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Puerto Ricans—Barred From Public Beaches, Priced out by Crypto Bros & “Influencers”—Hold Beach Party Protests

Despite one being a state and the other a U.S. colony, Hawai'i and Puerto Rico have a lot in common.

Two flyers protesting rich people cutting off beach access in Puerto Rico. (Image: El Urbanista, Carlos BP, and Cogito Ergo Imago.) https://www.flickr.com/photos/37244380@N00/289876731

Between the “Great Reshuffling” (moving related to commuting time and remote work) and a wave of a “Big Sort” (moving for overtly political reasons), gentrification problems have rapidly worsened. This is most extreme in areas in the U.S. where citizens don’t have full representation (gerrymandering included) and access to public funds—places like Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico has faced many devastating natural disasters, consistent movement of potential workforce, and bankruptcy in the past two decades. In 2012, to alleviate these financial issues, Puerto Rico lawmakers passed Act 22, allowing for new residents to qualify for a considerable reduction in taxes. However, this only applies to people moving from the mainland U.S. within two years of that move, barring three million Puerto Ricans (42% of whom live in poverty) from accessing these tax breaks.

After the declaration of bankruptcy and Hurricane Maria (both 2017), the first massive wave of wealthy investors swept in to buy property from those with few options to get back on their feet. Now, with COVID-19, the same thing is happening, except this time, island residents report rent doubling, housing discrimination, and entire neighborhoods (and apartment buildings) turning into (barely regulated) Airbnb towns. According to the New York Times, of the incoming residents, over 1,300 people had applied for these tax breaks in October 2021 alone. 35% of all approved applications since 2012 were approved in the last three years.

There are countless signs, posters, and graffiti calling the more high-profile people (mainly crypto “investors” and celebrity influences) coming in “colonizers.” These declarations are not just due to ethnicity but because of the wealth extraction relationship, and Puerto Rico functioning as a U.S. colony in everything but name. Troll Logan Paul and bitcoin child-star Brock Pierce have received the most attention.

@biancagraulau

And don’t forget Puerto Ricans are some of the worst paid workers in the U.S. but face some of the highest prices. #puertorico #taxhaven

♬ original sound – Bianca Graulau

Protest beach parties

To add insult to injury, the people moving are exacerbating obstacles to public land access. All beaches in Puerto Rico (including those in front of hotels) are public land, accessible to everyone. As mainlanders buy beachfront property, they’ve fought with locals and told them to essentially “get off their property.”

Investors began to create rock and/or cement barriers and longer back decks/porches into the shoreline. So, to access the beach, the public must wade into the water to get around the barrier.

A few weeks back, organizers held a small beach tennis tournament at Playa Ocean Park, only for the nearest homeowner to sit in the middle of their area demanding that they leave.

This first viral breaking point culminated in an all-out beach bash on January 29 called Ocean Wepallooza. The “headliners” include a woman (related to that viral incident) named “The Karen of Puerto Rico” and Juan Ponce De León.

On February 12, residents held a followup beachfront party in Dorado, Puerto Rico, near Paul’s estate on Playa Sardinera (a.k.a. Ghetto Beach). The initial flyer (when the date was still TBD) featured Paul as “the golden rooster,” with a “Clerk of Permits,” and contractor Féderico Stubbe. Gonzo journalist Carlos Polanco created a thread highlighting these issues by giving a walking tour to the protest party on Twitter.

Independent journalist Bianca Graulau stated that the nickname comes from a comment by Stubbe saying that Puerto Rico would essentially become a “ghetto” if not for wealthy people moving in.

@biancagraulau

Reply to @titarilla They’re having another beach party/protest this Saturday. #puertorico #doradobeach

♬ original sound – Bianca Graulau

In addition to the beachfront barriers and increased police presence, contractors are boarding up road entrances to the shoreline. As this man explains this, he moves as what looks to be a white family drives through the road with their golf cart.

Puerto Ricans on Strike

The people of Puerto Rico have exhausted most measures to get anything done about the situation. Leader after leader has failed them. In 2019, there were three governors of the “territory” (colony) in one week.

This is all tied up in the same issues we’re dealing with across the country, like wage stagnation, food insecurity, and affordable housing shortages. Just last Friday and through the weekend, there was a general strike on the island. At this point, many Puerto Ricans are depending on international attention. Many on the island want statehood, complete independence, or a new relationship with the U.S. Unfortunately, all are unlikely because that would require something bipartisan to happen in Congress.

(via TikTok, Rogue Rocket, and LatinoRebels, images: El Urbanista and Cogito Ergo Imago)

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(she/her) Award-winning digital artist and blogger with experience and an educational background in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. A resident of the yeeHaw land, she spends most of her time watching movies, playing video games, and reading.