Go home, Gringo: Why Puerto Rico is better off without your tax dollars

As an ethnic Boricua who traveled to the island back in 2019, it’s hard to resist the cheap prices, sunny beaches, and tropical allure that the island of Puerto Rico has to offer. As a matter of fact, when you think your money is helping to create jobs and prosperous livelihoods for residents, at this point, why not move?

But I want you to take off your rose-colored glasses for just a second, because what seems like one’s dream getaway is only adding on to another one’s harsh reality. 

This past week on October 3, President Joe Biden paid a visit to Puerto Rico and pledged his support. During his trip, he pledged to give billions of federal aid to the island to help restore the electric grid, a move that many are hopeful for, especially given the severed relationship between the island and its main electrical company LUMA. 

However, to me and many other Boricuas, Biden’s plans are only 500 years too late. What the island doesn’t need is condescending praise about how “strong” the people of Puerto Rico are – Boricuas need political autonomy. And liberation.  

The people of Puerto Rico haven’t known “freedom” since 1492. Ever since Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the island has been ruled by its Spanish conquistadors in 1493 and its subsequent takeover by the United States in 1898. Today, the island is still known as a U.S. “territory”, but the label in practicality thinly veils centuries of imperial colonial rule more than anything else.

It’s not that Puerto Ricans want to barricade the island off to foreigners entirely; Boricuas are some of the most friendly and helpful people I have ever met, and they are more than willing to teach non-Ricans the culture (so long as it’s coming from a place of respect).

It’s the select few that exploit the island’s people and resources for their own benefit that exacerbate many of the problems that mainstream media associates with the island.

Someone who comes to mind is YouTuber Logan Paul, who moved to the island back in 2021 for the simple reason of not paying taxes.” This decision produced backlash amongst many Puerto Ricans, and notable politicians like AOC also chimed in expressing their dissent. 

“It’s an example of the continued colonization of the people of Puerto Rico,”AOC  said. “We are essentially importing a ruling class.”

If this trend continues, the way I see it is that the U.S. government will slowly continue to prioritize foreigner interests, putting wads of cash over their own citizens’ well being. 

Not only has Puerto Rico been the ultimate harbor for the wealthy in the past decade, but the island has been plagued by its own natural disasters that lack of federal government attention is only making worse. The island never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria back in 2017, with only 3% of allotted infrastructure money for rebuilding used, and with Hurricane Fiona on September 18  leaving more than 100,000 people without power, the island is in desperate need of aid. 

Fortunately, many famous Puerto Ricans have also begun to take a stand and call out “gringos” (synonymous for non-Latino white people) for their harmful actions. Take singer Bad Bunny and his latest Apagón music video, which critiques the gentrification and blackouts that the island has faced in the past decade. He even singles out Logan Paul by including a video clip of Paul saying he wants to move to the island. 

So the next time you think about moving to a developing country, think about the people you could displace, the resources you could exploit, and the voices you could silence. There are always two sides to every story, and it is only until people stop turning the other way from the issues at hand that we can truly move forward.