puerto rico union member with flag
A union protester shouts slogans while holding a Puerto Rico flag in San Juan. Reuters/Alvin Baez

If Puerto Rico were a country and not a U.S. territory, it would be the only nation in the Americas besides Cuba that’s actually declining in population. Of the 83,884 Puerto Ricans that left the island in 2014, only 19,771 came back, according to a Pew study citing U.S. Census data. In other words, Puerto Rico’s population dropped by 64,073 people last year. With a total population of around 3.5 million, that a huge drain on an already shrinking tax base, but a big boost to the boriqua voting rolls in the mainland ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

The exodus is unsurprising given Puerto Rico’s ongoing economic and debt crisis. Despite rumors that the Treasury Department was meeting to discuss federal relief, the White House clarified on Thursday that the White House is not considering any type of bailout.

Even with a bailout, or at least the possibility of bankruptcy , few expect Puerto Rico’s young, mobile, and educated to stop fleeing to places like Florida, which over 1 million Puerto Ricans call home and Texas, where the Puerto Rican population has more than doubled since 2005 .

“The island’s population isn’t expected to rebound anytime soon,” writes Jes Manuel Krogstad, a writer and editor at the Pew Research Center. “The Census Bureau projects the population of Puerto Rico will continue to shrink , falling to 3 million by 2050.”

One irony of the boriqua exodus: they’ll have more voting rights on the mainland, where their vote will actually count in the 2016 presidential race. In the battle state Florida, that diaspora could flex it’s muscle to win concessions for their homeland.

Politicians are lining up to win their praises, visiting Puerto Rican-born voters and even stopping in to the island itself to raise their profiles in cities like Orlando, Florida.

"We are here today with one message: We are united for Puerto Rico," state Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) told the Orlando Sentinel's Scott Powers at a rally this week.

Repubican candidate Jeb Bush and Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley have visited the island this year, along with heavily Puerto Rican areas in Florida.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.