Puerto Ricans expected to move to WMass to escape debt crisis

People of all economic backgrounds are impacted.

holyoke puerto rico license plate
This mural outside Holyoke City Hall depicts a Puerto Rico license plate, as a salute to Puerto Rican heritage in the city.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There’s no end in sight to the debt crisis in Puerto Rico.

“It’s insane that we got to leave our hometown just to have a life,” said Giovanni Lugo. He lived for ten years in Puerto Rico before moving to the greater Springfield area.

Families and friends, torn apart, as Puerto Rico plummets further into poverty.

“My brother right now just got recently got fired from his job because they’re shutting down the factory. He’s struggling right now to get a job. My father ain’t working either,” Lugo told 22News.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew visited the U.S. territory Monday to pressure Congress to help Puerto Ricans restructure the $70 billion debt crisis. House Republicans are expected to propose a bill this week that would create a control board to help the island restructure its debt.

“Looking at the long term, the only viable solution is to create some sort of economic development for the island so it’s the people who can benefit, not large corporations,” said David Silva, the executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Springfield. He said moving forward, the island needs to decide to be a state, which would give it more economic opportunities, or it should decide to be a self-governing nation.

“Police departments are closing down, doctors, lawyers, everything. What is going to do for an individual that cannot spend those dollars and be protected the way he should be?” said Gumersindo Gomez, executive director at the Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts, Inc. in Springfield. He said if the U.S. can help bail out Greece, it should help its own territory.

The crisis was on everyone’s minds at a local Puerto Rican bakery in Springfield. Many people didn’t want to be on camera, but told 22News that they have been living here several years and visiting family and friends on the island each year. However, poverty is so bad now, that the crime levels are skyrocketing, and they’re too afraid to even go back.

People of all economic backgrounds are impacted.

“There’s a lot of highly-skilled professionals in Puerto Rico that we have to pay our student loans, but we don’t have a job, so we end up at the end of our graduate school with a huge debt with no opportunity,” said Migdalia Rivera-Ortiz. She is a psychologist who moved to Springfield three years ago. Now, she’s a social worker helping immigrants.

As the situation worsens, more Puerto Ricans are expected to move to Western Massachusetts, in search of a better life.

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