The financial crisis in Greece has been getting a lot of the headlines recently, but that is not the only country that is having more than its fair share of financial woes. Puerto Rico is also in some real trouble, and recently missed a $58 million payment on back debt, much of which is actually owed to its residents. The Island is in financial crisis because of an oppressive economic system, one of the biggest banes of its colonial existence is the Law of Cabotage (Jones Act). Like anywhere else in the world, Puerto Rico needs people to buy local, but that is unfortunately not what happens.
On the mainland (U.S.), a movement started a while ago called Small Business Saturday. While it started out as a single date on the calendar (late November), consumers have adopted that specific day of the week to shop locally every weekend. The economy thrives when small businesses do well, as it is they who are the major employers in the country. WalMart, Target, and all those ghastly fast food franchises may haul in the vast majority of the money, but they do not do the majority of the hiring.
Speaking of the WalMart’s … a staggering 85% of all products consumed in Puerto Rico are sold by US corporations. These same products are price protected and sell for nearly twice as much as on the Mainland. We can thank the Jones Act (a document the U.S. placed over 100 years ago) resulting in the cost of living in Puerto Rico to be 12% higher than in the U.S although it is argued that the % is actually much higher.
These same big box American powerhouse stores receive special tax exemptions whilst small businesses are shamelessly taxed and of course, unable to compete.
No news is that a huge chunk of the money taken in by those major names ends up in the pockets of their CEO’s. That is not something that helps boost the economy, and it’s a part of the problem that is affecting PR right now. For every $1 spent at local stores, restaurants, and other establishments in Puerto Rico, a massive 80 cents remains on the Island. What better way to support a community than by putting money where it can be the most helpful?
People who live on the Island understand the importance of buying local, but what about people that just pop in for a visit. If you have ever traveled outside of your own country, chances are you have probably spent a big portion of your first day in that new land looking for places that are familiar. Why have breakfast and a yummy Puerto Rican cup of coffee at a great little local café when you can get a cheap breakfast burrito at McDonalds? I’ll tell you why, because the food at the local café will feature the authentic flavors of the region and will be a culinary experience that will actually make you feel as though you are somewhere other than the mall just up the street from your house.
If you are going to the expense of traveling somewhere new and exciting, you are essentially wimping out by not going all out and sampling all that the country has to offer. Not only will you be soaking up the authentic sight and sounds of the culture, you might also be doing more than you know to help the local economy. Puerto Rico is a fantastic place to visit, and is home to wonderfully warm people just waiting to share their culture with you. That is not something you will find at the single open cashier at the WalMart.