Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean, is used to suffering the effects of natural disasters. The most recent was Hurricane Fiona, which left the country without electricity on Sunday after unleashing torrential rains that caused serious material damage in several areas.
“The damage we are seeing is catastrophic in several areas,” Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said at a press conference on Sunday.
The authorities reported serious damage in many towns in this US territory, such as falling trees and power lines, landslides, landslides, road obstructions.
In Utuado, a town in the center of the island, the flooding of a river swept away a bridge, Pierluisi said.
Five years ago, Hurricane Maria had already caused catastrophic damage and meant that, even today, many Puerto Ricans have to deal with periodic blackouts.
In addition to this, the inhabitants of the island are being displaced from their homes by a phenomenon of gentrification that increases every day.
Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny, who participated in the 2019 anti-government protests, published on Friday, September 16, the video clip of his single “El Apagón”, which includes a short 22-minute documentary on the situation in this territory, called “Aquí vive people”.
Five days after its premiere, the video already has 6.4 million views on YouTube.
This is what we know about this video and also about the phenomena it denounces.
Bad Bunny’s Blackout, who participates in the video?
The short documentary was made by the independent journalist Bianca Graulau. She interviewed several Puerto Ricans about the displacement of poor communities and the gentrification of neighborhoods in San Juan—Puerto Rico’s capital—such as Puerta de Tierra and Santurce.
Graulau is an independent investigative journalist who has dedicated herself to investigating the economic, political and social situation of the island. In a video on her Instagram account, she narrates that she was a reporter for a local channel in the United States for five years, but that she decided to return to her native Puerto Rico due to the constant blackouts that the island experiences.
His work can be found on his Instagram and TikTok social media accounts, to which he has given preference over more traditional formats.
In addition to Graulau, the journalist Laura Pérez participated, who directed the journalistic investigation of the piece. The journalists Camile Roldán and Jerohim Ortiz carried out the verification of the information and the investigation.
Documentary filmmaker Bárbara Cardenales Torres produced the video. The Filmes Zapatero team directed the piece. Carlos M. Aponte edited the video.
Gentrification in Puerto Rico
The report and the song by Bad Bunny denounce the displacement of the inhabitants of the Puerta de Tierra, La Perla, Dorado and Santurce neighborhoods in San Juan, who have been forced to leave their homes due to the arrival of real estate developers, a phenomenon known like gentrification.
In this practice, the large financial firms buy old buildings, remodel them and raise their prices, but the objective is not to offer housing, but to obtain large profits from renovated properties in which no one even lives, according to
This scenario generates the expulsion of the original inhabitants, who can no longer pay the new prices generated by this real estate activity.
In San José, real estate companies —many of them with foreign capital— build new apartments to rent or sell at unaffordable prices for residents who have lived there for years.
Monthly rents on these lots have risen to $2,000 median rent, well above the median salary of $1,750
What is Law 22?
Law 22 is a tax incentive that exempts foreigners — the law calls them “resident investors” — who move their main home to the island from paying taxes on capital gains.
That is, it allows a 0% tax on the wealth of these people.
It came into force in 2012. In almost 10 years, the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC) never audited the 3,311 people covered by Law 22, despite the fact that it had the obligation to do so since 2015, according to the statute.
The original idea when the incentive was proposed was to attract new capital from investors who had no previous relationship with Puerto Rico to create jobs, but it has not achieved any of the objectives.
A random sample of 304 beneficiaries of this incentive, 10% of the 3,040 decrees granted since it began in 2012 until June 2020, reflects that the majority barely create jobs and represent a minimal impact on the local economy, indicates an investigation that of Puerto Rico.
It also identified that at least 91 “resident investors” in the sample have family members who also obtained Law 22 decrees in a personal capacity just because they are related to the main investor, without the government knowing what they invest in or if they do.
There are retired people and employees of technology, real estate, financial companies, startups and law firms who move to the island to work remotely, without making major investments or any business.
“That there are sectors that have benefited? Yes, real estate, for example, has made a killing. But in the macroeconomic aspect, the impact is extremely limited”, pointed out the economist José Caraballo Cueto.
Blackouts and high electricity costs
After years of financial problems and recession, in 2017 Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy, the largest ever by a local administration in the United States.
Later that year, the double whammy of two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, deepened the misery, devastating the power grid on the island, which has suffered from severe infrastructure problems for years.
The network was privatized in June 2021 in an effort to resolve the blackout issue, but the problem persists and the entire island lost power earlier this year.
“There is clearly a widespread perception in Puerto Rico that Luma has not done its job and we can see this in the protests of the past few months that have occurred almost daily on the island that demand that the government inspect the company,” says the Puerto Rican journalist from Ronald Ávila-Claudio.
Bianca Graulau also points out that Puerto Ricans have seen seven consecutive increases in their electricity bill, despite the fact that the service has not improved.
Fiona has only made the problems worse. On Tuesday afternoon, only 300,000 users had electricity in their homes (20% of the total) after the general blackout caused by the storm on Sunday, authorities reported.
With information from AFP