are seeing in the area is from residents, but it is not enough ", added the owner of the Isla Cueva restaurant and Hotel Plaza Parguera.
According to González shared, La Parguera currently has more than 70 shops which include restaurants, hotels, artisans, equipment rental and others. Of these, about 50% keep operating on weekends and only a dozen open daily; the rest is closed.
However, the businesswoman shared that “those of us who remain open are surviving the bad streak. We are awaiting the next executive order, meanwhile, we are generating to stabilize the accounts because operating expenses are not on par with sales. Sales have dropped significantly and the cost of the products has also been rising ”, he added.
So González invited the rest of the Puerto Ricans not to abandon them to their fate, and go to the Ciudad Cardenalicia to enjoy a walk through the town center or through La Parguera and enjoy the beautiful views of the Lajas Valley and its coasts, and to eat locally.
“La Parguera has a wide gastronomic offer. You can see the list of a dozen restaurants that are still operating through 'carry out', with their phone numbers, through the portal Gotoparguera.com ”, he concluded.
This year, Lajas also had to cancel the celebration of the now traditional Pineapple Festival, which is another of the great tourist events that represents an important economic boost for the town's merchants. They still have on the agenda the celebration of the Paradisiac 5k, which aims to invite runners to enjoy the privileged view of the city.