As Puerto Ricans continue to join Florida´s workforce, not only are they proving their ability to adapt and contribute to this new environment but also their potential to change the state electoral map.
The profiles of the great migration wave of this century, -that show the Puerto Rican heritage in education, experience and preparation-, have allowed these new residents of Florida to make themselves felt in scenarios they consider favorable for their professions and talents, which at the same time seem challenging and promising.
One example is Orlando, home to one of the largest concentrations of Puerto Ricans and where a special report by El Nuevo Dia reflected the lights and shades of moving from Puerto to that city. Last year, the private sector created 42,400 jobs in Orlando and last February there were 37,329 positions available. Jobs represent the main factor for leaving the island.
Since last September, job offers have been the stimulus and escape valve for thousands of Puerto Ricans who lost their homes and jobs -along with their daily lives- due to Hurricane Maria. However, the intensity of this exodus only came to accelerate a vertiginous pace that was already observed on both sides of the Atlantic, because of its impact on socioeconomic aspects.
According to the Pew Research Center, that trend has resulted in an increase in the population of Puerto Ricans living in Florida from 479,000 in 2000 to more than one million at present. It is estimated that up to 60,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida after the hurricane.
By settling in Florida, our people have made their best to use their knowledge and desire to thrive in the broadest possible range of activities. Thanks to hard work, tenacity, commitment and entrepreneurial spirit, much of this diaspora has managed to move forward in jobs ranging from lowest-paying roles to the highest paying positions, both in the public and private sectors.
Those communities that have welcomed them have flourished with their contributions.
Many Puerto Rican businesses that have followed those migrants, such as banks, education centers and a wide variety of businesses, also contribute to the economic activity.
As for the political inclination of Puerto Ricans registered to vote, the most recent studies reflect a decline in affiliations to big parties in favor of independent vote, after last elections. In a Latino electorate that until recently was largely dominated by conservative forces, the thriving Puerto Rican presence is seen as the token that could alter the political map of a key state for presidential elections.
These opportunities showthe other side of the exodus. For an enormous group, moving to Florida represents an abrupt transplant for which they were not prepared. Many of those who recently left the island did so to escape from a natural disaster that aggravated the conditions of unemployment and shortages they were already suffering. But separated from their familiar environment, moving to temporary structures and without activities, it is to be expected that they will end their pilgrimage as soon as they perceive that the situation on the island is back to normal.
Likewise, many of those who have been in Florida for some time have not achieved their dreams of improving income and living conditions due to housing costs, health services, education and general expenses. They all make up the diaspora, an asset for Florida and Puerto Rico.